President Gordon B. Hinckley charged more than 6,000 University of Utah graduates June 12 to resolve – as they map out their life's work – to dedicate a part of their time to those in distress and need with no consideration of recompense.
"Your skills are needed, whatever they may be," he said during the university's commencement exercises, held in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. "Your helping hands will lift someone out of the mire of distress. Your steady voice will give encouragement to some who might otherwise simply give up. Your skills can change the lives, in a remarkable and wonderful way, of those who walk in need."Following President Hinckley's address, the graduates and their families, who filled the arena, gave him a standing ovation.
President Hinckley, who was accompanied at the commencement exercises by his wife, Marjorie, graduated from the University of Utah in 1932. Sixty years later, in 1992, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university.
In his address, he told of registering as a freshman at the university 70 years ago. "Back then, in 1928, America was rolling along in prosperity," he said. "This heady atmosphere continued for a year, and then came Black Thursday of 1929."
The economy nose-dived into the worst depression this nation and the world have ever known, he said.
"I do not recall what the tuition was here at the university, but I think it was $25 a quarter. Practically no one drove a car, not even the faculty – there was no parking problem. . . .
"Most students carried lunch in a brown paper bag or, if we could afford it, we could buy in the cafeteria for 10 cents a bowl of boiled wheat with raisins and all the sugar and thick cream needed," he recalled. "That was simple food, but very good and much better, I think, than the kind you eat today."
President Hinckley noted that during that time of depression, the teaching was excellent. "Jobs were so scarce that everyone who had one tried to do his very best," he explained. "In four years I never had a teaching assistant. Every one of my teachers was a full professor who did all of the work connected with teaching, including the reading of papers."
The Church leader said when he graduated in 1932, it was a long and tedious experience. "For the life of me I cannot recall the name of the speaker or anything he said. It will be the same for you," President Hinckley told the graduates.
"We were graduated into an employment vacuum, with an education but no jobs. No graduating class ever faced a more dismal future. But somehow we made it."
The years between then and now included the Great Depression, the terrible Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wild '60s and the affluent '90s.
"Never has there been a graduating class that has stepped into a better employment market than you are doing," he told the gradates. "Your prospects are so very, very good. . . .
"You are indeed a very fortunate body who face a wonderful time of great opportunity. Our very best wishes go with you. Our hope goes with you. Our trust and respect go with you."
President Hinckley continued, "What a truly remarkable and exciting time is this season in which we live. There has been more of scientific discovery during my lifetime than during all previous centuries of the history of the world.
"Computers," he said, "have changed the way of our lives. Books will continue to be printed, but the future opportunity lies in electronic publishing. In our hands, if used properly, is the wonderful tool of the Internet with which we can pick knowledge from across the globe. The atom has been harnessed for good or for ill. The creations of science are endless and almost too great to even dream of."
He told the students that they are in the midst of this world of miracles. "These tools will be your tools. This world will be your world."
He also counseled the graduates to be strong and loving parents. "The family is falling apart all across the world. Please, my dear young friends, do not add to this catastrophe, but, rather, do your part to diminish it. Nothing will be of greater importance in your lives than the role you play as parents."
President Hinckley said that in spite of "all the wonders of the age that is upon us, we have the same old social problems, and much worse than when I was here seven decades ago. There is still much of poverty and stark want across the world, so much of rebellion and meanness, so much of sleaze and filth, so many broken homes and destroyed families, so many lonely people living colorless lives without hope, so much of distress everywhere.
"And so I make a plea to you. I plead with you that with all your getting you also give to make the world a little better."
After telling of some who have made a difference serving others, President Hinckley asked the graduates, "If not now, when? If not you, who?"
"It is not enough that you get a job, that you get married, that you feverishly work to produce the kind of income which will make possible the luxuries of the world," he added. "You may gain some recompense in all of this, but you will not gain the ultimate satisfaction.
"As Isaiah has declared, `Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God . . . he will come and save you.' (Isa. 35:3-4.)
"I believe that when we serve others we best serve our God," explained President Hinckley.
"Your strong hands and determined wills can improve the world and the condition of its people," the Church leader declared.
He said it will not be enough for a graduate to be an able lawyer, a man of medicine, a skilled architect, a proficient engineer, or whatever.
"There will be the need for another dimension in your life – that of reaching down to someone who may be in distress to offer your strong hand to lift him up."