PROVO, Utah — President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to an audience that filled BYU's Marriott Center to capacity Sept. 18 during a devotional assembly held in conjunction with the school's annual homecoming celebration.
The center, which seats roughly 22,000, broke out into cheers and applause when President Hinckley congratulated the students for being No. 1 on the Princeton Review's list of "stone-cold sober" undergraduate universities for the 10th year in a row, and said that just the day before the Wall Street Journal published the rankings of university business schools, and BYU came at the top of the regional rankings among all the business schools of America.
"What a unique institution this is," he said. "Coupled with its associates in Hawaii and Idaho, it is a leader both academically and spiritually. How fortunate you are in the opportunity to attend here."
In his remarks, the Church president encouraged students to strive for the qualities outlined in the 13th Article of Faith: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul — We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
President Hinckley said, "The by-product of your academic achievement will be a bundle of ethical, moral, and spiritual values."
"In matters of honesty, there are no shortcuts; no little white lies, or big black lies, only the simple, honest truth spoken in total candor. And I think there is nothing more honest than good, hard work."
He said he recently read a book in which is the story of Ed Viesturs, who has climbed Mt. Everest six times and has reached the summits of the world's highest mountains. When asked how he did it, he said, "It is just hard, hard work."
"An article in a recent issue of Fortune magazine indicated that we "will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. The good news is that (our) lack of a natural gift is irrelevant —
talent has little or nothing to do with greatness … nobody is great without work" (Geoffrey Colvin, "What It Takes To Be Great," Fortune, 30 Oct 2006, p. 88).
Being true is different than being honest, President Hinckley said. "It means that we stand tall, look the world straight in the eye, and march forward."
He referred to the lessons he learned as a boy from observing the position of the North Star. "The whole sky seemed to move, all but the North Star, which remained in its permanent and predictable place. It was a thing of stability in a world of shifting values," he said.
He described how the Key Bank building in Salt Lake City was brought down recently in a matter of three or four seconds with a series of well-placed detonations, called implosions, that produced a great cloud of dust.
"The building was constructed nearly 30 years ago. I suppose construction extended over a period of at least a year, maybe two. Now it was gone in seconds. That, my friends, is the story of so many lives. We nurture them ever so carefully over a period of years. Then we find ourselves in highly charged circumstances. Mistakes are made. Chastity is compromised. There is an implosion, and a ball of dust is all that is left."
He told of a young unmarried couple whose future looked bright and beautiful but, because they gave in to temptation and were going to have a child, their future collapsed. "Tears filled their eyes as they talked with me. But there was no escape from the reality which faced them. Their lives had suffered an implosion, and a tower of dreams had come tumbling down."
President Hinckley urged the students to not sell themselves short by compromising their commitment to morality.
He returned to the illustration of the tower that collapsed, and said that in its place will be constructed a new and beautiful building. "Similarly, those who have transgressed can turn to their Redeemer, our Savior Jesus Christ, and, through the power of His Atonement, be made clean and new again."
Employing a play on words, President Hinckley said, "Understand that you are being chased. Satan is chasing after you, and you had better run as fast as ever you can."
Being benevolent means being kind, thoughtful and reaching out to those in need at all times, explained President Hinckley.
He reminded students that the very education they are now acquiring is made possible in part by the benevolent contributions of tithe payers worldwide. Through this principle, the Church is able to assist in humanitarian efforts across the globe, most of which impacts those who are not members of the Church.
"This may have nothing whatever to do with sexual morality; that is covered by the word chaste," said President Hinckley, again making an important distinction between two virtues.
In defining the word, he quoted philosopher Blaise Pascal when he said, "The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts" (Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), "The Philosophers," The Harvard Classics, Section VI, p. 352).
President Hinckley said virtue comes in doing well and consistently the everyday, often rather tedious tasks of life. Things like prayer, scripture study, tending to financial obligations and other important commandments, if performed on a habitual basis, will yield great virtue.
DOING GOOD TO ALL MEN
"Have you ever heard of Dr. Norman Borlaug?" asked President Hinckley. Relatively few people have, he admitted, though he won the Nobel Prize in 1970, and has been attributed with saving more lives than anyone in history. Maybe 1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal (Wall Street Journal, "Borlaug's Revolution," July 17, 2007, p. A16).
President Hinckley described this man who in the wake of a dreaded disease infesting croplands in Mexico in 1944 went to work on a solution instead of listening to doomsayers who predicted inevitable famines. Soon he developed a strain of wheat resistant to the fungus. The harvest became so great that farmers began to market their wheat internationally. He then turned his attention to Pakistan, India, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia, doing for those croplands what he did for Mexico. "He is one of the great pioneer scientists of our time, largely unknown and unsung. I salute and honor him. The whole world is in his debt."
President Hinckley said doing good to all men is "no easy thing. It requires mercy, self discipline and determination."
He noted that God is no respecter of persons and "in His eyes all are deserving of our consideration."
Concluding his remarks, President Hinckley said that for those who seek the virtues outlined in the 13th Article of Faith, "life will be challenging but more interesting, and the blessings of the Lord will come upon us, for we shall be doing what He would have us do."