Elder L. Whitney Clayton encourages BYU grads to ‘look back, look forward’


Look back and look forward.

That was the advice given to Brigham Young Univeristy-Idaho graduates during commencement exercises on April 7.

“We are expected to look forward and to remember backward, and to do our best both to remember and to anticipate …,” Elder L. Whitney Clayton, General Authority Seventy and member of the Presidency of the Seventy said during the keynote address. “There is much to remember about the past and the future.”

In addition to Elder Clayton, speakers included Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of the Church Educational System, and BYU-Idaho President Clark G. Gilbert. Beginning April 10, President Gilbert will become president of the newly created BYU-Pathway Worldwide and Brother Henry J. Eyring, current academic vice president at BYU-Idaho, will become president of the university. The BYU-Idaho Collegiate Singers performed musical numbers during the event.

The class of 2,079 graduates has earned 1,659 bachelor’s degrees and 440 associate degrees. Of the graduates, 474 were online students and of those 260 began in the Pathway program. More than half of the graduates have served missions.

Speaking of the Roman god Janus, Elder Clayton explained how Janus was said to be the god of beginnings and endings, transitions, time, doorways and passages.

“Romans believed Janus looked to the future and to the past, so he was usually depicted as having two opposite faces,” he said. “Graduations invite us to reflect both back on where we have been and forward toward where we are going.”

Elder Clayton told the graduates that it good to take stock of one’s life by looking backward and forward. This helps a person better prepare to move on to “productive, satisfying and useful next steps.”

Looking back

Elder Clayton told listeners there is so much “good to look back on and remember.”

Using the examples of noble forebears — their exertion and faith — who have come before, Elder Clayton said, “We all stand on the shoulders of those who faced down the challenges and overcame the problems of their lives. They bequeathed to us all we enjoy, cities with electricity and peace with prosperity.”

Noting there are a few troubling present exceptions around the world, Elder Clayton spoke of the “good land“ in which Church members are living in around the world.

“When we look back we should remember that our blessings of freedom in this ‘good land’ were purchased by the blood and sacrifice of ancestors,” he said. “They lived, and in many cases died, to bequeath to us the right to exercise our moral agency without unreasonable restraint by government action.”

Elder Clayton saids it is most important to remember the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days.

“Our sweetest blessings and happiness are made possible by the Savior, who is ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords,’ and His Church,” he said. “Whether we look back or forward, we should always remember Him.”

It is important to “look back” and “count our many blessings,” he said. “What the Lord has done will indeed ‘surprise’ us if we account honestly for all that we enjoy.”

Recognizing the phrase “looking back” is often paired with Lot’s wife” in the Bible who looked back on Sodom with longing, Elder Clayton reminded listeners that looking back should be done with righteous motivations and purposes.

“Doing so to remember or long for past romantic connections, questionable conduct, or inappropriate indulgences would never be appropriate, and would be akin to Lot’s wife’s action,” he said.

Looking forward

Recognizing graduation is a time for looking into the future, Elder Clayton reminded listeners of the “Law of the harvest,” and encouraged graduates to focus on daily acts of faith.

“To a much greater extent than we realize and remember, our lives are the product of our daily decisions,” he said. “Faithfulness with the little acts of faith on a daily basis yields a harvest of peace and protection emotionally, physically and spiritually.”

Faithfulness becomes a protective shield against the “fiery darts” of the adversary, he taught.

“Little daily acts of genuine faith are like bricks that layer upon layer build mansions of happiness and security for this life, not to mention the next,” he said.

The education received from BYU-Idaho blesses graduates in their profession, family relationships, Church service and ability to be self-reliant.

“It will enhance your capacity to be successful marriage partners, and later, to be loving effective parents and grandparents,” he said. “Your homes will be enriched by the training you have been given here. The most important application of your learning will be in your homes.”

Although there are unknowns as a person considers the future, Elder Clayton encouraged listeners to “press forward.”

“Go forward with faith toward to your tomorrows with faith, remembering or looking back to the past and anticipating or looking forward to the future as best you can,” Elder Clayton said. “You have more control over your tomorrows than you realize, based on your faithful adherence to the commandments of God. And then, having done whatever is in your power, be calm and trust in God. Things will work out for your good.”

During brief remarks, Elder Clark spoke about the Holy Ghost being a person’s constant companion.

“The greatest gift God gives us in mortality is to have the Holy Ghost as our companion,” Elder Clark said. “The Holy Ghost knows the language; He knows the way; He knows what to do; He will guide us and warn us against danger and evil; He will bear witness of all truth; He knows how to teach us, comfort us, bless us with spiritual gifts, purify our hearts, sanctify us, and make us holy. …

“Don’t do anything that will drive the Holy Ghost away. Temptations are all around you. Don’t let them into your heart. Stay close to your divine companion. Listen to what He tells you to do, and act on His promptings.”

In his last commencement speech as BYU-Idaho president, President Gilbert encouraged students to live with courage as they move to their next chapter of life.

“As you leave tonight, leave with courage in the knowledge that you have been in a place that has prepared you for the next part of your journey,” President Gilbert taught. “Leave with courage to know that you have been taught what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You can build Zion where ever your go. That starts in your own heart and in your own mind.”

Recognizing that he and his wife, Sister Christine Gilbert, know a little of what the graduates were feeling as they approach their departure from Rexburg, President Gilbert encouraged graduates to draw on the experiences that prepared them at BYU-Idaho.

“As you leave tonight, take courage and take Rexburg with you wherever you go. Prepare to lift and build others in your future homes, in the Church, and in your work.”

[email protected] @marianne_holman