Exactly 13 years after he last delivered a commencement address at BYU–Idaho, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles returned to Rexburg, Idaho, on Thursday, April 7, to congratulate the school’s graduates and to offer counsel on the voices they listen to moving forward.
“Who are you listening to?” Elder Andersen asked. “The answer will shape your future and your eternal destiny.”
He asked those participating in person at the BYU–Idaho Center and online to consider this question regularly.
“Will you largely be influenced by virtuous, motivating, righteous, insightful, and spiritually sensitive voices, or will you be influenced more by negative, complaining, flattering, cynical and carnal voices?”
Elder Andersen suggested some voices that should be avoided or considered less-important than others. He also provided four voices that the graduates should hear.
Prophets and Apostles
Referencing last weekend’s general conference, Elder Andersen said that listening to and following those messages will “keep you centered firmly on the path of righteousness and happiness.”
General conference messages are relevant right now, he said.
“Who better could you listen to?” he asked. “If you are listening to the Prophet of God and following his counsel, you will have greater ability and capacity to do your life’s work.”
Spouse and faithful family and friends
Elder Andersen said he listens to his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen.
“No one loves me more than she does,” he said. “And she has faced every challenge before us with undaunting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He also shared the story of Sheri Slater, a family friend. She was injured as a freshman at Ricks College in 1998. Her injury, a severed spinal cord, resulted in paralysis.
Sheri’s friends and family cared for her, shared their testimonies with her and encouraged her when the time was right to return to school to complete her education. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
Most important, Elder Andersen said, “Twenty-three years later, Sheri is valiant in her testimony of Jesus Christ.”
“I pray that two decades from now, April 7, 2042, you, too, will be firm and valiant in your testimony of Jesus Christ.”
The “calm and gentle” voice of the Spirit is promised to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said. “This voice comes as we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and as we keep His commandments.”
Scripturally, Elder Andersen shared that the Lord did more than promise the companionship of the Holy Ghost. He promised enlightenment to everyone “that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:47).
“Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I plead with you to listen to His words and follow Him,” Elder Andersen said.
The way to listen to the Savior, he explained, is to study His words and put “His commandments in your heart.”
Elder Andersen returned to the scriptures and reminded the graduates to feast upon the words of Christ because they “tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).
“Listen to the words of the Savior. Believe His words,” Elder Andersen said.
In conclusion, he promised the graduates that continually listening to voices of truth will lead to spiritual safety.
Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and former president of BYU–Idaho, traveled to the commencement with his wife and five of their daughters.
He said BYU–Idaho was “where we came to a knowledge of our Redeemer” as a family. When a new calling came, and the family moved, he said he remembered thinking, “I hope there is enough Rexburg in us.”
Elder Gilbert told the graduates that the late Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said the graduates of BYU–Idaho would “become legendary for their capacity to build people around them and add value wherever they serve.”
Current BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring also addressed the graduates.
He said 2,916 of them would receive diplomas with 995 of them being online students and 1,018 having started as BYU Pathway students.
He talked about taxes, saying that the recent COVID-19 pandemic created a taxing time and environment. “All of you have pushed through a taxing time.”
He also said that sin is a type of tax. He encouraged them to remember how that tax was reconciled.
“The Savior paid the tax of sin,” he said.