Elder Bednar tells graduates to both ‘believe and see’ and ‘see and believe’

Wednesday’s graduation also included goodbyes to BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring, who steps down on Aug. 1

REXBURG, Idaho — Prior to his call as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar was immersed in a professional world governed by the principle that “seeing is believing.”

While the concepts and skills he learned in his career as a professor of business management — such as the scientific method and other conceptual and statistical analytical techniques — have their advantages and disadvantages, Elder Bednar offered a caution about these tools to graduates from Brigham Young University–Idaho on Wednesday, July 19.

“Mortal methods can only go so far and only do so much. These cognitive frameworks and analysis techniques ultimately cannot address the questions of the soul, the purpose and meaning of our mortal experience, and the things of eternity,” Elder Bednar said.

To the approximately 3,000 graduates gathered in the BYU–Idaho Center or listening via the internet, the Apostle testified, “We can, do and should know many things through means other than sight. ‘By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things’ (Moroni 10:5). Truly, believing is seeing!”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during BYU–Idaho commencement held on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in the BYU–Idaho Center Auditorium in Rexburg, Idaho. | Nicolette Muhlestein, BYU–Idaho
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Knowing of things ‘ye do not see’

In the Book of Mormon, Korihor the anti-Christ attempts to undermine belief in God and the redemptive role of Jesus Christ. Calling belief a “vain hope” and “foolish tradition,” he says: “How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ” (Alma 30:15).

“Thus, Korihor stipulates that ‘seeing’ is the only way a person can come to know anything,” Elder Bednar noted.

In contrast, the prophet Alma explains that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). 

Elder Bednar continued, “Thus, for a person with Christ-focused faith, believing that which is true but not visible is, in fact, seeing.” 

The Savior instructed, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things — that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61).

Only with eyes of faith can individuals see what they need to see, learn what they need to learn and ultimately become what they are destined to become as sons and daughters of the Eternal Father, Elder Bednar taught.

BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement services with Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Lydia Rumsey, BYU–Idaho

Balance and binoculars

A pair of binoculars, as opposed to a telescope, is designed for the use of both eyes to magnify objects, Elder Bednar noted. Just as a person’s vision of something in the distance is sharpened by using both eyes with a pair of binoculars, “so too our eternal purpose and priorities are clarified as we appropriately strive to balance and apply in our lives the dual principles of believing to see and seeing to believe.”

For example, the Lord taught Oliver Cowdery of this vital balance of study and faith by teaching that he must first “study it out in your mind,” then ask the Lord if it is right (see Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9).

Individuals have a spiritual responsibility to exercise their moral agency to think, work and study an issue or problem, Elder Bednar said. “We should do all in our power to reach an appropriate initial conclusion about the course we should pursue.”

This effort is in preparation, however, to sincerely and humbly seek God’s confirmation. “Rather than rely only upon our own intellect and capacity, we strive to obtain eyes of faith to receive and recognize direction that comes from God by the power of the Holy Ghost. Truly, believing is seeing what we otherwise could never see and learning what we otherwise could never learn,” Elder Bednar taught.

He encouraged the graduates to be wise. “[Do] not be seduced to rely exclusively on the principle of ‘seeing is believing.’ Doing so will restrict and constrain our understanding of the things that truly matter the most in our lives.”

In conclusion, the Apostle blessed graduates “that according to your strong desire and faithful diligence, you will have eyes to see and ears to hear the things of God. I bless you to both ‘believe and see’ and to ‘see and believe’ — and to know which principle will best apply in the various circumstances of your life.”

From left, BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring, Sister Kelly Eyring, Sister Susan Bednar, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Clark G. Gilbert and Sister Christine Gilbert stand as graduates enter the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. | Mike Lewis, BYU–Idaho

Saying goodbye

The Wednesday evening commencement also included the final address of BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring before he completes his tenure as the 17th president of the university on Aug. 1.

In his remarks, Elder Bednar, who served as president of the university from 1997 to 2004, expressed gratitude to President Eyring and his wife, Sister Kelly Eyring, for preserving, safeguarding and enhancing the things that matter most at BYU–Idaho.

“I commend you for your devotion to the Savior and for your faithful service at this remarkable university,” Elder Bednar told President and Sister Eyring. “You have modeled ‘intellectual modesty, humility, gratitude, obedience and frugality’ in ways that have allowed BYU–Idaho to continue to shine with the brightness that prophetic leaders have charged this university to carry since its founding.”

On behalf of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Bednar thanked President and Sister Eyring “for all you have done and for all that you are.”

BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring applauds students as they give him a standing ovation during commencement exercises on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Rexburg, Idaho. President Eyring completes his time as president on Aug. 1. | Nicolette Muhlestein, BYU–Idaho

With emotion in his voice, Elder Bednar then invited the audience to express their gratitude to the university president with a round of applause. With tears streaming down their faces, President and Sister Eyring in turn applauded the students, who gave the couple a standing ovation.

In his remarks, President Eyring categorized himself with the graduates. “With few exceptions, we will say goodbye to this wonderful university. Fortunately, we can rely not only on the friends we have made, but also on the knowledge gleaned and the spiritual strength we have taken.”

He spoke briefly of his “miraculous” meeting with past BYU–Idaho President Kim B. Clark, who offered him a job at the university.

“In the ensuing 17 years, the BYU–Idaho community has worked wonders on me and my family. I hope that the lessons and experiences will be good for a lifetime. Let’s make that your goal and mine,” President Eyring told graduates.

Sister Susan Bednar, wife of Elder Bednar, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, Church commissioner of education and a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Christine Gilbert, were also in attendance.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles applauds BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring during commencement held in the BYU–Idaho Center on July 19, 2023, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Nicolette Muhlestein, BYU–Idaho

In his remarks, Elder Gilbert, who also served as president of the university from 2015 to 2017, quoted 2 Nephi 1:6, “there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.”

Elder Gilbert then told graduates: “I believe that statement is true of BYU–Idaho and all those who come here. I believe it was true for President and Sister Eyring. I believe it was true for Elder and Sister Bednar. I know it was true for me and Sister Gilbert. I hope you will find it to have been true for each of you. The Lord brought you here for a purpose, and now you have the opportunity to bless those you will serve across the Church.”

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What students had to say

Holding his smiling 7-month-old son in his arms, graduate Josh Thieme expressed his appreciation for Elder Bednar’s “wise” counsel about balancing study and faith. The new graduate is finishing an internship as a software engineer and felt the Apostle’s counsel will especially apply as he and his wife make decisions about the right path to follow as he begins his career.

As an online student, Coree Ogden traveled from Maryland to be a part of Wednesday’s graduation. Wearing leis made by her grandchildren, Ogden commented that the commencement services were “a real personal experience.”

She was touched by Elder Bednar’s and the other speakers’ remarks about the spirit of Ricks and the need to perpetuate those qualities going forward.

Accounting graduate Laramie Kimball said she was energized by the sense of camaraderie and unity among the graduates as they lined up for processional. As she listened to the speakers, she felt the Spirit confirm to her two things: First, that Elder Bednar is an Apostle of the Lord, and second, that the Lord loves her.

BYU–Idaho graduates celebrate during commencement on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in the BYU–Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho. | Madeline Jex, BYU–Idaho
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“I was reminded that God is on my side and He is going to help me,” said Kimball, who starts her master’s degree in accounting at Brigham Young University in September.

Graduate Sean Crone loved that Elder Bednar encouraged listeners not to demand to see before they choose to have faith. “We should have faith to see and hear the Lord as disciples but not expect physical demonstrations to be the cornerstone of our faith,” Crone said.

As graduate Jasmin Wilkey listened to the various speakers, she thought about how being able to study at BYU–Idaho has been “a unique and special opportunity.”

In each of her classes, she said, “I have not only been taught the content but also how to use the Holy Ghost to strengthen and guide my efforts. It has set me up for success for the rest of my life because I have better learned how to fully include my Heavenly Father and Savior into my every day.”

BYU–Idaho graduates pose for a photo outside the I-Center following commencement exercises on July 19, 2023, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Lauren Bushman, BYU–Idaho
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