Brother Wilcox encourages BYU–Idaho graduates to ‘Remember who you are’

Like Rafiki in ‘The Lion King’ stirring the water and telling Simba to ‘look harder,’ Brother Wilcox shared his hope that graduates will remember who they are as children of God

Echoing the words of Mufasa from Disney’s “The Lion King,” Brother Bradley R. Wilcox of the Young Men general presidency counseled BYU–Idaho graduates to “Remember who you are.”

Speaking during commencement exercises on Thursday, April 6, Brother Wilcox noted many of his listeners were also in attendance or listening a year ago when President Russell M. Nelson told young adults exactly who they are. 

“First and foremost, you are a child of God. Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ,” President Nelson taught during a Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults.

Like Rafiki stirring the water and telling Mufasa’s son Simba to “look harder,” Brother Wilcox shared his hope that graduates will think back to their graduation and remember these “paramount and unchanging identifiers.”

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Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, the first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, speaks during commencement exercises at BYU–Idaho on April 6, 2023. | Mike Lewis, BYU–Idaho

Children of God

Each individual is more than a creation of God; they are His literal offspring. “God did not poof us into existence. … We became spirits when we were, in the words of President Joseph F. Smith, ‘begotten and born of heavenly parents,’” Brother Wilcox said.

Why is that distinction important? Brother Wilcox quoted Elder Tad R. Callister, an emeritus general authority, who said: “The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter?”

However, as spirit children of God, all have the divine potential to become like Him, Brother Wilcox said.

Some might ask, “If God created me just the way I am, why does He command me to stop being the way I am?” Or, “if God created us just the way we are, why did He create Satan just the way Satan is?”

God didn’t create everyone just the way they are, Brother Wilcox said. “He gave everyone the opportunity to progress. Satan chose to reject that opportunity, but we made — and must continue to make — a better choice. Our choices ultimately determine what we become.”

Understanding this vital truth frees individuals from seeing themselves as bound by their circumstances and instead enables them to see themselves as boundless because of their parentage, he said.

BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–I Center in Rexburg, Idaho, for commencement exercises on Thursday, April 6, 2023. | Mike Lewis, BYU–Idaho

Children of the covenant

As individuals enter a unique covenant relationship with God, they are no longer just children of God, but also covenant children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and heirs to the spiritual birthright, Brother Wilcox explained. They become “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:7).

Birthright blessings are a privilege, but they also come with responsibilities. Brother Wilcox compared the mortal experience to God sending His children on a cruise ship. The journey is filled with opportunities to grow and be happy, but it is also full of dangers. 

God is concerned about all of His children, so He invites those who are willing to become members of His crew. “That’s us — the children of the covenant,” Brother Wilcox said. “The Lord said, ‘Thou art my servant, O Israel’” (1 Nephi 21:3).

Some might look around the cruise ship and see other people sitting in lounge chairs and partying late into the night and wonder why they can’t. They must remember who they are, Brother Wilcox said. “We are not ordinary passengers. We accepted the invitation to be members of the crew. We now have expectations passengers do not have.”

However, crew members get something other passengers do not: compensation for their work. “As we keep our covenants with God, there is nothing we could ever be asked to do in Christ’s Church for which we have not already been well compensated, for we have been given a birthright,” he said. “Think of it! Of all the people on the earth, God looks to us — the children of the covenant, His crew members — to help save the world.”

The BYU–Idaho Collegiate Singers and Sinfonietta perform during graduation exercises held in the BYU–I Center in Rexburg, Idaho, on April 6, 2023. | Mike Lewis, BYU–Idaho

Disciples of Jesus Christ

President Nelson explained that individuals are disciples of Jesus Christ because of their choice to follow Him each day, Brother Wilcox said.

He quoted the “For the Strength of Youth Guide” which reads: “Make Jesus Christ your standard, your rock-solid foundation. Build your life on His teachings, and measure your choices by them. The covenants you make at baptism, during the sacrament and in the temple are the building blocks of your firm foundation in Christ.”

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The purpose of Christ’s disciples is not just to follow, but to lead; not just to be guided, but to guide. Brother Wilcox continued, “As people have walked beside us, we must now walk beside others. As we have been taught, we must now teach others.”

Brother Wilcox reminded graduates of what Mufasa says to Simba in “The Lion King” — “You are more than what you have become . … Remember who you are.”

“When you think back on your graduation, I hope it will remind you that you are a child of God — not merely His creation. You are a child of the covenant — a member of the crew and not merely a passenger. You are a disciple of Jesus Christ — not merely one who follows but one who leads,” Brother Wilcox said.

BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring speaks during winter 2023 commencement exercises in the BYU–I Center in Rexburg, Idaho, on April 6, 2023. | Tanner Brown, BYU–Idaho


BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring centered his remarks to graduates on the much-needed trait of persistence.

President Eyring utilized the example of Church President Heber J. Grant who, as a boy, was able to master throwing a baseball and improve his penmanship through persistent effort. President Grant would later lead the Church through the financial difficulties of the Great Depression.

“Persistence produces forward motion,” President Eyring said, “no matter the obstacles. You are prepared for a lifetime of persistence, destined to overcome the world and qualify for eternal life. May we persist in our righteous goals.”

The university awarded 2,439 bachelor’s degrees and 1,133 associate degrees to 3,116 students during Thursday’s graduation exercises. Of the graduates, 1,203 were online students, and 1,265 began their studies as BYU–Pathway Worldwide students.

BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–I Center for commencement in Rexburg, Idaho, on Thursday, April 6, 2023. | Mike Lewis, BYU–Idaho
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