Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Elder Ronald A. Rasband was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 3, 2015. He had been serving as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since 2005 and was serving as the senior president of the Presidency of the Seventy when called to the Twelve. Elder Rasband was named a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 1 April 2000. He has served as a counselor in the Europe Central Area Presidency, president of the Utah Salt Lake City Area, executive director of the Temple Department; and has supervised the North America West, Northwest, and three Utah areas as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.
Elder Rasband attended the University of Utah. In 1995, Utah Valley University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Business and Commerce. In 1976 he joined Huntsman Container Company as sales representative, and in 1987, he was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer of Huntsman Chemical Corporation.
When he left Huntsman Chemical Corporation in 1996 to serve as a mission president in New York, he was also serving as a member of the Board of Directors.
Elder Rasband has held numerous Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Eastern States Mission (1970-1972), Temple Square missionary guide, bishop, and member of the Church's Sesquicentennial Committee. He presided over the New York, New York North Mission from 1996 to 1999.
Elder Rasband was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1951. He married Melanie Twitchell in 1973. They are the parents of five children and have 24 grandchildren.
Brothers and Sisters, what an honor to be here. I congratulate all of you, graduates of the Class of 2016. You have distinguished yourselves at BYU-Idaho by your work, your faith and your commitment. I recognize that you did not do this alone. Your parents, fellow students, professors, university administrators and even roommates who are here, and away, have been a part of your journey here at BYU-Idaho. Most of all, I hope you feel a sense of peace and accomplishment from your Father in Heaven for this achievement at an institution built upon "...the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God...."
I want you to think for a moment, "What does it feel like to be here at commencement?" What does the future look like for you?" And, "what are you going to do about it?"
Start with making a record. When you go home tonight, consider writing in your journal about this significant day in your life. How it looked, felt and motivated you to press forward. If you do not have a journal, now is a good time to begin one. You will look back at this day many times in your life and a record of your thoughts and tender feelings will add strength, perspective and resolve to the challenges you will face. I hope your account will include something about the people who have been here with you, pulling and pushing you along.
My thoughts this evening are based on just such a journal entry that was—in so many ways—a rite of passage, like yours today. This one was on that infamous hill in Church history called Rocky Ridge when the Willie Handcart Company was out in Wyoming facing desperate times in an early winter. The words come from John Chislett, and the message comes from his heart, sanctified in the worst of times.
Chislett, age 24—close in age to many of you—wrote:
A few days of bright freezing weather were succeeded by another snow storm. The day we crossed the Rocky Ridge it was snowing a little—the wind hard from the North West—and blowing so keenly that it almost pierced us through. We had to wrap ourselves closely in blankets, quilts, or whatever else we could get, to keep from freezing. Captain Willie still attended to the details of the company's travelling, and this day he appointed me to bring up the rear.
My duty was to stay behind everything and see that nobody was left along the road. I had to bury a man who had died in my hundred, and I finished doing so after the company had started. In about half an hour, I set out on foot alone to do my duty as rear-guard to the camp. The ascent of the ridge commenced soon after leaving camp, and I had not gone far up it before I overtook a cart that the folks could not pull through the snow, here about knee-deep. I helped them along, and we soon overtook another.
By all hands getting to one cart we could travel; so we moved one of the carts a few rods, and then went back and brought up the other. After moving in this way for a while, we overtook other carts at different points of the hill, until we had six carts, not one of which could be moved by the parties owning it. I put our collective strength to three carts at a time, took them a short distance, and then brought up the other three. Thus by travelling over the hill three times—twice forward and once back—I succeeded after hours of toil in bringing my little company to the summit.
Can you picture the scene? These were trail-weary pioneers, some in this very company were my own Moulton ancestors, wrapped in thin blankets to keep from freezing, and trudging in deep snow, exerting what little energy they had left to get to the top. I am sure it seemed insurmountable for them alone, however, Chislett came up from behind and added his strength and will to theirs and then they picked up others along the way. Putting their "collective strength to three carts at a time" they were able to make the climb and eventually arrive at the evening fires; fires stoked by the sheer faith of the Saints. They had little else.
Many of you have in your youth recreated that trek experience out on a trail just to feel a small measure of what they felt as they followed the Lord's call to come to Zion. I doubt yours was in snow up to your knees and yet that push and pull up the hill was still a staggering feat. How did you make it? How did they make it? "By travelling over the hill three times—twice forward and once back." The experience was truly an example of the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Think about it. You have careers, families and adventures ahead of you, however, no one of them can be counted a success if you do not see that your fellow travelers get to the top of the hill.
That is a different perspective than the world would espouse. In our Father's kingdom—here on earth—we operate by different rules. The Lord laid out His expectations for us during His ministry. Remember the account of the man who asked the Savior, "what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" The Lord listed commandments to him ending with "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."  And the young man said, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
The handcart pioneers had hardly any possessions left by the time they reached Rocky Ridge. They had consumed their food and thrown extra weight from their carts. They had nothing—except pioneers like John Chislett and an inner resolve to get to Zion.
How does this apply to you—setting out as you are in 2016 with a degree in your hand and promise in every direction? Let me suggest a few lessons to be learned from Chislett's account that will serve you well in the years ahead.
First, press on. Press on no matter how hard it gets, no matter how deep the snow, how steep the climb; no matter how little you have left to keep going. Remember and rely upon the Lord's promise, "...be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
You may be at the back of the pack like John Chislett. Recognize the responsibility to not leave anyone behind. There will be many you encounter with broken hearts and broken dreams. Lift them, help them move forward, boost their confidence in their ability and renew their faith that the Lord is watching over them. He sent you.
Just recently I talked with hundreds of thousands of youth in 146 countries around the world in a Face-to-Face broadcast about the 2016 theme for Young Men and Young Women. The scripture theme comes from 2 Nephi:
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
Pressing forward is a principle of righteousness in every dispensation. Let's look at the life of the Prophet Nephi as an example.
This scripture, "Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ" comes after Lehi's family has reached the Promised Land. Like any trek-crossing the plains for the pioneers or crossing the desert and ocean for Lehi and company, it was hard going to get there. His brothers scorned Nephi for thinking he could take on Laban. And what did Nephi say? "Nevertheless I went forth." In other words, he pressed on.
You will have those who take issue with your determination to follow the will of the Lord. We see it all around us as attacks on religious freedom increase. Stay the course, brothers and sisters. Hold fast to the Lord's commandments—even in the face of challenges from unbelievers.
Nephi angered his brothers when he broke the steel bow he used to hunt for food. His brothers, at this point, had "hardened their hearts..., even unto complaining against the Lord their God." It was a pattern for them. Nephi made a bow out of wood, followed the directions of the pointers on the Liahona to the top the mountain, and there he slayed wild beasts. He pressed on. It may not have been just how he wanted it, a wood bow in place of a fine steel one, hunting alone with no one at his side; however, he pressed on. You will be asked at times to do the same.
Nephi was commanded to build a ship and though his brothers scorned his effort, he was successful saying, "...If God had commanded me to do all things, I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done."
Remember then that the family was out on the ship and the rebellious brothers tied him to the mast, making merry at first, and then found themselves unable to steer the ship in a "terrible tempest." When it looked finally like they would be lost in the depths of the sea the brothers loosed Nephi from his bindings. Said Nephi, "...I did praise [God] all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord...." He pressed on just as John Chislett did and he carried his brothers forward with him every time. Will you?
You too will have moments when the adversary will come after you. He will make things hard or sometimes worse, more alluring, than living the commandments of God. Do not be drawn off or discouraged. Do not blame the Lord for He has said, "...I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted."
Trust Him. Trust Him to help you with the decision about an eternal companion, a family, a job and a home. Pray for guidance, make a decision, and then take it to the Lord for His confirming peace.
...when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God....
If you find yourself in mists of darkness, get down on your knees. Brigham Young used to teach about prayer, "Knees get down, I say; and down bend the knees." It's that simple.
I had such an experience at the end of my college years. I was offered a position to leave during my last year of school and take a job—the job I would have sought at the end of my schooling. Sister Rasband and I went to the Lord "not knowing beforehand the things [that we] should do." Sound familiar? We felt prompted to take the job. It was the right decision for us though at the time, and many times since, I have wished I had that certificate of graduation you have in your hands today.
The Lord has a plan for each one of us and He will unfold that plan as we turn to Him in prayer, seek His guidance, act upon His promptings and press on. This, I know, brothers and sisters.
The second lesson: draw upon your strength and the strength of others.
Enlist the help of those who know God's ways. It is not the easiest path, as Chislett would have told you, but it is a straight path and He has it marked well. As I testified in my General Conference message, listen to and follow your leaders, know they are there to help you just as Chislett was there for his 100 pioneers. Did those straggling up the hill at Rocky Ridge scoff at his call to join forces and pull together? Those who refused help, or refused to help died, frozen, on the hillside. But those who put their weight and efforts to pressing on together reached the summit and eventually the valley beyond.
Where do we see this in today's world? You are not out on mountainsides in the winter, but you know some of you are out on the Internet, out listening to those calling "lo here and lo there." Whether it be antichurch blather or pornography, resolve today to set that pattern aside. You need your strength to withstand the buffetings that will continue to come at you and at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why? Because, these are the last days and Satan is running out of time. He is throwing everything he has out there to catch the attention of God's children, to draw them off, to stymie their progress, to conflict their very souls.
Wrote one of the survivors of the ill-fated handcart companies, "Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities."
What of Laman and Lemuel? They kept questioning their father and their brother Nephi, never recognizing or nurturing the spiritual influences in their own lives. Let me suggest a couple of ways to blunt the adversary's attack on your spiritual strength.
Go to church every week and partake of the sacrament with a repentant and forgiving heart. Seek the power of the Atonement to strip away your follies so that you can sustain your strength. Encourage those close to you to do the same. You may have to do that time and again, as did John Chislett as he climbed back and forth on the mountain. Do not stop! Ask your questions—you have them, we all do—ask them of your parents, quorum leaders and Relief Society sisters who have more experience, knowledge, and spiritual strength. They are behind you, always there to assist. Ask them in your mind and heart while you read the scriptures and wait to be taught by the Spirit. Ask the Lord in prayer and be patient for the answer. Receive counsel from the leaders of the Church and follow them. I testify they are wise, divinely guided servants of the Lord and able to see farther—they can see the valley; trust them.
Your greatest strength is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has promised:
...be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you...
...I will be on your right hand and on your left....
...I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
[My] peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you...
...come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth.
The third lesson. Rescue those who are faltering along the way.
What does that mean for us today?
It means being the Lord's disciples for a lifetime. It means reaching out to family members with a humble and contrite heart to heal a wound you may have inflicted on someone, or that may have been thrust at you. It means forgiving when you do not feel like you were at fault, choosing to lift someone's spirits rather than attack their weaknesses. It means to be loving and kind. We cannot afford as disciples of Jesus Christ, as we all are brothers and sisters, to be the reason someone steps away from the gospel. We cannot afford to walk by when someone is in need. We cannot demand our own justice when the Lord has said, "Blessed are the merciful..."
It means fellowshipping new converts and friendshipping those who have slipped away. How do you feel when you see a former friend or companion who has turned away from the Lord and His ways? What would John Chislett do? He would go back and help them pull the cart. He would go back again and again rallying support of others to get that soul to the top and back to the fire of the Lord.
Hearing of the plight of the handcart pioneers stranded out in the winter blizzards, Brigham Young stood up at general conference and called for the members, "Go and bring in those people now on the plains." These members, including my great-grandfather John Bennet Hawkins, had little to spare, but they loaded their wagons with blankets stripped from their beds, emptied food from their cupboards, meager a supply as it was, and headed up the canyon.
There will be those times—many times—when you will be the answer to someone's prayer; you will be as the Lord says, "mine angels round about..., to bear [them] up." But He adds this caveat: "...no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love...."
What does that mean to you? How do you show your love?
Chislett's duty "was to stay behind everything." I wonder if staying behind is hard for anyone here? Standing behind is an interesting vantage point in contrast to the ones up front. It is also less visible to those who are watching. Do not be persuaded to believe that what matters most happens only in front of the cameras or in front of the crowd.
On that treacherous hillside, in the worst of weather, no one was looking for the one with squared shoulders or shiny buttons. Think how they felt when Chislett put his arm in theirs and pushed on.
For the most part, these were families out on the trail. President Harold B. Lee, the eleventh president of the Church, said, "The most important of the Lord's work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes."
The world will tell you otherwise, that you are behind the curve if you are focusing your attention on what is happening in your home. Don't you believe it! The Lord has taught through His prophets, "The family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." In the Lord's eyes, that is hardly the back of the pack.
I know the Lord is pleased with all of you today. He is pleased at the course you have set and that you are commencing into new fields of endeavor and new fields of influence. Most of all, He is pleased that you are His—righteous, faithful, and obedient. You are prepared to make a difference in a world that needs your strength that will admire your persistence in pressing on with your hearts filled with love.
As one of His servants, I leave my blessing with you today. I bless you that you will feel strength as you press on in the work of the Lord, as you cherish and lead your families, as you honor your mothers and fathers, as you help others who have fallen behind, and as you show gratitude to your Father in Heaven for all He has given you. He will continue to bless you and lead you as you turn to Him and trust Him.
Take counsel and stand strong, shoulder to shoulder bearing testimony that Jesus Christ lives, that He loves us and that He leads us.
Of this I bear my solemn witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Helaman 5:12  history.lds.org, Chislett, John, "Narrative," in T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons (1873), 313-32.  history.lds.org, Chislett, John, "Narrative," in T.B.H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons (1873), 313-32.  Mark 12:31  Matthew 19:16  Mark 12:31  Matthew 19:20  Matthew 19:21-22  John 16:33  2nd Nephi 31:20  2nd Nephi 31:20  1st Nephi 4:7  1 Nephi 16:22  1 Nephi 17:50  1 Nephi 18:13  I Nephi 18:16  1 Nephi 21:11  Alma 37:37  "Chapter 6: The Communication Between God and Man," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 41-47  1 Nephi 4:6  Joseph Smith History 1:5  As quoted in "The Refiners Fire," James E. Faust, April General Conference, 1979  Doctrine and Covenants 68:6  Doctrine and Covenants 84:88  3 Nephi 18:31  John 14:27  Alma 5:16  history.lds.org, Chislett, John, "Narrative," in T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons (1873), 313-32.  Mark 12:31  Matthew 5:7  Deseret News, Oct. 15, 1856, 252  Doctrine and Covenants 84:88  Doctrine and Covenants 12:8  history.lds.org, Chislett, John, "Narrative," in T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons (1873), 313-32.  "Chapter 17: Love at Home," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2000, 128-37  "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" 1995