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December 15, 2017

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell

Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell was named the second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 9, 2015.

Bishop Waddell was named a General Authority Seventy on April 2, 2011 and served in that capacity until his call to the Presiding Bishopric.

Bishop Waddell received a bachelor's degree in 1984 from San Diego State University. Beginning in 1984 he worked with Merrill Lynch in several positions, including first vice president of investments.

Bishop Waddell has served in numerous Church callings, including full-time missionary in Spain, bishop, high councilor, mission president's counselor, stake president, president of the Barcelona Spain Mission, and Area Seventy.

Wayne Christopher Waddell was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 28, 1959. He married Carol Stansel in July 1984. They are the parents of four children.

Brothers and sisters, it is a distinct honor and privilege for me and Carol to join you this evening on this momentous occasion. In particular, I'm grateful to be with President and Sister Eyring as they participate in just the second of what we hope will be many graduations and commencement exercises at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

I also acknowledge, with great appreciation, all the administration, faculty, families, and friends who are with us tonight and whose sacrifice and support have made this night possible for so many. Finally, I express my sincere congratulations to a very special group ... the graduates of the BYU-Idaho class of Fall 2017. Through your dedication and efforts to gain temporal knowledge, as well as your devotion to gospel truths, you have helped to ensure that which makes this university so unique amongst the hundreds and thousands of institutions of higher learning across the world. There is no place quite like BYU-Idaho. Thank you, and congratulations.

As much as this graduation represents a conclusion, it is, in many ways, a continuation of our remarkable mortal journey back to the presence of our Father in Heaven. President Boyd K. Packer described it this way: "No matter what citizenship or race, whether male or female, no matter what occupation, no matter your education, regardless of the generation in which one lives, life is a homeward journey for all of us, back to the presence of God in his celestial kingdom."[1]

What you have accomplished--what we appropriately commemorate tonight--is a significant step, a true milestone, on your journey home, with many more steps and experiences to follow. Your success in arriving at this place along the path is cause for celebration as you look back and recognize how very far you've come. It is also an opportunity to turn and face your future with confidence, a confidence gained through years of effort--long nights of study, difficult exams, long papers, and challenging classes that you were sure you'd fail when you received the syllabus on the first day of class. It is a confidence that comes from having learned to work effectively with others in study groups, from successful internships, and from having learned that you can do hard things. But more importantly, it is a confidence that you've developed in Him because you've seen His hand in your life, helping you accomplish more than you could have on your own.

This confidence has been developed early in the morning and late at night, as you've studied the scriptures and the words of living prophets and sought Him in earnest prayer. It has been developed as you've partaken of the sacrament, attended the temple, and were true to an Honor Code that you committed to follow when you decided to attend this unique university. It is the same confidence that Ammon demonstrated as he fulfilled his duty to protect the king's flocks: a confidence in the power that was in him--not his power, but the power that was in him--which, he later explained to the king, came from the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost.

As you continue this amazing mortal journey, with all of its ups, downs, twists, and turns, you may forget some of the things you learned in one or two of your classes. But you'll do just fine. However, in order to fulfill your life's ultimate purpose and successfully return back to the presence of God, you cannot ever afford to forget to seek and rely, like Ammon, on the power that must be in you: the power of His Spirit.

President Packer taught this truth when he said:

It is a glorious time to live! No matter what trials await us, we can find the answer to that question, "What shall we do?" We, and those we love, will be guided and corrected and protected, and we will be comforted....

We need not live in fear of the future. We have every reason to rejoice and little reason to fear. If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will be safe, whatever the future holds. We will be shown what to do.[2]

With a bachelor's degree in history, I have always found it fascinating to look back at remarkable accomplishments from the past and try to learn from them and find applications to our lives in this modern world. Similar to our journey back to our celestial home, there are many examples of amazing and heroic journeys, undertaken and completed in challenging circumstances.

One of the greatest feats of open sea navigation took place just over 100 years ago, from April 24 to May 9, 1916.[3] Six British seamen, under the direction of Sir Ernest Shackleton, traveled over 800 miles[4] in a 22-foot lifeboat[5] in the South Atlantic, not far from the South Pole and Antarctic Ocean.[6] The trip was undertaken after the ship they had been on, the Endurance, had been caught in an early freeze while trying to reach land in preparation for a transcontinental crossing of Antarctica. Before it could reach its destination, the ship was trapped in pack ice.[7] Eight months later, living in extreme conditions, the Endurance was crushed by the ice pack's pressure and sank, leaving the crew of 27 stranded.[8]

Their only hope for survival would be to travel during the brutal Antarctic winter, crossing one of the worst seas in the world while battling hurricane-force winds and waves--measuring as much as 60 feet--in their 22-foot lifeboat, in search of help.

Arctic Map

Leaving the majority of men camped in the snow and ice on Elephant Island, Shackleton and five crew members sailed for tiny South Georgia Island, 800 miles away--the navigational equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.[9]

Even more than the elements themselves, their primary challenge would be to navigate on the open ocean with only the use of a sextant, which, for you nonsailors, is a handheld instrument used to determine latitude and longitude when you are at sea, and which requires the ability to see the sun in order to determine your position and stay on course--in other words, an old-fashioned GPS, but harder to use. For Shackleton, it had to work, for if they were to miss the mark and sail past South Georgia Island, they would be over 3,000 miles from the next land mass and would certainly not survive.

During the 15-day voyage, they sought every opportunity to use the sextant, in the midst of stormy seas. One of their efforts was described as "cuddling the mast with one arm and swinging fore and aft around the mast, sextant and all" in order to "catch the sun when the boat leaped her highest on the crest of the sea."[10]

Ultimately, Shackleton and his crew did arrive safely at their destination, thanks to the use of the sextant, which kept them traveling in the right direction.[11] They secured the help they needed on South Georgia Island and ultimately rescued every one of the original crew that had been left behind. Not one was lost.[12]

There is much that can be learned from the study of Shackleton's remarkable journey, but I would like to focus on one aspect that has great relevance to our journey home, back to the presence of God--the most amazing journey of all.

Just as Shackleton had never made the trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island and needed a sextant to keep him on the right path, none of us have ever before traveled on this mortal journey, and we also need help to guide us home, our own version of a sextant.  

President Packer taught that "the spiritual sextant, which each of us has, also functions on the principle of light from celestial sources.... The light will come through. Then you can fix your position and set a true course in life."[13] We each have the right to the constant companionship of this spiritual sextant, the Holy Ghost, by virtue of our baptism, confirmation, and worthiness.

The challenge we face in today's world, as we seek the guidance and direction of the Spirit to determine our position and keep us on course, does not have to do with hurricane winds and mountainous waves but rather the rush of life. The world we live in today--the world you face as you leave the relative safety of BYU-Idaho, the world in which you will marry, raise a family, have a career, buy a home, and serve in the Church--is a very different place than what existed when I graduated in 1984. More than anything, it was much slower.

For example: I used my first microwave as a college senior and typed my papers on an electric typewriter, not a computer. When I made a typing error, I had to use whiteout, not a simple backspace on the keyboard. I used my first fax machine two years into my career, after graduation. There was no internet, no Twitter, no Snapchat or Instagram--not even texting! There were no cell phones, laptops, or iPads. We still used regular mail (with stamps), paid incredibly expensive phone bills for long distance, and got the news from the morning or evening newspaper, or on one of the three main television stations: ABC, NBC, or CBS. CNN was barely four years old and not anything like it is today, and there was no Facebook, no Netflix, no Hulu, and no YouTube. PlayStation? Xbox? We had Pong. Look it up.

Today, you are accustomed to having everything now, at your fingertips, on your smartphones and tablets. Information is all around us and never lets up. Our challenge--your challenge--is to learn how to harness and control all that comes at us seemingly non-stop. Even when we filter out the filth and violence that offend the Spirit and damage our souls, a significant challenge remains. You see, the adversary wins not only when we give in to temptation but also when we are so caught up in "good" things that we don't make time for the essential. For us, knowing that, eternally, there is so much at stake, the guidance and companionship of the Spirit is essential. President Ezra Taft Benson could not have been clearer when he taught, "Without the Spirit you will never succeed, regardless of your talent and ability."[14]

President Packer must have seen our day when he said, "I fear this supernal gift is being obscured by programs and activities and schedules and so many meetings. There are so many places to go, so many things to do in this noisy world. We can be too busy to pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit."[15] We are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants that the Lord will provide us "a pattern in all things,"[16] and, true to His word, He has provided us with a pattern, found in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon, which leads to personal revelation and direction: a pattern of "pondering."

1 Nephi 11:1-2:

As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen....
And the Spirit said to me: Behold, what desirest thou?"[17]

Nephi then saw the same remarkable vision of the tree of life that his father had seen.

Helaman 10:2-4:

And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him....
...As he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi.
Nephi was then blessed with the sealing power and told by the Lord, "Behold, I will bless thee forever."[18]

D&C 138:11: "As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great."[19] The prophet Joseph F. Smith then received a vision of the redemption of the dead.

D&C 76:19: "And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about."[20] Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery then proceeded to see a vision of the three degrees of glory.

These passages, and their specific choice of words, teach us a valuable lesson that the Lord wants us to understand as we make our way through mortality. He wants us to know that we must slow down, that we must take the time, and that we must make the time which is necessary in order for us to seek and receive personal revelation. It is a right we all enjoy, it is a blessing we all need, and it is entirely our choice. Elder M. Russell Ballard taught this same principle in his recent Face to Face event with young single adults all over the world when he counseled that we shouldn't allow ourselves to be "captured by clutter," and the importance of finding a quiet place where we can "be still."[21]

As much as things have changed over the past 33 years, one thing definitely has not changed: that revelation requires patience, and it comes in the Lord's time, not ours--it can't be rushed, which is why we are taught to ponder. I'll conclude my remarks tonight by commenting on four places we can go to escape the clutter and be still in order to ponder and seek the guidance and direction we need.

The first place available to us, wherever we might be, day or night, is prayer. Take the time every day to earnestly pray and seek God's help. Open your hearts and minds to Him on a regular basis. As we draw close to Him, we are taught that He will draw close to us.[22] The most oft-given commandment in the scriptures is the commandment to pray. He wants to listen; He wants to bless. But there are some blessings that require us to ask as a condition for their bestowal. Personal revelation is one of those blessings.

The second place we can go to ponder, also on a daily basis, is to the scriptures and the words of living prophets.

In a Church Newsroom posting from last May, we have been informed that "because of limitations incident to his age, President Monson is no longer attending meetings at the Church offices...."[23]

We are all aware that President Monson did not participate in our last general conference, and none of us know when he might speak again. With that in mind, I find it instructional that the Lord, who is obviously aware of President Monson's physical condition, of all that He could have inspired President Monson to address, would have him teach us of the importance of the Book of Mormon. Listen to the words of our Prophet:

This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives.... 
If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so.
My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven's help in our lives.[24]

In 2 Nephi 31:20 we are encouraged to "[feast] upon the word[s] of Christ,"[25] and "feasting" requires time. Speaking of our study of the scriptures, and specifically about the Book of Mormon, Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught that the amount of time we study is more important than the number of pages we read. We can't rush the Lord; we can't rush revelation. Take time to ponder.[26] This same principle applies when we study the words of living, in addition to ancient, prophets. Referring to general conference, President Monson stated: "I encourage you to read the talks ... and to ponder the messages contained therein. I have found in my own life that I gain even more from these inspired sermons when I study them in greater depth."[27]

The third place we go to ponder is church--every Sabbath day, remembering that it is the Sabbath day, not the Sabbath block. As we prepare ourselves to worthily partake of the sacrament each Sunday, we place ourselves in a situation to receive direction and guidance. When the sacrament is administered, Elder Ballard has suggested that every child, parent, and grandparent should accompany the Savior to Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Garden Tomb.[28] Elder Quentin Cook has suggested that we put away all of our electronic devices during the entire meeting so that we don't break the same covenant we just renewed while partaking of the sacrament.[29] This is a time to reflect, a time to consider, a time to ponder, a time of revelation. The fourth and last place I'll mention this evening is the temple, the house of the Lord. We are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 109 that the temple is a place for the "Son of Man ... to manifest himself to his people"[30]--both physically and spiritually. We are taught in Doctrine and Covenants 97:13-14 that the temple is "a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices,"[31] which, I may add, include the "calling" of husband and wife, mother and father, and even child of God. The temple is a place of instruction--a place of revelation and enlightenment--for all who will enter worthily to leave the world behind and ponder.

My dear young friends, with all of my heart I congratulate you for who you are, for what you've accomplished, and for what you will yet accomplish as you continue on this remarkable mortal journey. You have so much to offer the world as you spread your wings, leave Rexburg, and demonstrate how true disciples of Christ live their lives. As you move on, I invite and encourage you to slow down and take the time to ponder as you seek direction and guidance for your life. Amen.


[1] Boyd K. Packer, "Covenants," Ensign, May 1987, 24. [2] Boyd K. Packer, "The Cloven Tongues of Fire," Ensign, May 2000, 8-9. [3] Caroline Alexander, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, 134-35. [4] Roland Huntford, Shackleton, 523-24. [5] John Thomson, Shackleton's Captain: A Biography of Frank Worsley, 72. [6] Huntford, Shackleton, 143-44. [7] Alexander, The Endurance, 41. [8] Alexander, 84-89. [9] Huntford, Shackleton, 523-24. [10] F. A. Worsley, Shackleton's Boat Journey, 133. [11] Alexander, The Endurance, 165-66. [12] Alexander, 183. [13] Packer, "Covenants," 24. [14] Ezra Taft Benson, seminar for new mission presidents, June 25, 1986. [15] Packer, "Cloven Tongues," Ensign, May 2000, 8. [16] Doctrine and Covenants 52:14. [17] 1 Nephi 11:1-2; emphasis added. [18] Helaman 10:2-5; emphasis added. [19] Doctrine and Covenants 138:11; emphasis added. [20] Doctrine and Covenants 76:19; emphasis added. [21] M. Russell Ballard, YSA Face to Face with Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard: Worldwide Young Single Adult Event, Nov. 19, 2017. [22] See Doctrine and Covenants 88:63. [23] "Church Provides Update on President Monson," Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 23 May 2017, https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/president-monson-update. [24] Thomas S. Monson, "The Power of the Book of Mormon," Ensign, May 2017, 86-7. [25] 2 Nephi 31:20. [26] See D. Todd Christofferson, "When Thou Art Converted," Ensign, May 2004, 11. [27] Thomas S. Monson, "God Be with You Till We Meet Again," Ensign, Nov. 2012, 110. [28] M. Russell Ballard, conversation with the author. [29] Quentin L. Cook, conversation with the author. [30] Doctrine and Covenants 109:5. [31] Doctrine and Covenants 97:13.

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Audio of Bishop W. Christopher Waddell's BYU-Idaho commencement address Fall 2017