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Who are You Listening To?

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"Who Are You Listening To?"

Elder Neil L. Andersen

April 7, 2022

My dear graduates and friends, I bring you the congratulations of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was with them this morning and they send you their love and blessing.

Sister Andersen and I are so happy to be with you on this very important day. I acknowledge Elder Clark G. Gilbert and his wife, Sister Christine Gilbert, and thank Elder Gilbert for his comments. We are also very grateful for President Henry J. Eyring, for his comments, and for Sister Kelly Eyring and their family who carry the torch of this university with great care and capacity.

Your graduation from BYU-Idaho is a very notable achievement requiring vision, sacrifice, and work. Your success was not created in a week or in a month or in a year. I am impressed that 1,920 of the graduates are campus-based students, 995 are online students and 1,018 of those graduating started with BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Congratulations to all of you! Whether you are from Sugar City or São Paulo, Blackfoot or Bilbao, your graduation speaks volumes about your character in reaching a significant goal in life.

Your accomplishment honors the words of President Russell M. Nelson, “Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility.”[1]

My last commencement at BYU-Idaho was thirteen years ago today. I had been assigned to speak well in advance, but the events of the general conference weekend prior to commencement were unforeseen. On that Saturday of the April general conference in 2009, I was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve. It was on Thursday exactly 13 years ago in the Salt Lake Temple that President Thomas S. Monson and the 13 other Apostles placed their hands upon my head for my sacred ordination. Immediately following that very powerful spiritual experience, Kathy and I drove from Salt Lake City to Rexburg. Returning to BYU-Idaho for your commencement is a treasured blessing for us.

One reason BYU-Idaho is distinctive is because you have always remembered the Lord’s counsel to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”[2] It is our knowledge, relationships, and experiences that go with us through the veil. As one commencement speaker said, “You’ll never see a U-Haul [being pulled] behind a hearse.”[3] On campus and in your online classes, you have listened and learned.

There has never been a time in the history of the world quite like the one we are living. The possibilities before you are filled with hope and expectation. As you keep your love of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel balanced with your work and the temporal challenges of mortality, you can have happiness, prosperity, and wonderful satisfactions in your life.

My message for you is to frequently reflect on this question: “who am I listening to?”

My question is for you tonight, but also if I could sit face-to-face with you in five years, ten years, or twenty-five years. Who are you listening to? The answer will shape your future and your eternal destiny. The Apostle Paul said, “There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world.”[4]

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? Your question through the coming years: who am I listening to?

These voices are now amplified by the internet and social media. Here are two statistics: While the average person uses social media 2.5 hours per day, Gen Z (your generation) spends as much as 4.5 hours daily.[5] Those of your generation are more likely to follow online celebrities and influencers.[6]

Although the internet and social media are amazing additions to our library of knowledge and our tools of communication, don’t allow the less important voices of technology to crowd out the voices so important to your eternal welfare. Remember this warning from President Russell M. Nelson: “If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished.”[7]

Many of you will be very happy that there are no more tests at the testing center, but in the years ahead, I encourage you to take a self-administered, one-question, self-graded test. The question: who am I listening to?

I pray that you who are graduating today will use the power of your agency, discipline, and precious time to listen to the voices that matter most. They will help you become even more than you are today. I know you desire to be lifelong followers of the Savior. On this graduation day, may I suggest a few of the important voices to keep active in your mind and in your spirit?

Listen to those who truly love you and honestly want you to have eternal life in the presence of God. The words spoken in general conferences of the Church, like those of this past Saturday and Sunday, if listened to and followed will keep you centered firmly on the path of righteousness and happiness. The instruction we received from the Lord in this conference is what we need to know and do right now. I pray that for the next six months as you leave BYU-Idaho, you will rivet your attention not just to a new job or a new location but on what you heard this past weekend. Listen to the words of the Lord’s prophet and apostles.

The Lord has said concerning His prophet: “Wherefore, . . . thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments. . . . For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth. . . . [and] by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good.”[8] Who better could you listen to?

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. It has been my amazing privilege to be closely associated with President Russell M. Nelson and the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve that surround him. President Nelson has now been an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ for 38 years. I know the heart of this great prophet. He speaks the truth. He speaks the voice of the Lord.

You thought your assignments were finished with your graduation, but last Sunday, President Nelson gave us a series of invitations. Here is one:

Two weeks from today we celebrate Easter. Between now and then, I invite you to seek an end to a personal conflict that has weighed you down. Could there be a more fitting act of gratitude to Jesus Christ for His Atonement?

If forgiveness presently seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you. As you do so, I promise a personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum.[9]

Can you think of a greater graduation gift in April of 2022 than the promise from the prophet of “personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum”? We have our assignment. We are listening to you, President Nelson.

Graduates, I would also suggest that you listen to those who love you most and who are full of faith. Let me share a couple of examples.

If you are married or marry in the future, listen to each other. I listen to Kathy. No one loves me more than she does, and she has faced every challenge before us with undaunting trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Her thoughtfulness and unselfishness are remarkable! I love her with all of my heart.

I hope President Henry J. Eyring has shared this story from the biography he wrote about his father. It is a great example. I quote, “Just when life seemed perfect, [in] the middle of night, Kathleen Eyring woke up her husband and said, ‘[Are] you sure [you are] doing the right thing with your life?’ She then asked if he shouldn’t be doing [work] for Neal A. Maxwell, then the Commissioner of Education for the Church. [He replied,] ‘Studies for Neal Maxwell at my stage of my career?’ Then there was a silence and she said, ‘Well, you pray about it.’ About a week later, the phone rang [leading to] Neal Maxwell [asking] President Eyring [to be the president] of Ricks College.”[10] As President Eyring prayed about it, the answer he received from the Lord was, “It’s my school.”[11] BYU-Idaho is still His school. President Eyring’s willingness to listen to his wife and the Lord impacted his life, his family, this university, and the entire Church.

If you are not married or do not marry, listen to family and friends who are full of faith and are concerned about your eternal life.

Sheri Slater, a friend of ours, entered Ricks College as a freshman in 1998. Her major was family studies as she said her greatest hope was “to be a wife and mother.” One day, she and her family home evening group decided to go tubing in the snow. On their third run down the hill, the tube spun out of control and Sheri’s head hit a tree. Her back was broken, and her spinal cord was severed. With her life changed, who did Sheri listen to?

“I relied a lot on my Heavenly Father and [my] Savior Jesus Christ!” she said. “I needed to be reminded that this was the plan! As I thought about all of the miracles [that kept me alive, I was] reminded constantly of how much my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know me.”

Sheri listened to faithful friends. “[After I returned home, my friend, Brigette, slept for a month] on a twin bed on the floor [in my room].” Brigette’s conversations of faith and love for the Lord strengthened Sheri.

Sheri explained that listening to her parents helped her “to become the person she [is].” She said that “about a year after the accident, [her] parents told [her] it was time to go back to school” and she graduated from BYU-Hawaii. Later, she received a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at UNLV.

Often life brings the unexpected. Sheri has not yet married and has lived much of her life in a wheelchair, but 23 years later, Sheri is valiant in her testimony of Jesus Christ. The promises of the Lord are sure for this righteous woman of God.

Graduates, whatever your life brings, I pray that two decades from now—April 7, 2042—you, too, will be firm and valiant in your testimony of Jesus Christ. That will depend in large measure on who you listen to and the path you choose to follow.

Someone who had a powerful impact upon my life was my grandmother, Mary Evans Keller. She lived a simple life in Preston, Idaho, with few of the luxuries so many enjoy. She dealt with disappointment and sadness in her life with her mother dying when my grandmother was four years old, her father when she was twenty-two, and her husband while she was still in her fifties. She wrote to me on my mission: “Neil, do keep always your wonderful testimony. Nothing in this world will bring you greater joy and help for you over discouragement and trouble that may sometimes come into your life.” In poetry, she penned these words: “Learn to say, ‘Thy will be done. Help me Father in my sorrow, help me till new faith I’ve won.’”

Speaking at her funeral when I was 25, I said these words: “She showered us with friendship. She introduced us to raspberries and flowers and poetry. She blessed us with a love of learning, education, and exactness. . . . She taught us that simple goodness and kindness stamps an eternal imprint on people’s lives.”

I listened to my grandmother. I trusted her. I knew she loved me, and her words gave me strength.

Who are you listening to? Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Holy Ghost comes as we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and as we keep His commandments. It is a priceless gift promised to all those who have been baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are determined to follow the Savior. The voice of the Spirit is calm and gentle. The Lord has promised that we will each be enlightened as we “[hearken] to the voice of the Spirit.”[12]

I know this voice. I remind you of President Nelson’s warning: “If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished. If you are not also seeking the Lord through daily prayer and gospel study, you leave yourself vulnerable to philosophies that may be intriguing but are not true. Even Saints who are otherwise faithful can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band.”[13]

On another occasion, President Nelson declared, “In the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”[14]

Who are you listening to?

Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I plead with you to listen to His words and follow Him. You listen to Him by studying His words and putting His commandments in your heart.

The Savior invites us to come unto Him, to accept His matchless power and glory, and to feel His love. He bids us to keep His commandments and to find happiness and joy in our mortal journey. “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”[15] He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”[16]

Who are you listening to? Listen to the words of the Savior. Believe His words. Listen daily as you read the holy scriptures. Pray unto the Father in the name of Christ. Follow Him. I bless you that as you are believing and as you keep the commandments, you will be led to listen to the voice of the Savior.

As promised, He will come again in power and great glory with all His holy angels. The day will come when we will kneel at His feet, and you and I and every soul that has ever lived will confess Him to be the Christ, the Son of God.

My dear graduates, in the great days ahead, you will be a light and strength in this ever-changing world. I give you my promise that as you continually listen to the voices of truth, you will remain spiritually safe. We love you. I love you! We are proud of you and congratulate you on this important day of your graduation. I share with you the most important thing I know. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is resurrected. He loves you. I give you my sure witness that He guides this holy work on the earth. He will bless you as you listen to His voice and follow Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Where Is Wisdom?” Ensign, Nov. 1992.

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.

[3] Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania, 2011,

[4] 1 Corinthians 14:10.

[5] See Jason Wise, “How Much Time do People Spend on Social Media in 2022? (Updated),” Earthweb, Mar. 14, 2022,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Make Time for the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2021.

[8] Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–6.

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “Now Is the Time,” Apr. 3, 2022.

[10] “President Henry B. Eyring: A Legacy of Learning and Testimony,” Newsroom,

[11] See Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Henry B. Eyring: Towering Intellect, Childlike Humility,” Ensign, Sept. 2018.

[12] Doctrine and Covenants 84:47.

[13] Russell M. Nelson, “Make Time for the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2021.

[14] Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018.

[15] 2 Nephi 32:3.

[16] John 14:6.