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Winter Semester 2017 Commencement Remarks

Audio: Winter Semester 2017 Commencement Remarks
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As you look around this evening, I hope you will remember the feeling of gathering in this auditorium with the strength of the Church in such a sacred and set-apart place. In many ways, I hope the gatherings that have happened here, at devotional and at graduation, will become a great symbol of your experience here at BYU-Idaho. And, in a distant time and place when you feel under attack or feel that your values are being challenged, I hope you will reflect back on these assemblies as a source of strength and a memory of what it feels like to gather with so many who share your values. So look around tonight. Remember this feeling. Take it into your soul and your spiritual memory. Take it with you into a future when you will need it again. In some ways, you have been living in Rivendell, and you are about to leave to the plains of Mordor, where the peacefulness and goodness of a protected place will give way to the attacks of those who do not seek for the happiness of man. But this should not hold you back or keep you from opening new doors. As J. R. R. Tolkien has penned, "The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out."[1] So as you leave tonight, leave with courage in the knowledge that you have been in a place that has prepared you for the next part of your journey. Leave with courage to know that you have been taught what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You can build Zion wherever you go. That starts in your own heart and in your own mind. As John Milton stated in Paradise Lost, "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, [or] a hell of heaven."[2] Make it a heaven.

Sister Gilbert and I know a little of what you feel tonight. We have now had the experience of leaving Rexburg twice--both times to new assignments that we knew would take us where the Lord wanted us to be. But as we left, we found ourselves praying that there was enough Rexburg in us. Tonight I testify that there is enough Rexburg in all of us if we will look back and draw on those experiences that prepared us here at this university. So as you leave tonight, take courage, and take Rexburg with you wherever you go. Prepare to lift and build others in your future homes, in the Church, and in your work. I leave this invitation and a promise of strength to all of you who have experienced this sacred and special place so abundantly. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.      


[1] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [1955]

[2] John Milton, Paradise Lost [1667]