I extend a hand of congratulations to all graduates assembled today. You look very attractive and handsome in your gowns. By the expression on their faces, I can see that your family and friends are very proud of you.
You will soon be a graduate of the LDS Business College. This is a great accomplishment. You can say to yourself, "I have started something and I have finished it." There should be a high degree of personal esteem and self-worth for what is taking place today. Many of you are young, a few years out of high school. Others are returned missionaries. A great number of you are women, some with families. Some of you are older, starting a new beginning. Wherever you are in life, you are here together in recognition of your accomplishments towards graduation.
It is interesting that this ceremony is referred to as a commencement exercise. You would think it should be a "conclusion" exercise, but it is not. The word commencement is the terminology used for the ceremony for conferring of degrees or diplomas. It is a time for commencing, or a time to begin.
As you look forward and commence the future, I thought it might be helpful if I shared with you some thoughts and counsel in two general related areas. First, the importance of making correct decisions, and, second, maintaining balance in your life as a result of the decisions you make.
First: Making Correct Decisions
Brigham Young once said: "I have told you many times, the property which we inherit from our Heavenly Father is our time and the power to choose in the disposition of the same. This is the real capital that is bequeathed unto us by our Heavenly Father." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 18:354)
There are so many decisions that lie ahead of you. They include your family, and for many, "whom should I marry?" "Where should I work and for what employer?" "Where should we live?" "Should we purchase this home or continue to rent?" "How can I properly balance the time I devote to the Church, and my employment and family?"
The Apostle Paul asked: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6).
President Lee, quoting this scripture, said that we should have as a goal in any decision making "an eye single to the glory of God" and ". . . this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).
"With that goal always before us—seeing every act of our lives, every decision we make, as patterned toward the development of a life that shall permit us to enter into the presence of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, to gain which is to obtain eternal life—how much more wisdom there would be in the many things of life.
"If there should come a problem as to what kind of business a man should be engaged in, whether he should invest in this matter or that, whether he should marry this girl or that one, where he should marry, and how he should marry—when it comes to the prosecuting of the work to which we are assigned, how much more certainly will those decisions be if always we recall that all we do, and all the decisions we make, should be made with that eternal goal in mind: with an eye single to the ultimate glory of man in the celestial world.
"If all our selfish motives, then, and all our personal desires and expediency would be subordinated to a desire to know the will of the Lord, one could have the companionship of heavenly vision" (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, 102–3).
President Spencer W. Kimball said: "Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we're tired and sorely tempted.
"The time to decide that we will settle for nothing less than an opportunity to live eternally with our Father is now, so that every choice we make will be affected by our determination to let nothing interfere with attaining that ultimate goal.
"We can choose what we will become. As the years go by, we find our past choices have narrowed the alternatives still open to us and we have less and less control over our future" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 164–65).
There are many decisions which weigh heavy on our minds, such as employment, where we live, the purchase of material goods, such as automobiles, etc. I am not sure our Heavenly Father is as concerned as we are over those choices so long as we always have in mind the ultimate goal of making decisions which lead eternally to an opportunity to live where our Heavenly Father lives. The greater decisions, which include the choice of one's eternal companion and our attitude and willingness to keep gospel principles, have far greater effect on our eternal goal.
Isn't it wonderful that we can choose? Isn't it marvelous that we live in a country and society where we are free to choose our destiny? These verses from one of our hymns will be familiar:
Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heav'n.
He'll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
("Know This, That Every Soul Is Free" Hymns, no. 90.)
I have always liked the following words of the poet R. L. Sharpe:
Isn't it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
Be certain that as you move forward that you will make stepping stones and not carve out for yourself stumbling blocks.
Second: Maintaining Balance in Your Life As a Result of the Decisions You Make
Have you ever noticed a juggler with four balls—how easy it seems to keep them in balance? Consider if the juggler were to have four objects: one, a golf ball; two, a beach ball; three, a knife; and four, a bowling pin—how difficult it would be to juggle and keep those four objects in balance.
So it is with your life. It is my observation that there are four main areas of balance in life. First, your responsibility to yourself; second, your family; third, your church; and fourth, your employment.
First: Your Responsibility to Yourself
A friend shared with me these thoughts which are so critical in being responsible for yourself:
Set your personal compass on achieving eternal life as your ultimate goal.
Set aside time each day to study the scriptures.
Be prayerful and patiently wait for answers. Sometimes the answers are not what you hope for, but with faith, they are what would be best for you and your family.
Develop a strong, personal testimony by living the gospel and implementing correct principles.
Do all you can to keep yourself in good health and strength, to allow you to carry out all of the principles of balance in your life that you desire.
Be open to counsel, be teachable.
Be positive and encouraging, especially with regard to yourself.
Second: Your Responsibility to Your Family
If you make the decision early that your family always comes first, everything else will fall into place. Always make time for those who matter the most and consider what will be in their best interest and benefit them the most in the future from your current decisions. The love of family will always help you focus in the most important areas of keeping your life in balance.
The Church, working in partnership with Bonneville Communications, has prepared over the years some marvelous radio and television spots referred to as "Homefront." They have received many awards for excellence. More recently, two T.V. Homefront ads, which are provided to television stations as public service announcements, depict family situations. I am sure many of you have seen them, or, if not, you will.
One shows a little girl about the age of five going to her father who is sitting in his chair reading the paper, and she says to him, "Daddy, can you read me a story?" He says he is too busy. Later in the day, she approaches him again and he says it is her bed time. The third scene shows the little girl at 4:00 o'clock in the morning walking into the parents' bedroom and waking her father with the question, "Daddy, can you read me a story?" He sleepily says, "Go ask your mother." She walks around to the other side of the bed and says, "Mommy, can Daddy read me a story?" Hearing what she said, the father is fully awake, and the next scene shows the father sitting up in bed in the middle of the night reading to his five-year-old.
The second Homefront shows a father at work, in a smelter environment where everyone is dressed in contractor clothing with hard hats. The father is called to the phone and his six-year-old daughter asks him if he will sing to her on the telephone, "Eansie Weensie Spider." The father sings the little Primary song, pantomiming the song with his hands and fingers. His work associates notice him and stop and watch the performance. When he finishes the song, his little girl says, "I love you, Daddy." The father says, "I love you, too, sweetheart." The father turns around and all his work associates are standing watching him and ribbing him a little bit. He says, "What can I say? She's my girl."
For you who are parents or will yet become parents, your children are only little once. Developing the proper balance in life to know how much time to spend with your family will be very important. President Harold B. Lee once gave the following illustration of this principle:
"I had a doctor come to me. He is a brain surgeon. He said that years ago he had a shocking question asked him by a little child. This little child had had a sled given to him for Christmas and there was no snow. The first snowfall came about 30 days after Christmas that year. [The doctor] said, as he rushed to the hospital, "When I come home, we'll go for a snow ride," and the little boy answered, "Oh no you won't, Daddy, you haven't time for me."
"All through the morning he had been disturbed by this childish remark because, all too true, he had spent so much time in his profession that he hadn't taken the time he ought to with his little children. So his troubled question was, "Will you discuss a little while how I can balance my life? With brain surgery advancing so rapidly today, I could bury myself and think of nothing else in order to keep pace with my profession."
"As we talked, we concluded that a man has responsibility to his family, he has responsibility to the Church, and he has responsibility to his profession; and in order for him to live a balanced life, he must so try to find the avenues by which he gives service in each of these areas" (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 614).
Third: Your Responsibility to Serve Faithful in the Church
No one decision of balance in your life will have greater import than your decision as to whether or not you will be active in the Church. I have seen from personal experience individuals and families who, for a season, determine that their current employment responsibilities overshadowed accepting assignments in the Church. It didn't take long in most cases for this attitude and decision to permanently and irrevocably set a pattern that took such individuals and families out of the protection and blessings of Church membership.
Always be active in the Church. Where you can attend the temple regularly, it will bring an unequal feeling of peace and contentment. It will aide in obtaining personal revelation that will help you make wise and proper decisions. Give of yourself through service. Be willing to use your talents to teach and help others. Your education has prepared you to be a leader. The Church offers many opportunities for leadership in so many areas. I can honestly say, having completed approximately nine years of university training, resulting in two degrees in the legal field, and having worked in major law firms and corporations in New York City and Salt Lake City for almost 25 years, my leadership experience and opportunities in the Church more completely prepared me for life's decisions than my employment opportunities. Keeping life in balance to include accepting responsibilities in the Church, being active, and paying tithes and offerings, etc., will be the best decision you make as you move forward in life.
Fourth: Your Employment and Professional Responsibilities
Employment decisions affect your family in so many ways. They often determine where you live and under what circumstances. As future decisions are made, be sure that you evaluate them carefully with respect to the impact they make on your family. Learn from your professional associates. Be honest and hard working. Do not take from your employment to serve in the Church but have balance in these decisions. You will develop many friends in your employment. They should be friends with similar goals and aspirations. Keep the best company possible in your employment. Maintain high standards, and always be one to whom integrity and honesty is associated.
Your education at LDS Business College has prepared you for specific employment in many cases. Be grateful for this educational opportunity that has come to you. Be true to yourself, be the best you can be, and set a good example for others in your employment.
Returning again to the image of the juggler with the four balls. This is where you are in life. Will your decisions be such that you will keep in balance your responsibilities to yourself, your family, your church, and your employment?
To each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules; and each must make, ere life is flown, a stumbling block or a stepping stone.
In conclusion, may I offer this counsel from President Gordon B. Hinckley:
"This is your season of preparation. Resolve to keep balance in your lives, to work at a good vocation that you can greatly enjoy, to look forward to the time when you can rear an honorable family who will walk in righteousness and with faith, to serve in the Church in a wonderful unselfish manner and grow tremendously while so doing, and to ponder the things of life as occasionally you sit by yourself and simply think and perhaps offer a word of prayer to the God who is the giver of all these wonderful things" (Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, 1 November 1997).
May God bless you. May He bless your families for their support, and may He help you make wise decisions and always keep balance in your life is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.