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President Eyring urges eternal learning for new graduates

Sunday, 14 December 2008

By Mike Foley | University Relations | 14 December 2008

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraged the 290-plus new BYU-Hawaii graduates in his commencement address in the Cannon Activities Center on December 13, to continue to pursue God's design for eternal learning.

President Eyring spoke from personal experience: As the son of a world-famous scientist who encouraged education, he was a scholar, former Stanford professor, president of Rick's College (now BYU-Idaho) and Commissioner of the worldwide Church Education System before being called into the Quorum of the Twelve.

"Some of you graduates may have decided that you don't need more education or that you can't afford it, or that you have more important things to pursue more than school. But whatever you choose, you will go on learning as long as you live and are conscious," he told the new graduates from 31 countries and all over the United States. "Your choice is how to make the best of it."

"This opportunity to go on learning is not a choice; it is in God's design for us," he continued, outlining three "important choices we can and must make to make the most of our opportunity."

"First, we can choose our teachers": President Eyring recalled how after receiving his bachelor's degree, he immediately began serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, where he worked under officers with "a deep and true sense of right and wrong.

"You can find teachers in every setting whose influence draws you toward keeping the commandments of God. And you can discern those whose influence would draw you away from the light of Christ, the spirit of truth, and toward darkness and sadness. It may not be obvious to you at first.

"In a lifetime in many settings, I tried to invite people to choose to teach me," he said. "You can choose who you will try to win as your teachers. And you must choose wisely. It makes all the difference."

BYU-Hawaii graduate John Lang from Canada"Second, we can choose what we will try to learn": After recounting how he helped found a computer peripherals company that initially did well but was eventually driven out of business by the development of more useful technology, President Eyring told the graduates, "Times will change and so will you and your life. But in every situation you can try to learn to recognize principles which will be true whatever the situation."

"You can try to discover what brings lasting value to people," he continued. "I frequently give myself an exam to see whether I am improving in my search to recognize lasting principles and enduring values in the lives of the people I try to serve."

For example, in his assignment from President Thomas S. Monson to call new mission presidents, "sometimes five a week," President Eyring said he has learned to "spend as much time as it takes before I issue the call to find out all I can about the man and his wife... The valuable principle I have learned in the school of experience is to dig a little deeper to be sure of the facts."

"The lasting value I have had confirmed in these calls is trust," he added.

"Third, we are free to decide how hard we will work in our eternal education": President Eyring warned the new graduates that "the temptation to take a rest from learning will attack you again and again, and it will be nearly overwhelming for some of you."

He added that love and fear — for example, about the economy and finding a job — often motivate people in the pursuit of eternal learning. "The economic times we are going through may be extended and will be repeated. There will be times of prosperity, in the world around you and in your own lives. But the cycles are sure," he said. "Some people adapt and survive well in the worst of times. They are the people who have kept learning."

President Eyring also reminded the graduates that they have loved learning at BYU-Hawaii. "There was at least one book, at least one moment listening to a teacher, at least one paper you wrote, at least one problem set you finished, at least one project completed, when you felt a glow of satisfaction and enjoyment. That glow was love. You have felt the love of learning."

To maintain the feeling, President Eyring suggested the new graduates keep some of their textbooks as a reminder and draw to reading "new books and learning new ideas by remembering how learning was once a joy and so can be again."

He also suggested they be "a teacher of what you are learning," such as teaching their own children. "You will work harder if you do it for others rather than only for self-improvement," he said.

"I need to close with thanks for what you graduates have done for this place and this university. Many of you have blessed your fellow students. You have taught them and you encouraged them. You have set an example of humility in wanting to learn and of determination in the effort to learn. Your fellow students may not have thanked you yet. But they will be forever grateful."

"I love you for what you have done for this great university while you were here," President Eyring said. "And I love you for letting me try to be your teacher for a few minutes."

Following the commencement program, the graduates went outside where family and friends presented them with Hawaiian flower lei and congratulations.

Akana family after BYU-Hawaii graduation

— Photos by BYU-Hawaii Photographer Monique Saenz:
(Top): President Henry B. Eyring; (middle): BYUH graduate John Lang
of Canada; (bottom): Members of the Akana family congratulate
BYU-Hawaii graduate Trenson Akana.

  :: Watch video excerpts from the commencement program...