With the temporary restriction of public gatherings, our son-in-law, Gregory Glass Hutchins (with thousands of others at any other high school or university across the nation) was not able to be honored in a formal commencement exercise at BYU.  Not to be thwarted, our daughter, Michaela, planned an entire graduation ceremony for her graduating husband in our backyard, complete with pomp and circumstance, balloons, loaning her own certificate of graduation, the works.  I was called upon to be the main speaker.

I am delighted to be with you today.  What a momentous occasion and a time worthy of celebration and note. I’ve always wanted to speak at a graduation and give graduates some counsel and direction at this pivotal crossroads in their lives and so finally, today, I get that wonderful opportunity.

In our current difficult and restrictive circumstances, we are celebrating the graduation of just one person.  This is more like a baptismal service where the speaker can focus his or her remarks very personally on the candidate alone.  I’m delighted today to speak just to you, Gregory.

I don’t think graduates remember much of anything from their commencements and convocations, but I am going to give you ten things that I want you to remember, and I will give you a copy, because they’re some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned in my life.  And again, this is nice that we have a very small and intimate setting at this graduation because I can just talk to you personally.

The first lesson I want to leave with you is:

Be willing to do hard things.

I remember when your wife, Michaela, and your sister-in-law, Mariah, were learning to drive, we were living in the Washington, D.C. metro which had a population then of over 4.8 million people.  The traffic there was ridiculous. I remember the day that Mariah, as a just-turned-sixteen-year-old was going to go out and drive on the 495 (the 64-mile beltway that encircles Washington, D.C.) and her mother was absolutely frantic about it. And I said, “Hey, we’ve just got to let her do this.  She has to learn somehow.  She is going to have to do this hard thing.”

I remember there were at least two women in our ward who would not drive on the 495 because they said it was too scary—and these were mature mothers of families with children the age of our children!

And so, be willing to do hard things.

When I was being raised on our farm in Missouri, my dad would give us the task of plowing the fields every spring and every fall.  As you know, my dad was a professor and we just lived on this beautiful land that had some fields in the bottomlands, so we didn’t always plant things.  He just gave us this task so that we made sure the ground was broken up and it didn’t get too hardened and that the fields would not get overgrown.  We had to plow a total of six fields and they were in various sizes but the very last field on the right, which was on the north side of the creek at the very far west end of the farm was a very small field. 

It was only about one acre. It didn’t take that long to plow it, but I remember one year we went down there to plow it and there were some scrub oaks that grew up in the middle of the field.  Scrub oaks are kind of tough little trees.  My brother, Kirk, and I had chained them out before so we started chaining some of these out but there were quite a few of them, like 15 or 20 of them.  It got to be pretty hard that day we thought, “Oh well, we’re not going to plant anything in this field anyway,” so, we just left them.  The next year we came back and dad said, “You need to plow all those fields.” So, we went down there to that last field and now there were even more trees and the ones that we had left from last year were even bigger and more rooted and entrenched in their place.  And we thought, “We’re not going to take the time to do this.”  We had just plowed a nine-acre field and that took a long time and we said, “we’ll just leave it.” And Greg, it wasn’t very long before that entire field was swallowed up by a forest and there was no longer a field there because we weren’t willing to do that hard thing.

So, be willing to do hard things.

President Monson gave an entire talk called, “Finishers Wanted,” and it’s worth studying it sometime in the near future.

Again, remember:  Be willing to do hard things.

Number two:   

Remember the great laws of consistency and persistency.

Michaela’s grandmother, whom you knew well and only passed away just 4 ½ months ago, was called by a prophet of the Lord to serve a mission.  In those days the missionaries were often interviewed by the prophet himself before they left on their missions.  She met with President Heber J. Grant in February 1941 and though I don’t know much of what was said in that interview, one thing I do know is this:  He said to her, “Sister Facer, I want you to remember that that which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the task has changed, but our power to do has increased.”

Now the reason I know that so well is because I was raised with this principle. I bet I heard that a thousand times growing up and that’s no exaggeration.  I call it the law of consistency and persistency. You persist at something. You’re consistent with something and you will accomplish it.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the task has changed, but our power to do has increased.

Number three:

Follow Him first and all else follows.

This is priority one. Follow him first and all else follows.

The Lord is number One.  I was thinking about one of the things you hear sometimes from the Christian world, I’ve seen bumper stickers that say:  WWJD.  You know what that means:  What would Jesus Do?  But I think that is surpassed by WWJHMD, which means: What would Jesus have me do?  It’s a little deeper principle. You can never get too much of Him who has given you everything. So, follow Him first and all else follows.

Number four:

Remember the power and legacy of service.

I felt to tell you this story.

“Many years ago, in a small town in the southern part of the state of Utah, my great grandmother was called to be the president of the Relief Society. During this period of our Church’s history there existed a very bitter and antagonistic spirit between the Mormons and the Gentiles.

“In my great grandmother’s ward one of the young sisters married a gentile boy. This of course did not please either the Mormons or the Gentiles very much. In the course of time this young couple gave birth to a child. Unfortunately, the mother became so ill in the process of childbirth that she was unable to care for her baby. Upon learning of this woman’s condition,” this was told by J. Richard Clarke, “great grandmother immediately went to the homes of the sisters in the ward and asked them if they would take a turn going into the home of this young couple to care for the baby. One by one these women refused and so the responsibility fell completely upon her.

“She would arise early in the morning, walk what was a considerable distance to the home of this young couple where she would bathe and feed the baby, gather all that needed to be laundered and take it with her to her home. . . One morning she felt too weak and sick to go. . . However, as she lay in bed she realized that if she didn’t go the child would not be provided for. [With the help of the Lord,] she mustered all her strength and went. [When she returned home, exhausted, she] collapsed into a large chair and immediately fell into a deep sleep. She said that as she slept she felt as if she were consumed by a fire that would melt the very marrow of her bones. She . . . dreamed that she was bathing the Christ child and glorying in what a great privilege it would have been to have bathed the Son of God. Then the voice of the Lord spoke to her saying, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.’” (Clarke, J. Richard, “Love Extends beyond Convenience,” General Conference, October 1981)

So, remember the great power and legacy of service and remember Who it is that you are really serving.

Number five:

A great follower of the Spirit is a great leader.

President Thomas S. Monson said:

“One day a few years ago, after taking care of matters at the office, I felt a strong impression [which he felt a lot] to visit an aged widow who was a patient at a senior care center in Salt Lake City. I drove there directly.

“When I went to her room, I found it empty. I asked an attendant concerning her whereabouts and was directed to a lounge area. There I found this sweet widow visiting with her sister and another friend. We had a pleasant conversation together.

“As we were talking, a man came to the door of the room to obtain a can of soda from the vending machine. He glanced at me and said, “Why, you are Tom Monson.”

“Yes,” I replied. “And you look like a Hemingway.”

“He acknowledged that he was Stephen Hemingway, the son of Alfred Eugene Hemingway, who had served as my counselor when I was a bishop many years ago and whom I called Gene.

“Stephen told me that his father was there in the same facility and was near death. Gene had been calling my name, and the family had wanted to contact me but had been unable to find a telephone number for me.

“I excused myself immediately and went with Stephen up to the room of my former counselor, where others of his children were also gathered, his wife having passed away some years previous. The family members regarded my meeting Stephen in the lounge area as a response by our Heavenly Father to their great desire that I would see their father before he died and answer his call. I also felt that this was the case, for if Stephen had not entered the room in which I was visiting at precisely the time he did, I would not have known that Gene was even in that facility.

“We gave a blessing to him. A spirit of peace prevailed. We had a lovely visit, after which I left.

The following morning a phone call revealed that Gene Hemingway had passed away—just 20 minutes after he had received the blessing from his son and me.” (Monson, Thomas S., “Peace Be Still,” General Conference, March 2013)

I could tell you innumerable other stories about following the Spirit.  Make this your mantra to always, always follow the promptings of the Spirit and keep yourself in a place of worthiness where you can be sensitive to those promptings and whisperings.  This will change and inestimably bless your life.

Again, a great follower of the Spirit is a great leader.

Number six:

Trust the Lord.

I love the prophet Enos as he is in the woods praying and he has been there all day and into the night.  He’s praying and letting his voice reach the heavens and finally a Voice comes to him and says, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee [because he was praying about his sins].

And I love Enos’s response.  He said this wonderful statement:

And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. (See Enos 1:5-6)

So, trust the Lord. Enos trusted the Lord absolutely so that as soon as he heard that Voice he knew that his sins were forgiven him.

Joseph Smith was at a meal once in his home and they didn’t have much to eat. 

John Lyman Smith, first cousin to Joseph, was staying with Joseph and Emma at the time, and he recalled this story:

“In my early years I used to often eat at the table with Joseph the Prophet. At one time he was called to dinner. I being at play in the room with his son Joseph, he called us to him, and we stood one each side of him. After he had looked over the table he said, ‘Lord, we thank Thee for this Johnny cake and ask Thee to send us something better. Amen.’ The corn bread was cut and I received a piece from his hand.

“Before the bread was all eaten, a man came to the door and asked if the Prophet Joseph was at home. Joseph replied he was, whereupon the visitor said, ‘I have brought you some flour and a ham.’

“Joseph arose and took the gift, and blessed the man in the name of the Lord. Turning to his wife, Emma, he said, ‘I knew the Lord would answer my prayer.’” (Recollection of John Lyman Smith in Juvenile Instructor (March 15, 1892): 172.

We need to remember that we can trust the Lord and trust that He hears us.

Just like on the way to the tomb of Lazarus, my second favorite of all the scriptures is when He is going to the tomb with Mary and Martha.  They’re probably on either side of Him, probably holding His arms.  He’s going to the tomb, knowing full well what will happen, but knowing also that the sisters do not yet know what is going to happen.  And He says, and this is what I love:

Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always.” (John 11: 41-42)

He trusted that His Father heard His prayer for this great thing and then gave His own witness that He knew His Father always heard His prayers. I love that.

I remember when we were in Ghana at the temple dedication and we were sitting at a table one evening and President Hinckley’s administrative assistant or personal secretary, Don Staheli, came down and sat by us at the table.  He said, “How are you guys doing?”  We said, “We’re fine.”  He said, “Do you have any questions?”  We said, “Yes.  The number of convert baptisms is going down every year.  Is President Hinckley worried about this?”  We thought for sure he would be super concerned.  Don didn’t even hesitate and he said, “Oh no, he’s not concerned.  He knows this is the work of the Lord and that He has all things in His hands and President Hinckley trusts Him completely.”  Now, that was such a simple thing, but that was so powerful for us that the prophet didn’t sit around worrying about this work.  He just did his part, trusted in the Lord and the work moved forward.

Again, the lesson:  Trust the Lord.

Number Seven:

Gather your strength and give your strength.

I’ll never forget when we were in the Philippines with President Monson.  We were waiting for him to arrive at the large auditorium where the youth celebration was to take place.  There were probably six or seven hundred of these beautiful youth who had all gathered behind this line to greet the prophet.  They couldn’t go past that line; it was for security. It was just a rope. They were in their costumes and they were so thrilled because this was likely the one time in their entire lives that they would be able to see a prophet of God. There was just electricity in the air. They were so excited.

President Monson was not feeling that well. We knew that because we were there when he first arrived a day before and he was exhausted; he just wasn’t feeling tip top shape. And so, when he got there that night, I could tell that he was still exhausted. And when he got out of the car, he was literally standing right next to me, shoulder to shoulder, and I watched closely.  He looked at all those gorgeous youth and he assessed the situation.  He smiled but I could feel that he was just so lacking in his normal, vibrant energy.

He looked at those kids and all of the sudden he just took a deep breath, I was right by him and I heard this intake of air as he took that breath, and then he just went down that line and high-fived all those kids all the way into the auditorium full of smiles and strength.  And those kids were thrilled and elated as he greeted them.  None of them had a clue what that action had taken for him to do that.  He gathered his strength and then he gave his strength.  That’s something we need to remember.  I’ve never forgotten that moment in Cebu City in the Philippines and I hope you never will either.

Number Eight:

The Lord loves effort.

The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.

“For the better part of five years, Elder Russell M. Nelson traipsed back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean seeking meetings with government officials and trying to further the Church’s interests in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Turkey, Estonia, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union. And that didn’t count the trips to Washington, DC, to meet with ambassadors and other dignitaries from the countries he supervised [all of Eastern Europe and this was under the Soviet Block].

“He was never wanted and rarely welcome. Many government leaders wouldn’t even give appointments to a man who professed faith in God. Over time, he was both thwarted in his efforts and helped along the way; treated poorly in some circumstances and graciously in others; spied on by secret police and later greeted as friends by officials who got to know him; and treated suspiciously in some corners while being sought for medical consultation by others. Some trips seemed utterly futile, while on others, doors opened he could never have predicted or planned for.

“Elder Nelson summarized. ‘I’ve seen this over and over again. When we didn’t know what in the world to do next, the Lord stepped in and handed the answer to us on a silver platter. We would have had to be blind not to see it.’

“‘Each of these countries was different,’ Elder Nelson later reflected. ‘But the message to me was the same: “Work your heart out, Russ. Take the risks. Then when you can’t go any further, I’ll help you.”

“When later asked what he learned from the assignment to open the countries in Eastern Europe for the preaching of the gospel, particularly in light of the many stops and starts, failed meetings, and ups and downs, Elder Nelson replied simply: ‘The Lord likes effort. He could have said to Moses, “I’ll meet you halfway.” But Moses had to go all the way to the top of Mount Sinai. He required effort from Moses and Joshua and Joseph Smith and from all of the subsequent Presidents of the Church. He requires effort from bishops and stake Relief Society presidents and elders quorum presidents. There is always a test. Are you willing to do really hard things? Once you’ve shown you’re willing to do your part, He will help you.’”  (Dew, Sheri L., Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2019, Chapter 40, “The Lord likes effort.”)

You remember that, Gregory, in all you do, in all you attempt in righteousness, in all you pursue:  The Lord loves effort.

Number Nine:

Look for the light in the eye of the storm.

I can’t tell you how many times Mama Proctor and I have been out on a shoot and have had to apply this principle.  I remember one particular time when we were in Liverpool, England and we had to get a shot of Albert Docks where our ancestors had left the old world for the new.  And we had storyboarded getting a shot that was just poignant that just had that emotional light that touched everything and that was kind of wet on the dock’s paver stones and touched the chains that held the ships. It had to just look cold but yet have some gray and some light to give hope in the midst of all the challenge.  That’s all we wanted—just a perfect shot to represent all the emotions of leaving your homeland for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You know, we storyboard these things before we shoot them.  I had exactly in mind the kind of shot we needed to get and we could not get a great shot that day.  It was a very England day that day—we should have gone there in the summer—actually, I guess it was the summer.

We waited and waited and waited and I shot a number of angles and a number of pictures but none of them was any good.  They all fell way short of the proposed, storyboarded perfect picture.  So, feeling a bit dejected, we started walking away.  It was late afternoon, very late in fact, and as we were walking away, all-0f-the-sudden, in the midst of this thick, gray overcast storm, the eye opened up and came and hit everything just right.  Everything was wet so that when the light hit, it reflected off each object and it turned out to be one of the most emotional and truly one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken.

So, look for the light in the eye of the storm.

Sometimes you’ll be the midst of a storm and you cannot see hope, you cannot see your way through, you cannot see how you can possibly pay this or that needed bill or obligation, you cannot see how you’re going to solve this issue.  Look for the light in the eye of the storm.  I promise that as you exercise faith and stay close to the Lord and His Spirit, the eye will open in the midst of the most difficult circumstances and you will see the light—and it will be sweet and beautiful to you.

Number ten:

A great learner is humble.

I’m going to use Mama Proctor (Maurine Proctor) as an example here.

I’ve learned a great lesson from your mother-in-law and it’s why she is so brilliant:  Learners are humble.

The reason Mama Proctor is so incredibly smart is because she never makes the shallow conclusion “Oh, I already know that.”  She is like a pliable sponge, constantly absorbing more and more knowledge, insights, principles, doctrines. She learns from little people. She learns from the ancients. She learns from C.S. Lewis of Oxford and Ross and Demelza Poldark in the south of Cornwall. She learns from her siblings and her parents. She learns from her children and her husband. She learns from the news and from diverse journalists. She learns from a variety of writers. Most importantly, she learns from the Holy Ghost and from the Fountain of all truth. She can hear four words from the Spirit one morning that whisper simply, “No more poor me” and she immediately makes a course correction and changes her life.

A great learner is humble.

Now, Greg, in conclusion let me give you some assurances and my testimony:

God knows you.

God has a great plan for you. You and He shaped that plan together before this world was.

God is with you.

He recognizes your righteous desires.

He is intimately aware of your devotion to Him and your devotions to Him.

He knows your dreams.

He knows all your children and will send every one of them.

This graduation this day is a step onto a much faster train.

“[The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride” (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4).

Remember these ten principles:

  1. Be willing to do hard things.
  2. The great laws of consistency and persistency.
  3. Follow Him first and all else follows.
  4. The power and legacy of service.
  5. A great follower of the Spirit is a great leader.
  6. Trust the Lord.
  7. Gather your strength; give your strength.
  8. The Lord loves effort.
  9. Look for the light in the eye of the storm.
  10. A great Learner is humble.

The world is truly your campus now, go forth and serve, armed with these principles and you will indeed make your mark.