“The Lord has a plan for each one of us and He will unfold that plan as we turn to Him in prayer, seek His guidance, act upon His promptings and press on,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during Brigham Young University-Idaho’s 2016 Winter Semester Commencement on April 8.
The event, held in the BYU-Idaho Center, honored graduates earning 2,012 degrees — 472 associate’s degrees and 1,565 bachelor’s degrees.
Joining Elder Rasband in speaking during commencement exercises were Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and commissioner of education for the Church Educational System, and BYU-Idaho President Clark G. Gilbert. The BYU-Idaho Collegiate Singers provided musical numbers during the commencement exercises.
Addressing students on the topic, “To the Summit,” Elder Rasband told of a time in Church history when members of the Willie Handcart Company struggled as they climbed Rocky Ridge in Wyoming. Drawing from the journal of John Chislett, a 24-year-old man who was asked by Captain Willie to “bring up the rear” and make sure nobody was left along the road, Elder Rasband shared ways people today can learn from the young man’s service.
“Can you picture the scene?” Elder Rasband asked. “These were trail-weary pioneers, some in this company were my own Moulton ancestors wrapped in thin blankets to keep from freezing, and trudging in deep snow, exerting what little energy they had left to get to the top.”
As some in the group were having troubles, John Chislett came from behind and joined with them to put their “collective strength to three carts at a time.” It was as they worked together they were able to make the climb up Rocky Ridge.
“How did they make it?” Elder Rasband asked. “By traveling over the hill three times — twice forward and once back. The experience was truly an example of the second great commandment, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’
“Think about it. You have careers, families and adventures ahead of you, however, no one of them can be counted a success if you do not see that your fellow travelers get to the top of the hill.”
Elder Rasband shared three important lessons from the experience of John Chislett and the faithful Saints at Rocky Ridge.
First, “press on.”
“Press on no matter how hard it gets, no matter how deep the snow, how steep the climb; no matter how little you have left to keep going,” he said. “Remember and rely upon the Lord’s promise, ‘be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ ”
Part of pressing on, Elder Rasband said, is recognizing the responsibility a person has to not leave anyone behind.
“There will be many you encounter with broken hearts and broken dreams,” he said. “Lift them, help them move forward, boost their confidence in their ability to renew their faith that the Lord is watching over them. He sent you.”
Pressing forward is a principle of righteousness in every dispensation, Elder Rasband declared.
“You will have those who take issue with your determination to follow the will of the Lord,” he said. “We see it all around us as attacks on religious freedom increase. Stay the course, brothers and sisters. Hold fast to the Lord’s commandments — even in the face of challenges from unbelievers.”
At times the “adversary will come after you,” he said. “He will make things hard or sometimes worse, more alluring, than living the commandments of God. Do not be drawn off or discouraged.”
It is through trusting the Lord — especially when making decisions — that a person will find help.
“Trust Him to help you with the decision about an eternal companion, a family, a job and a home,” he said. “Pray for guidance, make a decision, and then take it to the Lord for His confirming peace.”
The second lesson he shared is to “draw upon your strength and the strength of others.”
“Enlist the help of those who know God’s ways,” he counseled. “It is not the easiest path, as Chislett would have told you, but it is a straight path and He has it marked well.”
Learning from the early pioneers at Rocky Ridge, Elder Rasband said it is important to “join forces and pull together.”
“Where do we see this in today’s world?” he asked. “You are not out on mountainsides in the winter, but you know some of you are out on the internet, out listening to those calling ‘lo here and lo there.’ Whether it be anti-church blather or pornography, resolve today to set that pattern aside. You need your strength to withstand the buffetings that will continue to come at you and at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Why? Because, these are the last days and Satan is running out of time. He is throwing everything he has out there to catch the attention of God’s children, to draw them and us off, to stymie their progress, to conflict their very souls.”
Elder Rasband shared important ways — such as going to church every week to partake of the sacrament, seeking the power of the Atonement, and through asking questions and seeking answers from the Spirit, trusted sources and the scriptures — to blunt the adversary’s attack on a person’s spiritual strength.
The third lesson, Elder Rasband taught, is to “rescue those who are faltering along the way.”
“It means being the Lord’s disciples for your lifetime,” he said. “It means reaching out to family members with a humble and contrite heart to heal a wound you may have inflicted on someone, or that may have been thrust at you. It means forgiving when you do not feel like you were at fault, choosing to lift someone’s spirits rather than attack their weaknesses. It means to be loving, to be kind.”
Disciples of Jesus Christ cannot afford to be the reason someone steps away from the gospel, He taught. “We cannot afford to walk by when someone is in need.”
“There will be those times — maybe many times — when you will be the answer to someone’s prayer; you will be as the Lord says, ‘mine angels round about to bear them up.’ ”
In his brief remarks, Elder Clark told graduates to set their sights high and follow his family motto, “Ride the high country.”
“Set your heart on exaltation and eternal life with your eternal family in the kingdom of our Father,” he said. “Build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel. Live your life with an eternal perspective. Ride the high country.”
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