Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor of the LDS Church, urges BYU students to prepare themselves through education.

PROVO — To be successful in life, Brigham Young University students need to learn three critical skills, President Thomas S. Monson said Tuesday during a campus devotional.

He spoke of the three skills — preparation, performance and service — as gates that students must swing open on their own.

"Years ago, I discovered a thought which is true, and in a way, prophetic. It is this: The gate of history swings on small hinges," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Learning to prepare opens the way to success by providing confidence, he said. "Fear is the enemy of growth and accomplishment."

President Monson, who earned a master's in business administration degree at BYU, also urged students to prepare themselves through education, selecting a field they like and that will provide support for a family.

"Business in the new economy, where the only guarantee is change, brings us to serious preparation."

He referred to a statement that procrastination is a thief of time and said it is much more: "It is the thief of our self-respect. It nags at us and spoils our fun. It deprives us of the fullest realization of our ambitions and hopes."

The second gate is performance. President Monson said "one of the saddest things in life is wasted talent."

Performance requires responsibility, accountability, kindness and decency. It can be damaged by choosing poor friendships.

"Will you remember to select your friends carefully, for you will tend to be like them and to be found where they choose to go," he said.

He also cautioned faculty, staff and visitors in the audience of 10,565 at BYU's Marriott Center to help students and teenagers, saying "Youth need fewer critics and more models to follow." He asked students to become those role models.

Finally, he said following Jesus Christ's example of service entitles one to the Lord's help.

President Monson said each person is Heavenly Father's child and that prayers are answered. Serving others is serving God and reminds us of "the unmistakable nearness of his divine help."

"At times we may think that no one cares," he added, "but someone always cares."