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Tim Hussin, Deseret News
Joe Olson, right, a graduate in Russian, waits to walk to the Marriott Center for graduation ceremonies. Individual college convocations are today.

PROVO — Despite some snow flurries, caps and gowns bloomed on the Brigham Young University campus Thursday afternoon for graduation festivities.

The spring graduates earned a total of 4,583 degrees.

As winds gusted outside, graduates, parents and other guests were snug and warm inside the packed BYU Marriott Center, listening to commencement speaker Elder David A. Bednar of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve. Individual college convocations will be held throughout today at various sites on campus.

"I rejoice with you on this special day," Elder Bednar said.

"Cameras are clicking, recorders are running, text messages are flying and smiles are beaming all over this campus. ... This is a day both for remembering and for making memories."

Elder Bednar encouraged the graduates to continue pursuing education and to serve their communities. He said love of learning is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ; vital to their ongoing spiritual and personal development; and an absolute necessity in the world in which they live, serve and work.

"Certainly we must use our God-given abilities to the fullest, employ our best efforts and exercise appropriate judgment as we encounter the opportunities of life," Elder Bednar said.

Many graduates pose for photos by the sign at the entrance of BYU campus that reads "Enter to learn; go forth to serve," Elder Bednar noted. Now, as the graduates depart from BYU, they are, in fact, "going forth to continue both learning and serving," he said.

He gave graduates the following counsel: "Remember that you represent the Savior; remember that you represent your family; remember that you represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Then he added, "And as you now graduate from BYU, may I add one more item to the list: Remember that you represent Brigham Young University."

BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson, who is also a member of the Quorums of the Seventy, conducting commencement exercises, congratulated the graduates and wished them success and "Heavenly Father's choicest blessings as you serve your families, your church, your professions, your communities and your countries. ... We commend you for your accomplishments."

BYU alumni president Bruce Olsen welcomed graduates to the alumni association, which boasts 370,000 members worldwide. He said he hoped the graduates would take with them "a storehouse filled with special memories and spiritual insights."

Matthew Daley, of Manteca, Calif., an honors graduate in accounting, told the students to think of ways they have been blessed. "Dividends of many types will certainly accrue as we reap the rewards of our training," Daley said.

He encouraged the graduates to offer service to others, reminding them that those who have been given much have much required of them.

As graduates and their guests exited the Marriott Center, they were greeted with sun and blue skies, along with the sound of the carillon bells from the BYU Bell Tower.

Parent Peggy Smith, of Ontario, Calif., said the quirky Utah weather didn't faze her a bit. "We came prepared for anything," she said.

Graduates anticipate bright futures. Dianna Smith, 24, of McLean, Va., graduating with a master's degree in accounting, said she plans to take the Certified Public Accountant exam this summer. She then has a job lined up with an accounting firm in Washington, D.C., starting in October.

But for now, Smith said, she could wrap up her big post-graduation plans in one word: "Sleep."

E-mail: astewart@desnews.com