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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks at commencement exercises at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015.

PROVO — In a newly renovated Marriott Center on the Brigham Young University campus, more than 2,000 graduates and their supporters gathered for commencement exercises on Thursday afternoon.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave the keynote address, and was joined by President Russell M. Nelson, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and BYU President Kevin J Worthen.

In one of his first speeches since being named the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson told graduates in his brief remarks to “focus on becoming the person the Lord needs you to be.”

President Nelson encouraged listeners to strive to develop spiritual attributes of "faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility and diligence.”

“These attributes are difficult to measure, but they constitute the substance of what the Lord hopes for each of you,” he said.

In the keynote address, Elder Oaks spoke of the eternal nature of joy.

“Where do we find our greatest joy?” he asked. “I suggest that it is in creativity — the process and feeling of creating something.”

Sharing how creativity can be found in many different professions and activities, Elder Oaks spoke of the process of cultivating and creating things — such as life, a work of art or even a performance. Although all illustrations of creativity, Elder Oaks pointed out the difference between mortal or temporary examples of joy and eternal joy.

“We have no assurance that most of the things that bring us joy in mortality will continue in the next life,” he said. “The diploma you have received this day is but one example.”

The greatest joy is found in the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ, he said. It is in the gospel that individuals understand their purpose and potential.

“The gospel’s assurance of a continued, embodied existence after this life illuminates our understanding of the ultimate joy of creativity. … Surely our greatest eternal joy will be in the creativity that lives beyond this mortal life and gives joy after the resurrection and throughout all eternity."

Drawing from the example of when a Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well, Elder Oaks encouraged listeners to draw from the “well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“On this graduation day, it is appropriate to think of your education and your degree as implements that can draw water from a deep well,” he said. “You can use those implements to satisfy thirst and other earthly desires for yourself and those dependent upon you.

"On occasion, they can also be used to provide earthly support for the Savior and his work and his servants. But we must never forget what the Savior told the Samaritan woman: ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.’ Only from Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of this world, can we obtain the living water whose partaker shall never thirst again, in whom it will be ‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’”

Worthen conducted and spoke during commencement exercises, reminding graduates to “do what you are.”

“The world will often teach us that we are what we do,” he said. But rather than being defined by what they do, Worthen encouraged graduates to view their jobs — even their entire lives — as a calling, determining who they are by what they choose.

“As a result of who you are — and who you can become — you can have a profound impact on those around you, not only in your jobs, but also in your communities, and, most importantly, in your homes.”

During the event, Dr. Donald B. Doty was awarded an honorary doctor of science and Christian service degree.

“Dr. Doty is regarded throughout the globe as the premier teacher of cardiac surgery,” President Nelson said. “His textbooks are used by specialists throughout the world.” In addition to his academic scholarship, President Nelson spoke of the great missionary service Doty gave as he — for nine years — directed the medical needs of missionaries for the LDS Church.

This year's graduates come from 47 states, one territory and 38 foreign countries. Other speakers during commencement exercises included Terry R. Seamons, president of the BYU Alumni Association, and Beth Black Peacock, a student speaker.

[email protected] @marianne_holman