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Elder Paul V. Johnson

LDSBC Commencement Address
April 2009
This is a great day and I congratulate you on your accomplishment.  I know it has taken much effort, sacrifice and determination to come to this point, and I applaud you on this special day.  I want you to know that all you have done to make this day possible is important even beyond the diploma or certificate you receive here today. 
I also extend thanks to the faculty, staff and administration of LDS Business College for making this day possible for you.  I am personally grateful for them and for their love and concern for you.  This college is an important part of the Church Educational System, and I am grateful to these people who are dedicated to helping you, and this college, to reach new heights.
A special thanks goes to you family members who have been so supportive and encouraging of those who are being honored here today.  I know there are parents, spouses and siblings who have sacrificed and worked to make this day a reality.  I hope you graduates thank them both in word and in how you live your lives.
2009.  What an interesting time to be graduating!  The world seems to be on an economic roller coaster, and we see businesses and governments trying to stabilize the situation.  There is conflict and war in the world today.  Many in the world are abandoning morals and eternal truths in favor of the deceptions of the adversary.  More and more, we see evil being called good and good evil.  It seems that evil has never been more accessible.  These are challenging times.
However, there have always been challenging times.  My father passed away this past year, and I have reflected a lot on his life.  My parents grew up during the great depression.  They didn’t have much in the way of worldly goods, but they had the gospel of Jesus Christ, their bodies and their minds, and a bright future.  When my father received his mission call, Europe was engaged in war, and about one week after his call came, Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941.  He left on his mission in early 1942.  By the time he returned from his mission, the war had escalated to a world war that many thought would be the end of civilization, and in which 15-20 million military personnel and about 25 million civilians were killed.  The amount of property damage is impossible to accurately estimate, but the earth still has physical scars from that war, which ended over 60 years ago.  These scars can be seen from Europe to the islands of the Pacific.
Can you imagine what my father thought about his future as the whole world seemed to be spiraling downward?  Well, I don’t know what his exact thoughts were, but I do know what his actions were.  He joined the military on a track that would help him be trained as a dentist and he continued his education.
My mother came from poor immigrant parents, but was able to finish college during war time, when the ratio of women to men on campuses was very skewed since so many of the young men were at war.  She went on to raise eight children, and lived a faithful life.
I am grateful that my parents were able to push forward in challenging times with faith.  Their very actions of pushing forward during challenging times were instrumental in their personal development, and our family was blessed because of the type of people my parents became.
There are many people from history with whom we are all familiar that went forward with faith in very challenging times.
One such person lived in a country occupied by the Romans.  This person was from very humble beginnings and probably wondered about her future.  Her espoused husband couldn’t find a decent place for her to give birth to her son, and later people wanted to kill her baby, so the young family had to flee to another country.  It seems like such a difficult way to start out in life, and yet Mary went forward and helped raise the Savior of the world.  Most people would look at her situation early in her life and  think she probably didn’t have much of a future, but because of her faith and willingness to do the right things she is truly “blessed … among women” (Luke 1:18).
Moroni grew up in a time when his society was crumbling.  The people rejected God and were on their way to total destruction.  It was a time of slippery riches, great violence, sexual immorality, and war.  His father, Mormon, almost singlehandedly, staved off the destruction of his people for a time.  Both Mormon and Moroni lived in extremely difficult times, but fulfilled their destinies and were very successful in their personal lives.
Joseph Smith did not start life out in a promising position for success as far as the world was concerned.  His family was poor.  As a young man he faced tremendous opposition which continued throughout his life.  He faced very challenging times and yet persevered and overcame the challenges that were in his path.
None of these people allowed the challenges they faced and the conditions of their world and society at the time to determine the trajectory of their lives.  They went forward with faith, and through the blessings of the Lord, they became what they were meant to be.  Each of them had a bright future despite the conditions that surrounded them.
Your future is not determined by the conditions around you.  It is determined by your faith, your choices and your efforts.  Yes, you live in challenging times, but so did Mary, Moroni and Joseph Smith.  You don’t have to be carried along in the current of the times.  The Lord can and will help you set your own course. The challenges you face will serve to strengthen you as you move forward with your life.  Each of you has a bright future, a future you can’t fully comprehend at this time.
People face challenges in different ways.  When faced with challenging times or events, some people complain and blame circumstances or other people for their problems.  They won’t let go of bad feelings.  They portray themselves as victims and become bitter.  They seem to spend so much time and energy justifying themselves and pushing off responsibility to others that there is no energy left to go forward with their lives.  This approach not only affects them, but is easily passed on to their children.
Others seem to live in the past and dwell on how things used to be.  They are so unwilling to leave the past that they don’t turn around to face a future that would be bright if they approached it properly.
Some people dream about the future, but don’t do much to move into the future with power.  They don’t realize that what they do—or don’t do—now, will profoundly affect their future. 
People who go to work with faith, knowing the Lord will bless them if they do what’s right, are the ones with a bright future.  The title of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s last conference address explained how these people handle challenges.  The title was “Come What May, and Love it.”  Elder Wirthlin said “If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26).
Your individual future is either bright or cloudy depending on you.
I guarantee that you will face challenges.  That is part of mortality.  It is expected and it is okay.  In fact, it is necessary.  But remember, your future is bright.
President Howard W. Hunter spoke to college age Young Adults in 1993.  He was then president of the Quorum of the Twelve.  He said.
I am here tonight to tell you that Despair, Doom, and Discouragement are not an acceptable view of life for a Latter-day Saint. However high on the charts they are on the hit parade of contemporary news, we must not walk on our lower lip every time a few difficult moments happen to confront us.
I am just a couple of years older than most of you, and in those few extra months I have seen a bit more of life than you have. I want you to know that there have always been some difficulties in mortal life and there always will be. But knowing what we know, and living as we are supposed to live, there really is no place, no excuse, for pessimism and despair.
In my lifetime I have seen two world wars plus Korea plus Vietnam and all that you are currently witnessing. I have worked my way through the depression and managed to go to law school while starting a young family at the same time. I have seen stock markets and world economics go crazy and have seen a few despots and tyrants go crazy, all of which causes quite a bit of trouble around the world in the process.
So I am frank to say tonight that I hope you won't believe all the world's difficulties have been wedged into your decade, or that things have never been worse than they are for you personally, or that they will never get better. I reassure you that things have been worse and they will always get better. They always do--especially when we live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ and give it a chance to flourish in our lives.  (Howard W. Hunter, An Anchor to the Souls of Men, CES Fireside for Young Adults, 7 Feb. 1993)
I had an experience a few months ago where I was asked a question by a college student.  He was a fine young man who had returned from a mission and was attending school.  He asked if I had meetings with the First Presidency and the Twelve.  I told him I did.  He then asked if I had any inside information on when the Second Coming would be.  I told him I didn’t have any special knowledge on that, and asked him why he was interested.  He answered that he was concerned because the world was getting more and more wicked, and he wondered if it would be worth it to get married and have a family.
I’ll tell you what I told him and what I feel personally.  It is true that we do live in challenging times.  But there is not a better time to get married, have a family, and go forward with life than right now.  The gospel is established on the earth, and we have access to the covenants and promises associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ, including the covenants we make in the temple. The truths of the gospel are more accessible now than at any time in history.  The words of the prophets are more accessible now than ever before, and there are more temples on earth now than at any time in history. There are many people searching for the truth and many good people all over the earth. 
In addition to my comments to that fine young man, I would add that there are no better days than these days, because “these are [your] days” (Hel. 7:9).  You are here on earth at this time for a reason. You have what it takes to have a bright future.  You have skills, knowledge, and natural talents given you from God. If you live righteously, you will have access to the inspiration and strength you will need to triumph over any challenge with which you are faced.   You will have the protection of a worthy life, guidance from the Lord through the Holy Ghost and the prophets, seers and revelators, and the power of sacred promises that are yours because you keep your covenants.
Take all of these things which are yours and have a great life!
The reason I am so confident about your ability to find a bright future in the midst of a challenging world isn’t because I know each of you individually, but because I know that the Lord lives and loves us.  He is the real reason each of us has a bright future.  I testify that He lives and loves all of us and each of us.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (see Philip. 4:13).  Because we are children of our Heavenly Father and because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I know our futures are bright, if we live our lives righteously.  May the Lord bless you as you go forward from this important day of your graduation to a powerful and bright future.

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