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Graduates, their families and faculty received inspiring counsel about their relationship with God from three speakers at the August 2017 Commencement exercises. Speakers included Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy, BYU President Kevin J Worthen and graduate Michael Morgan.

Michael Morgan: Your Fundamental Identity

When Morgan started at BYU, he thought he'd be a 4.0 student — until Econ 110.  When he didn't get the grade he was hoping for, he made a conscious choice to connect his identity to his work ethic and his ability to finish what he starts. This identification shift led him to the honors program, his honor’s thesis and his best memories at BYU.

“Establishing our identity is important,” Morgan said. “Who we are affects how we live our lives. But sometimes the aspects of life that help define our identities change, and we are forced to find a deeper and more fundamental identity.”

Morgan spent time volunteering with children whose parents passed away from cancer. Seeing them cope with loss led Morgan to deepen his own identity. The things or people we identify with may not be around for our whole life, so identity must be based on a constant, he said. He determined that the unchanging identity we each have is that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. 

“Remembering our deeper and more fundamental identity will guide our actions, will give us perspective and will bring us comfort through the most difficult part of our lives,” said Morgan.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom: Seeking a Balanced Life

There are limits to our ability to balance our roles, and that is OK, Elder Hallstrom said. He cautioned that to succeed, we must give adequate time and effort our most important roles.

The four essentials Elder Hallstrom said we each need to balance are:

  1. Our love for our Heavenly Father and Jesus
  2. Our care for our family
  3. Our service to the Lord
  4. Our life’s temporal work

Loving God motivates people to choose the right, and our whole life is enhanced when we put God first.  Families often are neglected in the balancing act, and husband and wife both need to have vision and commitment to make a spiritually centered home. Maintaining a desire and availability for church service is an extension of our love for God. Temporal work is bolstered by quality education and can enhance spiritual aspects of life.

Elder Hallstrom said we must constantly evaluate if our focus is on these most important things. “We simply need to admit it and exercise the discipline to change, substituting higher values and better habits for those we have been living.”

Organizing, prioritizing and living worthy of spiritual guidance will help us stay in balance, he added.

“Continual focus is required because we live in a world that can confuse us and societal priorities of material wealth, pleasure or prestige can overwhelm the simple, but profound, personal characteristics that each of us must seek.”

President Kevin J Worthen: The Real Meaning of Alma Mater and Alumni

President Worthen spoke to the graduates on the origin of the terms alma mater and alumni. Alma mater translates in Latin to “bounteous [or] nurturing mother.” The word “alumni” was used in Rome to refer to children who were raised by a foster parent. Both terms, alma mater and alumni, derived from the Latin term “alere,” which means to nurture.

President Worthen encouraged grads to take three lessons from these words’ connections:

First, recognize that success came with the support of family, friends, mentors, donors, tithe-payers and all BYU employees.

“When you proudly proclaim that BYU is your alma mater, please have in mind all the alma maters who have contributed to you in so many ways and look for ways to thank them,” said President Worthen.

Second, nurture others as you have been nurtured.

Third, remember the paramount family relationship, especially your relationship as a child of God.

“It will provide hope in times of distress and motivation to help others in times of success,” he said. “If you do that, we, your alma mater(s), will be pleased to call you our alumni.”