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Prepare for Another Graduation

This is a wonderful day. I love graduations. They are joyful occasions for you graduates as well as for your families, friends, and faculty. It’s a delight to celebrate and eulogize you graduates today for your remarkable achievement. You have now completed your final, final exam at BYU-Hawaii and today add a new degree to your résumé! Congratulations! A line from Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” comes to mind: “Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

On this joyful day as you close one phase of your lives and commence another, I want to focus for a moment on another graduation day. My purpose is to encourage you to prepare for the day when you will graduate from mortality. I invite you to consider what qualities you want those who love you to remember and praise at that graduation. What résumé will you present to the Lord when you commence the next life? How you will fare in your entrance exam to Heaven? And will you qualify for the highest degree there?

My message is simple. I encourage you to prepare now for your mortal graduation by cultivating what one writer called “eulogy virtues” of a good character. These virtues are essential to what an apostle called your “real résumé”—that is, who you are. It is this résumé that will help you pass your final, final exam, which will be administered by the Savior, and receive the only degree that matters eternally: a celestial degree of glory.

I was prompted to address this theme today by fond memories of our special guest, President M. Russell Ballard, who spoke at the funerals of my father- and mother-in-law. President Ballard has been a dear friend of Susan’s parents since before she was born. They were in a study group for over 65 years. President Ballard gave my father-in-law, Richard Winder, a touching, tender blessing a few hours before he died and only a day before Susan and I arrived in Hawaii to be presented for this responsibility. He gave a similar sweet blessing to my mother-in-law, Barbara Winder, a couple weeks before she died. And, as I mentioned, he spoke at both of their funerals—their graduations from this life.

In preparation for President Ballard’s visit today, I re-listened to his funeral sermons. In his eulogies, he praised Susan’s parents not so much for their accomplishments, even though both had many, but for their character. While their résumés were impressive, it was who they were that mattered to us as family and to their friend, Elder Ballard, just as it does to the Lord. Elder Ballard honored them as “true saints.” He used this phrase of praise in both funeral sermons and again last week as I visited with him about this commencement.

Susan’s parents, Richard and Barbara Winder, were indeed—no are—true saints. They are some of the best people I have ever known. They are surely among the Lord’s noble and great ones—honest, honorable, hard-working, and with a healthy sense of humor to get them through life’s bumps. They accepted callings to serve, as you will as you go forth to serve, and were true to Christ, his Church, and their covenants. Today I remind you that such attributes as these are what will matter at our graduation from mortality. What matters is if we are “true saints.”

We marched in today to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance.” This is typical of academic graduations. It is well to remember that at some point “all our pomp” on earth will be “one with Ninevah and Tyre,” as Rudyard Kipling writes in the hymn “God of Our Fathers, Known of Old.” But when “The tumult and the shouting dies; The captains and the kings depart. Still stands the ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart.” (Hymns, no. 80). Earth’s glories shall pass away (see “Abide With Me” Hymns, no. 166), but not the unfading crown of glory Christ has prepared for those who love Him.

A few years ago, David Brooks, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times that he later expanded into a book entitled The Road to Character. In it, Brooks distinguishes between what he calls “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” He writes:

The résumé virtues are the ones you list on your résumé, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being—whether you are kind, brave, honest, or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.

Most of us would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé virtues, but I confess for long stretches of my life I’ve spent more time thinking about the latter than the former. Our education system is certainly oriented around the résumé virtues more than the eulogy virtues. (David Brooks, The Road to Character [New York: Random House, 2015], xi)

I hope that in this blessed little corner of the American education system that, in your pursuit of résumé virtues, you have not forgotten to cultivate eulogy virtues. I hope that you will also never forget the statement from Emerson that President McKay quoted at our founding and that I have often quoted from this pulpit: “Character is higher than intellect.” What matters most is not what we know but who we are.

Résumé virtues are important; they open doors in the marketplace. But eulogy virtues are indispensable; they open the portals of Heaven.

Eulogy virtues are written not on your c.v. so much as on your soul. They are much more than a list of your accomplishments; they describe who you are at the core. They are the stuff of what has been called our “real résumé” by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who observed:

God is infinitely more interested in our having a place in His kingdom than with our spot on a mortal organizational chart. . . . Father wants us to come home, bringing our real résumés, ourselves! (“The Tugs and Pulls of the World,” Oct. 2000, General Conference)

As Elder Maxwell notes, this is the résumé we will present to our Father in Heaven after our graduation from mortality.

You have now taken your final exam here; all the grades are, or will soon be, recorded on your transcript. But at some point, we will all take a final, final exam. This will be an open book exam, but the book that will be opened is the book of our lives (Revelation 20:12). And it will be an oral exam, but the one asking the questions will not be your professors but the Savior himself. He employs no proctor for this exam (2 Ne. 9:41).

I don’t know what questions He will ask us when we kneel before that examination bar. But I believe that the outcome of this exam will likely turn on these two questions:

What have we truly loved?
And how well have we loved?

When we exchange these robes for heavenly robes, it will be well with us if we are possessed of the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47-48), having loved God and our brothers and sisters as did the Savior and having become, in a measure, like him in love.

So my dear graduates: I congratulate you warmly, heartily, enthusiastically on your graduation today. This is a great day in your lives! At the same time, I encourage you to prepare yourselves for another graduation day, which will come to us all. May you and I develop the eulogy virtues that will lead the Lord and his servants to welcome us home as “true saints,” worthy of a far, far greater degree than those any university can confer—a degree of celestial glory!

This is my highest hope and deepest desire for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.