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Commencements

Remember Whose You Are

It is now my privilege to offer the graduates a message. This is never an easy task. As Senator Bob Dole once quipped: “Being a commencement speaker is like being the corpse at a funeral. They need you in order to hold the event, but nobody expects you to say very much.” So I shall be brief.

YOU ARE MORE THAN WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET

As I look at you graduates about to leave your academic home, I feel impressed to say to you what my mother would often say to me as a teenager when I walked out the door of my home: “Remember who you are!”

Now being a bit of a smart-aleck, as teenagers often are, I would sometimes pull out my wallet, pretending to search for my driver’s license while saying, “Mom, I forgot! Who am I? Let’s see. Oh yea, I am John Tanner, male, blue eyes, brown hair, 5’9”, Caucasian, who lives at 1133 Buena Vista Street, South Pasadena, California.”

When I urge you to “remember who you are” I am not referring to the information in your wallets or even on your résumés. These tell only part of the story of who you are, and not the most important part.

Far more important than the personal identifiers in your wallet is your eternal identity as a child of God. And more important than your professional résumé is what I call your real résumé—that is, what is written on your heart and soul.

So today I repeat my mother’s injunction with an addition, just so you can’t miss the point. I urge you to remember both WHO you are and WHOSE you are.

Your diploma will open doors of opportunity for you. But the door to Heaven swings open on other hinges. The “keeper of the gate” there won’t care about your worldly credentials (2 Ne. 9:41). But he will care about whose you are.

The Lord will want to know, Are you his disciple? Have you taken upon yourself his name, both by covenant and by your conduct? Is his image in your countenance (Alma 5: 14)? Does his light and love radiate from your soul such that when you see him you are like him (Moro. 7: 48; see also 1 John 3:2)? Have you been quickened by a portion of celestial glory so that you are prepared to receive a fullness (D&C 88:29)? In short, whose are you?

This is my simple farewell message to you graduates today:

· remember who you are as a child of god and
· remember whose you are as a disciple of Christ

REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!

SO WHO ARE YOU? You are a child of God. This is your eternal identity. You are the son or daughter of a King. And not just of any King but of the King of Kings who wants to crown you with his glory. You are of royal lineage. Be loyal to the royal within you.

Sometimes you will be tempted doubt your eternal identity and live below your privileges—like Simba in The Lion King. At such times, may you, like Simba, hear the Spirit whisper to you “Remember who you are!” and realize that your Heavenly Father “lives in you.” For you are his child.

My dear graduates: You are a beloved child of God. Heaven is your native home. REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!

REMEMBER WHOSE YOU ARE!

ALSO REMEMBER WHOSE YOU ARE! You are the Lord’s not only by birthright but by covenant. The Savior “has purchased you with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). He says to his people: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee . . . thou art mine” (Is. 43:1). He calls himself the bridegroom and his Church the bride, inviting us to think of our covenant relationship with him in the language of love: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:4). So, too, we sing, “The King of love my shepherd Is . . . I am his and he is mine forever.”

In feudal times, the question “whose are you?” would not have sounded odd in the least. People would answer: “I am the vassal or the knight or the servant of my Lord William of Kent, or John of Salisbury, or whomever.” Some servants even wore clothing whose colors signaled whose they were. These special clothes were called a “livery.” Only those belonging to a great lord could wear his colors in livery.

The academic regalia we wear today functions in the same way. My robe is blue and gold, indicating that I graduated from the University of California. Elder Clark’s is crimson, signaling that he graduated from Harvard. Like athletic or military uniforms, academic robes tell others whose we are.

But these robes don’t tell whose we really are. We signal that by clothing ourselves in the spiritual livery of Christ, our Master, which consists of his attributes and priesthood. We read that the Lord’s servants will meet the Master at his coming clothed in the robes of righteousness (D&C 109:76).

The Lord helps us remember whose we are by binding us to him through covenants. The sacrament is a powerful weekly reminder of whose we truly are. So are our temple covenants. Remember whose you are by making and keeping covenants.

REMEMBER WHO AND WHOSE OTHERS ARE!

Last, I invite to remember who and whose others are. Your neighbor is also a child of God. Jesus atoned for them just as he did for you. I hope that you have learned at BYU–Hawaii to love and esteem others as your brothers and sisters, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, social status, or language. Here we all belong to one family, one ‘ohana sharing aloha.

I love this quote from a sermon by C. S. Lewis:

It is a serious thing to live in the society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. . . it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. . . . your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses . (“The Weight of Glory,” in “ The Weight of Glory and Other Essays [New York: Touchstone, 1975], p. 39)

So look to your right and left at your neighbor. If you could see them with God’s eyes for who and whose they really are it might take your breath away.

In conclusion, as you leave your academic home today I urge you to: “Remember who you are!” “Remember whose you are!” And “Remember who and whose others are!”

I testify that you are a child of a Heavenly Father. He loves you so much he gave his Only Begotten Son so that through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ you can become his by covenant. And he loves not just you but all of his children; he expects us to love them too.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.