Elder M. Russell Ballard (pictured with graduate at left) told graduating students Saturday they could individually make a difference in perceptions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by letting their voices be heard using technology.
"May I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet…to share the gospel and explain in simple, clear terms the message of the Restoration," he said during the fall commencement exercises.
Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained to the graduates that they and all members of the LDS Church have a duty to help others understand their beliefs. "We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices because now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility…to define ourselves instead of letting others define us."
Many misconceptions are held by people throughout the world because of false information they read on the Internet, posted by critics of the Church, Ballard said. He suggested that the tech-savvy generation get involved in "new media," including blogs, Web sites, and social networks to help clear up falsehoods and misunderstandings. "We [Church Public Affairs] cannot answer every question, satisfy every inquiry, and respond to every inaccuracy that exists. Some who seek answers want them to come directly from a member of the Church, like each one of you. They appreciate one-on-one conversations."
Ballard said that the Church may be getting more attention than ever before and that the attention is good as Church members respond to comments and inquiries respectfully and with dignity. "Every disciple of Christ will be most effective, and do the most good by adopting a demeanor worthy of the follower of the Savior of the world."
Though undergraduate work concluded for a couple hundred students this weekend, Elder Ballard suggested that using the Internet can be very far-reaching. "Your outreach can be international."
Steven C. Wheelwright, president of BYU-Hawaii, also offered motivational advice to graduates. "Each day, make a commitment to put forward your best effort. Do not settle for anything less. New opportunities will open to you because people and organizations need and desire excellence, as does the Lord in building His Kingdom."
"We need to daily assess our thoughts and acts," the ninth president of BYU-Hawaii said, "strengthening those that are developing the aspects of habit and character the Lord would desire, and eliminating and replacing those that would detract from our becoming like the Savior Himself."
Graduates also heard briefly from Elder W. Rolfe Kerr (pictured at right, to the right of Elder Ballard), commissioner of the Church Educational System. Kerr also stressed the importance of example. "The power of example is so crucial, and there is that high expectation that you will be the very best examples as you go into the world… the Lord expects you to play that very important role. Do everything you can to build His Kingdom where you are."
Of the nearly 200 graduates whose BYU-Hawaii schooling came to an end this week, over half are from outside the United States. Many of them, no matter what country they're from, will likely reflect on the main commencement speaker's remarks. "Four years of studying here has put a foundation for me to go to the next step," said Mongolia native Munkhtur Enkhbold, who graduated magna cum laude in computer science.
"Elder Ballard knows that this school is producing 'genuine gold,' so it's a perfect time for him to remind us of the importance of our message," Enkhbold said.