Featured Stories

Elder Gong Tells BYU Graduates to Build on Their Education’s Firm Foundation

Gong BYU Commencement
Gong BYU Commencement
Elder Gerrit W. Gong gives his commencement address during BYU’s graduation ceremony at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the graduation ceremony was broadcast and held virtually.Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Rachel Sterzer Gibson, Church News

Beth O’Brien is grateful for her Brigham Young University education.

On Thursday, O’Brien graduated with a master’s degree in social work. As a single parent, she will now be joining a clinical practice down the street from her home in Springville, Utah, that will allow her to prioritize her life with her children while still supporting them financially. “It’s kind of all my dreams coming true,” she told the Church News.

Gong BYU Commencement
Gong BYU Commencement
BYU student Beth O’Brien received her master’s degree in social work. Photo by BYU Photo.All rights reserved.

O’Brien said she knows of no other program or environment that would have been as supportive of her situation or prepared her to be employable for a meaningful job. “I feel really grateful,” she said.

O’Brien’s experience is indicative of the firm foundation created from an education at BYU that Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of in his remarks during the BYU commencement ceremony on Thursday morning, April 22.

In his address that was broadcast from the Marriott Center on the Provo, Utah, campus, the Apostle repeatedly encouraged graduates to “build with gratitude on a firm BYU foundation.”

Part of that endeavor is seeking every opportunity to improve and do better, Elder Gong explained. “Please continue to be good, so you can do the most good, whatever your circumstance, wherever you are.”

As a BYU alumnus himself, Elder Gong began his remarks by expressing gratitude for the firm foundation on which BYU is established and the firm foundation BYU helps to establish in the lives of students.

In that spirit, he offered six congratulations to graduates.

His first congratulations went to those who are the first in their families to graduate from university, roughly 12% of the 6,272 graduates.

BYU graduation statistics for April 2021. Figure courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

“Three cheers for you and those who love and encourage you as you embark on a lifelong educational journey which will bless generations,” he said. “We are proud Brigham Young University cares deeply about offering educational opportunities to those from every background and circumstance.”

Second, he gave a special salute to the 40-60% of graduates who made on-campus employment part of their education.

“You got up early, you stayed late. You worked hard and you accomplished much. We are proud of a university that, with great intentionality, offers excellent education, recognized affordable value, and significant on-campus employment opportunities, so our BYU graduates can achieve both a fine education and one of our country’s lowest student debt rates,” Elder Gong said.

His third congratulations went to graduates who have been part of multiple high-impact practices (HIP). “You probably didn’t know how ‘HIP’ you are,” Elder Gong quipped.

According to national educational criteria, 76% of BYU graduates have participated in two or more high-impact practices (HIP), such as research with faculty, internships or field experience or had the opportunity to study abroad.


“This is a tribute to you for making the most of your time at BYU,” Elder Gong said.

Fourth, Elder Gong congratulated graduates who are pursuing their educational and professional dreams.

He noted that after Harvard and Stanford universities, BYU has the highest percentage of students who attend after being accepted. “You came to BYU because you wanted to. And now you are well-prepared to go forth to serve in home and community, in further schooling and professional and employment capacities.”

To those graduates who are Latter-day Saints, he asked to reach out to their next bishop or branch president and offer to serve. “It is always timely to give back and give forward, for yourself, for those who expect something more of a BYU graduate, in leadership, service, and gospel example,” he said.

“We pray you truly go forth spiritually strengthened, intellectually enlarged, an individual of character committed to lifelong learning and service. Please build with gratitude on a firm BYU foundation.”

Fifth, Elder Gong offered cheers for graduates who laughed, cried and grew by serving in family home evening groups and in wards and stakes. “I hope you will remember with fondness and appreciation this special element of your BYU education.”

Lastly, Elder Gong expressed his gratitude to each student, faculty and staff member who “is building on BYU’s firm foundation of bedrock virtues, values, and principles, while learning appropriately when and how to adapt in changing and challenging times.”

Graduates have much for which to be proud in their BYU experiences and accomplishments, “much for which to be proud, now, as a graduate of Brigham Young University,” Elder Gong said.

In conclusion, he testified that “the firm foundation for which I am most grateful is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and — called in His name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the members of which across the earth are proud of Brigham Young University and its graduates, including you, the graduating class of 2021.”

Gong BYU Commencement
Gong BYU Commencement
Alyssa M. Baer addresses the class of 2021 during BYU’s graduation ceremony at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the graduation ceremony was broadcast and held virtually. Photo by Kristin Murphy, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.