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Elder Stevenson Invites Ensign College Graduates to Proudly Carry Banner of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

During the 2024 graduation ceremony, the school awarded the most degrees and certificates in its 137-year history

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By Rachel Sterzer Gibson, Church News

More than 2,000 graduates of Ensign College were awarded roughly 2,500 degrees and certificates — the most in the school’s 137-year history — during the 2024 commencement exercises held the morning of Thursday, April 11.

With tulips, daffodils and other spring flowers beginning to bloom on Temple Square, graduates — along with friends, family, school faculty and administrators — gathered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for the processional and graduation ceremony, which included remarks by Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and the Church commissioner of education.

While conducting the ceremony, Ensign College President Bruce C. Kusch acknowledged the diversity represented among the graduates: 931 hail from the United States, while 1,147 — or 55% of the class of 2024 — are from 92 different countries.

“We truly are a global community of Saints learning from and lifting one another,” President Kusch told graduates. “Each of you graduating today, whether you’re from Roy or Rio de Janeiro from Sandy or Seoul, you should feel a great sense of accomplishment.”

In his remarks, Elder Stevenson noted that the flags of over 90 countries were unfurled last week on the Church plaza in front of the Church Office Building, representing “the global nature of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

In a similar way, graduates are prepared — with “exquisite diversity” of country, culture and ethnicity — to go forth “like a literal ensign of nations, representing Ensign College,” he said.

With that in mind, Elder Stevenson shared four metaphorical flags, or ensigns, for graduates to raise as they continue their education or begin their professional career. “Consider each of these as points of action,” he said.

Nations flags are raised in the new plaza at the Church Office Building and Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Elder Stevenson’s 4 Banners

1. Peacemaker

The first ensign is that of a peacemaker. In his general conference address in April 2023, Church President Russell M. Nelson underscored the urgent need for peacemakers when he said, “The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire — no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.”

Elder Stevenson added, “A peacemaker must consider the needs of the other as much or more than their own. This perspective of a peacemaker not only calls for individual responsibility, but it also underscores the interconnectedness of all people.”

2. Understanding

The second banner to carry is an ensign of understanding. Elder Stevenson noted that the pursuit of wisdom and understanding is a valuable, worthy endeavor, and civility is its manifestation.

Elder Stevenson shared that hanging in the library he visited every day as an undergraduate student was a sign that had a scripture from Proverbs, “And with all thy getting, get understanding.”

He said, “We need to practice — to perfect traits of understanding in the way we communicate.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shakes hands with graduates during the presentation of diplomas at the 137th Ensign College commencement exercises at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Photo by Megan Nielsen, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.

3. Restoration

Next is the banner of the Restoration. Those who carry this ensign introduce its message to others, he said.

The Savior admonished, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Fortunately, the Savior’s injunction can be accomplished through simple principles: love, share and invite, Elder Stevenson said. To love, share and invite “are a wonderful way for us to proudly and boldly carry the banner of the Restoration.”

4. Engagement

Fourth, carry an ensign of engagement, Elder Stevenson encouraged. In other words, “Be active, get involved in good causes.”

As graduates embark on the next chapter of their lives, Elder Stevenson asked them to “please strive to make a meaningful contribution as you engage in new countries, communities, neighborhoods and wards, wherever you may be. This can be done in small and simple ways as you keep the second great commandment to love your neighbor, and also, in formal civic charity service and engagement.”

In conclusion, Elder Stevenson invited graduates to “go forth, proudly carrying the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” including the banner of a peacemaker, of understanding, of the Restoration and of engagement.

“Carry them with enthusiasm, carry them with dignity and as pure vessels, sons and daughters of God,” Elder Stevenson said.

Graduates move their tassel after the conferment of degrees at the 137th Ensign College commencement exercises at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Photo by Megan Nielsen, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.

What Makes Ensign College Distinctive

In his remarks, Elder Gilbert shared three distinctions that make the Ensign College experience powerful and unique. First, Ensign College operates under the guidance of the First Presidency — President Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

“That prophetic governance is a distinct advantage in the direction and alignment of this college, and it has shaped its entire focus.”

Second, Ensign College’s mission is to develop capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ. “Ensign College trained you to do real work, and you have risen to that challenge by completing your degree or certificates. … Part of being trusted and capable is that you continue to learn and develop beyond your current capability,” Elder Gilbert said.

Third, students at Ensign College have been taught what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. “Just like your professional abilities need to continue to develop, the discipleship you have established already here at Ensign College needs to continue to grow and expand,” Elder Gilbert told graduates.

The ceremony also included brief counsel from President Kusch and from two graduates, Afokwalam Ugochukwu and Rebekah McHenry.

President Kusch noted that more than 1,600 of the day’s graduates were online students who pursued their degree through the college’s “deepening and expanding” relationship with BYU–Pathway Worldwide, the Church’s online provider.

Ugochukwu, an online student from Owerri, Nigeria, earned a Technical Support Engineer Certificate through BYU–Pathway Worldwide. In a pre-recorded video from his home in Nigeria, he told graduates to never underestimate the power of perseverance. “Every challenge … is an opportunity for growth and learning.”

McHenry, a mother of six, earned a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in accounting and encouraged students to “trust in the Lord’s timing, in the Lord’s process and in His plan for [your] life.”

Copyright 2024 Deseret News Publishing Company.

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