Today is my convocation for my law school graduation. Two students are chosen by their class to give remarks at the ceremony. Although I would have loved to have been chosen it was not to be. Nevertheless, I have thought about what I would have said were I able to speak at this event. I decided to write a draft of what I might have said were I given that opportunity.
Fellow students and faculty, it is an honor to stand before you today and speak to you. I pray that the spirit will be with me and guide my remarks today.
I first would like to begin by remedying a wrong. Nine years ago, I spoke at my high school graduation as Salutatorian. It was about five months after my mother died from Ovarian cancer, and at the time I made the unwise decision not to mention her directly in my remarks. I love my mother and miss her more than I can express. Without her love, guidance and support I would not be who I am today, let alone where I am today. Thankfully, as a result of my membership in this Church, I understand now what truly matters most, which is why I dedicate these remarks to her. I know that God’s plan will allow me to see her again and to be with her eternally.
Ultimately, I begin with that dedication not merely as an indulgent aside, but because I hope to speak today about heavenly father’s plan for each of us. I have come away from my law school experience with renewed certainty that God lives and that he loves each of us deeply. He knows us personally and knows our needs and wants. While we all chose to attend BYU Law School for a variety of reasons, ultimately I am firmly convinced that we are here because it is part of God’s plan for us. He has given you the knowledge, skills and training to be effective disciples and work to build his kingdom. If all you take away from your law school experience is a JD with low debt, you have failed to truly come to know God’s will and purpose for you. As Judge Griffith of the D.C. Circuit has memorably expressed at the Law School several times, if you just go away from school hoping to make a ton of money, you are going to hell.
Instead, I invite each of you at this moment where we are receiving our degrees, to reflect on those moments where you have felt divine guidance. Perhaps you felt it as you considered whether to go to law school, perhaps you felt it when deciding which law school to attend. Perhaps you felt it as you selected classes or decided on co-curriculars or summer externship opportunities.
For me personally, while I long knew that I wanted to attend law school, BYU did not hold an attraction. I was a recent convert to the Church when I was applying to Law Schools, and BYU seemed too constricting and too Mormon for my tastes. I applied to other law schools and got accepted at several extremely highly ranked schools. Shortly after that, I felt prompted to serve a mission and before leaving I deferred admission at one of those schools. While on my mission, I felt strongly prompted again that I needed to apply to BYU Law School and attend BYU. I did not then know why God wanted me to come here, but I knew it was God’s will.
I am so grateful for my experience at BYU Law School. While here, I have been able to marry my incredible wife and to have our ten month old daughter Ilana. I have also had opportunities at BYU that I could have had nowhere else, from in depth discussions in National Security Law about Gospel teachings on war and peace, to the opportunity to accompany delegates, academics and faith leaders from across the world to General Conference as part of the annual Law and Religion symposium. I love this law school and the incredible experiences that I have had here. With each of these experiences I have felt the guiding hand of the Lord.
One of my close friends in our class shared with me an experience which I believe illustrates this principle. She heard from a member of the admissions committee that they personally pray over the files of the various applicants to know if they are meant to be students at the law school. When they came to her file, they felt a powerful spirit telling them that she needed to be a student there. They hadn’t even opened the file to look at GPA, LSAT scores or those other tangible factors that usually are the determining factor. God knew that she needed to be at this law school at this time.
I testify that God knows each of you and has sent you to this law school and at this time for a reason. He will use you for greater things than you can at the present time imagine.
This semester while taking Professional Responsibility I learned about the different roles that I am expected to play as a lawyer from counselor to advocate. Yet, I believe that there is one far greater role that should define us as graduates of this law school: disciples. First and foremost, as graduates of the J. Reuben Clark Law School, we should see ourselves as Disciples of Jesus Christ.
As disciples we have dedicated our lives, our careers and all that we have to him. If we allow him to guide us in our endeavors he has promised us that we will prosper and be great instruments to help him bring to pass his work and his glory.
Of course, in many ways we will be just like graduates of any other law school. We will work at firms or in the government. We will represent clients in court rooms across the country. We will be expected to deliver competent and complete work produce and to bill our hours. Yet, God will provide us with innumerable opportunities, if we keep our eyes open for them, to inspire, uplift, and bless those with whom we interact.
One of the most valuable things that we can do as Disciples of Christ is to provide peace, calm and perspective in times of tumult and difficulty. My Mission President was a judge up in Sandy before his call. He told us that behind the bench he kept a picture of a hurricane with an arrow pointing to the eye of the storm. When thing in his courtroom would get crazy, he would look at that picture and strive to be a force of calm just like the eye of the storm. Interactions with the legal system often represent low points in the lives of so many. As disciples we can be the eye of the storm and help to guide our clients to peace and safety.
At other times, we will have to stand up for our values. In an increasingly secular world, we will sometimes be called to take unpopular positions and stances. As President Monson noted, sometimes we will have to stand alone. Yet, these moments of courage and conviction will shape or character and define our destiny. We may have to walk away from an assignment or even a job in order to stay true to our values, but that sacrifice is always worth it. As Disciples of Christ, we should strive to never compromise our values in order to fit in or get by.
God knows our skills and talents and he also knows our weaknesses. He has promised to help make weak things strong. If we put our trust in him, he will always lead us and guide us upward and onward. Though the path may be long, and at times we may suffer setbacks, if we stay dedicated to the gospel, and to the Savior we will ultimately be led back into his presence. And if we do so we will also be able to help lead others on that eternal path.
Ultimately, we are not defined by how much money we earn from our work, but how our works transforms us and those around us. Whatever the size of your paycheck, know that your worth is infinite in the eyes of God. He does not measure the size of your bank account, but he does measure our dedication and willingness to serve.
I bear witness that Jesus Christ is our savior and redeemer. Because of his atonement, we can be given the power and strength to edify and uplift those around us. As lawyers, we will be given unique opportunities to do so. God knows us and will help us throughout our careers and our lives on this earth. Ultimately, I pray that we may be defined first and foremost as Disciples of Jesus Christ and be willing to follow him in all that we do. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.