Somewhere in a Utah school graduation, God was mentioned. I can’t honestly say I’m shocked. I can’t even say that I’m offended, but Susan at Seagull Fountain mentioned me by name, so I feel like I must comment. Here is her description of the event:
His was pretty standard stuff: remember the lessons of the past, set high end-goals for the future, strive to be happy, and then he quoted from . . . no, not the Book of Mormon, or even the Bible, but from Benjamin Franklin (he also quoted the Scout Oath and Muppet Treasure Island):
I believe in one God, creator of the universe, that he governs by his divine province, that he ought to be worshiped, that the greatest service we can render to him is in doing good to his other children.
That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?…Our Lives are comparable with the Empire Benjamin Franklin references. He continues, without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel.
My first instinct was to think that his civics and history teachers didn’t do a very good job about mentioning the separation of church and state, but he wasn’t quoting scripture. He quoted Benjamin Franklin, founding father of our country. You can’t get more “state” than that.
God has been so interwoven into the binding of our country that excising him completely smacks of revisionist history.
As a young man embarking on the world, however, there was so much BETTER advice from Benjamin Franklin that he could have quoted. Even the, “In the dark, all cats are grey,” advice was more practical help for a young man than the quotation he chose. When you’re trying to inspire people, the God-card is a strong card to play, but only for those who believe in God. You end up ostracizing the rest. It is better to avoid that route and choose a subject of inspiration that is inclusive rather than exclusive.
Of course, he’s only 18 years old. If he spends any time outside of Utah that isn’t on a mission, he’ll learn soon enough that bearing his testimony in secular places isn’t a very smart move. Playing the God-card too often not only breeds resentment, but cheapens the sanctity of it.
Holy things are meant to be HOLY. Dragging them out into the secular world doesn’t make the secular holy. It makes the holy profane. That’s why the LDS church has private ceremonies in the temple away from prying eyes. Bearing testimony should be a sacred act in a church or maybe a religious camp-out. Bringing it into a public school commencement speech actually devalues it.
Should God be mentioned at a public high school graduation? I say, “No,” for entirely religious reasons.
It brings the sacred into a profane place, sullying the sacred in the process. There are so many inspirational quotations that one could draw upon that bring across the same idea without marking a delineation between believers and heathens. Isn’t it better to be inclusive rather than exclusive?