They may have their degrees, but more than 6,000 men and women who graduated from Brigham Young University on Thursday have more work and learning to do.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told graduates that how they perform on the moral test they will face throughout their lives will have a greater impact than their university education.

"My plea to you is to not let this achievement or any other success or failure blind you to your central purpose on earth -- to learn to do whatsoever the Lord your God may command," said Christofferson, also a member of the church-owned school's board of trustees, during his commencement address at BYU's Marriott Center.

The university conferred degrees on 6,174 graduates during the ceremony. Earlier in the day, 12 Army ROTC cadets and 15 Air Force cadets were commissioned as officers in their respective branches of the armed forces.

Christofferson, quoting BYU scholar Hugh Nibley, said on the scale of the eternities, secular learning is merely "dabbling" and that the truly wise are also humble, because they understand that the more they learn, the less they truly know.

"It is those who know a little as they suppose who often times assume they know a great deal and become guilty of hubris," Christofferson warned his audience.

Someone denied a college education and the advantages it grants will, if they pass the moral test, achieve greatness in the eyes of God, Christofferson said.

"As you look forward to a new phase of life, I urge you to recommit to the celestial law and the Christian standard of greatness: Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; And whosoever of you will be the chieftest, shall be the servant of all," Christofferson said, quoting the New Testament Gospel of St. Mark. He urged students to look for ways to serve others, including within their families as either a parent or an aunt or uncle.

Brian T. Wright, who graduated magna cum laude in Russian and physiology and human development, reminded graduates that their quest for truth and knowledge was merely beginning.

"While the sun may be setting on our time at BYU, it is only beginning to rise on our eternal development," Wright said. "This sunrise will ultimately give way to the perfect day if we continue to seek after light and truth."

Wright said graduates should try to learn from their life's experiences, just as they did through books and lectures during their time at the university.

BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson told graduates that while their lives will have the potential to be rich and fulfilling, there will also be trials and weighty decisions. But he said their skills, sharpened at BYU and through the blessings of God, will help them through life's challenges.

dmeyers@sltrib.com