The Call of the Lord

At different times in our lives, we will feel the Lord's call—whether to repentance, to service, or to endure trials. Faith in the Father's blessings gives us the courage to respond to the call.

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Fear Not

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“Walk In the Meekness of My Spirit”

Susan and I are delighted to meet with you as a new semester begins at Brigham Young University. I want to begin my message today by describing two important times of transition in my life that occurred on campuses sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first transition started in 1970 at BYU. I attended San Leandro High School in the East Bay Area of California from 1967 to 1970. It was a turbulent time, with anti–Vietnam War protests, political assassinations, and social upheaval. The Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and Telegraph Avenue near the campus of the University of California at Berkeley were two major epicenters of dramatic drug, music, sexual, and cultural revolutions. Only a few Latter-day Saints attended my high school, and my ward had a very small group of youth. I moved into Helaman Halls in August 1970 and quickly became acquainted with many remarkable LDS young men and young women. That fall semester was a life-changing time for me because of spiritually impactful sacrament meetings and service in my student ward, stimulating academic classes and supportive teachers, and a strong brotherhood that developed with my dorm friends as we played intramural sports, talked late into the night, and perpetrated typical freshman pranks and practical jokes. My experience at BYU was “(1) spiritually strengthening, (2) intellectually enlarging, and (3) character building” (I hope) and a preparation for “(4) lifelong learning and service.”1 And, most important of all, I met Susan Robinson on this campus after I had returned home from my mission in 1973. She has been the love of my life for almost forty-three years. The second transition started in 1997. Susan and I moved to Rexburg, Idaho, following an academic career spanning twenty years at three different universities. As I prepared for the fall semester in my new position as the president of then Ricks College, I remember my reaction when my secretary informed me about an annual temple day for staff and ­faculty at which I was to speak. I looked at her and asked quizzically, “Can we do that?” She responded quizzically, “You do know this is a Church school, don’t you?” Attending a temple session with staff and faculty colleagues was a wonderful new and energizing experience. The overt linking of spiritual enlightenment and intellectual inquiry was thrilling and, of course, had not been a part of my work at the public universities where I was a graduate student and faculty member. During my years of service in Rexburg, I experienced in powerful ways the spirit of the charge given to Karl G. Maeser by Brigham Young when this university in Provo was founded: I want you to remember that you ought not to tea
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Be 100 Percent Responsible

Brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you in this opening session of the 2017 BYU Campus Education Week. This year’s theme comes from Doctrine and Covenants 50:24, with special emphasis on these words: “And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light.” I am going to take a different approach to this theme than might be expected by exposing and illustrating some very cunning and effective ways that the “wicked one” prevents people from progressing and receiving more light (D&C 93:39). Many gospel principles come in pairs, meaning one is incomplete without the other. I want to refer to three of these doctrinal pairs today: Agency and responsibility Mercy and justice Faith and works When Satan is successful in dividing doctrinal pairs, he begins to wreak havoc upon mankind. It is one of his most cunning strategies to keep people from growing in the light. You already know that faith without works really isn’t faith (see James 2:17). My primary focus will be on the other two doctrinal pairs: first, to illustrate how avoiding responsibility affects agency; and second, how “denying justice,” as it is referred to in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 42:30), affects mercy. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we are agents to “act . . . and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26)—or to be “free to act for [our]selves” (2 Nephi 10:23). This freedom of choice was not a gift of partial agency but of complete and total 100 percent agency. It was absolute in the sense that the One Perfect Parent never forces His children. He shows us the way and may even command us, but, “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee” (Moses 3:17). Assuming responsibility and being accountable for our choices are agency’s complementary principles (see D&C 101:78). Responsibility is to recognize ourselves as being the cause for the effects or results of our choices—good or bad. On the negative side, it is to always own up to the consequences of poor choices. Except for those held innocent, such as little children and the intellectually disabled, gospel doctrine teaches us that each person is responsible for the use of their agency and “will be punished for their own sins” (Articles of Faith 1:2).1 It isn’t just a heavenly principle but a law of nature—we reap what we sow. Logically then, complete and total agency comes with complete and total responsibility: And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it u
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Seeking a Balanced Life

I feel privileged to be in Provo for the August 2017 commencement exercises of Brigham Young University. My dear wife, Diane, deeply wished that she could be here, but a long-planned family obligation prevented that. Diane and I met on this campus forty-six years ago. I had just returned from my mission to England and was resuming my studies here. Just a few weeks into the fall semester, I was asked by my mission president—who was still in England—to speak at his home ward in Bountiful. I had so recently returned from my mission that perhaps I was uncomfortable without a companion, so I called a young woman in my student ward whom I had seen but never met and asked her to accompany me. That first date turned into a courtship and then an engagement, and last month Diane and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. The year after our marriage we both received degrees from this institution—Diane while almost nine months pregnant. Coming back to where it all began is a profound privilege. As a member of the Brigham Young University Board of Trustees for more than five years, I have regularly been engaged in discussions and decisions about this university. Continually I have been inspired by how deeply the Lord and His prophets care about the youth of the Church and how willing they are to provide enormous sacred resources to assist in temporal and spiritual education. You are blessed to have this university, and it is blessed to have you! I have great respect for President Kevin J Worthen. Since his appointment three years ago, we have been in board and executive committee meetings twice each month. He has a brilliant mind, he is modest in his leadership style, and he is completely loyal to the Lord and to the leaders of the Lord’s Church. We are extremely fortunate to have an individual of President Worthen’s quality leading this university. His complete desire is to do it the Lord’s way! Since Diane and I matriculated on this ­campus four and a half decades ago, it has become more ethnically and culturally diverse, reflecting what has occurred in the Church during this period. We have been to most of the countries and states that you call home. Yes, there are cultural and socioeconomic differences in the places you come from, and that variety is part of the strength of this university; however, do not forget—in the way that matters most—we are all the same. We are all children of the same eternal Father. That understanding is what makes BYU truly special, as it provides the spiritual foundation that gives academic efforts perspective and importance. To you graduates, I say, “Congratulations!” and “Well done!” However, I emphasize there is a reason this event is called commencement and not conclusion. Yes, it may conclude your formal education, at least on this campus, but it is the beginning of a new season of life. You may fin
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The Next Phase

What a beautiful sight! It is a privilege to stand before an audience as full of promise and potential as this one. As president of the BYU Alumni Association, it is my privilege to hereby confer on each of you graduates lifetime membership in the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. I offer you congratulations and welcome you into this great association of more than 415,000 alumni. Our alumni association had an ad campaign prompting us to remember our time at BYU with the tagline “Remember when; remember why.” We all have a BYU story. Recently I asked some of you graduates why you chose to come here. One of you said: Both of my parents went to BYU. Hearing their stories and seeing the relationships they built here made me want to have that experience for myself. Another graduate answered: I chose BYU because of the concentration of goodness I found when I first visited the campus. I can relate to these reasons. I fell in love with BYU at a young age, when my family lived in Heritage Halls for a couple of summers while my dad worked on his doctorate. But some of you might have had very different reasons for attending BYU. My husband came here on an athletic scholarship. He knew very little about Mormons then. Imagine his surprise on the first fast Sunday when the Cannon Center did not open for breakfast. Regardless of why we chose to attend this university, we all now have in common a BYU experience. Some of the fond memories that you graduates have shared with me include this one: Professors knew my name, wanted to hear about my life, and cared about me as a person. Another graduate shared the following: One of my professors asked our class to tour the Education in Zion exhibit. During my visit, I realized that I was part of something greater than just earning my bachelor’s degree. I realized the sacrifice that was required to build such an elite institution, and I realized that I had a part to play in continuing the tradition of educating Zion, wherever I went forth to serve. Finally, here is something recalled by another alum: We would meet for church every Sunday in the Clyde Building foyer. I will never forget watching from the long windows as the snow fell when I received the prompting that I should serve a mission. Our BYU stories have played a major role in shaping us. We all leave this place with memories and experiences that have shaped our future for good and serve as a springboard for the next phase of life. The BYU Alumni Association is really all about this next phase. Our purpose is to help you stay connected to BYU. One way alumni help that happen is by mentoring and supporting current students.
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Alumni of Your Alma Mater

I have long been fascinated by words and language. My children would call me a word nerd. I’m the kind of person who wonders why we drive on parkways and park on driveways. Think about it. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Similarly, have you ever wondered if a fly lost its wings, would we call it a walk? Again, you have to think about it—and now you know why my children groan a lot when I try to use my sense of humor. My love of language is one reason why I enjoy graduation ceremonies so much. At graduation we hear words that we don’t ordinarily use in everyday life. We use terms like cum laude, with either summa or magna attached as modifiers; these are not terms typically bandied about during the family dinner hour. Two of the terms we often hear at graduation are alma mater and alumni. In a few minutes Amy Fennegan will officially welcome you graduates as alumni of BYU, and upon graduation, BYU will become your alma mater. Again, these are not words that we use in many other settings. Interestingly, at least to me, and instructively, neither of these terms originated in connection with graduation or even higher education. Alma mater is a two-word Latin term that literally translated means “bounteous [or] nourishing mother.”1 In its early form, “it was a title given by the Romans to several goddesses but in particular to Ceres and Cybele, both representing fostering mother figures.”2 The association with higher education came many centuries later when the University of Bologna—which many identify as the first university in the Western world—adopted as its motto Alma mater studiorum, meaning “nurturing mother of studies.”3 Since that time alma mater has been used in a variety of ways at universities. And the idea that universities play a special “nurturing” role in the development of their students—somewhat like though not identical to that of a parent—has taken hold in American society to the extent that the prevailing definition of alma mater now is the university or college from which one has graduated.4 The term alumni similarly developed outside of academia and likewise referred to a special, almost parent-like relationship. In Rome, alumni was first used as a term that generally referred to “children abandoned by their parents and brought up in the home of someone else”5—what we might now call foster children. Over time the term alumni came to also refer to students or pupils in an educational setting. In this setting today it is worth noting that the two terms we hear often at graduation—alma mater and alumni—both originally referred to a special relationship, one very much like but also different from that between a parent and a child. M
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To Me He Doth Not Stink: Advocacy and Love

Since I first learned how, I have loved to talk. Marilyn and Denise, my two older sisters, used to set the kitchen timer for five minutes, challenging me to go that long without saying a word. I never once made it the whole five minutes. Talking in the kitchen to your siblings, however, is very different from talking in this concert hall to a large and diverse audience. Accordingly, I am both excited and humbled by this opportunity to speak to you. But I want this experience to be much more than just my talking to you. I want this experience to be one in which the Spirit teaches and edifies, and I appreciate the music and the prayer that have helped set the tone for this to take place. In addition to loving to talk—and in part because I love to talk—I love being a lawyer. As a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer for two reasons: First, I wanted to be different by going into a challenging profession in which not many women were employed—this was in the mid-seventies, when less than 20 percent of the attorneys in America were women.1 Second, I wanted to be rich. I didn’t have any clearly formed ideas of what I would do with the money I made, but in my small hometown of Brownfield, Texas, having a swimming pool in your backyard was a pretty big deal, and I think that was my primary aspiration at the time. As I found out more about being a lawyer, I learned of two outstanding attorneys: Rex E. Lee and Dallin H. Oaks. They were faithful members of the Church, and they had achieved very visible levels of professional excellence. They became my ideals. My choice of a major as a freshman at BYU was simplified when I discovered that they had both been accounting majors, so accounting was my choice as well. I was in heaven when I discovered that two of then BYU president Dallin Oaks’s sons not only were in my BYU ward but were assigned to my family home evening group. I had visions of dazzling them and finding myself a member of President Oaks’s inner circle. However, my Texas twang dashed these hopes. Upon learning I had an academic scholarship, one of my freshman friends informed me that I must be a lot smarter than I sounded. I accepted that I was not going to dazzle anyone, and I am still waiting for an entrée to Elder Oaks’s inner circle. Nevertheless, I held on to my desire to emulate him by studying the law, and I absorbed the content, organization, and cadence of his talks. I was likewise thrilled my freshman year to be invited to a lunch hosted by none other than Rex E. Lee, who was then dean of the still new J. Reuben Clark Law School. It was a privilege to meet him, and I still remember his infectious smile and how he made me feel important. He encouraged me to study law and helped me begin to see the powerful advantages a legal education had to offer—advantages that went beyond proving m
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Living a Life of Service and Love: What Goes Around Comes Around

I would like to begin my remarks today by paying tribute to my parents. It wasn’t until I began serving my mission that I realized some parents don’t value their children, don’t do everything within their power to make their lives better, and don’t help their children aspire to be the best they can be. I was one of the fortunate ones, along with my brother and sister, to be born into a family where I was loved, nurtured, and taught by loving parents. They had high expectations for me, but when I failed, they were still there to guide, encourage, and show me how to pick myself up and move forward. My parents, to the best of my knowledge, had never been very active in the Church. They encouraged us children to attend, but their attendance was infrequent. Yet it was from them that I learned how to live a Christian life. My father, in particular, was the kind of person who could never pass by someone who needed help. I recall a trip that we made from Salt Lake City to Bear Lake, where a weekend of clear blue water, swimming, water skiing, and fun awaited me. Our typical route was to go to Evanston, Wyoming, and then on to Bear Lake. About twenty miles to the southwest of Evanston, my father noticed a man was trying to flag down cars on the other side of the divided highway. My father could never pass by someone who needed help. He drove five miles up our side of the freeway until he found the first turnaround, drove back five miles, picked up the man who had run out of gas, went five miles in the wrong direction, turned around again, drove the twenty-five miles back to Evanston, helped the man get gas, and drove him back to his car. Being an impatient teenager, I was more than irritated at the long delay. After we finally got on our way, I asked my dad why would he go so far out of his way to help someone. Surely someone else would have stopped and given that man assistance. My dad simply responded, “What goes around comes around.” After seeing the confused look on my face, he further explained, “I believe that someday maybe you or I will be on the side of the road looking for help, and someone will return the favor.” Being ever the optimist, I replied, “I seriously doubt it.” So today I would like to title my talk “Living a Life of Service and Love: What Goes Around Comes Around.” We’ve heard this saying before in many different forms. The Boy Scout slogan: Do a good turn daily. Pay it back. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the golden rule. You reap what you sow. These are all well and good, but my dad lived by the mantra “What goes around comes around.” He would help anyone anytime and anywhere. But on the other hand, how many times have we heard or said that no good deed goes unpunishe
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The Call of the Lord

Good morning, brothers and sisters. I first want to thank the Brigham Young University administration for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. It is always a pleasure to meet with the Saints. I also commend you for attending and watching these devotionals. When I first began my employment at BYU, a colleague of mine told me that if I attended devotionals, my work at the university would be blessed. I have certainly found that to be true. It is an honor to speak to you today, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will attend to help edify and uplift all of us. Since beginning employment at BYU, one of my greatest fears has been giving a devotional talk. However, when I prayed about the invitation to speak to you, I not only received confirmation to give this talk, but I also received the topic to cover. I thought I would start by telling you a little bit more about myself. I am originally from Rhode Island. I joined the Church as a graduate student in Logan, Utah, and I was fortunate enough to meet my wife, Andrea, while in graduate school. We have two boys: AJ, age twelve, and Andrew, age seven. My family is the love of my life, and I am extremely grateful that the Lord has blessed me with them. I also want to wish you all a happy Pioneer Day. I had not heard of this holiday before ­moving to Utah, but it is a day for which I am grateful. It is so important to remember our ancestors and the sacrifices they made for us. I am from a family of immigrants, so I can relate to the story of the pioneers, who traveled great distances and bore up under hardships seeking a better life. My grandfather Emilio Caldarella immigrated to the United States on the Gerty, a steamship from Pachino, Sicily, on June 28, 1906, at the age of eleven with his fourteen-year-old sister, Maria, and his forty-nine-year-old mother, Concetta. They had just twenty dollars between the three of them when they arrived. The voyage by steamship across the Atlantic took nearly three weeks. They first settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and eventually moved to Providence, Rhode Island. As I was preparing this talk, I began to wonder what had led people like my grandfather and the early pioneers to leave their homes and loved ones and travel long distances at great personal expense and sacrifice. As I pondered this question, I began to realize that they had heeded the call of the Lord. How else could they have made those long treks and withstood the hardships that often accompanied those experiences? When we are called of the Lord, we can withstand such challenges. I am a pioneer of sorts in that I am the first and only member of my family so far to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my devotional talk today, I am going to use scriptures, hymns, art, quotes from Church leaders, and some of my own personal experiences.
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Women and Education: “A Future Only God Could See for You”

It is wonderful to be here. This is not an opportunity I would have imagined for myself. It is truly a future only God could see for me. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows me—who knows my potential and who wants me to become like Him. I can’t wait to someday see like He does—to know everything and to see the future and not just the past. But for now I will stand like a little girl on my Father’s feet, holding His hands and trusting Him as He guides me through the dance of this life. As His daughter, I hope someday to grow up to be just like Him. I am trying to become more like Him now by learning as much as I can and by working to refine the spiritual gifts He has given me. Daughters of God Revelation given in the book of Joel speaks of the role of women in the latter days when it says that, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, . . .  . . . and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. [Joel 2:28–29] Your daughters shall prophesy! In these last days we are meant to seek and receive spiritual revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Like Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth, and Mary, women are meant to receive direct spiritual revelation through the gifts of the Spirit. Like Miriam (see Exodus 15:20), Deborah (see Judges 4:4), Huldah (see 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), and Anna (see Luke 2:36), we can develop the spiritual gift of prophecy and refine our ability to communicate with our Father in Heaven in ways that affect our own spiritual development and have a positive impact on the world around us.1 These spiritual gifts bring us closer to the image of God, in which we were created. Through her choice to partake of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, Mother Eve made it possible for each of us to exercise our agency in a world filled with choices, thereby providing a way for us to spiritually develop. I do not think it was an accident that by knowledge she opened a pathway that would allow us to become more like God. I believe this sets an eternal pattern. “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36), and we must likewise enhance our own inherent intelligence in order to become like Him and receive His ­spiritual gifts. How do we reach this divine potential? How do we strength
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Language Learning: A Truly Educational Experience

Internationally, BYU is known as “the language university.” The 2017 edition of the pamphlet Y Facts reported that approximately 65 percent of BYU students speak more than one language. Let me do a quick survey to see if those assembled here today are representative of BYU students in general. If you know more than one language, please raise your hand. [The majority of the audience raised their hand.] I hope you realize how extraordinary it is that you have been given the gift of being able to communicate in more than one language. Think about it: language is the most complex of all human behaviors, and most of you can communicate in more than one language. The Complexity of Language Since we can all read English, I would like to demonstrate the complexity of language by giving you a simple English test. How would you read “St. Paul St.” aloud? You probably said, “Saint Paul Street.” And your response to this simple task was likely not only correct but automatic. But can you explain to another person the rule for determining what the abbreviation “St.” stands for? Perhaps you would say that “St.” before a noun is an abbreviation for “saint,” and “St.” after a noun is an abbreviation for “street.” Now test your rule on the following street sign, which I saw near Disneyland in California: “St. College St.” Oops, there is no saint named College! However, there is a state college, so we will have to refine our rule for pronouncing the abbreviation “St.” Yes, even simple language is complex. Language is so complex that we are often hard pressed to explain how it operates. Yet we are generally unaware of how complex language is. In some ways language is like the air we breathe: we don’t pay attention to it—unless there is something wrong with it. Because people don’t pay attention to language unless there is something wrong with it, you should not take compliments about your language skills too seriously. The fact that someone complimented you on your language is an indication that they noticed it—and that happens when there is something wrong with it. Early in my mission in Austria, I was quite confident of my German language ability. In fact, several members had told me how well I spoke German. Then one Sunday after I said a prayer in sacrament meeting, I overheard some members commenting on my language skills. One sister offered the critique, “War das nicht lieb? Genau wie ein kleines Kind!” Which means, “Wasn’t that sweet? Just like a little child!” The sister who made the comment was too kind to ever provide that honest feedback to me personally, so I was grateful that I had overheard the comment she had made to others. Her candid assessment let me know that I needed to improve my language skills. Another mission experience taught me how complicated it is to translat
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On Change and Becoming: Thoughts from a Reluctant Grower

At some point after my first couple of years at BYU, a brother in my ward, who was retired from the BYU religion faculty, said, “Hey, you could speak at a devotional!” I don’t know why he thought I might be qualified for that, but I shrugged it off, thinking that if I sang often enough, I would surely be exempt from speaking. Just recently I had the thought that since I have been at BYU for ten years, I might need to lay low to dodge the devotional bullet. However, six weeks ago I received an email from Vice President Matt Richardson asking if I would be willing to speak at this devotional. I reluctantly replied that I would accept the challenge, though I am not sure that “happily” would describe my attitude. As I prayed for guidance on a topic, this thought came to me: “I am a reluctant grower.” I had never used that term before, though it seemed to suit me well, so I can only guess that the Spirit had coined that phrase just for me. Needing clarification on that phrase, I went to Google for a precise definition of reluctant. It said that reluctant is an adjective that means “unwilling and hesitant; disinclined.” Its synonyms include being “loath to, unwilling to, disinclined to, indisposed to; not in favor of, against, opposed to.” It’s antonyms include being “willing” and “eager.” The word reluctant originated in the mid-seventeenth century from the Latin word reluctant, which means “struggling against,” and from the verb reluctari: the prefix re- means “expressing intensive force” and the suffix luctari means “to struggle.” As a side note, the word ­reluctant is worth eleven points in Scrabble. Am I, as this definition says, unwilling, hesitant, and even disinclined to grow? I will refer to myself, since I am confessing that I am a reluctant grower, but feel free to insert your name where applicable. Am I Reluctant? What is it that sometimes makes me hesitant to face a growing opportunity? I am not against hard work. I bore both of my children while pursuing a doctorate, working two jobs, singing operas on the main stage at Indiana University (one of the top music schools in the country), and maintaining a 3.9 GPA. No, I am not opposed to hard work. Is it that I am not wanting to participate in activities? I am more than willing to fulfill my callings, go visiting teaching, take a dinner—that likely my good husband expertly cooked—to another family, or participate in my ward’s day of service. No, I am willing to do things that are asked of me. Am I afraid of the process of growing? Many times while sitting in Relief Society I will hear a sister say, “I prayed for patience” or “I prayed for charity.” I think, “Are you crazy?! Do you not know what challenges come when you pray for Christlike attributes?” They then proceed to tell of the tr
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B-Y-You Matter to Him

Six years ago President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a profound conference talk entitled “You Matter to Him.”1 In his talk he explained that God is the Creator of all things and yet is concerned about each one of us individually. Today I would like to build upon President Uchtdorf’s topic and title my remarks “BYU Matters to Him.” However, I would like to redefine the acronym for Brigham Young University as B-Y-You, as in you (y-o-u). Thus the title of my address is “B-Y-You Matter to Him.” This past semester one of my students submitted the following account. With her permission, I share her tender feelings about when she first arrived at BYU: Leaving everything you have known for the entirety of your life to attend a university that is 547 miles away is difficult. You can no longer lean on the support of your family and friends; you can no longer enjoy the safety and security of your home; you can no longer simply follow your parents. Your life is in your own hands, and it is terrifying. I distinctly remember the hurricane of emotions I experienced as I bid farewell to my dad as he drove away, leaving me standing outside my dorm with five people I had never met. I had to make my own food, and I felt sorely unprepared. Actually, I felt more than unprepared—I felt absolutely and entirely lost. My student then went on to describe her feelings that day as those of “ultimate vulnerability.”2 As I pondered my student’s feelings of vulnerability and isolation, I felt a personal surge of déjà vu from when I first arrived at BYU some forty-seven years ago. My student’s account stirred within me some tender and painful emotions from decades past. I suspect that many of you here today can also recall the daunting memories of when you first arrived on this campus. As I address you today, perhaps some of you find yourself in the throes of similar feelings of trepidation or of being lost. The Greatness of BYU I do not mean to minimize these feelings of loneliness or intimidation, but they present a marked contrast to the feelings we first had when we were accepted to BYU. Consider the following glossy accolades and advantages of attending Brigham Young University. BYU consistently ranks in the top 25 percent of national universities.3 BYU is in the top five of the best value universities4 and costs around $30,000 less per year than other private schools.5 Consequently, BYU students graduate with substantially less debt.6 BYU is the number-one stone-cold sober university,7 and students will never have to tolerate drunk classmates or professors. Also, BYU has launched more of its ­students into PhD programs than Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.8 Upon arrival, every student here has a church unit waiting to receive and support them. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the students
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The Experience of Love and the Limitations of Psychological Explanation

It may not surprise you, but I want to declare at the outset that I have been multiply blessed. I want to initially mention an important blessing—this university—and then I would like to dwell on a forty-one-year blessing—my marriage. Those who have received this award in past years have stood here to express their gratitude to BYU, but I feel especially blessed in receiving this award as a non-Mormon. This university has insisted on valuing me regardless of my religious minority status. I am a religious “other,” yet this university has not only accepted me as a colleague and a friend but also persisted in recognizing me and celebrating my work. I think this is a sort of minor miracle. As you will see in the case of my wife, I honestly believe that when we truly value and even love those who are “other” in some way, God is there.1 I also want to acknowledge how important this university has been to my academic work. I have long desired to actively interface the sacred and the secular—the sacredness of my faith and the secularity of my discipline of psychology—but there are few places that permit this work. BYU, however, has not only welcomed this type of scholarship but also encouraged and facilitated it. For this reason, I have never had to compartmentalize my Christianity away from my discipline; I have been able to integrate the two—which has been an incredible blessing to me! As I mentioned, however, the blessing I want to dwell on today is the love I feel for my wife. But discussing such a personal experience may seem a bit strange for a psychologist. Psychologists are supposed to deal with objective data.2 Unfortunately, love isn’t objective, so psychology’s knowledge of love has been meager over the years. Consider renowned love researcher Harry Harlow and his lament in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association: So far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in this mission. The little we know about love does not transcend simple observation, and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists.3 This conclusion was stated many years ago, but it is not unusual for even modern investigators of love to echo Harlow’s lament. Zick Rubin, for example, believes that some progress has been made, but he comments that love has “seemed safely beyond the research scientist’s ever-­extending grasp.”4 I won’t get into psychological methods here. Suffice it to say that a relatively new brand of psychological method—qualitative ­investigation—was specifically set up to study subjective experiences. And qualitative investigators are not afraid of even just one person’s experiences, especially when those personal experiences teach us something about the phenomenon of interest. As a marital therapist of thirty-five years, I have long realized
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“Lay Hold upon the Word”: The Power of Wholehearted Living

When I was fifteen years old, I worked on a sod farm located close to where the Payson Utah Temple now stands. To cut the sod, we used a harvester that weighed about fourteen tons. One day I was assigned to work with my high school classmate on the back of the harvester. We were moving the harvester from one end of the field to another. I was walking alongside the slow-moving harvester, and I attempted to jump up onto the platform to sit next to my friend. I misjudged my jump and landed only partway on the platform. I lost my balance and fell in front of the double set of dual wheels underneath the platform. I immediately tried to scurry out of the path of the wheels, but the big, knobby tires caught my high-top sneakers, and the wheels started to roll up my leg, throwing me to the ground. I quickly realized I was in quite a predicament. I was now lying feet first directly in the path of the wheels that were going to roll over the entire length of my body, starting with my feet and ending with my head. I felt my right leg break under the immense weight. The wheels continued to roll, crushing my pelvis. I have never felt anything so excruciatingly painful in my life. My back and ribs were the next to break in multiple places as the wheels climbed up my stomach and chest. Then the machine mercilessly twisted me onto my back, with the knobby treads passing over my shoulder and the side of my face and neck, miraculously missing most of my head. By the time the fourteen tons finished their devastating work, I had lost consciousness. The first thing I remember when I opened my eyes was the inconceivable pain. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was underwater. I was trying to breathe, but things weren’t working the way they were supposed to work. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t cry out, even though I frantically wanted to cry for help. Everything hurt. I quickly grasped the fact that I was about to die. Honestly, the pain was so extreme that I wanted to die. I just wanted it to stop. I later learned that I had suffered a traumatic pneumothorax, or, in simple terms, my lungs had collapsed. If there is a puncture in your lung due to trauma, the air escapes from the lung to the area outside of your lungs inside the chest ­cavity. As a result, your lungs push together like a wet paper sack. The air inside your chest cavity is unable to escape, and the pressure keeps the lungs from expanding. This can lead to cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Everything in my body was screaming for oxygen. In my desperation to breathe, I had to expand my chest cavity to gather air. The pain of my broken ribs and back from even the slightest movement was more than I could possibly endure. In a matter of minutes the farm manager, Stan, arrived out of breath. He could sense I was deep in shock and on the verge of death. He asked if I could move my legs. I couldn’t respond. He knelt on the ground, took my head
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Let’s Not Leave Jonny Behind

Good afternoon, honored trustees, distinguished guests, family, friends, and, most important, my fellow BYU graduating class of 2017! It is truly an honor to share this day with you all. Attending BYU has been a privilege and has taught us many practical lessons that will guide us in the coming years. One such lesson is to never give up, which we learned from our daily ascent up the Richards Building stairs or perhaps from watching the City of Provo as it meticulously paves—and repaves—every street in town. Another lesson we have learned is to obey with exactness, which the BYU parking police have so gently taught us over the years. Finally, taking classes in the winding Jesse Knight Building has prepared us to navigate our way through the ambiguous, multi­dimensional parts of our lives. Above all, our time at BYU has taught us to lift and serve others. I witnessed one such act of service this past September when I flew to Cozumel, Mexico, as a member of Team USA to compete in the ITU Triathlon Age-Group World Championships. While I was there, all three medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games competed for the $30,000 grand prize in the men’s elite category. Two of the triathletes, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, were brothers from Great Britain who had won the gold and silver medals in the triathlon at the 2016 Olympics. In Cozumel, when the competitors neared the end of the grueling, nearly two-hour race, Jonathan Brownlee held a comfortable lead with his brother, Alistair, trailing him and Henri Schoeman from South Africa close behind. Video footage of the race shows that with 500 meters to go until the finish line, just as the crowd erupted in applause as Jonathan rounded the final corner, the heat began to take its toll upon Jonathan’s body. All of a sudden Jonathan’s pace slowed to a stumble, and he collapsed onto a volunteer standing by the sidelines. There was an audible gasp among the spectators.1 When Alistair rounded the final corner, he saw his dangerously dehydrated younger brother unable to finish the race. Without hesitation Alistair ran toward Jonny, threw his dazed brother’s arm around his neck, and half-carried him as they ran the last 500 meters side by side. Alistair’s deviation cost him a chance at first place, allowing Schoeman to overtake the two and be first to break the tape. As the brothers approached the finish line, Alistair pushed Jonny across ahead of him, earning them third and second places, respectively. Alistair was half a kilometer from winning gold as a world champion. Yet rather than race to the end to claim victory for himself, he slowed, picked up his brother, and enabled Jonny to do something he could not do for himself: finish the race. Reporters swarmed Alistair, incredulous at his noble sacrifice. To their queries he simply replied, “Mum wouldn’t have been happy if I’d left Jonny behind.”2 Just as Al
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Words to Live By

It is customary for speakers at a graduation ceremony to give advice to the new graduates, to share with them words of wisdom to inspire them in their next stage of life. Perhaps because such sage advice is in somewhat limited supply, much of what is said at these events has been said before and will likely be said again. With that in mind, let me give you graduates a two-part charge that I doubt you have heard in any graduation ceremony you have attended. First Charge: Be Awful The first part is a simple two-word admonition: “Be awful.” Yes, you heard right. My advice to you is be awful. You can see why I was so confident that you would not have heard this message at any prior graduations that you have attended.1 Before you dismiss my advice as a completely inappropriate effort to be unique rather than helpful, let me explain what I mean by that charge. Linguists know well that the meaning of words can change dramatically over time. One form of change is what is called pejoration. “Pejoration is the process by which a word [with a positive or neutral meaning] acquires negative connotations”2 over time. One classic example of pejoration is shown by the history of the word silly. In the ­thirteenth century the word silly meant ­“worthy, good,” and “pious, holy.”3 Over the ensuing centuries, however, the meaning changed first to “innocent” or “harmless,” then to “deserving of pity or sympathy,” to “weak/feeble,” then to “ignorant.” By the ­sixteenth century it had descended to “foolish,” its ­current meaning.4 The same thing has happened to the word awful. It too has pejorated. Centuries ago the word awful had a very positive connotation. Its original meaning was “awe-inspiring,” “worthy of . . . respect,” and “profoundly respectful or reverential.”5 But as one author explained, “Since what inspires awe isn’t always so pleasant, [over the centuries, awful] came to mean something negative.”6 The word had pejorated, linguists would say. And so today awful has come to mean “terrible, dreadful, appalling”; something not just bad but “exceedingly bad.”7 Hardly the kind of thing you would expect a graduation speaker to advise you to be. My admonition is that you be awful in its original, unpejorated sense—that you always be aware of things that are awe-inspiring. I am urging you to be full of awe, if you will. “Psychologists have described awe as the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it.”8 It is the kind of thing that Moses experienced when God showed him the purpose, creation, and history of this earth. Struggling to comprehend the grandeur of all he had seen, Moses “greatly marvel
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