BYU Speeches

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Revealing Questions

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We are only about two weeks into the beginning of the spring term here on campus. Many of you are current students, and those of you who have completed this period of your life no doubt remember what it is like to walk into a fresh, new classroom. At the beginning of the semester or term, the gap between what you know now and what you need to know to do well in the course is often large—perhaps overwhelming. A university education requires that you learn about many different subjects, some of which will come naturally to you and some of which you will never quite feel confident about. Some subjects will be exciting and engaging and others you will vow never to willingly revisit. Regardless of the subject, you know from the beginning that success will require you to work—usually to work hard. You will have an instructor to guide you in your journey, and she will provide you with things to read, assignments that make you think, and exams that allow you to prove yourself. You may have teaching assistants who can help you, and, of course, you have the assistance of the instructor. Learning in Mortality This model of classroom learning is one that also applies to our mortal life. Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “The purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences.”1 Similarly, the purpose of learning in the classroom is to grow in knowledge, develop skills, and be strengthened in our understanding as we work diligently to acquire new knowledge and abilities. In Abraham 3:25 we read, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Just as you must eventually submit to examinations or other assessments to prove your learning in a classroom, we must submit to repeated tests and challenges in our earthly life. These trials allow us to prove that we are progressing in our mortal journey, and they may be particularly intense periods of growth. Just as students ramp up their efforts to study when an exam is looming, the experience of a spiritual test can heighten our own efforts to learn from the Lord. To fulfill the purpose of learning and gaining experience, it was essential that, as we were born onto the earth, we passed through a veil. In so doing, we came to earth having forgotten all that had occurred before. This is perhaps one of the most challenging things about our lives. Because we are now restricted by mortal eyes, there is much about the eternal perspective and the purposes and timing of God that we do not understand. In the same way, as we approach a new subject in a classroom, the instructor has a broader perspective, being able to see how all of the material fits together and how it connects to other fields of knowledge in a way we usually cannot see—at least in the beginning. Ignaz Semmelweis The story of Ignaz Semmelweis illustrates
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Illuminated Stories

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Students, family members, administrators, ­faculty, and staff, I am greatly honored to be here today and appreciate the opportunity to address you. Two weeks ago my wife, Vicki, and I were in Washington, DC, attending the Portrait Society of America Conference with seven of my illustration students on an experiential learning trip. Our students represented us so well. Last year while Vicki and I were in Rome, we visited the Vatican Museum and had an opportunity to view the Sistine Chapel. In an address given more than fifty years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of Michelangelo, the painter of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. He stated: [Michelangelo’s] 3,500 square-foot painting in the Sistine Chapel is said to be the most important piece of mural painting of the modern world. To be an artist [or a scientist or a mathematician could be added] means hard work and patience and long-suffering. [Michelangelo] said, “I am a poor man and of little merit, who plod along in the art which God gave me.” . . . . . . His David in Florence and his Moses in Rome inspire to adulation.1 Sketches, Studies, and Preparation A recent exhibition entitled Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eight years in the making, the exhibit included 133 drawings, which is “the largest group of drawings by Michelangelo ever assembled for public display.”2 Among the drawings exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum was a single page of studies Michelangelo drew for the Libyan Sibyl—a page I often show and display for my students studying life drawing. At the time of Michelangelo, sibyls were considered to have equal status to that of the prophets. Historically, drawings did not exist as stand-alone entities but rather as preparatory studies for more monumental works. Of drawing, Michelangelo stated: Let this be plain to all: design, or as it is called by another name, drawing, constitutes the fountain-head and substance of painting and sculpture and architecture and . . . is the root of all sciences. Let him who has attained the possession of this be assured that he ­possesses a great treasure.3 One wonders that were his statement made today, would it also include the disciplines of ­animation, digital painting, and graphic design? His letters and poetry also reveal that Michelangelo possessed a sensitive spirit. He loved and revered God, whom he considered the bestower of his talents. He fought great conflicts and battles within himself and experienced bouts of insecurity, despite his extreme self-assurance, which further fueled his desire to attain perfection and preserve his legacy. Shortly before his death, Michelangelo burned hundreds of his drawings, sketches and cartoons—a self-inflicted bon
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Banishing All Shadows

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to these services. Just to make sure I wasn’t late, I started out for Provo more than two weeks ago. And boy, is it a good thing I did. I am not sure where I made the wrong turn, but the next thing I knew I was seeing road signs that said Jerusalem, Nairobi, Bangalore, and Hong Kong! My goodness, it has taken me all I could do to finally get here. And the unusual thing about this is that it was President Russell M. Nelson who was giving me advice on the route I should take. I wonder if that is the way he always gets people from Salt Lake to Provo! Sister Holland and I come to you newly returned from one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives. Can you imagine circling the globe on a worldwide ministering assignment with the Lord’s prophet and his wonderful wife? It was an experience of a lifetime. In those oft-quoted words of Oliver Cowdery, these past two weeks with President and Sister Nelson were truly “days never to be forgotten.”1 This is not the time nor the place to regale you with stories of our experience, but I bear witness to you that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet ordained of God from before the foundation of the world and that he is exercising that calling in a most magnificent way in public and in private. I bring you his love as chairman of the BYU Board of Trustees and the love of all those who serve with him, including Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. It is no small matter, my beloved friends, that those giving oversight to your alma mater are ­prophets, seers, and revelators. That is just one more very special blessing you can count on this happy graduation day. On behalf of all of you and our governing board, I thank President Kevin J Worthen, his associates in the administration, those on this marvelous faculty, and all of the efficient staff at this university. I am grateful for the effort they have all put into making this day what it is for 6,300 graduates and degree recipients. Gaining an education is hard work, but providing that ­opportunity also is hard work. For nine wonderful years I had the pleasant opportunity to say to students and their families that such a thrilling day of academic triumph was more than worth the difficult days it took to get here—on everyone’s part. I know firsthand what BYU does in providing an unequaled university experience, but I know equally well and even more tenderly the scrimping, saving, sacrifice, and hard work that many students and their parents have experienced in order to arrive at this moment. Mindful of that sacrifice in a grand cause—and education is a truly grand cause—I want this to be a terrifically happy day for every one of you. You have earned it. I pray that all your days may be so. I was told I am to say something wise and original to you, but, being incapable of that, let me just remind you of one or two things you al
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The Economics of Goodness

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President Worthen, distinguished guests, faculty, graduates, ladies, and gentlemen, I acknowledge with gratitude the privilege of receiving an honorary degree from this great university and, likewise, the opportunity of briefly addressing you today. My congratulations to the graduates. I am especially pleased to see parents here. Some years ago, one of our children was graduating with a bachelor’s degree. He said, “They want $69 for the cap and gown. I am not going to walk.” I said, “What? You need to go to the ceremony! It is a rite of passage. You will value your graduation picture of you striding across the stage with your diploma in hand for the rest of your life. Look, I will pay the $69.” Sometime later I was standing on the curb at the Los Angeles International Airport, and I received a call from my son. The conversation went something like this: Me: “Hi, what’s up?” My son: “Well, I did it!” Me: “Did what?” My son: “I walked. You know, graduation. Cap and gown, got the picture, just like you said.” Me: “Wait! What? Today? What about us? We wanted to be there!” My son: “Really? I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to you.” So I would like to begin today by simply saying to all of you: This is a very big deal! And may I say thank you for including your parents. Gratefully, we witnessed commencement at his graduate school, and he now knows it is a big deal. Today I want to share with you three brief stories. Each one illustrates a simple lesson that I have observed but not yet perfected. Story One: Humor and Humility While I was governor of Utah, I attended a dinner at a mountain resort. The host asked each of the guests to introduce themselves but then added, “As you do, please tell us an important lesson that you learned during the last year.” One at a time, each person spoke. Now this was a very impressive group of people that included university presidents, prominent business leaders, and political figures. It seemed that each participant felt a need to outdo the last in eloquence and in gravitas. Shane, one of my protective service officers who traveled with me, attended the dinner. I could sense his increasing discomfort as the task crept closer and closer to him. Finally, all of the eyes in the room were focused on Shane. He stood and sort of nervously introduced himself. “As for the important lesson this year,” he said, “I protect dignitaries for a living. I completed a class on advancing events. We learned that it is critical to always plan an escape route.” He paused, put his hand on the side door that he sat next to, and said, “And I’m using mine right now!” And he disappeared into the night. It was a brilliant moment. There was a pause among this elite group, and then they erupted in lau
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Connected for Good

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Wow! What an impressive and inspiring sight to see all of you graduates gathered here today to celebrate an end and a beginning! You have entered and learned, and now it is time to go forth and serve. What exciting opportunities await you! I love BYU! BYU exists to provide an outstanding education in an atmosphere of faith. But I believe BYU also exists because of the opportunity it provides to connect us with others. I speak to you today on behalf of BYU’s Alumni Association. Our motto is Connected for Good. I want to share with you what I think that means. My dad and my mom met at BYU in a class called Your Religious Problems. They were married a short time later, which, I suppose, solved their religious problems. Four members of my family are out there with you in this sea of blue before me—part of this great BYU class of 2018. My nephew Michael studied neuroscience and is off to medical school in Arizona. My niece Lauren studied organizational behavior and is off to take a job in the human resources department of a company in Salt Lake City. My niece Lydia studied elementary education and Spanish and is off to take her dream job teaching first graders in a Spanish immersion program at an elementary school in Saratoga Springs. My son Spencer is graduating today in finance, and he is staying right here on ­campus to go to the BYU Law School. Some­day he hopes to use his BYU education and his missionary experience in Hong Kong to work in Asia. In the summer of 1987, I met my wife, Joy, here on what was supposed to be a group night hike to the Y that ended up being just the two of us. Well, that solved one of my most pressing religious problems too, and without a doubt, she is my very best BYU connection. But when we talk about our BYU connections, we aren’t only talking about our relatives. I first connected with President Kevin J Worthen when he was my state and local government professor at the BYU Law School almost thirty years ago. And yes, he was presidential even back then. While I was a student, another one of my law professors, Jim Gordon, invited me to be in the bishopric of a student ward a few months after Joy and I had married. While it was slightly intimidating spending the Sabbath with one of my law school professors, that connection during those two years created incredible mentoring that changed my life. When I studied English here before law school, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was President Holland to me. He was the president of BYU then. That connection has meant so much to me. How I love him and look forward to hearing from him today, like all of us do. My most recent BYU connection was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago arranged through the BYU Student Alumni’s BYU Connect. I met a wonderful BYU student who is an English major. She hopes to be the first college graduate in her family and someday attend law school. She dreams of bec
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The Importance of Being Present

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Elder Holland, President Worthen, distinguished guests, faculty, and fellow graduates, I am honored to address you today. It is truly humbling to speak to an audience of such talented and accomplished individuals, many of whom are my dear friends. I am especially happy to have my family here with me. I can honestly say that I would not have made it to this point if not for their presence in my life, which brings me to my chosen topic: the importance of being present, both for our own happiness and for the good of others. It has been said that “80 percent of success is showing up,”1 but even more important than our physical presence is our mental presence. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis gave a profound description of the present that has stuck with me for years. He wrote: The Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered.2 Yet sometimes we live in the past like Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico, who obsessed that he could be “soakin’ it up in a hot tub with [his] soul mate” if only the coach would have put him in fourth quarter.3 Yes, you probably could have won that intramural T-shirt if not for that one ref who had it out for you. Or you may have been the next Albert Einstein if not for that one failed math test freshman year. I may or may not be speaking from personal experiences. Nevertheless, we can’t have freedom or actuality or true happiness if we live in the past. That also goes for the future. For the past few months, my wife, Laura, and I have stressed over our future plans. There were, and still are, so many unknowns. Where would I be accepted for graduate school? When would Laura graduate? Where would we like to live and work? I am sure our experience is not foreign to this audience. It is easy to say that I will be happy once I graduate or once I get accepted to grad school or once I get this job or once I have a house, but having that worldview can keep us from enjoying our current situation. Remember, the present is the time when we have freedom and actuality. Use that freedom to create a fulfilling life now instead of basing your happiness on something that has not happened yet. As we avoid being prisoners of the past and future, it is also important to avoid being prisoners to present distractions. Smartphones, while being wonderful tools, are common conveyors of distractions. We may well ask ourselves: How many friends have I passed by but not noticed because I was watching fail videos? How many test questions have I missed because I was checking Snapchat in class? How many innocent tree limbs could have been spared a collision with my face if I had looked up from Facebook?
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“College Song”

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Graduation ceremonies have been occurring at BYU since 1877; some have been more memorable than others. The graduation exercises of 1899 were unusual in several respects, especially when compared to the ceremonies we are holding today. The venue was smaller. It was held in the Provo Stake Tabernacle. And the procession was a bit longer. It went five blocks from the Academy Building to the tabernacle. The nature of the student achievements highlighted was also different from what we see today. We have students today who have worked on neonatal ventilators, NASA solar panel arrays, and the search for a cure to Alzheimer’s disease. By contrast, in 1899 the highlight was an “exhibit of handwork of the students from needle work and drawing to hardwood desks and bookcases.”1 Twenty students were honored in that 1899 ceremony, and only six of those received college degrees.2 Today we celebrate more than 6,000 graduates, all of whom will receive college degrees. One of the other distinctions of the 1899 ceremony was the debut of a song, the lyrics3 of which were written by Annie Pike,4 a student who would graduate the following year.5 Annie was a non-LDS student at what was then Brigham Young Academy. She was born and raised in Provo, her father having arrived here to serve as the medical superintendent of the Territorial Insane Asylum.6 Annie entered Brigham Young Academy when she was sixteen and graduated four years later.7 After studying at the University of Michigan, she returned to the Academy to teach in the English Department for a period of time.8 Annie had a way with words from an early age. When she was eleven, she issued her own newspaper, “writing the editorials, stor[ies], poem[s], and locals all herself.”9 According to one account, Annie would sometimes leave her dish-washing [chores] quite unceremoniously and be gone for a number of minutes. Presently some member of the family would find her kneeling at a window sill, writing. “I came to write a line that just popped into my head,” she would say apologetically when discovered.10 We do not know whether the lyrics to the song sung during the 1899 graduation exercise simply popped into Annie’s head or came by some other means, but we do know that the song she wrote as a twenty-year-old Brigham Young Academy student caught on. It was originally called the “Academy Marching Song,” but it eventually became known as the “College Song.” While not as famous as the BYU fight song, with its familiar direction to “rise and shout,”11 the song was a favorite of some BYU presidents, including Rex E. Lee. The song is kept alive today mainly through the marching band, who, after every football game, temporarily belie their name by laying aside their instruments and then, while standing in place, singing a cappella
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A Holier Approach to Ministering

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My dear brothers and sisters, young friends of Brigham Young University, how happy my wife, Kathy, and I are to be with you today. I feel your beautiful spirits. Always remember who you are. Some of the very noble spirits of our premortal time together are here today. I am honored to be with you. The entire Church is speaking about general conference. We participated in a solemn assembly sustaining President Russell M. Nelson as the seventeenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two new apostles were called to the Quorum of the Twelve. Priesthood quorums at the ward level were combined. Home teaching and visiting teaching were retired for “ministering.” And, in the final session, seven temples were announced, including in such exotic places as Russia, India, and Layton, Utah. I will never forget the sustaining of President Russell M. Nelson. I anticipated that it would be a spiritual experience, but the rush of power and peace that permeated the LDS Conference Center was palpable to me. I pray that it was to you who were not in the Conference Center as well. The closing session, with the announcement of the temples and the singing of “Let Us All Press On,” moved my soul. Do you remember the words? We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few When compared with the opposite host in view; But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you In the glorious cause of truth.1 There have been some humorous memes following the conference. One I liked had three men in their seventies or eighties dressed in gym clothes, revealing their sunken chests and protruding midsections. The tagline read, “Elders quorum basketball this coming Wednesday.” Another had a close-up of the ferocious green face of the Incredible Hulk, gritting his teeth, with the tagline “Young President Nelson looking at those liquor bottles.” And finally, I liked the one emphasizing the powerful announcements in the Sunday afternoon session. The tagline read, “You snooze, you lose.” I have entitled my talk “A Holier Approach to Ministering.” It comes from the general conference words of President Russell M. Nelson. He said: We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.”2 Being a student at Brigham Young University means you have chosen to be different from the world. The book entitled The Narcissism Epidemic begins with exaggerated examples of our American culture: On a reality TV show, a girl planning her sixteenth birthday party wants a major road blocked off so a marching band can precede her grand entrance on a red carpet. A book called My Beautiful Mommy explains plastic s
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Seeing Things Differently

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I have a confession. I have been wondering whether I should admit this to such a large crowd, but here we go. My confession is that I love mathematics! I know that for some of you, the word math brings a flood of bad memories. So before people get up to leave, let me share with you a different way to see math. Seeing Beauty Unfortunately, many people have the mistaken idea that math is just a set of rules and calculations. That is not mathematics. My family and I love the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Sitting around with friends and watching an underdog team beat a highly favored team with a last-second desperation shot is exciting. Compare such a thrilling basketball game to being alone in a gym shooting hundreds and hundreds of free throws. If all I ever did were to shoot free throws over and over all by myself and never play or watch a real game of basketball, I wouldn’t like basketball. The same is true with math. Doing endless math drills is like shooting free throws over and over. It is not mathematics. To me, math can be like a game of strategy, such as The Settlers of Catan. Once you know the rules of the game, you can explore where the game can take you. In some ways math is like genealogy. You have several family lines to work on, and you may get stuck. But then a new piece of information opens up a previously blocked family line. You get excited and new results are uncovered. The same happens with mathematics. You could be working at the Disney Research Group using math to create realistic-looking hair in the movie Moana, you could be designing a new method for Netflix to determine what movies a subscriber would like, or you could even be working on an abstract math problem that uncovers new results, such as finding a fast algorithm to determine whether or not a number is prime. That is how I see math and why I love it. To me, mathematics is beautiful. Now, the world has many beautiful things. Watching a rising full moon peek over the Wasatch Mountains on a dark winter night, sitting outside on a New Hampshire fall evening while savoring poetry by Robert Frost, listening to the Vienna Philharmonic perform Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 in D Minor in the 150-year-old neoclassical Wiener Musikverein concert hall—all of these things are beautiful to me. Likewise, mathematics is beautiful. Some of you may think I am crazy. Remember, when I think of math, I am not talking about the endless drills that you probably did in high school. When people ask me what research I do, I say that I study the math of soap bubbles. These bubbles are actually soap films that are formed by dipping wires or frames into a bucket of soapy water. To me, these soap films are fascinating—the shapes they take, the way they reflect light, their fragile nature. They relate to mathematical shapes known as minimal surfaces. There is a harmony between the shapes soap films
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Embrace the Plan

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Brothers and sisters, it is a joy to be with you today. I love you, and I love this university. I remember what it felt like to be a student. I remember the stress of papers and exams and the worry and the uncertainty about the future. But I also remember the sense of possibilities and opportunities ahead and the feelings of hope and faith in the Savior. Now, looking back on those years, I can see that the Lord Jesus Christ was way ahead of me, working in my life and preparing the way before me. I want each of you to know that He is working in your life right now and preparing the way before you. It is all part of Heavenly Father’s plan. That is what I want to talk about today. My message is a simple invitation: embrace the plan! I will begin with a story that I hope will help you begin to understand what that invitation means. Almost twenty years ago I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. My kidney doctor told me that in ten to twelve years I would need to go on dialysis or have a transplant. In my mind I said to myself, “No, I won’t. I will be disciplined and diligent, and the Lord will bless me. I will die of something else.” That was my plan. And for several years it worked pretty well. But then my kidneys began to fail. My doctor told me I needed to prepare for a transplant. With my plan not working, I went to my Heavenly Father in prayer and asked Him for His help and His guidance. I received a very clear impression: my plan was not His plan. His plan had a transplant in it, and I needed to get ready. So I sent out a simple message to my children and my siblings: “I need a transplant. If any of you would like to give me a kidney, please call this number.” On August 2, 2011, my son Andrew gave me a kidney. As I prepared for the operation, I felt impressed to embrace Heavenly Father’s plan—every bit of it. Here is an example: Every night that I was in the hospital, the nurses woke me several times to give me a shot, check my fluids and my vital signs, weigh me, or give me medicine. Every time they woke me up, I said to them, “I am so happy to see you.” Those nurses helped give me new life. That was the plan, and I embraced it. My dear brothers and sisters, with all my heart I invite you to follow Jesus Christ and embrace Heavenly Father’s great plan of salvation. I use the word embrace because I want you to accept the plan gladly and eagerly—to adopt it into your life fully and completely.1 I want you to put your arms around the plan and draw it in close to your heart with love and gratitude for your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I love this description of the Father’s great plan in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”: In the premorta
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Integrity of Heart

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Good morning, my dear brothers and sisters. I am grateful to be here with Sister Rasband and members of my family. I also want to recognize members of the Jon and Karen Huntsman family who are here as my special guests today. I am honored to be here with President Kevin J Worthen and other administrators, faculty, and staff and, most of all, with you, the students of Brigham Young University. When I visit this campus, I am impressed that you are following your dreams of education and opportunity and are living the standards of the Church. The Lord has special plans for you to lead in a world that needs your goodness, your service to others, your educated minds, and your spirituality born of testimonies of Jesus Christ. A Man of Great Integrity When I was nearing the end of my college studies in marketing and business at a school to the north, I had an experience that shaped my direction: by divine design, I met Jon Huntsman. He was a giant of a man by every standard—a businessman, philanthropist, Church leader, faithful husband, father of nine, visionary, and loyal, beloved friend of mine. As you may know, Jon passed away recently. In tribute, the First Presidency said of him, “We honor Jon as a cherished husband, father and friend, esteemed as a leader for his exceptional capacity, commitment, philanthropy and service throughout the world.”1 Jon said of himself: I made it to where I am today because of a solid faith in God and myself and with the unwavering support of my wife, Karen, and nine children. I made it because I come from good stock, a healthy ancestral mix of preachers and saloonkeepers who provided potent DNA for embracing values and accepting others who may not think the same as you do. This nation provides incredible opportunities, especially for those who are focused, tenacious, and willing to take risks.2 His passing has caused me to reflect on his tremendous influence in my life. Jon’s story is one of rags to riches. He grew up in Idaho; he was poor. His father was a school teacher. Jon got a scholarship to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he struggled his first two years, not taking his education seriously. Some of you may be in that pit! When his father suggested he attend a school with an easier curriculum, he realized he was squandering the opportunity he had been given. He spent the next two years seriously studying and significantly surpassing his former performance. He graduated from Wharton with honors. Later he served in the United States Navy, worked as a special assistant to the president of the United States, and began his professional career at an egg-producing company, where an idea for better packaging launched his multimillion-dollar empire. Jon built a company from scratch that result
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Discovering Your Divine Individuality

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I am so excited to be here speaking to all of you. I know it might make me seem a little weird that I want to speak in front of thousands of ­people, but that is okay. I know I am a little weird. All my life I have enjoyed being an individual who is different from those around me. I am over six feet tall, but I still wear heels so I can be even taller. As a volleyball player, on long flights to away games I would sit cramped in my seat doing my calculus homework while my teammates teased me for being a nerd. I still find “your mom” jokes hilarious and will laugh loud enough that someone a mile away can hear. I don’t know anyone exactly like me, and I truly enjoy it. Some of you may be thinking, “She is crazy! Who wants to stick out all the time? Isn’t it nice to just fit in sometimes?” Whether you want to be different or you feel you are too different, it is okay. We are supposed to be different. We were different individuals in the pre-earth life, and we will continue to be different in the next life. This was important knowledge for me to gain because as I think about working toward perfection—a common goal for many of us—I worry I may lose some of my personality traits that allow me to be me. If we are all perfect, kind, faithful, obedient, and knowledgeable, will we all be the same? It would be kind of like Syndrome’s statement in The Incredibles when he says he will sell his inventions so everyone can be superheroes: “And when everyone’s super, no one will be” (IMDb’s pages for quotes for The Incredibles [2004], imdb.com/title/tt0317705/quotes). Now I don’t fear that all of us will become ­perfect in this life—of course none of us will be perfect in a lifetime. But as I continue to work toward this common goal, I want to keep my sense of self. How can I keep my individuality while striving for perfection? I will work to answer the following questions and discuss several examples. First, what defines our individuality and why is individuality important? Second, what is perfection and what attributes define it? Do we have to be the same to be perfect, or can we be different? Third, I will give some examples of a group of individuals who represent both perfection and individuality. Fourth, I will focus on us—where we are and where we go from here. How do we learn to love and strengthen our individual attributes and become like Christ? The Blessings of Individuality First, what defines our individuality and why is it important? One of the ways we are individuals is through our gifts—those things that come easily to us. Our innate capabilities help define who we are and are often related to those things we are naturally inclined to enjoy. In addition, we all have different experiences in life, which results in an infinite number of perspectiv
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Rise and Shout and Shine Forth!

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I pray that the Spirit will be with us to prompt our thinking as we join together today. It is an honor for me to be with you. Having my nephew Mike play the organ and my grandchildren Ashlyn and Drew give the prayers just adds to the joy. Looking on the Bright Side Our son shared a story told to him by a teacher at BYU recounting a family’s experience while hosting an apostle in their home during a stake conference weekend. The mother was anxious to prepare things as perfectly as possible for their respected visitor, yet she found it challenging to keep the house clean while her rambunctious young boys ran and played from room to room. In an act of desperation, after carefully cleaning the guest bathroom, she pinned a note to the towels that read, “Touch these—you die!” The note did the trick, because when the guest arrived, the house looked tidy and all went well. After the apostle left, the weary hostess was just about to sit down to relax when she had a horrifying thought: “Did anyone ever take the note off the towels?” Running to the guest bathroom, she was mortified at what she saw. The note was still in place and the bath towels were clean and dry, but hanging on a hook nearby was a totally soaked hand towel. Can you imagine what was going through her mind? This story became a treasure that brought the family closer together as they chose to find the humor in the experience. We all have days that go very differently than planned. The mother could have let this incident make her feel like a failure. Instead, she looked at the bright side of an embarrassing situation. Marjorie Pay Hinckley, the wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley, said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”1 “Arise and Shine Forth” How do you handle life’s challenges and not let them bring you down? In Doctrine and Covenants 115:5 the Lord told us, “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.” The phrase “arise and shine forth” reminds me of the BYU fight song. I love this university! While I was a student here, I played basketball and football, and one of my fondest memories as an athlete was to run on the court or the field to the sound of “Rise and shout, the Cougars are out.” Have you ever seriously thought about the words to the fight song and pondered their meaning? Rise, all loyal Cougars, and hurl your challenge to the foe. You will fight day or night, rain or snow. Loyal, strong, and true, Wear the white and blue. While we sing, get set to spring. Come on, Cougars, it
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What Makes a Radical and Revolutionary Technology?

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 Full text for this forum will not be available. Instead, please access the video or enjoy this summary.   Dr. Dhanurjay “DJ” Patil shared how much good can be accomplished with an understanding of data science and sharing information at Tuesday’s BYU Forum. He shared many examples of how analyzing databases helped people, communities and the nation. Patil emphasized the incredible advances in technology that have happened in just the last decade. Technology brought us instant, real-time, on-demand, one-day shipping and more. Students can still remember growing up with paper maps, cord phones and not being able to DVR a favorite television show. “We have seen a technology revolution take place in our lifetime … in literally just a decade!” Patil said. Patil argued that data is behind the revolution. When he was the U.S. Chief Data Scientist, the mission statement included the charge “to responsibly unleash the power of data to benefit all Americans.” Patil focused on what responsibility to all Americans looks like, because this technology revolution is not happening for everyone. “A technology is neither radical nor revolutionary unless it benefits everyone,” said Patil. The way technology can help everyone is to have data and databases shared, in a secure way, so people can learn from their own and other’s processes. Data is used to look at what is actually happening, who is actually involved, and then applied in the most efficient way to help others and improve lives, Patil said. There are 11.4 million Americans who cycle through about 3,100 jails and stay an average of 23 days. The technology revolution is not helping these people nationwide, yet. Patil suggested the police force could have access to a database that is securely shared with local healthcare facilities. Then, when an officer arrests someone, she or he could check the database for the best place for that individual. If the arrested person has been cycling through jail, the database would reveal that and the person could be taken to a rehab facility or mental health institution instead.
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Dealing with Sexual Assault: Agency, Accountability, and the Atonement

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As President Worthen mentioned, I earned two degrees at BYU. I also met my wife, Maureen, in a family home evening group while we were both students here. Returning to BYU after twenty-one years in Ohio felt like coming home. We love being a part of this great university. In 2017 many stories were published regarding sexual harassment and assault. Celebrities, politicians, and corporate executives were among those accused of being perpetrators.1 The #MeToo campaign in social media2 and Time magazine’s selection of “the silence breakers” as the Person of the Year3 highlighted the increasing, sometimes controversial, focus on this issue. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a newspaper for university faculty and administrators, recently started tracking sexual harassment stories as they came to light at universities across the nation.4 I watched these stories and others in the new year with particular interest, given two university responsibilities I have had over the last two years that focused on the issue of sexual assault. First, President Worthen asked me to serve on the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault. This council focused on examining the university’s response to incidents of sexual misconduct.5 Our charge was to determine how to better handle the reporting process for ­victims6 of sexual assault. To gather information, we set up a website where more than 3,100 people submitted feedback. Though it took many hours, we read every response, some of which described personal, heartbreaking experiences. Our work resulted in twenty-three recommendations, all of which have been or are being implemented at BYU, including developing an amnesty policy, changing organizational structure, creating a victim advocate position, and conducting a survey of BYU students regarding sexual assault.7 The second committee I served on surveyed all full-time students during the 2017 winter semester.8 Again we learned of some BYU students’ painful and distressing experiences with sexual assault. These committees were not my first encounter with the issue of sexual assault. As a stake president, I prayerfully strive to be a source of comfort and healing for victims seeking assistance. As a psychologist, I sometimes counsel those who suffer the consequences of abuse or assault. When I worked at Ohio University, I reviewed research on sexual assault while serving on dozens of thesis and dissertation committees for the graduate students of my colleague Dr. Christine Gidycz. Even with this background, my service on the Advisory Council and Campus Climate Survey Committee made me all the more keenly aware of the suffering that is associated with sexual assault. What added to my sorrow was the fact that here at BYU, even though we have high standards for our conduct, there are
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Turning Enemies into Friends

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At Brigham Young University many years ago, there was a great athletic coach named Eugene L. Roberts. He grew up in Provo and, as a youth, sort of drifted aimlessly with the wrong kind of friends. And then something remarkable happened. I am going to read to you from his own words. He wrote: Several years ago when Provo City was scarred with the unsightly saloon and other questionable forms of amusement, I was standing one evening upon the street waiting for my gang to show up when I noticed that [the Provo] tabernacle was lighted up and that a large crowd of people were traveling in [that] direction. I had nothing to do so I drifted over [there] and drifted in. I thought I might find some of my gang, or at least some of the girls that I was interested in. Upon entering, I ran across three or four of [my] fellows and we placed ourselves under the gallery where there was a crowd of young ladies, who seemed to promise [some] entertainment. We were not interested in what came from the pulpit. We knew that the people on [the] rostrum were all old fogies. They didn’t know anything about life and they certainly couldn’t tell us anything, for we knew it all. So we settled down to have a good time. Right in the midst of our disturbance there thundered from [the] pulpit the following [statement]: “You can’t tell the character of an individual by the way he does his daily work. Watch him when his work is over. See where he goes. Note the companions he seeks, and the things he does when he may do as he pleases. Then you can tell his true character.” I looked up towards the rostrum because I was struck with this powerful statement. I saw up there a little dark-haired, fierce-eyed, fighting man whom I knew and feared; but didn’t have any particular love for. . . . . . . He went on to make a comparison. He said: “Let us take the eagle, for example. This bird works as hard and as efficiently as any other animal in doing its daily work. It provides for itself and its young by the sweat of its brow, so to speak; but when its daily work is over and the eagle has time of its own to do just as it pleases, note how it spends its recreational moments. It flies to the highest realms of heaven, spreads its wings, and bathes in the upper air, for it loves the pure, clean atmosphere, and the lofty heights. “On the other hand, let us consider the hog. This animal grunts and grubs and provides for its young just as well as the eagle; but, when its working hours are over and it has [some] recreational moments, observe where it goes and what it does. The hog will seek out the muddiest hole in the pasture and will roll and soak itself in filth, for this is the thing it loves. People are either hogs or eagles in th
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Humbly Combining Heart and Mind

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It is wonderful to be back at BYU today. I was a student here in the early 1970s. During that time, some important things happened here, including the construction of the Marriott Center, the appointment of President Dallin H. Oaks as president of the university, the building of the Provo Temple, and the hiring of LaVell Edwards as head football coach and him taking his team to BYU’s first bowl game, the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. During that time, several important things also happened in my life, including receiving my mission call and serving a mission, getting engaged and married, becoming a father, and graduating with a degree in economics. I would like to speak about another important thing that happened to me during my time as a student here. The Mind and the Heart Together There is an interesting connection in the scriptures between the heart and the mind. Consider this verse from an early revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the process of knowledge being revealed: Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.1 From this verse it is clear that the process of revelation can include both ideas to our minds and feelings to our hearts. In the next section the Lord further described this process: Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.2 These verses once again speak of the mind as well as feelings that are manifest inside us—in this case, a burning in the bosom. This expression is reminiscent of a passage in Luke 24, when one of the disciples who walked with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus said to the other disciple with whom he had shared that experience, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”3 Both passages, whether referring to feelings in the heart or the bosom, are referring to “the workings of the Spirit”4 that we can feel within us as part of revelation. The prophet Mormon, in describing the revelation to include the small plates of Nephi with his compiled record, said: And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord
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Lessons from Roses: Trust Yourself and Trust God

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Years ago, when we were landscaping the yard of our new home, my father, who owned a hardware store, asked me if I would like some rose bushes that he had for sale at a very discounted price. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I thought that roses would look very nice next to the white rail fence that bordered our front yard. I bought more than twenty rose bushes. We live close to the base of Rock Canyon, which means that there is very little soil and a lot of rocks. Kevin took on the arduous task of digging the holes for the roses. Due to the difficulty of digging, we decided to dig the holes just big enough to pour in enough soil to surround the roots of the roses—not really the ideal amount of soil, but, given the situation, we hoped it would be adequate. As it turns out, it was. Our roses thrived. We really didn’t do too much to them. They were watered whenever the lawn was watered, they received plenty of sunshine, and, happily, they did well in our yard, rocks and all. Normally I would prune the roses as soon as it looked like they needed it. One year, however, I waited longer than usual to prune them—about a month longer. The roses already had quite a bit of new growth on them, but I decided to prune them anyway. When I was finished, there wasn’t much left. I had cut them back drastically—much more than I usually did. But I was pleased with the results. Who knew that pruning roses a month later than usual—and drastically at that—would have unexpected consequences? Immediately after I had pruned the roses, I had several people tell me that it was too late in the season for cutting roses and that I had cut them back too much. Initially it didn’t bother me, but pretty soon I began to believe them. I started to feel like I had done something I shouldn’t have. I started to doubt my decision. I was sorry I had cut my roses. I remember one man asking me incredulously, “What have you done? Do you realize that you won’t have roses this year?” And a woman in our neighborhood who had a lovely garden quipped, “You shouldn’t have cut them so late and so much!” And then she added, “Oh well, we live and we learn.” I felt terrible. I believed I had ruined my roses! At that point I did the only thing I could think of doing. I called my mother! I knew she would help me feel better. She was a gardener. She had roses. I told her about the terrible thing I had done. And, to my pleasant surprise, she assured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. She advised me to go to a nursery and buy a book on roses. I would find that I hadn’t ruined them. I did as she suggested. I bought a book on roses and was relieved to find out that I hadn’t ruined them. In fact, I read that when pruning roses, you should cut them back “sever
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The Plan of Salvation: The Gospel Paradigm

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In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published a book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he set forth his view that development in scientific knowledge did not progress in a linear, continuous fashion but rather through periodic radical changes in the framework through which scientific questions are considered. Kuhn called these radical changes “paradigm shifts.”1 While the validity of Kuhn’s theory has been extensively debated in the last fifty years, there is little dispute that his book brought the terms paradigm shift and paradigm into popular culture. Today, dictionaries broadly define a paradigm as “a philosophical or theoretical framework.”2 It is a set of principles or ideas that provides a particular way of interpreting events. One textbook explains: A paradigm is . . . a way of thinking about or viewing the world. . . . A paradigm is like the lens on a pair of glasses. . . . If you put on red glasses, everything looks red. If you put on pink glasses, the world looks pink. If you put on yellow glasses, everything around you looks more yellow.3 All of us view events through particular paradigms or lenses. If the lenses are accurate, the paradigm enhances our understanding and knowledge. If they are distorted, we sometimes make mistakes, which causes a paradigm shift. Let me illustrate with a short video. [The video portrayed a conversation between two men over a ship radio arguing who will change course. The ship’s captain insists the other change his course to avoid collision, only to find out the other voice is speaking from a lighthouse.4] Now that is what you might call a paradigm shift. There have always been competing paradigms in every discipline and, more important, in the overall cultures in which we live. This is especially evident in today’s society, in which people can view the same event and reach dramatically different conclusions, not only as to what the event means but even as to what actually happened. Given the confusion that these competing paradigms seem to engender, we are blessed to live in a time and situation in which we have modern-day revelation to provide a more complete and accurate framework in which all our lives’ events, both individually and globally, can be better understood. While these latter-day revelations in one sense have effectuated a remarkable paradigm shift in religious understanding, in another sense they are really a restoration of a paradigm or framework that God provided to His children from the beginning of time—a framework for understanding all the events in the world, from before its creation and extending through its future millennial season into the eternities. This framework or paradigm has various names. “In the scriptures God’s plan is called a merciful plan,
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A Message at Christmas

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Christmas is coming. But so are final exams. So, while Christmas is coming, stress is already here. Years ago, when my wife, Kathy, and I were in your place, the schedule was a bit different. The fall semester ended in January, and finals came after the Christmas holiday. We would all dutifully take a suitcase or box of books home with us or wherever we were going for the Christmas break. We had every intention of devoting hours to studying for finals in addition to celebrating Christmas. Of course we never cracked a book. Rather, we just felt guilty the whole time, and it ruined the holiday. So if you are looking for sympathy from me because you have final exams right before Christmas, forget it. In all seriousness, I do wish you the best on your finals. May your preparations be fully rewarded, with perhaps a little divine aid added in for good measure. And may this particular Christmas season be for you a season of renewal. May you be blessed with a deep sense of gratitude. It is interesting to read some of the accounts of Christmas from our pioneer forebears. Elizabeth Huffaker wrote of the very first Christmas in the Salt Lake Valley in December 1847: I remember our first Christmas in the valley. We all worked as usual. The men gathered sage-brush, and some even ploughed, for, though it had snowed, the ground was still soft, and the ploughs were used nearly the entire day. Christmas came on Saturday. We celebrated the day on the Sabbath, when all gathered around the flagpole in the centre of the fort, and there we held meeting. And what a meeting it was. We sang praise to God; we all joined in the opening prayer, and the speaking that day has always been remembered. There were words of thanksgiving and cheer. The people were hopeful and buoyant, because of their faith in the great work they were undertaking. After the meeting, there was handshaking all around. Some wept for joy, the children played in the enclosure, and around a sage-brush fire that night we gathered and sang: “Come, come, ye Saints, No toil nor labor fear, But with joy wend your way!” That day we had boiled rabbit and a little bread for our dinner. Father had shot some rabbits, and it was a feast we had. All had enough to eat. In the sense of perfect peace and good-will, I never had a happier Christmas in all my life.1 It is difficult for most of us to appreciate what a blessing it was for them simply to have peace—to have very little of the necessities of life but, at last, to have peace. Susan Wells remembered Christmas two years later in Salt Lake in December 1849, when there was a more formal party: I well remember Brother Brigham’s [Christmas] party [of 1849]. Like the girls of today,
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Happiness, Deceit, and Small Things

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Brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to be with you this morning. Both Melinda and I graduated from BYU, and we love coming back. I prepared this talk with my children and my missionaries in mind. I would like to talk with each of you from my heart as if you were one of my children or my missionaries. Would you please take a moment to think about what you want in the future? I suspect that many things might enter your mind. Some of them might be quite short term: getting a date for the weekend, doing well on finals or your end-of-term paper, or finding transportation home for Christmas. Other desires might include longer-term dreams: having a happy marriage and family, getting into graduate school, obtaining a good job, achieving financial success, living in a certain location, or buying a new car. Whatever your hopes and dreams are for the future, I suspect that you want those things because you believe they will bring you happiness. Ultimately, happiness is what we all desire. When I was a student at BYU, I thought a lot about my future. I suspect you think a lot about yours as well. Once I got to the future—meaning life after BYU—I learned three critical lessons that made a big difference in my life. I want to share these lessons with you with the hope that you don’t take as long as I did to learn them. They are lessons that can help you find greater joy in life—and ultimately obtain exaltation with your Heavenly Father. Lesson One: True Happiness Comes from Having the Spirit in Our Lives Lesson number one begins with a story. I met my wife, Melinda, during my sophomore year at BYU, about six months after I had returned from my mission. I knew immediately that Melinda was the woman I wanted to marry. Melinda, however, did not have the same experience. It wasn’t until five years later that she finally received an answer that it would be “okay” if she married me. During those five years—actually nearly five-and-a-half years, if you include our engagement—I had one of the more difficult trials of my life. I really wanted to be married. I knew whom I was supposed to marry, and the Spirit urged me on, but I couldn’t seem to reach that goal. Nothing I did seemed to help our relationship move forward as quickly as I wanted. It was five-plus years of frustration and—more important—refinement for me. Shortly after I had graduated from BYU, Melinda decided to go on a mission—in part, I am convinced, to get away from me. I was concerned that while she served in Spain, my misery would increase as I waited for her. And there were times when I was miserable because I focused on what I didn’t have and I failed to exercise faith in God’s promises. However, I was studying the scriptures and praying daily, serving in the Church, and strivi
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