BYU Speeches

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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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Agency, Accountability, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Application to Sexual Assault

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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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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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Questions and Answers

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I am now in my ninetieth year and have been happily married to my dear wife, Barbara, for sixty-six years. We have been blessed with seven children, forty-three grandchildren, and eighty-six great-grandchildren—with more on the way! I want to include you in our family today. I would like you to picture me as your grandfather who believes in you and who is cheering for you. I love you and constantly pray for you. A year ago I spoke to our full-time religious educators and explained that we need to listen more and do our best to respond to sincere questions.1 An adapted version of that talk appeared in the Ensign magazine last December with the hope that all parents, Church leaders, and teachers would do their best to listen and to respond to the questions from those they love.2 Recently I learned about a time when Joseph Smith answered twenty questions he had received. The questions, along with his responses, were published in the Church’s newspaper, the Elders’ Journal, in July 1838. We do not have time to explore those twenty questions, but I did pick two of them. The first is an excellent question: “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” The Prophet responded: The fundamental principles of our religion [are] the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, “that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven”; and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.3 Joseph’s answer reminds us what is most important and essential: the core gospel message of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. I smiled at Joseph’s response to another question in the series: “Did not Jo Smith steal his wife?” The Prophet’s tongue-in-cheek answer reveals his witty personality: “Ask her; she was of age, she can answer for herself.”4 Since then, Church leaders have taken many opportunities to respond to questions in various settings. Unfortunately, passing around a portable microphone in the Marriott Center is virtually impossible today, so I invited two local young single adult stake presidents and several BYU professors to solicit questions in advance for my consideration in preparing my talk for you. In the end, I was surprised how many questions you have. I received 767 of them! They covered a variety of topics, including life at BYU, dating, doctrine, marriage, revelation, seeking perfection, and showing love to others. I wish I could respond to every question. However, reviewing the questions has been a blessing to me because it gave me another window through which to consider the issues and challenges you face.
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The Pride Cycle

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It has been said that a good talk will always comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. As you listen this morning, you might consider which of those two applies to you. If my message accomplishes either of these two results, I will feel it has been worthwhile. I have prayed that the Holy Ghost will carry my words to your hearts and that you will then apply them in a way that will bless your lives. There is a prevalent pattern of behavior in the Book of Mormon commonly referred to as “the pride cycle.” It is repeated so frequently that one begins to sense that the Lord and His prophets are trying to teach us something important—that perhaps its inclusion in the record is meant to be a warning from the Lord to each of us in our day. Pride is a serious sin. In fact, in the book of Proverbs we read that it is number one on the list of seven deadly sins that the Lord hates.1 Using a clock as a metaphor, let’s say that the pride cycle begins at twelve o’clock—the pinnacle of pride. When we are at twelve o’clock on the pride cycle, we, like the Nephites of old, feel so successful, so intelligent, and so popular that we begin to feel invincible. We enjoy it when others compliment us on our successes, and we are irritated when others around us receive compliments on their ­successes. At twelve o’clock we tend not to listen to the counsel of others. We don’t need others. Sadly, we often conclude that we don’t even need God or His servants. We bristle at their counsel. We are doing just fine on our own. We forget or we reject what King Benjamin taught: that we “are eternally indebted to [our] heavenly Father, to render to him all that [we] have and are.”2 Our modern-day prophets have warned us against unrighteous pride. President Ezra Taft Benson called it “the universal sin” and “the great stumbling block to Zion.”3 President Dieter F. Uchtdorf compared pride to “a personal Rameumptom, a holy stand that justifies envy, greed, and vanity.”4 However you define pride, its consequences are always the same. It alienates us from God. It pushes us around the pride cycle to two o’clock, where we offend the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. Initially we may think that offending the Spirit of the Holy Ghost is inconsequential. Nephi described it as being “lull[ed] . . . away into carnal security. . . . All is well in Zion [we think]; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well.”5 Interestingly, at two o’clock on the pride cycle, if we are honest with ourselves, we really are not that happy. We have this gnawing sense that we are slipping. We try to fight back against the uncomfortable currents of the pride cycle. We cling to the memories of past successes and insist on putting our trust in the arm of flesh. This is a serious mistake. Jesus taught that you and I are l
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Are You All the Way In?

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I would like to let my staff, my students, and my athletes know that I am just as surprised as you are to see me up here, but please don’t let it shake your testimony or your confidence in BYU. When I was about four years old, I fell out of my bed. My father heard me crying and came into my room to check on me. As he helped me get back into my bed, he asked, with all of the compassion of a loving father, why I had fallen out of bed. He always loved to tell me how I had looked up at him and said, with the eye roll of a rational four-year-old, “Obviously I wasn’t in far enough!” As a result, that statement became the question that my father would ask me every time I encountered a struggle, trial, or difficult problem. To this day I continue to ask myself, “Am I in far enough?” I don’t want to burst your bubble by telling you that this life will include tests, trials, and tribulations and that some of the trials you will face in life will be excruciating. What you do need to know is that, according to my friends, I am not the luckiest person in the world and I have had my share of challenges. We will all experience affliction, so I hope that sharing how I learned to get all the way in will help you along your path in college and in life. Riding Out the Raging Tempests I remember being a student at this ­university. I came from a great home and was raised by incredible parents who shared their ­testimonies through word and deed. I felt confident as I entered BYU that I had a solid footing in the Church. However, it was during my college life that I started to experience small struggles that began to test my testimony and my commitment to our Savior. It started with having to make my own ­decisions to go to church, say my prayers, and read my scriptures. And then came the self-doubt, the struggle of suddenly being average, the loneliness, and the experience of my first C grade being thrown at me. Next came the curveball of dating and breaking up combined with a “small” amount of pressure to get married, all while I was ­living with roommates who did not do the dishes and also while no one was liking my Instagram posts—well, at least back then I didn’t have to worry about Instagram or Facebook. It was at a particularly low moment in college that I came across the hymn “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” (Hymns, 2002, no. 105). The second verse described perfectly how I was feeling at that moment: Master, with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today. The depths of my sad heart are troubled. Oh, waken and save, I pray! Torrents of sin and of anguish Sweep o’er my sinking soul, And I perish! I perish! dear Master. O
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Putting Off the Natural Man and Becoming Saints

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Brothers and sisters, it is nice to be with you. You are an amazing sight. Being here today reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago. Sister Cook and I were asked to speak in another university setting, and when my mother-in-law heard about it, she said, “Oh, aren’t you scared?” Actually, I was a little scared, but feeling somewhat curious, I asked her, “Why should I be scared?” She said, “Because students are so intelligent!” That was a nice compliment for the students, but it didn’t say much for what my mother-in-law thought of me and my intelligence! Today I realize that I am speaking to a group of very intelligent and educated people, but I am not scared, because the topic I would like to address is applicable to each of us in a very personal way. It is how we can put off the natural man or the natural woman and become Saints through Jesus Christ and His Atonement. This is something I have been working on for many years—battling with the natural man. But I am determined to never relax, retreat, or retire from the fight. Putting Off the Natural Man or Woman The natural man or woman is the mortal part of us that allows the physical, the temporal, or our own desires to overrule our inherent spiritual goodness and our desires to become like our Heavenly Parents (see Spencer W. Kimball, “Ocean Currents and Family Influences,” Ensign, November 1974). Of course the fight will not be won immediately. It is a daily battle for each of us, and we are dependent upon God and Jesus Christ to help us change our nature. We are taught in the Book of Mormon: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. [Mosiah 3:19] Spinner I actually had a horse who helped me appreciate the amazing process of change. When our children were young, my wife and I looked for a gentle, well-broke children’s horse. Our neighbor had such a horse, but he would sell us kind and gentle Bob only if we also bought his other horse, Stubby. The names alone describe the horses. Eventually we decided to purchase both horses in order to acquire Bob. Sure enough, Bob was wonderful, and Stubby ended up being, as expected, a stubborn, strong-willed, obnoxious animal who consistently acted up and caused trouble with the other horses. Because of our limited number of horses, I usuall
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Shape Your Life Through Service to Others

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Good morning, my young brothers and sisters. You are an inspiring sight. I have the opportunity to visit your campus often with my various Church assignments, but seeing you here today brings back a flood of wonderful memories from a time in my life when I sat where you are now sitting. The year was 1968, and I was a freshman here at Brigham Young University. I remember well the excitement and, of course, the anxiety that many of you who are entering as freshmen are feeling right now, not knowing exactly what lies ahead. To those of you who are returning for your sophomore, junior, or senior years, I likewise know the excitement and anxiety you are feeling because you are beginning to have a better sense of what lies ahead. After beginning my studies here in 1968, I had the privilege of serving a full-time mission between 1970 and 1972. After my mission, I returned to finish my studies and graduated in the summer of 1974. I married my beautiful wife, Nancy, the day after I graduated. We have four children, all of whom have graduated from Brigham Young University. Our family has great memories of BYU, and it is wonderful to be back on campus with you today. Enter to Learn; Go Forth to Serve Brothers and sisters, I feel I was led to focus my message this morning on the gospel principle that has been the source of the most joy and fulfillment in my life throughout the forty-three years since my graduation from this very special institution. Therefore, with this thought in mind, I have entitled my message “Shape Your Life Through Service to Others.” Like many of you, when I arrived on campus as a freshman, I was greeted by the large sign on the western edge of campus that reads, “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Not only is this one of the first sights most people see when they arrive on campus, but I think it is also one of the last sights they see, as it has become the backdrop for many a picture as students celebrate their graduation day with loved ones. Ernest L. Wilkinson, a past president of Brigham Young University, adopted the slogan for the university in 1966. For more than fifty years now the slogan has greeted students and ­faculty, ­parents and visitors, and ambassadors and ­dignitaries from across the globe. While speaking here in 2003, President Gordon B. Hinckley urged every student to make “Enter to learn; go forth to serve” his or her  personal motto. President Hinckley said at that time: Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. . . . Walk the high road of charity, respect, and love for others and particularly those who are less fortunate.1 Please remember, my young friends, that being the best at something doesn’t make you a good person. You can be number one i
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Fear Not

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It is a joy to join with Peggy in welcoming you to another school year. You are a wonderful sight, and this campus takes on new energy as you arrive here. We are grateful for that. My message today focuses on one of the most oft-repeated and yet most oft-overlooked and ignored and maybe violated commandments. By my count this commandment is repeated seventy-six times in the scriptures.1 The commandment was the first thing spoken by the angels who announced Christ’s birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem.2 It was also the first thing spoken by the angels who announced Christ’s Resurrection to the women at the empty tomb.3 The commandment was conveyed by the angels who informed Mary and Joseph about their roles in the Savior’s mortal ministry,4 and it was part of the message of the angel who appeared to Zacharias to reveal the upcoming birth of John the Baptist.5 The commandment is repeated in at least two of our LDS hymns.6 It is a commandment that is found so frequently in the scriptures that we may not recognize its profound importance, especially for the times in which we live and the stage of life in which you students find yourselves. The commandment is a simple two-word injunction: “fear not.” Some may question whether the directive to “fear not” is actually a commandment. True, it is not preceded by the familiar “thou shalt not,” and it was not written on stone tablets. But it is clearly an imperative repeated often enough by divinely authorized sources, including many times by the Savior Himself,7 that it certainly seems like a commandment. More important, like all commandments, adherence to this two-word injunction will make our mortal journey both more productive and more joyful. This is not a new topic. It has been preached over this pulpit8 as well as over the pulpit in the LDS Conference Center.9 But I believe it is one that is of particular relevance as we begin a new school year with all of its challenges in a world that seems increasingly full of fears. I firmly believe that if we increase our compliance with this important commandment, the coming year and the endless years that succeed it will be better. With that belief in mind, let me first explore the meaning of this sometimes misunderstood commandment and then describe four things we can do to increase our ability to comply with its principles. What Is Fear? To understand the commandment to fear not, we first have to understand what we mean by fear. What exactly are we supposed to avoid? According to one source, “fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that . . . ultimately [leads to] a change in behavior.”10 As this broad definition suggests, not all fear is bad. Were it not f
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Facing the Algebras of Life

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Welcome to fall semester 2017. I hope you have a wonderful experience this year at BYU. I remember my first semester here as a student. I was thrilled at the thought that I was finally going to further my education, but, at the same time, I have to admit I was somewhat anxious. The prospect of being a student at BYU was daunting. I was a nontraditional student returning to school when our youngest child was in kindergarten. I remember looking at the syllabus of each class and wondering if I could do everything that was required. I had chosen English as a major and was looking forward to attending all of the classes. I hoped I could keep up. I say I was looking forward to attending all of the classes, and that is mostly true, but there was one exception: intermediate algebra. Algebra and I have a dubious history. Algebra was a required course in junior high and in high school, and I learned quickly that algebra was not one of my strong points. I did manage, however, to pass those precollege algebra classes—mainly by doing extra-credit assignments given to me by sympathetic algebra teachers. So, knowing what I knew about my history with algebra and knowing that I would have to take the intermediate algebra class in order to graduate from BYU, I did the only thing I could think of: I procrastinated. The problem with procrastination is that whatever you choose to procrastinate never seems to go away. Instead it looms large. The time finally came when I could procrastinate no longer. It was the last semester of my senior year—the proverbial eleventh hour. I finally registered for the algebra class, attended the first day of class, and immediately knew I was in over my head. My friend Mary, who is a mathematical whiz, could sense my panic. She suggested that I drop the class and register for the independent study algebra course. She said she would tutor me. I was so grateful to her. That was the beginning of what my family calls “the year that Mom took algebra.” It consumed a lot of my time. Passing my algebra class became a family project. Not only did I have the help of my friend Mary, who tutored me, but I also had Kevin’s help and the help of my two sons. They spent hours helping me with my homework. They truly endured this experience with me. When I wasn’t working on my homework, it seemed like I was expressing my discontent to anyone who would listen. In other words, I complained a lot. I remember complaining to my mother about the fact that I was an English major and that I didn’t understand why I even had to take algebra. In a very reassuring, motherly way, she said, “Peggy, you never know when you are going to need algebra.” I am sure she thought it was good counsel, but I was forty-three years old and had somehow managed to get by without algebra up to that point in my
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Paired Aspirations

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As I begin today, I want to recognize and thank my predecessor, Brent Webb, for his remarkable service during his time as academic vice president. As a dean, I worked closely with Brent. I knew he was brilliant: he never seemed to forget a thing I wrote to him. And I knew he always acted with integrity: I never had to worry that what he told me would be inaccurate or that others were getting a ­special deal unavailable to the Law School. Until the last couple of months, however, I don’t think I had the full picture of the load he carried. I keep finding myself asking, “How did Brent do it?” Part of the answer to that question will probably just remain a mystery to me. Mostly I chalk it up to his incredible bandwidth and his willingness to dedicate his gifts to the university. And sharing those gifts was a real sacrifice. Brent stepped out of the classroom that he loved and put on the backburner an extraordinary research trajectory that had seen him author or coauthor some 200 publications and direct millions of dollars in research activity. Brent is here today, happily sitting with his engineering colleagues. Please join with me in thanking him for his sacrifices to build this university that we all love. If Brent’s work as academic vice president was not enough to give me some feelings of inadequacy, those feelings are added to by the leadership of his predecessor, John Tanner. As you know, John was a Milton and Renaissance scholar and a Renaissance man. Most of us in this room will remember his Notes from an Amateur1 and his remarkable annual university conference addresses.2 John embodied the very best of the humane arts and letters project of this university—its inquisitiveness and its joyful search for truth and beauty. If Brent embodied our broader desire to push the frontiers of knowledge in science and engineering and if John exemplified the power of the humanities to understand and shape the way we think about the world, I am not sure exactly what I exemplify. Surely proof that there is always regression to the mean. Perhaps also a testimony to the old lawyer joke that lawyers, like sharks, travel in packs—even in university administrations. Truthfully, it is a high honor to serve as the academic vice president and to labor alongside you to build this great university. I have long loved BYU. My first experiences here were as a child in the late 1960s and early 1970s—I will spare you the pictures of my long hair and the splendid lime-green leisure suit I sported at the time. When my parents married, my mom had not yet completed her degree. So each summer for several years, my mom, my brother, and I drove to Provo from California so that my mother could work on her English degree. We lived in the old Heritage Halls, and my brother and I spent our
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“Walk in the Meekness of My Spirit”

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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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