D. Todd Christofferson|Dec. 12, 2017 Full text for this speech will be available in the next few weeks. In the meantime, please enjoy this summary. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered the Devotional address. He spoke about why we all needed a Savior, and how that can impact us this Christmas season. He began by reading the memories of pioneers who told of simple and impoverished Christmas mornings, with apples and candy as presents. Elder Christofferson encouraged students to not be overwhelmed during the season, and to be thankful for their blessings. “Let us be especially thankful for family and friends and the necessities and comforts of life,” Elder Christofferson said. Elder Christofferson said December is also a time to reflect on the service of Joseph Smith, whose birthday is this month. “It is hard fully to appreciate what he achieved as an instrument in the Lord’s hand in an environment of constant opposition, persecution and challenge. ‘Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,’” Elder Christofferson said. “I don’t suppose that in this dispensation anyone has learned to fear God and not man better than the Prophet. The Lord required some very hard things of Joseph. He did them, and we are all beneficiaries.” Of the many things Joseph Smith did in this dispensation, we can also reflect on his relationship with and testimony of Jesus Christ. Then Elder Christofferson shared an experience he had when a long-time member of the church asked him why she needed a Savior if she was a good person. Elder Christofferson admitted he was shocked at her lack of understanding, but he explained that we all need resurrection and redemption. He acknowledged that, asked another way, the woman could have been asking something like, “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why can’t He just save us all Himself. Why did God need a Savior for us?” Elder Christofferson identified this way of thinking as similar to Nehor the antichrist’s teachings, and the proposition of the devil in the premortal life. If everyone was saved regardless of actions, then there would be no personal growth and no choices. “[The Father’s plan] requires accountability for choices made—otherwise they aren’t real
Laurie Garrett|Nov. 30, 2017 BYU Speeches will not be publishing this forum address. A summary of the address is given below: Garrett shared research showing the dramatic improvement of global health in the last few hundred years. This is due, in large part, to globalization. With globalization came increased financial resources that were allocated to combat disease and other health issues. “[This] means that intervening with health works,” said Garrett. Global health has also improved with the invention and distribution of vaccines. “Globally, we are close to reaching some of the most audacious targets for vaccinating children all over the world and bringing down child mortality,” Garrett said. Garrett has traveled all over the globe, including to continents experiencing disease outbreak like Africa during the Ebola crisis. She has seen the positive impact of vaccinations. “We can forecast saving another 23 to 24 million lives with continued mass vaccination just within the next few years,” Garrett said. Despite these incredible improvements, the globe is now in a health crisis because of a number of different reasons. Garrett said if these reasons are not addressed, the plight of our planet will worsen. “We are now in a very challenging time politically,” Garrett said. She referred to President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. Much of the World Health Organization’s funding comes from these two nations, and the current leadership has shown signs of retracting or reducing funding, Garrett said. Garrett said the world is building up “financial and literal walls” that are leading to an end of globalization. This stems from a reluctance toward immigrants and refugees and a rise in populism, nationalism and isolationism. Garrett encourages nations to come together, stay global, have smart national and global governance and avoid hording medical resources. She said many of the recent global health issues (disease, lack of vaccinations, antibiotic resistant microbes, microplastic in the water and more) are “supranationalist issues.” “Instead of thinking ‘America first!’ think, ‘Planet first! World first!’” Garrett said. Garrett pleaded with the students at BYU to fix the problem of supranationalism in their generation. “What we need now, and what I need your generation go come up with, is a kind of Globalization 2.0,” Garrett said. She said the world needs globalization that tackles these issues in an engaged global group to transform the planet into a positive direction. Garrett said we need innovation in government and organization, and to use ideas that come from the bottom up. Her greatest admonition for the students was to reject isolationism. “If we can’t get there, I’m afraid we are going to face a very grim future for not just your grandchildren but for you.” (Ta
M. Russell Ballard|Nov. 14, 2017 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.
Wilford W. Andersen|Nov. 7, 2017 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
Carolyn Billings|Oct. 17, 2017 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
Carl B. Cook|Oct. 10, 2017 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
Michael Ward|Sep. 26, 2017 BYU Speeches will not be publishing this forum address. A summary of the address is given below: Dr. Michael Ward, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and C.S. Lewis scholar, shared his theory that Lewis used the medieval cosmos’ seven heavens to symbolize Christ throughout The Chronicles of Narnia. On the surface, The Chronicles of Narnia can seem to be a “hodgepodge” of characters, Ward said. C. S. Lewis’s friend J.R.R. Tolkien was confused by all the characters in Narnia. He wondered what was unifying all of them. (Why is Father Christmas, Father Time, the White Witch, English kids and centaurs all in the same story?) Tolkien didn’t read all of the books and he wasn’t fond of the stories that he did read. Since Tolkien is so well-known, his opinion of the Chronicles of Narnia became well-known too. Tolkien’s attitude prevailed: Narnia is casual. According to Ward, Tolkien’s assumptions were neither consistent with Lewis’s other literary works nor his character. Lewis loved complexity and intricacy. Ward cites Lewis’s complicated poetry, love for medieval scholarship and Lewis’s Christian faith and belief that the universe is fantastically complex as a reason to look deeper at the Narnia series. “The whole Narnia series is about Christ,” said Ward. “The first, second and seventh book is a major comparison of the life of Christ. In these novels, Christ is depicted as Creator, Redeemer and Judge.” But in the other four books, Christ’s figure of Aslan is not as obvious. In some of these novels, Aslan is given characteristics that Christ did not have. One example is Aslan is mentioned as being “swift of foot.” These details in Lewis’ series led scholars to determine that there must be a deeper level of design and creative intent, a level deeper than Biblical references. Ward has spent much of his scholarship seeking this deeper level. He tried comparing the books to great works of Shakespeare, but that didn’t work. “It was when I wasn’t looking for it that I stumbled upon it,” said Ward. Ward described four aspects of Lewis’s life that help to credit a deeper theme that Ward discovered in The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was secretive. He even kept his marriage secret for nearly a year. Ward said that it shouldn’t surprise us that there could be a secret in Narnia. Lewis was a Christian who wrote that “Christ is the all-pervasive principle of cohesion, whereby the universe holds together.” God could be overlooked when He is everywhere and in everything. “How would Lewis depict an omnipresent but overlookable element?” asked Ward. Lewis was a great writer, who appreciated and wrote at length about the underlying themes in stories. The atmosphere, overall feeling or grand theme of a story is important. Lewis called this “the hidden element in
Richard J. Maynes|Sep. 19, 2017 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
Kevin J Worthen|Sep. 12, 2017 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
Peggy S. Worthen|Sep. 12, 2017 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
James R. Rasband|Aug. 28, 2017 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
David A. Bednar|Aug. 28, 2017 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
Lynn G. Robbins|Aug. 22, 2017 Brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you in this opening session of the 2017 BYU Campus Education Week. This year’s theme comes from Doctrine and Covenants 50:24, with special emphasis on these words: “And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light.” I am going to take a different approach to this theme than might be expected by exposing and illustrating some very cunning and effective ways that the “wicked one” prevents people from progressing and receiving more light (D&C 93:39). Many gospel principles come in pairs, meaning one is incomplete without the other. I want to refer to three of these doctrinal pairs today: Agency and responsibility Mercy and justice Faith and works When Satan is successful in dividing doctrinal pairs, he begins to wreak havoc upon mankind. It is one of his most cunning strategies to keep people from growing in the light. You already know that faith without works really isn’t faith (see James 2:17). My primary focus will be on the other two doctrinal pairs: first, to illustrate how avoiding responsibility affects agency; and second, how “denying justice,” as it is referred to in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 42:30), affects mercy. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we are agents to “act . . . and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26)—or to be “free to act for [our]selves” (2 Nephi 10:23). This freedom of choice was not a gift of partial agency but of complete and total 100 percent agency. It was absolute in the sense that the One Perfect Parent never forces His children. He shows us the way and may even command us, but, “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee” (Moses 3:17). Assuming responsibility and being accountable for our choices are agency’s complementary principles (see D&C 101:78). Responsibility is to recognize ourselves as being the cause for the effects or results of our choices—good or bad. On the negative side, it is to always own up to the consequences of poor choices. Except for those held innocent, such as little children and the intellectually disabled, gospel doctrine teaches us that each person is responsible for the use of their agency and “will be punished for their own sins” (Articles of Faith 1:2).1 It isn’t just a heavenly principle but a law of nature—we reap what we sow. Logically then, complete and total agency comes with complete and total responsibility: And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it u
Donald L. Hallstrom|Aug. 17, 2017 I feel privileged to be in Provo for the August 2017 commencement exercises of Brigham Young University. My dear wife, Diane, deeply wished that she could be here, but a long-planned family obligation prevented that. Diane and I met on this campus forty-six years ago. I had just returned from my mission to England and was resuming my studies here. Just a few weeks into the fall semester, I was asked by my mission president—who was still in England—to speak at his home ward in Bountiful. I had so recently returned from my mission that perhaps I was uncomfortable without a companion, so I called a young woman in my student ward whom I had seen but never met and asked her to accompany me. That first date turned into a courtship and then an engagement, and last month Diane and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. The year after our marriage we both received degrees from this institution—Diane while almost nine months pregnant. Coming back to where it all began is a profound privilege. As a member of the Brigham Young University Board of Trustees for more than five years, I have regularly been engaged in discussions and decisions about this university. Continually I have been inspired by how deeply the Lord and His prophets care about the youth of the Church and how willing they are to provide enormous sacred resources to assist in temporal and spiritual education. You are blessed to have this university, and it is blessed to have you! I have great respect for President Kevin J Worthen. Since his appointment three years ago, we have been in board and executive committee meetings twice each month. He has a brilliant mind, he is modest in his leadership style, and he is completely loyal to the Lord and to the leaders of the Lord’s Church. We are extremely fortunate to have an individual of President Worthen’s quality leading this university. His complete desire is to do it the Lord’s way! Since Diane and I matriculated on this campus four and a half decades ago, it has become more ethnically and culturally diverse, reflecting what has occurred in the Church during this period. We have been to most of the countries and states that you call home. Yes, there are cultural and socioeconomic differences in the places you come from, and that variety is part of the strength of this university; however, do not forget—in the way that matters most—we are all the same. We are all children of the same eternal Father. That understanding is what makes BYU truly special, as it provides the spiritual foundation that gives academic efforts perspective and importance. To you graduates, I say, “Congratulations!” and “Well done!” However, I emphasize there is a reason this event is called commencement and not conclusion. Yes, it may conclude your formal education, at least on this campus, but it is the beginning of a new season of life. You may fin
Amy Fennegan|Aug. 17, 2017 What a beautiful sight! It is a privilege to stand before an audience as full of promise and potential as this one. As president of the BYU Alumni Association, it is my privilege to hereby confer on each of you graduates lifetime membership in the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. I offer you congratulations and welcome you into this great association of more than 415,000 alumni. Our alumni association had an ad campaign prompting us to remember our time at BYU with the tagline “Remember when; remember why.” We all have a BYU story. Recently I asked some of you graduates why you chose to come here. One of you said: Both of my parents went to BYU. Hearing their stories and seeing the relationships they built here made me want to have that experience for myself. Another graduate answered: I chose BYU because of the concentration of goodness I found when I first visited the campus. I can relate to these reasons. I fell in love with BYU at a young age, when my family lived in Heritage Halls for a couple of summers while my dad worked on his doctorate. But some of you might have had very different reasons for attending BYU. My husband came here on an athletic scholarship. He knew very little about Mormons then. Imagine his surprise on the first fast Sunday when the Cannon Center did not open for breakfast. Regardless of why we chose to attend this university, we all now have in common a BYU experience. Some of the fond memories that you graduates have shared with me include this one: Professors knew my name, wanted to hear about my life, and cared about me as a person. Another graduate shared the following: One of my professors asked our class to tour the Education in Zion exhibit. During my visit, I realized that I was part of something greater than just earning my bachelor’s degree. I realized the sacrifice that was required to build such an elite institution, and I realized that I had a part to play in continuing the tradition of educating Zion, wherever I went forth to serve. Finally, here is something recalled by another alum: We would meet for church every Sunday in the Clyde Building foyer. I will never forget watching from the long windows as the snow fell when I received the prompting that I should serve a mission. Our BYU stories have played a major role in shaping us. We all leave this place with memories and experiences that have shaped our future for good and serve as a springboard for the next phase of life. The BYU Alumni Association is really all about this next phase. Our purpose is to help you stay connected to BYU. One way alumni help that happen is by mentoring and supporting current students.
Kevin J Worthen|Aug. 17, 2017 I have long been fascinated by words and language. My children would call me a word nerd. I’m the kind of person who wonders why we drive on parkways and park on driveways. Think about it. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Similarly, have you ever wondered if a fly lost its wings, would we call it a walk? Again, you have to think about it—and now you know why my children groan a lot when I try to use my sense of humor. My love of language is one reason why I enjoy graduation ceremonies so much. At graduation we hear words that we don’t ordinarily use in everyday life. We use terms like cum laude, with either summa or magna attached as modifiers; these are not terms typically bandied about during the family dinner hour. Two of the terms we often hear at graduation are alma mater and alumni. In a few minutes Amy Fennegan will officially welcome you graduates as alumni of BYU, and upon graduation, BYU will become your alma mater. Again, these are not words that we use in many other settings. Interestingly, at least to me, and instructively, neither of these terms originated in connection with graduation or even higher education. Alma mater is a two-word Latin term that literally translated means “bounteous [or] nourishing mother.”1 In its early form, “it was a title given by the Romans to several goddesses but in particular to Ceres and Cybele, both representing fostering mother figures.”2 The association with higher education came many centuries later when the University of Bologna—which many identify as the first university in the Western world—adopted as its motto Alma mater studiorum, meaning “nurturing mother of studies.”3 Since that time alma mater has been used in a variety of ways at universities. And the idea that universities play a special “nurturing” role in the development of their students—somewhat like though not identical to that of a parent—has taken hold in American society to the extent that the prevailing definition of alma mater now is the university or college from which one has graduated.4 The term alumni similarly developed outside of academia and likewise referred to a special, almost parent-like relationship. In Rome, alumni was first used as a term that generally referred to “children abandoned by their parents and brought up in the home of someone else”5—what we might now call foster children. Over time the term alumni came to also refer to students or pupils in an educational setting. In this setting today it is worth noting that the two terms we hear often at graduation—alma mater and alumni—both originally referred to a special relationship, one very much like but also different from that between a parent and a child. M
Gayla M. Sorenson|Aug. 8, 2017 Since I first learned how, I have loved to talk. Marilyn and Denise, my two older sisters, used to set the kitchen timer for five minutes, challenging me to go that long without saying a word. I never once made it the whole five minutes. Talking in the kitchen to your siblings, however, is very different from talking in this concert hall to a large and diverse audience. Accordingly, I am both excited and humbled by this opportunity to speak to you. But I want this experience to be much more than just my talking to you. I want this experience to be one in which the Spirit teaches and edifies, and I appreciate the music and the prayer that have helped set the tone for this to take place. In addition to loving to talk—and in part because I love to talk—I love being a lawyer. As a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer for two reasons: First, I wanted to be different by going into a challenging profession in which not many women were employed—this was in the mid-seventies, when less than 20 percent of the attorneys in America were women.1 Second, I wanted to be rich. I didn’t have any clearly formed ideas of what I would do with the money I made, but in my small hometown of Brownfield, Texas, having a swimming pool in your backyard was a pretty big deal, and I think that was my primary aspiration at the time. As I found out more about being a lawyer, I learned of two outstanding attorneys: Rex E. Lee and Dallin H. Oaks. They were faithful members of the Church, and they had achieved very visible levels of professional excellence. They became my ideals. My choice of a major as a freshman at BYU was simplified when I discovered that they had both been accounting majors, so accounting was my choice as well. I was in heaven when I discovered that two of then BYU president Dallin Oaks’s sons not only were in my BYU ward but were assigned to my family home evening group. I had visions of dazzling them and finding myself a member of President Oaks’s inner circle. However, my Texas twang dashed these hopes. Upon learning I had an academic scholarship, one of my freshman friends informed me that I must be a lot smarter than I sounded. I accepted that I was not going to dazzle anyone, and I am still waiting for an entrée to Elder Oaks’s inner circle. Nevertheless, I held on to my desire to emulate him by studying the law, and I absorbed the content, organization, and cadence of his talks. I was likewise thrilled my freshman year to be invited to a lunch hosted by none other than Rex E. Lee, who was then dean of the still new J. Reuben Clark Law School. It was a privilege to meet him, and I still remember his infectious smile and how he made me feel important. He encouraged me to study law and helped me begin to see the powerful advantages a legal education had to offer—advantages that went beyond proving m
H. Dennis Tolley|May 13, 2003 Several years ago I visited an isolated oasis deep in the Gobi Desert in China. Some 80 miles from the nearest town, the oasis was in a small canyon that had been occupied by a handful of Buddhist monks for hundreds of years. In this incredibly isolated spot, the monks could avoid the temptations of the world and focus only on Buddhist teachings. In Latter-day Saint terms, these monks were trying to flee Babylon. Most of us have elected not to dwell in total isolation but to live in the civilized world. This decision requires us to interact daily with the world and to face the challenge of doing business in Babylon even as we attempt to follow the Lord’s command to “go . . . out . . . from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness” (D&C 133:14). Babylon the Great In the scriptures the Lord uses the words Babylon and Zion to refer to two archetypes of our temporal existence.1 Babylon represents the world, and Zion represents the pure in heart. But how did Babylon become the name for the archetypal rival to Zion? The city of Babylon predates Abraham. Located in modern-day southern Iraq, it was a thriving commercial center for more than 17 centuries. At its height it was the capital of a vast empire covering much of the Middle East. In about the fourth century B.C., the splendor and wealth of the city began to fade until, in about the second century A.D., Babylon ceased to exist. By ceased to exist, I mean it disappeared. Only piles of rubble and ruin remained. Until the last century, knowledge of the actual city was preserved only in the Bible and in a few references made by ancient historians. In its prime, Babylon had two features that were, at different times, counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Hanging Gardens and the city’s great exterior walls.2 The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were described as a series of arches arranged in a theater-like manner and ascending to the height of a seven-story building. This construction included 16-foot-long stone beams to bear the weight of the different tiers and a hydraulic system to pump water to the top of the structure, from whence it coursed through the gardens. The stone beams and parts of what scholars believe to be the hydraulic pump system were discovered about 100 years ago.3 The ancient historian Herodotus noted that the walls of Babylon were 335 feet high and 85 feet wide. The walls surrounded an approximately square city with a circumference of about 56 miles, according to Herodotus.4 One could fit BYU, Mapleton, Benjamin, Pleasant Grove, Geneva Steel, and everything in between within the walls described by Herodotus. One could drive two full-sized Hummers side-by-side atop the wall. Scholars today believe that the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar was a walled city the size of New York5 with a population of 250,000 or more.6 S
Robert D. Hales|Sep. 14, 2010 My beloved young friends and associates, it is a joy for me to be with you, and I want you to know what a blessing it is to be on this beautiful campus! There really is nothing like it in the whole world. I want to thank President Samuelson and all who make BYU possible. You are a light to the world, and you will become a brighter light as we go through this dispensation. Most of all, I am grateful for each of you, the students of this great university. Thank you for preparing yourselves to serve Heavenly Father’s children. And thank you for standing as a witness of the Savior “at all times and in all things, and in all places.”1 We love you. I believe you will look back on your decision to come to BYU as one of the most important choices of your life—a choice that will bless you and your families eternally. The choice to come to BYU is a choice that if you are obedient will make you independent of the things of the world. That is not easy. I begin with a few questions that are so simple I hope you will not dismiss them too quickly: Do you know who you are? Do you know what you have been given and what a glorious future you have? We are told we are children of God. We sing about it in Primary. We say it to others, hoping they will understand and believe it. But do we really know what it means? How recently have we thanked Heavenly Father that we were born in the covenant, that we are members of the Church, that we are at this university? Or, if we weren’t born in the covenant, have we thanked Him for the opportunities that we can make choices to be sealed in the temple so that we can receive the blessings of the covenant and pass them down to our posterity? For those born in the covenant or not, we have the same opportunities, if we make the right choices. This morning I would like to visit with you about our choices and blessings. Before coming to this earth we lived with Heavenly Father. He gave us the incomparable gift of agency. We had an opportunity to use that gift in a Grand Council with all His children. On that momentous occasion Heavenly Father presented a plan to become like Him and inherit all that He has. But Lucifer, our brother, rebelliously opposed this plan with one of his own—a plan that would give him the honor. He in fact said to the Father, “Give me thine honor.”2 But that would have destroyed the agency of man. Tragically, a third of our spiritual siblings used their agency to follow him. Like Cain, they “loved Satan more than God.”3 But we chose to follow our Savior, Jesus Christ. He chose, as we did, to accept our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. He offered to make that plan possible by being our Savior, saying, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”4 Just the simple words: “Father, send me.” By that singular choice, Jesus Christ made it possible for all of us to come
Julie Franklin|Dec. 5, 2006 During an exceptionally hectic morning my mind was full to overflowing as I thought about the stress of my day at work, family responsibilities, and additional large assignments I had at the time. I was trying to work out the physical and emotional commitment to each and was overwhelmed, knowing that one person with two hands and 24 hours in a day couldn’t possibly do it all. I turned on the car radio only to hear the kind of news that makes you want to cry. As all these things swirled through my brain, the thought came to mind: “So much for peace on earth, good will to men.” I wondered how the heavenly host at the birth of Christ could have possibly pronounced peace on earth and good will to men when normal people like me can be distracted by chaos, feel a lack of peace, and find a lack of evidence of good will. Because of that little experience and the musing I did, I decided to prepare this talk about peace and good will. I began my preparation with the scriptures and read the account of the angels’ appearance to the shepherds. I imagined how the shepherds must have felt, how startled they must have been, what the angel might have looked like, and how the heavenly host appeared. As I imagined the heavenly host, I saw a group of beautiful angels illuminated by heavenly light and expressing exquisite joy through song. My children are young, and in our home the expressions of happiness and joy are full-body experiences, so the angels in my thoughts were not standing still; in my imagination they were dancing for joy. Then I got to the verse in Luke from which I believe Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took his familiar phrase “peace on earth, good will to men.” The heavenly host sang out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”1 I used the tools available to me on the Web and several commentaries in the Harold B. Lee Library to learn as much as I could about this scripture. I found that all of the conference addresses that quote this particular verse speak primarily of peace. Peace is mentioned in the scriptures multiple times and good will only a small handful of times. The two ideas of peace and good will are found together only once, in Luke 2:14. Through all of my reading and studying I decided that from a purely cerebral standpoint I think I understand the “glory to God in the highest” part and the “on earth peace” part, but when it came to “good will toward men” I was stumped. My dictionary defines good will as “a desire for the well-being of others; benevolence,”2 but I couldn’t quite figure out how it fit into the verse. It had never occurred to me that I didn’t really understand the scripture I had read literally hundreds of times. I questioned if the angels commanded the people on earth to have “good will toward men” at the same time they pronounced peace on earth—that is, to have peace and be men of good will. I won
Jeffry H. Larson|July 14, 2009 Brothers and sisters, I am honored to be before you today in this devotional setting. I never imagined, as a BYU student in 1968, that in my future I would ever have something important enough to say that several hundred students would show up to hear me—unless, of course, they were getting course credit and I was taking roll! I appreciate the confidence others have shown in me by asking me to speak to you. Since I always start class with a joke or something humorous, I will do the same today to get you into a better mood and help me relax. I was recently searching the want ads in the newspaper and found some interesting ones. As an editor, I generally read things carefully. Evidently some people do not edit their ads before publishing them. Here are some I found: Illiterate? Write today for free help! Dog for sale: Eats anything and is fond of children. For sale: Antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers. Free puppies: Half cocker spaniel, half sneaky neighbor’s dog. Nice parachute! Never opened, used once. Now to more serious matters. When I was a young boy, 13 years old, I was about to enter junior high school in Grand Junction, Colorado. I am the oldest of five boys and thus felt some pressure to accomplish great things and be a good example for my four younger brothers. I expected that junior high would be difficult. I wouldn’t know all the kids, since in junior high we came from several different elementary schools. The thought of going from classroom to classroom made me wonder if I would get lost and look like a fool. I wondered: What if some of the teachers are mean? And I was most worried about how skinny I was at the time and about my new crop of pimples. (When you think about it, how does anyone survive junior high school?) Most of all I worried that I would not compete well academically with the other students, as being a scholar was my goal. So I was a bundle of nerves that summer of 1962. Fortunately I was blessed with a great mom who always seemed to be able to calm me down. Let me show you a photo of me making homemade fudge with my mother in 1953. The Salt Lake Tribune took the picture and published my mom’s great no-cook fudge recipe. This is where I got my sweet tooth! As I was worrying about starting junior high, my mom calmed me down with one of the wisest, most caring, and rational statements a mom could make to her worrywart son. She said, “Jeff, we don’t care what your grades are. All we expect is that you do your best. If you do your best, we will be proud of you regardless of your grades.” With that statement my anxiety was cut in half, and I started looking forward to junior high. After all, I could not control my final GPA, but I could control how hard I tried. I couldn’t control my intelligence, which was average—okay, maybe a little above average—how mean the teachers would be, ho
“My plea for you today is to learn how to fail successfully.”
—President Kevin J Worthen | BYU Devotional
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