Wisdom from the Wives of BYU Presidents

“The Lord’s ‘no’s’ are merely preludes to an even greater ‘yes.’” This quote comes from a devotional given by Patricia T. Holland when her husband, Jeffrey R. Holland, was the president of BYU. It is one inspirational quote of many from the “first ladies” of BYU. Thirteen different presidents and their wives have guided the university since its establishment in 1875.

Tradition holds that the president and his wife both speak at the first devotional of the semester, welcoming students and offering advice. Some of these talks are now landmark addresses. For example, the Hollands gave several speeches (“Some Things We Have Learned—Together”, “However Long and Hard the Road”, and “The Inconvenient Messiah”) back in the 1980s that are still widely read today. More recently, Peggy S. Worthen’s “The Allegory of the Wedding Cake” has been popular.

The wives of BYU’s presidents have a lot of wisdom to offer. From thoughts on patience to thoughts on progress, here are five quotes to ponder from the wives of BYU’s presidents:

Waiting upon the Lord

Patricia T. Holland, wife of Jeffrey R. Holland (president from 1980 to 1989)

“It may seem that God says ‘no’ or ‘not now’ or ‘I don’t think so’ when what we want for him to say . . . is an affirmative ‘yes’ or ‘certainly, right now’ or ‘of course it can be yours.’ I want you to know that in my life when I have had disappointments and delays, I have lived to see that if I continue to knock with unshakable faith and persist in my patience—waiting upon the Lord and his calendar—I have discovered that the Lord’s ‘no’s’ are merely preludes to an even greater ‘yes.’ I have learned in the twenty-five years since I was your age that the very delays and denials we worry about most, the very differences from each other that trouble our self-esteem, are the differences and delays that are the very best for our happiness and fulfillment. . . .

“One of the most important and fundamental truths taught in the scriptures and in the temple is that ‘Every living thing shall fill the measure of its creation.’ . . .

“The Lord uses us because of our unique personalities and differences rather than in spite of them. He needs all of us, with all our blemishes and weaknesses and limitations.”

—“Filling the Measure of Your Creation

Patricia T. Holland poses with Cosmo. Photo by BYU Magazine.

Patricia T. Holland poses with Cosmo. Photo by BYU Magazine.

The Road to Victory

Janet G. Lee, wife of Rex E. Lee (president from 1989 to 1995)

“We often feel inadequate, especially with the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. It is not out of the ordinary to feel this way when we are reaching up and stretching to climb higher. It is reassuring, however, that we are all afraid of failure. It is a common denominator among us. Our true test is how we embrace that fear. . . .

“Does this mean, however, that a willing heart guarantees immediate success? Usually the road to victory involves encountering a great many mistakes. The Lord wants us to learn from our mistakes because that is how we become strong. He does not expect us to be perfect, just to keep trying. . . .

“This is why every twenty-four hours our Father in Heaven gives us a brand-new day—a chance to correct yesterday’s mistakes. . . .We just get another chance to keep on trying. When we attempt anything new, it is easy to feel discouraged. No one is alone in that regard. Initial failure, or a less-than-desirable result, is the price we pay for learning anything new. Sometimes we compare ourselves with others who are more experienced or whom we perceive as being more gifted. At such times we want to give up, forgetting the process of progress and the road to perfection. As we read in Joshua, ‘Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed’ (Joshua 1:9).

—“Visualizing Our Success

President Rex E. Lee and his wife Janet G. Lee. Photo by BYUtv.

President Rex E. Lee and his wife Janet G. Lee. Photo by BYUtv.

Christlike Love

Marilyn S. Bateman, wife of Merrill J. Bateman (president from 1996 to 2003)

“Christlike love helps us overcome our natural fear of others. We may fear difference; we may worry about being hurt or slighted. But Christlike love is a love beyond fear. It reaches across the divide of difference. It is in our nature to serve our own interests or the interests of those closest to us. But charity takes us beyond our comfort zone. Suddenly we are less worried about whether others will approve of us. Our concern flows toward them regardless of their feelings for us.”

—“Love Changes Everything

Merrill J. Bateman and Marilyn S. Bateman. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

Merrill J. Bateman and Marilyn S. Bateman. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

Finding Joy and Gratitude

Sharon G. Samuelson, wife of Cecil O. Samuelson, Jr. (president from 2003 to 2014)

“We see in the world of today that many of us take for granted what we have. Our lives are often filled with so many activities—pulling us in different directions from dawn to dusk—that we may forget to ‘count our many blessings’ and to be thankful for each one.

“Do we find ourselves expressing our thanks for the obvious blessings in our lives such as family, home, gospel, educational opportunities, and so forth and then neglecting what one might consider ‘the little blessings’? I asked three of my grandchildren what they were thankful for and received the usual expected responses such as Mom, Dad, cousins, and so forth. Their expressions to me also included their thankfulness for a walk with Charlie, the neighbor’s dog; Toby, a goldfish; and Milo, a friend. Children are excited about life and see and appreciate many things of great value that grown-ups sometimes overlook. We can learn much from youngsters about finding joy and gratitude in life’s small blessings.”

—“Gratitude—A Commandment of God

Sharon Samuelson at the BYU Creamery. Photo by Mark A. Philbrick.

Sharon Samuelson at the BYU Creamery. Photo by Mark A. Philbrick.

Goals and God’s Will

Peggy S. Worthen, wife of Kevin J Worthen (current BYU president)

“Goals are a very significant part of our lives. Goals help us to keep focused. Goals help us plan for and attain the things that are important to us. . . .

“One way we can determine whether our goals are in line with those of Heavenly Father’s plan for us is to study our patriarchal blessings. . . . Patriarchal blessings are our own personal ‘road maps’ and help us to know what Heavenly Father has planned for us. We need to study them, especially when we set goals. What does your patriarchal blessing tell you? What does Heavenly Father want you to do?”

—“An Unexpected Path

Kevin and Peggy Worthen hiking the Y. Photo by BYU Photo.

Kevin and Peggy Worthen hiking the Y. Photo by BYU Photo.


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