A Consecrated Faculty
August 26, 2014
August 26, 2014
I begin today by paying tribute to President Cecil O. Samuelson and his wife, Sister Sharon G. Samuelson. The Samuelsons were asked by President Gordon B. Hinckley to lead the university for what they expected would be five to seven years, and they were here for eleven. President and Sister Samuelson had longtime and deep personal, family, and professional ties to the University of Utah. Yet because of their profound faith, when the call came to serve here, they turned immediately from red to blue, inside and out. Their loyalty to BYU went much deeper than duty.
President Samuelson has been a remarkable leader: insightful and incisive, with the wisdom and experience of a seasoned administrator in a variety of settings. He was unapologetic about his high academic standards. Despite his driven interest in the institution of BYU, he quietly made himself available to individuals who sought his listening ear and counsel. He was guided by an absolute commitment to do what was right, not what was popular. He had the ability to capitalize on the strengths of those around him, despite being acutely aware of their weaknesses.
The university was everything in the Samuelsons’ lives from early morning to late night, seven days a week, and in my interactions with them I never once heard them complain. While he would never want it to be said this way because he has no need for acclaim, President Samuelson has left an indelible mark on the university. Programs are stronger, processes are improved, and resources are more carefully administered. For the Samuelsons’ service we can be deeply grateful.
President Samuelson leaves a stronger university in the hands of our new president, Kevin J Worthen. President Worthen brings a long history with and deep love for BYU to his new assignment. He is well prepared to assume this responsibility. He is an academic who is distinguished in his own career in the J. Reuben Clark Law School, and he is fiercely committed to the Church, which sponsors BYU, and to the BYU Board of Trustees, whose support and direction are a vital part of BYU and our mission.
President Worthen has already shown himself to be accessible, student oriented, an authentic listener, and a willing and ready learner, and he enjoys a good laugh. He is collegial and congenial, and while he is a quick study, he is also deliberative and collaborative in his decision making. By his side is his wife, Peggy, who, by President Worthen’s own admission, is a primary motivating and inspiring force behind his leadership. I welcome President Worthen by saying what the board already knows: They and we can be confident that firm, capable, and experienced hands are at the helm of Brigham Young University.
From the very establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ in this dispensation, the education of the Latter-day Saints has been a prophetic priority. For 180 years Church presidents have spoken emphatically regarding the centrality of education in our doctrine. The eternal implications of learning in this life were defined by revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.”
Let me share a sampling of statements from past presidents. President Brigham Young, who had little formal education, counseled, “Learn everything that the children of men know, and be prepared for the most refined society upon the face of the earth” (JD 16:77).
President John Taylor declared:
We ought to foster education and intelligence of every kind; cultivate literary tastes; and men of literary and scientific talent should improve that talent and all should magnify the gifts which God has given unto them. . . . But with all our getting, we want to get understanding, and that understanding which flows from God. [JD 20:48]
From President Lorenzo Snow:
We ought to understand that we have espoused a system of religion that is calculated in its nature to increase within us wisdom and knowledge. . . .
The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement—mentally, physically, morally, and spiritually. No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint. [The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow: Fifth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 26–27]
President Joseph Fielding Smith, an extraordinary scholar in his own right, counseled:
Speaking from an eternal viewpoint, we hope to continue learning until we become like the Lord and know all things and have eternal life in his kingdom.
But even here and now, in this life, there are few things as important as proper education. [“Educating for a Golden Era of Continuing Righteousness,” BYU campus education week address, 8 June 1971, 1]
And, more recently, from President Gordon B. Hinckley:
We live in a world where knowledge is developing at an ever-accelerating rate. Drink deeply from this ever-springing well of wisdom and human experience. If you should stop now, you will only stunt your intellectual and spiritual growth. Keep everlastingly at it. [TGBH, 171; quoting “A Three-Point Challenge,” BYU commencement address, 27 April 1995]
Finally, perhaps President Spencer W. Kimball described the importance of education to the Latter-day Saints most succinctly when he delivered to the BYU community on the 100-year anniversary of the university what has come to be known as the “Second Century” address: “We understand, as few people do, that education is a part of being about our Father’s business” (“The Second Century of Brigham Young University,” BYU devotional address, 10 October 1975; see also excerpted text in “Climbing the Hills Just Ahead: Three Addresses,” in John W. Welch and Don E. Norton, eds., Educating Zion [Provo: BYU Studies, 1996], 73).
In addition to these statements, our history as a Church shows a continual emphasis on providing opportunities for education in policy and process, often in the face of great challenge. Just two years into the history of the fledgling Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lord directed the establishment of the School of the Prophets. The curriculum for the school included such diversity as astronomy, geology, archaeology, physics, chemistry, biology, history, prophecy, current events, foreign affairs, international relations, geography, and other areas. In 1834, under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, a school for the education of young men and women was established in Kirtland, Ohio. Then, shortly after some of the Church members moved to Independence, Missouri, a frontier school was established. Parley P. Pratt was called to administer the school, which convened once a week in the open air. After being driven from Independence in 1833, the Saints established new headquarters in Far West. The official history of Caldwell County notes, “There were many teachers among them and schoolhouses were among their first buildings” (HC 3:XLIII, note; quoting History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri [St. Louis: National Historical Company, 1886], 121).
When the Saints reached Illinois, not only was primary education a continuing priority for Church leadership, but a vision for higher education also emerged. In 1840 Joseph Smith petitioned the Illinois legislature not only for a charter for the new city of Nauvoo but for a university charter as well. Requests for both charters were granted. The legislative act stipulated:
Sec. 24. The City Council may establish and organize an institution of learning within the limits of the city, for the teaching of the Arts, Sciences, and Learned Professions, to be called the “University of the City of Nauvoo,” which institution . . . shall have all the powers and privileges for the advancement of the cause of education which appertain to the Trustees of any other College or University of this State. [HC 4:243–44; quoting The City Charter: Laws, Ordinances, and Acts of the City Council of the City of Nauvoo (Nauvoo, Illinois: City Council of Nauvoo, 1842), 7; see also Ernest L. Wilkinson and W. Cleon Skousen, Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny (Provo: BYU Press, 1976), 12]
The University of the City of Nauvoo was “the first municipal university in America” (Milton Lynn Bennion, Mormonism and Education [Salt Lake City: Department of Education of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1939], 22; see also School of Destiny, 12). It seems quite ambitious to be concerned with university education when the community was still draining swampland to make way for homes and farms.
After settling in the Rocky Mountains, the pioneers continued their emphasis on education. In October 1847, barely three months after the arrival of the first party of pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, the first school was opened. Within two years there would be schools in most of the Mormon settlements in the West. Buildings to accommodate these schools were the first public structures to be erected in each settlement and were often built in a community effort before pioneers had completed the construction of their own homes. It was not uncommon for instruction to begin before the schoolhouse was constructed.
On February 28, 1850, following the Nauvoo pattern, the territorial legislature authorized the establishment of the University of the State of Deseret. This was the first public university west of the Mississippi. It would eventually become the University of Utah, which ultimately achieved its stature as a state institution independent of the Church. The need for a school that would be free to integrate principles of the restored gospel with traditional dimensions of learning led to the establishment of Brigham Young Academy in 1875 under Karl G. Maeser’s leadership. The Academy’s successor, Brigham Young University, was officially born in 1903. The history of hardship and heaven’s hand in the early years of the Academy and subsequently Brigham Young University has been discussed in past annual university conferences.
It is abundantly clear from this brief history that education has been crucial in the hearts and minds of Church leaders and members and that it was pursued against great odds. Prophet leaders concerned themselves personally with integrating learning into the lives of Church members. In the early days of the restored Church, the establishment of education required faculty of devotion and commitment. Elder Parley P. Pratt—the apostle and appointed administrator of the frontier school in Independence, Missouri, that I mentioned earlier—recorded that he walked six miles to the open-air school, often barefoot, to teach there (see PPP, chapter 13; see also School of Destiny, 11). In March 1851, George A. Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was dispatched by President Brigham Young from Salt Lake City to the new Utah territory cities of Parowan and Cedar City to help establish schools. Elder Smith described the primitive learning environment in his diary:
Monday, March 3rd, 1851. My wicky-up is a very important establishment, composed of brush, a few slabs, and 3 wagons. A fire in the center and a lot of milking stools, benches and logs placed around, two of which are fashioned with buffalo robes. It answers for various purposes, kitchen, school-house, dining room, meeting house, council house, sitting room, reading room, store room. To see my school some of the cold nights in February, scholars standing round my huge camp fire, the wind broken off by the brush and the whole canopy of heaven for covering. Thermometer standing at 7°, one side roasting while the other freezing requiring a continual turning to keep as near as possible an equilibrium of temperature. I would stand with my grammar book, the only one in school, would give out a sentence at a time and pass it around. Notwithstanding these circumstances, I never saw a grammar class learn faster for the time. [Quoted in John Clifton Moffitt, The History of Public Education in Utah (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1946), 20; also quoted in School of Destiny, 15]
The faculty of Brigham Young Academy often worked only for the garden produce their pupils’ families could contribute as tuition. Shortly after the year 1900, during the administration of President George H. Brimhall at the Academy, teachers were paid only one-third of their salaries in cash, with the balance paid in scrip. The scrip was used as trade currency, was often discounted relative to cash at local stores, and was without value outside of Utah Valley.
Faculty compensation in the early years of Brigham Young University was a perennial problem. This was particularly acute in the depression years. In 1929, during the administration of President Franklin S. Harris, BYU boasted a complement of eighty-five faculty members. That number grew to 115 by 1934, despite the lowest Church budget appropriation to BYU in a decade. The growth in faculty was possible in part because the faculty accepted a 10 percent pay cut in 1932. In a letter to the Church commissioner of education, President Harris wrote:
While everyone, of course, regrets that conditions make retrenchment necessary, they voted one hundred per cent to cooperate with the Church Board in the matter. I was really delighted with the spirit of the faculty in which they recognized the problems that confront the authorities of the Church in these days of financial depression. [Letter from Franklin S. Harris to Joseph F. Merrill, 7 March 1932; quoted in School of Destiny, 290]
The next year, 1933, with a further deteriorating economy, President Harris announced to the faculty an additional one-eighth salary cut and advised them that compensation in coming years would be provisional, without a specific commitment as to salary (see School of Destiny, 290). It might also be interesting to note that the total Church appropriation to BYU in 1939 during President Harris’s tenure was $320,000—the equivalent today, $5.49 million, is significantly less than the current total operating budget for most of our academic colleges.
The Lord’s emphasis on education has been strong and sustained. The dedication of this founding faculty to BYU early in the university’s history is humbling. We are the beneficiaries of the toil of early colleagues who built BYU at considerable personal sacrifice. Indeed, the faculty were consecrated. They were united in their devotion to the special purpose of BYU, willingly offering their time and talents in this cause.
Now, here, with some 1,500 faculty, 10 million square feet of well-maintained academic and support space, a beautifully groomed campus, superb computer facilities, a world-class library, and well-prepared students, we are no longer living on donated turnips and warming ourselves in ill-equipped, borrowed buildings. Although we are far more richly and stably resourced today, there is no less need for a consecrated faculty at BYU. Consecration is not just about sacrifice, though sacrifice is indeed a part. Consecration is about making our offering sacred.
In his short time in office, President Worthen has already made it an emphasis to remind us of the mission of BYU, which “is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” (The Mission of Brigham Young University and The Aims of a BYU Education [Provo: BYU, 2014], 1).
The Aims of a BYU Education are to provide an educational experience that is “(1) spiritually strengthening, (2) intellectually enlarging, and (3) character building, leading to (4) lifelong learning and service” (Mission and Aims, 5). We have heard it said on many occasions that there is no reason for a Church-sponsored BYU if our objective is only to be a very fine university. Said President Kimball:
For while you will do many things in the programs of this university that are done elsewhere, these same things can and must be done better here than others do them. You will also do some special things here that are left undone by other institutions. [“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 64]
There can be little question that the board of trustees expects us to do the traditional work of university business more effectually than it is done elsewhere. But we are asked to do more. President David O. McKay taught the BYU community nearly eighty years ago:
Brigham Young University is primarily a religious institution. It was established for the sole purpose of associating with facts of science, art, literature, and philosophy the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .
Such teaching is given effectively not necessarily in a formal theology class, but in literature, art, geology, biology, and other classes. [“The Church University,” Messenger 11, no. 10 (October 1937): 3, 4; see also Educating Zion, 10, 12; see also Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, 4 vols. (Provo: BYU Press, 1975–76), 4:185]
I readily acknowledge that what we are attempting here is difficult. We are asked to do much more than what we might be asked to undertake in a faculty appointment elsewhere. This task includes not just world-class teaching and world-changing research. We are asked to change lives. This is precisely why each BYU faculty member is selected for hire because of the foundation of superb research training and extraordinary preparation to teach the discipline and, beyond that, a distinctive credential that qualifies him or her to fulfill BYU’s imposing mission. Because of the unique nature of this university and the faculty who make it so, it might be said that every gathering of students on this campus is both a class and a congregation in which faculty sensitively and appropriately respond to the charge to weave together the sacred and the secular. Brigham Young University’s mission cannot be achieved and the university cannot reach its prophetic destiny without a consecrated faculty. That we hold such an individual and collective vision is central to BYU’s very existence. Again, from President Kimball:
Your double heritage and dual concerns with the secular and the spiritual require you to be “bilingual.” As scholars you must speak with authority and excellence to your professional colleagues in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things. We must be more bilingual, in that sense, to fulfill our promise in the second century of BYU. [“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 64]
I would like to note that President Kimball referred to fulfilling our “promise” rather than our “potential” or our “possibilities.”
The university’s mission guides all that we are about here: faculty hiring, retention, and promotion; faculty development; annual stewardship evaluations and compensation decisions; curriculum development; teaching in the classroom, laboratory, studio, field, and clinic; assessment of learning; scholarly and creative work; and more. Some of those critical university functions are evaluative in nature. A spirit of consecration doesn’t make those often-difficult tasks less personal or less painful, but it does make the decisions more principled.
The beautiful and mature BYU garden from which we are now harvesting fruit was planted by consecrated faculty of the past. The faculty of today and the future will cultivate that garden and see it flourish. For such devoted faculty, work at the university is a natural part of their lives and mirrors their service at home and in the Church. Whereas the lives of academics elsewhere are often one-dimensional, with attention given only to activities that will advance their careers, I find it remarkable that faculty in this gathering freely give of their time in Church service wherever they are called.
Examples abound. You are likely seated in this meeting next to a PhD-prepared nursery leader, Relief Society teacher, or Scoutmaster.
Jan Scharman, student life vice president and faculty member in Counseling and Psychological Services, just completed a term as Young Women president in her ward.
Scott Holden of the School of Music was educated at Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music, has performed domestically and abroad, and has mentored students who have won national and international performance competitions. Early in his BYU career he served as the Primary pianist in his ward.
These examples are representative of all of you whose lives of seamlessly blended service across home, work, and Church make this faculty extraordinary. Where else but at BYU would such dedication be encountered among such distinguished academics? This is, in part, why the board of trustees cares as much about who you are as they do about what you know. The lessons students learn in observing the priorities in the lives of their faculty mentors are among the most lasting that they will take with them from this campus.
A united embrace of our mission elevates our aspirations and goals. We unashamedly celebrate the individual accomplishments of our colleagues in their disciplines. However, as I mentioned in my remarks in this setting last year, our distinguished colleagues here understand that humility is central to all learning and that it underpins the commitment of this institution to the collective good. In his address at the inauguration of President Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Neal A. Maxwell reminded us of the real motivation for our work at the university: “Brigham Young University seeks to improve and ‘sanctify’ itself for the sake of others—not for the praise of the world, but to serve the world better” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Greetings to the President,” Addresses Delivered at the Inauguration of Dallin Harris Oaks [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1971], 1; quoted in Kimball, “Second Century”).
Those many among us who merit attention and acclaim for their distinguished academic records have no need to seek it. And frankly, those who don’t seek it are so much more pleasant to work with. I am grateful that at BYU we have the professional and spiritual maturity to revel in the successes of the students, our colleagues, and the university.
Your dedicated vision of BYU’s purpose causes you to serve beyond your own careers and beyond what the university can provide to you in advancement of your own professional agenda. In a talk to the BYU community entitled “Education for Eternity,” President Spencer W. Kimball noted, “This university is not the place for mercenaries” (pre-school address to BYU faculty and staff, 12 September 1967; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 50).
Yes, we are ambitious, but appropriately so, both individually and institutionally. The employment “package” for faculty at a university may include expectations and provisions: expectations for teaching, curriculum development, scholarship, committee work and more, as well as provisions for salary, travel support, assistants, laboratory or studio space, necessary supplies, and such. At BYU that package also includes the obligation and opportunity for the kind of special student interaction that is the personality of BYU.
The focus on students’ welfare and progress is at the very core of this consecrated faculty. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report includes the results of a survey of more than 30,000 college graduates across the United States. The study was designed to identify elements of college experience that yield long-term success for graduates. Survey questions sought to gauge graduates’ well-being in five areas:
• Purpose well-being
• Social well-being
• Financial well-being
• Community well-being
• Physical well-being
Graduates’ well-being in these areas was rated on a spectrum from “thriving” to “suffering.” The study revealed that—independent of the type or size or admission selectivity of the college or university attended—graduates were twice as likely to thrive in all areas of well-being if they felt their college prepared them well for life outside of it. Similarly, the odds of graduates thriving in all areas nearly double when the students agree that their college was passionate about their long-term success.
It should be troubling to American higher education that only 3 percent of college graduates across the United States were found to be thriving in all areas of well-being, down from 26 percent in the decade of the 1960s. In a truly stunning finding, the survey found that graduates who in their college studies (1) “had a professor who cared about them as a person,” (2) had a professor who “made them excited about learning,” and (3) had a mentor who “encouraged them to pursue their dreams” were more than twice as likely to be engaged at work and were nearly three times as likely to be thriving as those who didn’t feel supported in these three specific ways. Among all survey respondents, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) had a professor who excited them about learning while only one-quarter (27 percent) felt their professors cared about them, and only one-fifth (22 percent) had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue goals. How many graduates experienced all three? Only one in seven (14 percent). These data are sobering. (See Great Jobs, Great Lives: The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, gallup.com/strategicconsulting/168791/gallup-purdue-index-inaugural-national-report.aspx.)
The study illustrates how far-reaching our potential impact is on students, both in and out of the classroom. This kind of interaction is and should be natural to us at BYU. In his 1975 address, President Kimball stated, “Education on this campus deliberately and persistently concerns itself with ‘education for eternity’” (“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 64). Educating for eternity is timely counsel to us in a day when American universities seem to be struggling even to educate for time only. I suspect that all of us are here today in large part because of a professor who took an interest in and inspired, encouraged, and mentored us. Examples of such mentoring are found in every department and program across this campus. Surely we are doing better than our national peer institutions, and as we begin a new academic year, perhaps we can do better than we are doing now.
Our faculty sees the potential in students and cultivates it. Two relatively recent faculty hires in the School of Accountancy, Bill Tayler and Steve Smith, have facilitated the formation of a student club in the school. This year a student team from the club participated in the National Case Competition of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). That the student group did well in the competition is not surprising; the university regularly sees success among our students in these competitions. The circumstances surrounding their success are what make this particular case extraordinary.
The IMA selected the BYU student team as the winner of this year’s competition without the team personally appearing in the final presentation round. Because the BYU team told the IMA before the competition that they would not participate in the final round, as it was scheduled for a Sunday, the organization invited the team instead to record their final presentation in front of a live audience and submit their presentation on a DVD for judging. The recording was shown during the final round while all other student presentations were live. At the awards luncheon the IMA announced that BYU had won the competition, although there was no one from the team to accept the award because the awards ceremony was held on Sunday.
There are three dimensions of this singular experience that are remarkable. First, and perhaps most obvious, we have extraordinary students who rise to the top in any comparative setting. Second, this illustrates the impact of interested and unselfish faculty providing extra-mile mentoring to students. And third, when our programs and their products are superb, we are taken seriously and accommodated by external entities that are respectful of our unique positions. Indeed, when we are superb, the decisions of such professional entities are themselves questioned if we are excluded.
The university’s signature emphasis on student mentoring was perhaps foreseen, as evidenced by a statement by President Kimball:
We can do much in excellence and, at the same time, emphasize the large-scale participation of our students. . . . We can bless many and give many experience while, at the same time, we are developing the few select souls who can take us to new heights of attainment. [“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 73]
The consecrated faculty at BYU are content, but they are never satisfied. We are generously resourced, and I often hear you express gratitude for those resources. But BYU faculty are, after all, humans as well as academics and could always consume more resources—more space, more funding, more travel, etc. When I say BYU faculty are “content but never satisfied,” I mean to observe that in the quest for excellence you refuse to be limited by limitations in resources. As an undergraduate student at BYU in the years 1952 to 1954, David Dalton, emeritus professor of viola in the School of Music, took classes in the Knight Mangum Hall—which was called the Social Hall at the time. Music students and faculty struggled with inadequate facilities in that era but made do through determination and dedication. Student practice rooms were not available, so students were left to their own initiative and ingenuity for private practice. From Professor Dalton’s own description, I quote:
Of the various options available, nothing seemed adequate for enterprising music students who were keenly aware of the hours needed to hone one’s craft in private. One day, while hoping to find a space—any space—to try and perfect solo Bach or my concertmaster solos on the violin, I espied a possibility that I was convinced had never been thought of before: the small, yes, intimate janitor’s closet in a narrow hallway.
First, I sleuthed it out regarding frequency of use. Typically it was used early morning, midday, and late afternoon. Second, I took measurements with the eye of the interior. Here might be a problem. I didn’t dare rearrange brooms and mops or remove buckets and cleaning solvents. All must be left as I found it.
Ready for the final test, I took my violin inside and started playing. If I used a full bow, I came dangerously close to ramming the tip into the wall or plunging the frog into a mop. What to do? I surveyed and discovered that the room wasn’t square but slightly rectangular. If I repositioned myself 90 degrees, everything worked! Barely. [Private communication with David Dalton]
As a result of Professor Dalton’s undergraduate study, he qualified for entrance to the Eastman School of Music with the world’s foremost violist, William Primrose. Professor Dalton returned to join the BYU School of Music faculty in 1963, and over the course of a nearly four-decade career, his artistry and research led him to receive in 2014 the prestigious International Viola Society’s Golden Clef Award, which the society has awarded only one other time in its history. Whatever resource constraints we have or think we have, history would suggest we have no basis for complaint. While real needs exist on campus, in terms of influence on students, a single faculty member far outweighs beautifully appointed buildings or state-of-the-art equipment. With the level of support we enjoy, our accomplishment is limited only by our vision and our effort.
A consecrated faculty is committed to excellence and is passionate about learning—both their own learning through their scholarly pursuits and that of their students in all the various settings in which students are engaged. Such a faculty will never be satisfied with mediocrity or limited influence. Thirty-nine years ago President Kimball invited us to lengthen our stride and quicken our step (see “Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 74). He further declared, “While the discovery of new knowledge must increase, there must always be a heavy and primary emphasis on transmitting knowledge—on the quality of teaching at BYU” (“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 68).
Our theology seeks perfection. Isn’t that a sobering thought in the context of our university assignment? We must actively aspire to teaching that delivers instructional material effectively, stretches students, encourages critical thinking, and evaluates and adjusts its material and methods regularly as warranted. Another second-century charge, perhaps more relevant today than ever before, sets the standard for our teaching: “We must be certain that the lessons are not only taught but are also absorbed and learned” (Kimball, “Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 68).
President Kimball continued:
We do not want BYU ever to become an educational factory. It must concern itself with not only the dispensing of facts but with the preparation of its students to take their place in society as thinking, thoughtful, and sensitive individuals who . . . come here dedicated to love of God, pursuit of truth, and service to mankind. [“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 69]
We must pursue scholarship of enduring value, appearing in the finest venues and attracting the respected attention of our peers in the field. In that effort we are promised a competitive edge: that a faithful faculty will have access to heaven’s help. Again, from President Kimball:
We expect the natural unfolding of knowledge to occur as a result of scholarship, but there will always be that added dimension that the Lord can provide when we are qualified to receive and he chooses to speak. [“Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 71]
These are lofty aspirations for excellence, which, unfortunately, can be lost in the grind of grading papers and revising rejected manuscripts. We are doing well and improving on all fronts. I hope this reminder of the prophetic vision for BYU will inspire us in our day-to-day work. Consecration means work—hard work, long work, often repetitive work, and work that is variously frustrating and fruitful. As we fully understand the noble cause in which we are engaged, it will surely be satisfying. Our past BYU president Ernest L. Wilkinson said, “Dreams and prophetic utterances are not self-executing. They are fulfilled only by righteous and devoted people making the prophecies come true” (School of Destiny, 876; quoted in Kimball, “Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 74).
In offering these observations on the character and activity of consecrated faculty, I am careful not to suggest an institutional change in emphasis on any aspect of our faculty stewardship. The learning of our students and our own learning are coupled. The special spiritual nature of BYU is not an excuse for mediocrity in teaching or research. I am urging that our efforts in rigorous disciplinary instruction and high-quality scholarly work be celebrated and elevated as a model for President Joseph Fielding Smith’s declaration that “knowledge comes both by reason and by revelation” (“Educating for a Golden Era,” 2; quoted in Kimball, “Second Century”; see also excerpted text in Educating Zion, 71).
Admittedly, there are a finite number of hours in a faculty member’s workday (usually ten or twelve), and our activities must be approached with a careful balance to ensure that no aspect of university responsibility is neglected. With appropriate management facilitated by heaven’s help, all areas of faculty stewardship will be cooperative rather than competitive, with complementary outcomes. Hundreds of you are demonstrating this to be so.
I conclude today with my hope for a tremendously successful year and with the prayer that the spirit of consecration will propel us to even greater effectiveness in all dimensions of our sacred stewardship at the university, for one cannot speak of consecration without also speaking of stewardship. In the coming year may we pursue excellence with energy and with confidence of success, involving and shaping students in the full BYU endeavor defined in our mission.
“Shall we not go on in so great a cause?” (D&C 128:22). Indeed, we shall go on in this great cause, magnified by the fruit of consecrated service that lifts us far beyond our own abilities and extends our humble influence to that envisioned by those who have foreseen the destiny of Brigham Young University.
© Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.
Brent W. Webb was academic vice president when this address was delivered at the BYU annual university conference faculty session on 26 August 2014.