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In the Darkness, What is Hope?

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Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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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
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Shape Your Life Through Service to Others

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

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

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

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

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Susan and I are delighted to meet with you as a new semester begins at Brigham Young University. I want to begin my message today by describing two important times of transition in my life that occurred on campuses sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first transition started in 1970 at BYU. I attended San Leandro High School in the East Bay Area of California from 1967 to 1970. It was a turbulent time, with anti–Vietnam War protests, political assassinations, and social upheaval. The Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and Telegraph Avenue near the campus of the University of California at Berkeley were two major epicenters of dramatic drug, music, sexual, and cultural revolutions. Only a few Latter-day Saints attended my high school, and my ward had a very small group of youth. I moved into Helaman Halls in August 1970 and quickly became acquainted with many remarkable LDS young men and young women. That fall semester was a life-changing time for me because of spiritually impactful sacrament meetings and service in my student ward, stimulating academic classes and supportive teachers, and a strong brotherhood that developed with my dorm friends as we played intramural sports, talked late into the night, and perpetrated typical freshman pranks and practical jokes. My experience at BYU was “(1) spiritually strengthening, (2) intellectually enlarging, and (3) character building” (I hope) and a preparation for “(4) lifelong learning and service.”1 And, most important of all, I met Susan Robinson on this campus after I had returned home from my mission in 1973. She has been the love of my life for almost forty-three years. The second transition started in 1997. Susan and I moved to Rexburg, Idaho, following an academic career spanning twenty years at three different universities. As I prepared for the fall semester in my new position as the president of then Ricks College, I remember my reaction when my secretary informed me about an annual temple day for staff and ­faculty at which I was to speak. I looked at her and asked quizzically, “Can we do that?” She responded quizzically, “You do know this is a Church school, don’t you?” Attending a temple session with staff and faculty colleagues was a wonderful new and energizing experience. The overt linking of spiritual enlightenment and intellectual inquiry was thrilling and, of course, had not been a part of my work at the public universities where I was a graduate student and faculty member. During my years of service in Rexburg, I experienced in powerful ways the spirit of the charge given to Karl G. Maeser by Brigham Young when this university in Provo was founded: I want you to remember that you ought not to tea
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Be 100 Percent Responsible

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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
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Seeking a Balanced Life

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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
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The Next Phase

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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.
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Alumni of Your Alma Mater

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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
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To Me He Doth Not Stink: Advocacy and Love

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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
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Living a Life of Service and Love: What Goes Around Comes Around

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I would like to begin my remarks today by paying tribute to my parents. It wasn’t until I began serving my mission that I realized some parents don’t value their children, don’t do everything within their power to make their lives better, and don’t help their children aspire to be the best they can be. I was one of the fortunate ones, along with my brother and sister, to be born into a family where I was loved, nurtured, and taught by loving parents. They had high expectations for me, but when I failed, they were still there to guide, encourage, and show me how to pick myself up and move forward. My parents, to the best of my knowledge, had never been very active in the Church. They encouraged us children to attend, but their attendance was infrequent. Yet it was from them that I learned how to live a Christian life. My father, in particular, was the kind of person who could never pass by someone who needed help. I recall a trip that we made from Salt Lake City to Bear Lake, where a weekend of clear blue water, swimming, water skiing, and fun awaited me. Our typical route was to go to Evanston, Wyoming, and then on to Bear Lake. About twenty miles to the southwest of Evanston, my father noticed a man was trying to flag down cars on the other side of the divided highway. My father could never pass by someone who needed help. He drove five miles up our side of the freeway until he found the first turnaround, drove back five miles, picked up the man who had run out of gas, went five miles in the wrong direction, turned around again, drove the twenty-five miles back to Evanston, helped the man get gas, and drove him back to his car. Being an impatient teenager, I was more than irritated at the long delay. After we finally got on our way, I asked my dad why would he go so far out of his way to help someone. Surely someone else would have stopped and given that man assistance. My dad simply responded, “What goes around comes around.” After seeing the confused look on my face, he further explained, “I believe that someday maybe you or I will be on the side of the road looking for help, and someone will return the favor.” Being ever the optimist, I replied, “I seriously doubt it.” So today I would like to title my talk “Living a Life of Service and Love: What Goes Around Comes Around.” We’ve heard this saying before in many different forms. The Boy Scout slogan: Do a good turn daily. Pay it back. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the golden rule. You reap what you sow. These are all well and good, but my dad lived by the mantra “What goes around comes around.” He would help anyone anytime and anywhere. But on the other hand, how many times have we heard or said that no good deed goes unpunishe
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The Call of the Lord

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Good morning, brothers and sisters. I first want to thank the Brigham Young University administration for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. It is always a pleasure to meet with the Saints. I also commend you for attending and watching these devotionals. When I first began my employment at BYU, a colleague of mine told me that if I attended devotionals, my work at the university would be blessed. I have certainly found that to be true. It is an honor to speak to you today, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will attend to help edify and uplift all of us. Since beginning employment at BYU, one of my greatest fears has been giving a devotional talk. However, when I prayed about the invitation to speak to you, I not only received confirmation to give this talk, but I also received the topic to cover. I thought I would start by telling you a little bit more about myself. I am originally from Rhode Island. I joined the Church as a graduate student in Logan, Utah, and I was fortunate enough to meet my wife, Andrea, while in graduate school. We have two boys: AJ, age twelve, and Andrew, age seven. My family is the love of my life, and I am extremely grateful that the Lord has blessed me with them. I also want to wish you all a happy Pioneer Day. I had not heard of this holiday before ­moving to Utah, but it is a day for which I am grateful. It is so important to remember our ancestors and the sacrifices they made for us. I am from a family of immigrants, so I can relate to the story of the pioneers, who traveled great distances and bore up under hardships seeking a better life. My grandfather Emilio Caldarella immigrated to the United States on the Gerty, a steamship from Pachino, Sicily, on June 28, 1906, at the age of eleven with his fourteen-year-old sister, Maria, and his forty-nine-year-old mother, Concetta. They had just twenty dollars between the three of them when they arrived. The voyage by steamship across the Atlantic took nearly three weeks. They first settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and eventually moved to Providence, Rhode Island. As I was preparing this talk, I began to wonder what had led people like my grandfather and the early pioneers to leave their homes and loved ones and travel long distances at great personal expense and sacrifice. As I pondered this question, I began to realize that they had heeded the call of the Lord. How else could they have made those long treks and withstood the hardships that often accompanied those experiences? When we are called of the Lord, we can withstand such challenges. I am a pioneer of sorts in that I am the first and only member of my family so far to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In my devotional talk today, I am going to use scriptures, hymns, art, quotes from Church leaders, and some of my own personal experiences.
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Of Dead Cats and Dead People: How Family History Can Save the World

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I am going to tell you two stories today: a short one about dead cats and a long one about dead people. Dead Cats First, dead cats. Now, I know you might be tired of so many talks beginning with stories about dead cats, but bear with me. My parents’ views on pets—cats or otherwise—could not have been more different. My mother grew up in a household that didn’t allow animals in the house; my dad grew up in a home where pets, at one point even including a monkey, were allowed inside. Over their sixty-some-odd years of marriage, my parents struck a bit of a compromise about pets in our home. Smaller cage-bound animals such as hamsters, snakes, frogs, toads, and fish were allowed inside, but larger animals such as cats, dogs, and any animal destined to become dinner stayed in the garage, the doghouse, or the chicken coop. Dogs were confined, but cats were free to roam. Well, they were free to roam as long as I didn’t pick them up and dress them in my dolls’ clothing—a fate most of them contemplated with a mixture of trepidation and resignation. When I was very young, we lived on a busy intersection with constant traffic. The combination of this location and the pet policy meant that cats—and there seemed to be an endless parade of them that somehow ended up at our house—rarely died of old age. I liked the cats and mourned their loss, and at some point I began to memorize the names and faces of all the cats who had lived, loved, and then shuffled off their mortal coils at our house. Eventually I was unable to keep all of the memories and names straight, and, concerned, I asked my mom whether all those cats would meet us in heaven and whether they would recognize us and we them. She assured me that they would—that the cats would remember me and I them. Forever. Now, the impact of that story isn’t so much about the cats, but it is about my mother’s assurances that relationships last, much like photographs of the two of us have lasted far beyond the moments they captured. Relationships are durable and meaningful—even beyond death. This idea was central to my childhood. As the youngest of nine children, I arrived after three of my four grandparents, a handful of cousins, and my brother had died. Knowing that death would not forever prevent me from knowing those people was deeply comforting and grounding. In a way, that early understanding about relationships has shaped my professional pursuits. I have spent my entire adult life studying relationships, particularly family relationships, and the power they have—for good or ill—to shape social, economic, religious, political, material, and emotional possibilities and realities. My research focuses mostly on eighteenth-century England. This means I study dead people and what they can teach us. As Thomas W. Laqueur put
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Women and Education: “A Future Only God Could See for You”

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It is wonderful to be here. This is not an opportunity I would have imagined for myself. It is truly a future only God could see for me. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows me—who knows my potential and who wants me to become like Him. I can’t wait to someday see like He does—to know everything and to see the future and not just the past. But for now I will stand like a little girl on my Father’s feet, holding His hands and trusting Him as He guides me through the dance of this life. As His daughter, I hope someday to grow up to be just like Him. I am trying to become more like Him now by learning as much as I can and by working to refine the spiritual gifts He has given me. Daughters of God Revelation given in the book of Joel speaks of the role of women in the latter days when it says that, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, . . .  . . . and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. [Joel 2:28–29] Your daughters shall prophesy! In these last days we are meant to seek and receive spiritual revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Like Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth, and Mary, women are meant to receive direct spiritual revelation through the gifts of the Spirit. Like Miriam (see Exodus 15:20), Deborah (see Judges 4:4), Huldah (see 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), and Anna (see Luke 2:36), we can develop the spiritual gift of prophecy and refine our ability to communicate with our Father in Heaven in ways that affect our own spiritual development and have a positive impact on the world around us.1 These spiritual gifts bring us closer to the image of God, in which we were created. Through her choice to partake of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, Mother Eve made it possible for each of us to exercise our agency in a world filled with choices, thereby providing a way for us to spiritually develop. I do not think it was an accident that by knowledge she opened a pathway that would allow us to become more like God. I believe this sets an eternal pattern. “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36), and we must likewise enhance our own inherent intelligence in order to become like Him and receive His ­spiritual gifts. How do we reach this divine potential? How do we strength
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Language Learning: A Truly Educational Experience

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Internationally, BYU is known as “the language university.” The 2017 edition of the pamphlet Y Facts reported that approximately 65 percent of BYU students speak more than one language. Let me do a quick survey to see if those assembled here today are representative of BYU students in general. If you know more than one language, please raise your hand. [The majority of the audience raised their hand.] I hope you realize how extraordinary it is that you have been given the gift of being able to communicate in more than one language. Think about it: language is the most complex of all human behaviors, and most of you can communicate in more than one language. The Complexity of Language Since we can all read English, I would like to demonstrate the complexity of language by giving you a simple English test. How would you read “St. Paul St.” aloud? You probably said, “Saint Paul Street.” And your response to this simple task was likely not only correct but automatic. But can you explain to another person the rule for determining what the abbreviation “St.” stands for? Perhaps you would say that “St.” before a noun is an abbreviation for “saint,” and “St.” after a noun is an abbreviation for “street.” Now test your rule on the following street sign, which I saw near Disneyland in California: “St. College St.” Oops, there is no saint named College! However, there is a state college, so we will have to refine our rule for pronouncing the abbreviation “St.” Yes, even simple language is complex. Language is so complex that we are often hard pressed to explain how it operates. Yet we are generally unaware of how complex language is. In some ways language is like the air we breathe: we don’t pay attention to it—unless there is something wrong with it. Because people don’t pay attention to language unless there is something wrong with it, you should not take compliments about your language skills too seriously. The fact that someone complimented you on your language is an indication that they noticed it—and that happens when there is something wrong with it. Early in my mission in Austria, I was quite confident of my German language ability. In fact, several members had told me how well I spoke German. Then one Sunday after I said a prayer in sacrament meeting, I overheard some members commenting on my language skills. One sister offered the critique, “War das nicht lieb? Genau wie ein kleines Kind!” Which means, “Wasn’t that sweet? Just like a little child!” The sister who made the comment was too kind to ever provide that honest feedback to me personally, so I was grateful that I had overheard the comment she had made to others. Her candid assessment let me know that I needed to improve my language skills. Another mission experience taught me how complicated it is to translat
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On Change and Becoming: Thoughts from a Reluctant Grower

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At some point after my first couple of years at BYU, a brother in my ward, who was retired from the BYU religion faculty, said, “Hey, you could speak at a devotional!” I don’t know why he thought I might be qualified for that, but I shrugged it off, thinking that if I sang often enough, I would surely be exempt from speaking. Just recently I had the thought that since I have been at BYU for ten years, I might need to lay low to dodge the devotional bullet. However, six weeks ago I received an email from Vice President Matt Richardson asking if I would be willing to speak at this devotional. I reluctantly replied that I would accept the challenge, though I am not sure that “happily” would describe my attitude. As I prayed for guidance on a topic, this thought came to me: “I am a reluctant grower.” I had never used that term before, though it seemed to suit me well, so I can only guess that the Spirit had coined that phrase just for me. Needing clarification on that phrase, I went to Google for a precise definition of reluctant. It said that reluctant is an adjective that means “unwilling and hesitant; disinclined.” Its synonyms include being “loath to, unwilling to, disinclined to, indisposed to; not in favor of, against, opposed to.” It’s antonyms include being “willing” and “eager.” The word reluctant originated in the mid-seventeenth century from the Latin word reluctant, which means “struggling against,” and from the verb reluctari: the prefix re- means “expressing intensive force” and the suffix luctari means “to struggle.” As a side note, the word ­reluctant is worth eleven points in Scrabble. Am I, as this definition says, unwilling, hesitant, and even disinclined to grow? I will refer to myself, since I am confessing that I am a reluctant grower, but feel free to insert your name where applicable. Am I Reluctant? What is it that sometimes makes me hesitant to face a growing opportunity? I am not against hard work. I bore both of my children while pursuing a doctorate, working two jobs, singing operas on the main stage at Indiana University (one of the top music schools in the country), and maintaining a 3.9 GPA. No, I am not opposed to hard work. Is it that I am not wanting to participate in activities? I am more than willing to fulfill my callings, go visiting teaching, take a dinner—that likely my good husband expertly cooked—to another family, or participate in my ward’s day of service. No, I am willing to do things that are asked of me. Am I afraid of the process of growing? Many times while sitting in Relief Society I will hear a sister say, “I prayed for patience” or “I prayed for charity.” I think, “Are you crazy?! Do you not know what challenges come when you pray for Christlike attributes?” They then proceed to tell of the tr
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B-Y-You Matter to Him

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Six years ago President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave a profound conference talk entitled “You Matter to Him.”1 In his talk he explained that God is the Creator of all things and yet is concerned about each one of us individually. Today I would like to build upon President Uchtdorf’s topic and title my remarks “BYU Matters to Him.” However, I would like to redefine the acronym for Brigham Young University as B-Y-You, as in you (y-o-u). Thus the title of my address is “B-Y-You Matter to Him.” This past semester one of my students submitted the following account. With her permission, I share her tender feelings about when she first arrived at BYU: Leaving everything you have known for the entirety of your life to attend a university that is 547 miles away is difficult. You can no longer lean on the support of your family and friends; you can no longer enjoy the safety and security of your home; you can no longer simply follow your parents. Your life is in your own hands, and it is terrifying. I distinctly remember the hurricane of emotions I experienced as I bid farewell to my dad as he drove away, leaving me standing outside my dorm with five people I had never met. I had to make my own food, and I felt sorely unprepared. Actually, I felt more than unprepared—I felt absolutely and entirely lost. My student then went on to describe her feelings that day as those of “ultimate vulnerability.”2 As I pondered my student’s feelings of vulnerability and isolation, I felt a personal surge of déjà vu from when I first arrived at BYU some forty-seven years ago. My student’s account stirred within me some tender and painful emotions from decades past. I suspect that many of you here today can also recall the daunting memories of when you first arrived on this campus. As I address you today, perhaps some of you find yourself in the throes of similar feelings of trepidation or of being lost. The Greatness of BYU I do not mean to minimize these feelings of loneliness or intimidation, but they present a marked contrast to the feelings we first had when we were accepted to BYU. Consider the following glossy accolades and advantages of attending Brigham Young University. BYU consistently ranks in the top 25 percent of national universities.3 BYU is in the top five of the best value universities4 and costs around $30,000 less per year than other private schools.5 Consequently, BYU students graduate with substantially less debt.6 BYU is the number-one stone-cold sober university,7 and students will never have to tolerate drunk classmates or professors. Also, BYU has launched more of its ­students into PhD programs than Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.8 Upon arrival, every student here has a church unit waiting to receive and support them. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the students

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