Quentin L. Cook|Feb. 07, 2017 The text for this devotional is forthcoming.
Douglas D. Holmes|Jan. 17, 2017 Brothers and sisters, it is difficult to express what a surreal experience it is for me to stand at this pulpit and speak at a BYU devotional. For many years I have been somewhat of a BYU devotional junkie. When I was a student here, I discovered that you could purchase cassette tapes of selected devotional talks, and I bought several. I remember well Stephen R. Covey’s talk “An Educated Conscience.”1 Listening to Truman G. Madsen’s talk “House of Glory” was perhaps the best temple preparation I received.2 Nowadays I have the BYU Speeches podcast and listen regularly. In all my years of listening to these devotionals, it never occurred to me that I would be speaking in one. Since receiving this assignment a few months ago, I have pondered and prayed earnestly to know what the Lord would have me share. As I pondered, I was reminded of these words from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Strength comes . . . from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most. Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.3 We live in days in which the mists of darkness are “exceedingly great.”4 Satan is “the father of lies,”5 and his lies “blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men.”6 One of Satan’s subtle but more pervasive strategies is to distract us from the things that matter most with a never-ending array of mind-numbing trivialities. With President Uchtdorf’s counsel burning in my heart, I will focus today “on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ”—“the sublime . . . path of Christian discipleship.” My great desire is for each of us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.”7 My message is centered in that quest and how we can be more diligent, joyful, and successful in that journey. As you begin a new year and a new semester, I hope that some of what I say will help you focus your goals on “the divine things that matter most.” I invite you to pay close attention to what the Holy Ghost whispers to your heart during our time together. More important than the words I speak, I pray that your hearts and minds will be open to receive light and truth from the Holy Ghost. The light and truth that the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel has brought about can push away all darkness from our minds and lives. We need to remember that the Lord has also described our day as “noon-day.”8 Our Identity A foundational truth we need
Kevin J Worthen|Jan. 12, 2017 Each year Oxford Dictionaries selects a word of the year—“a word, or expression, that . . . is judged to reflect the . . . mood . . . of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” Past selections include unfriend in 2009 and selfie in 2013. In 2015 the word of the year was not a word but a pictograph: the “face with tears of joy” emoji.1 Recently, Oxford Dictionaries announced that the word of the year for 2016 is post-truth, a word they define as “an adjective . . . denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”2 Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, explained the selection: “Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time. . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time.”3 Reflecting this view, several commentators have recently asserted that we live in a post-truth world, or a world in which truth “has become unimportant or irrelevant.”4 It is hard to know with certainty whether truth is really less important than it has been in the past. But it is clear that because we live in a digital age, in which there is so much information and there are so many different contending views of what is accurate, some people find that new information confounds and confuses rather than clarifies and enlightens. Modernizing the plight of the thirsty Ancient Mariner, who proclaimed, “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink,”5 many today lament, “Data, data, everywhere, and not a thought to think.”6 Living in a post-truth world in which there is more information available than there is time to process it presents particular challenges. Many do not know how to determine the accuracy or the truthfulness of new information. Some deal with the matter by looking for reinforcement of their own preexisting, and sometimes ill-informed, notions, limiting their pursuit of truth to only those sources that support their views. Stuck in an echo chamber of their own making, they stunt their ability to learn truth by sealing themselves off from any meaningful dialogue with any who may have different viewpoints. A manifestation of this is the increasing polarization in American politics.7 Others go to the opposite extreme, finding any piece of information that disrupts their prior views as sufficient reason to throw aside, without further inquiry, truths that have provided sure guidance to them and others in the past. These individuals, to use the words of the apostle Paul, are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of do
Peggy S. Worthen|Jan. 10, 2017 When we moved to Provo thirty years ago, I was in my twenties. Our oldest son was two, and our youngest son was just a few weeks old. I had been a member of the Church for less than ten years. Shortly after arriving in Provo, I met Bertha. Bertha was in her sixties. I knew a little bit about Bertha. I knew she lived in our stake. I knew she was respected by those who knew her. I also knew that she was a leader and a woman of service. People sought her advice. I remember attending a stake Relief Society function at which Bertha was one of the women on a panel that was answering questions and giving advice to those in attendance on a variety of topics. I noticed that Bertha was being asked for a lot of advice about raising children. I soon discovered why. She was the mother of thirteen children. I appreciated her responses to the questions. She seemed to have all the wisdom and experience that I lacked. Another thing I knew about Bertha was that she seemed to like walking. Sometimes I would see her walking in the neighborhood. One morning while I was walking with my friend, she asked me if it would be okay if Bertha joined us occasionally on our walks. I told her that was fine. But privately, the thought of walking with Bertha intimidated me somewhat, mainly because I held her in such high esteem. A few days later my friend invited Bertha to walk with us. Before Bertha met us for our walk that morning, my friend told me a couple of things about Bertha that she thought would be helpful to me. She told me that Bertha sometimes had a little difficulty hearing and that her shins sometimes bothered her—especially when walking uphill. I thought these things were good to know. Our walking route that day began in the Tree Streets south of the Provo Temple. We headed toward the temple, which is a steady uphill walk. I don’t remember much of our conversation that day. I remember only the question I asked Bertha once we reached the top of the road by the temple and began our steady descent toward home. Remembering that Bertha’s shins sometimes bothered her, I asked, “Bertha, how are your shins?” There was a bit of an awkward pause, and then, with much earnestness, Bertha replied, “I’m working on them, and hopefully they are improving every day.” I responded, “Oh, that’s good. Thankfully it’s all downhill from here.” I was feeling pretty magnanimous about my expressed concern for Bertha. For a couple of minutes we walked along in a somewhat awkward silence. Then my friend suddenly got a relieved look on her face and, turning to me, exclaimed, “You said shins, didn’t you?” My first thought was, “Yes, of course I said shins.” Then it occurred to me that they had both thought I had asked Bertha how her sins were doing! I was mortified! There I was, this inexperienced young mother, asking Bertha, this accomplished and
Bonnie L. Oscarson|Dec. 06, 2016 Brothers and sisters, it is a surreal experience to be standing here talking to you today. Forty-eight years ago I first set foot on this campus as a seventeen-year-old freshman. I remember attending BYU devotionals in the Smith Fieldhouse (because there was no Marriott Center yet), listening to speakers just like you are doing. Things have changed a lot since then. The female students were not allowed to wear pants on campus—yes, we were cold all winter long. We whitewashed the Y on the mountain every year with a very long bucket brigade, and the Y was lit with real fire. David O. McKay was the prophet, Lyndon B. Johnson was the president of the United States, and I had lost a good friend in the war in Vietnam. The good news is that I did graduate from BYU. The bad news is that it took me forty-one years to do it. I was very elated at the event, but I do not recommend that educational strategy! I can assure you that there is nothing in my life that could possibly have given me the notion that someday I would be standing at a podium in the Marriott Center delivering a devotional address. Just as with so many events that have taken place in my life during the past three and a half years, I truly relate to Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who often said that she was “wondering how a nice girl like me got into a mess like this.”1 Maybe there are some lessons to be learned from this. Lessons from the Life of Joseph Smith The month of December is the birth month of the Prophet Joseph Smith. With that as inspiration, I would like to talk about three principles inspired by events from the early life of Joseph Smith that might be of value in your current situations and lives. Lesson 1: You Have an Important Mission to Fulfill President Gordon B. Hinckley once quoted Reverend Edward T. Sullivan, who said: When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up his earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts. Instead, he has a helpless baby born.2 After a long period of apostasy and spiritual darkness, the time had come to fulfill the promises of the Lord that the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored to the earth with all of the keys and authority found in the original Church in Christ’s day. How would the Lord accomplish this great task? A baby was born. On December 23, 1805, a poor farmer’s wife by the name of Lucy Mack Smith gave birth to a baby boy who was named after his father, Joseph Smith. He was their fourth child—he had two older brothers and an older sister.3 Who could have guessed that this little obscure baby boy born in a small rented log house in the woods of Vermont to a family of very meager means would one da
Jodi Maxfield|Nov. 29, 2016 You might recall in the beloved Dr. Seuss children’s book Horton Hears a Who! how Horton, who was an elephant, had a chance encounter with a speck of dust, from whence a voice, barely audible, called out for help. Horton recognized that the voice was coming from the speck of dust and proceeded to do all he could to protect and defend this colony of Whos, who were “too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes.” Horton perceived that someone was in distress and realized that he could help. Instead of discounting his newly discovered friends, and amidst scoffs and scorn from others, he did all he could to give aid. He had a clear understanding of his ability to rescue and protect the Who colony. Through his actions he demonstrated his ability to give aid, share his light, and serve. As Horton exclaimed, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Being Grateful Having just celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, and as we transition from November into the month of December and celebrate the birth of our beloved Savior, it seems particularly natural that gratitude has taken center stage in our minds and in our hearts—as it should. No matter how humble and meager our circumstances, we each have so much to be grateful for. President Thomas S. Monson said of gratitude: To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven. [“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign, November 2010] He also said: We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. [“Divine Gift”] Gratitude is an expression of our faith. Negativity most certainly breeds despair, depression, lack of enthusiasm, and critical analysis of that which is most likely not our right to criticize or judge. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, in a devotional address on gratitude given at BYU, said: Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable. . . . Gratitude is a commandment of the Father. [“Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” BYU devotional address, 31 October 2000] Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 reads, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” While it may be more challenging to feel grateful when we are in the throes of trials and disappointments, those are the very times when we need to stop, take a look around, and count and list our blessings one by one. It has not been surprising to me throughout my life how much I truly take for granted when I am in a “woe is me” state of mind and how reflecting on my blessings has turn
Tad R. Callister|Nov. 01, 2016 The Book of Mormon Is the Keystone of Our Religion It is good to be with you today. I love BYU. It is where I attended school, where I met my wonderful wife, and where all six of our children have attended. The title of my talk today is “The Book of Mormon: Man-Made or God-Given?”1 Because the Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion,” as described by Joseph Smith,2 the Church rises or falls on the truth of it. As a result, if the Book of Mormon can be proved to be man-made, then the Church is man-made. On the other hand, if its origin is God-given, then Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if he was a prophet, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. It is that simple. Once we have a foundational testimony of the Book of Mormon, then any question or challenge we confront in life, however difficult it may seem, can be approached with faith, not doubt. Why? Because the keystone of our religion—the Book of Mormon and its witness of Jesus Christ—has also become the keystone of our testimony, which keystone holds our testimony securely in place. Thus the Book of Mormon has become the focal point of attack by many of our critics: disprove the Book of Mormon and you disprove the Church and undermine testimonies. But this is no easy task—in fact, it is impossible, because the Book of Mormon is true. Eleven witnesses, in addition to Joseph Smith, saw the gold plates, millions of believers have testified of its truthfulness, and the book is readily available for examination. Critics must either dismiss the Book of Mormon with a sheepish shrug or produce a viable alternative to Joseph Smith’s account; namely, that he translated it by the gift and power of God. What then are those alternative arguments presented by our critics for the origin of the Book of Mormon, and what is the truth? Argument 1: Joseph Smith, Alleged to Be an Ignorant Man, Wrote the Book of Mormon In 1831 a clergyman named Alexander Campbell proposed that Joseph Smith wrote rather than translated the Book of Mormon: There never was a book more evidently written by one set of fingers, nor more certainly conceived in one cranium . . . , than this . . . book. . . . I cannot doubt for a single moment that [Joseph Smith] is the sole author and proprietor of it.3 Campbell also declared that “[Joseph was] as ignorant and as impudent a knave as ever wrote a book.”4 But this assertion that Joseph Smith, who was “ignorant” and lacked education, could write such a work as the Book of Mormon seemed so preposterous to other contemporary critics that they readily dismissed it. Even Campbell himself, who proposed this theory, later abandoned it in favor of another alternative.5 So the early theories about the origin of the Book of Mormon started to focus on the premise that Josep
Matthew O. Richardson|Oct. 25, 2016 Over the past several decades my wife, Lisa, faithfully stood at our door to send our children off as they left our home for school. Without exception, she would call to them—usually in her pajamas—and say, “Stand up straight, smile, and remember who you are! You’re a Richardson, a child of God!” Without taking a breath, she would then say our family motto: “Reverence. Respect. Responsibility. Resourcefulness.” And then, with the excitement of a cheerleader, she would roll her arms and say the final word: “Reeesolve.” Oh, but wait, she wasn’t quite finished. She would cap it all off with an enthusiastic “Be a light!” After our children heard this charge nearly every day of their young lives, is it any wonder that this ritual has been forever engrained in their memories—and in the memories of their friends and quite possibly of our neighbors? With this image fresh in your mind, I would like to focus on the first part of my wife’s simple but profound instruction: “Stand up straight, smile, and remember who you are.” BYU has impacted my ability to stand up straight, has influenced why I smile, and has greatly molded who I am today. I have been privileged to be part of this university as a student, a professor, and now an administrator for more than three decades. I know what you are thinking, and yes, three decades is a very long time—and yes, I am old. After all these years you would think that I would know my way around campus, which I do; understand more about honor and integrity from the Honor Code, which I do; know all of “The Cougar Fight Song,” which I do; and know and enjoy BYU’s history and culture, which I do. Yet there are certain things about BYU that I earnestly hope I will never forget. President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “It is our privilege to store our memories with good and great thoughts and bring them out on the stage of our minds at will.”1 Sadly, remembering even the good and great thoughts can be difficult. I am confident that you, of all people, understand this well. After all, you have been taking quizzes and midterms lately and probably know that sick feeling in which your head is like a balloon with a small hole and all your preparation at the library is leaking out at an alarming rate as you make your way to the Testing Center. Oh sure, you try and pump your head up again by quickly reading through the stack of note cards as you walk, but you know deep down that all the good stuff is leaking out just as fast as you are putting it in. There is great power in knowledge, but it seems that there is even greater power in remembering. President Spencer W. Kimball once asked, “When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is?” He then answered, “It could be remember.”2 With everything you have tucked away, there are some thin
David M. Whitchurch|Oct. 05, 2016 The text for this speech is forthcoming.
David C. Dollahite|Sep. 28, 2016 My friends, I commend each of you for taking time in your busy lives to consider the things of eternity. May the Lord bless you for it. I was originally scheduled to speak at a devotional in March, but two weeks before that day, I had a heart attack. While having three titanium stents put in my heart, I went into cardiac arrest and experienced what doctors call “clinical death.” Alas, I did not see a tunnel of light, nor was I asked about whether I wanted to stay on earth. If asked, I think I would have said, “I do miss my parents and grandparents, but my children and grandchildren still need me. And I really need my wife, Mary. May I please stay?” Well, the doctors got my heart beating again, and I am very happy to be here with you today—especially with Mary! My purpose today is to speak about the blessings found in receiving the eternal into our lives and also to speak a little on the related need to resist the ephemeral. Ephemeral means fleeting, transitory, and momentary. Most things in this life are ephemeral. It is easy to forget that we are actually eternal beings in the midst of a temporary mortal journey. In Lehi’s dream of the tree of life,1 there were various ephemeral things that posed challenges for those making their way to the tree, including great mists of darkness and a great and spacious building with finely dressed people pointing fingers of scorn.2 The things that helped people get to the tree included a strait and narrow path, an iron rod, and the examples of people pressing forward to the tree, whose fruit was “sweet above all that is sweet.”3 A central purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince “the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”4 I was brought to Christ through the Book of Mormon when entirely undeserving of this blessing. Thus I embrace a sacred obligation to stand as a witness of God’s love and mercy “at all times . . . and in all places”—including this one.5 The best way I know how to do this is to tell you about my journey to Christ. Conversion to Christ and the Restored Gospel I was born and raised in Marin County, California—at that time the fifth-wealthiest county in the nation. Living just north of San Francisco, I grew up literally surrounded by great mists, since on most days a heavy, dark fog rolled in off the Pacific Ocean. My parents raised me in the Episcopal Church. I was baptized by Father Ewald, my dad’s adoptive father. My godmother was my mom’s best friend, a wonderful Jewish woman named Ann, and my godfather was my Uncle Gene, who became an Episcopal priest. From age nine to twelve I served as an altar boy. However, I stopped attending church at age twelve and spent my youth playing sports. I cared nothing for books or schooling, only for baseball, basketball, tennis—and girls. I lived t
Dallin H. Oaks|Sep. 13, 2016 I am pleased for the opportunity to speak at this BYU devotional. The first BYU devotional I addressed was exactly forty-five years ago, in 1971. That audience included my oldest daughter, just enrolling as a freshman here. Many years later I spoke at this devotional assembly to an audience that included several of my grandchildren. Today this audience includes our oldest great-granddaughter, a sophomore here. Time goes on. I. This opportunity comes at a unique time. I am the only General Authority assigned to address this BYU audience between the beginning of school this fall and the election on November 8. And this audience includes thousands who will soon have their first opportunity to vote. I, therefore, begin by speaking about our national and local elections. The few months preceding an election have always been times of serious political divisions, but the divisions and meanness we are experiencing in this election, especially at the presidential level, seem to be unusually wide and ugly. Partly this results from modern technology, which expands the audience for conflicts and the speed of dissemination. Today, dubious charges, misrepresentations, and ugly innuendos are instantly flashed around the world, and the effects instantly widen and intensify the gaps between different positions. TV, the Internet, and the emboldened anonymity of the blogosphere have facilitated the current ugliness and have replaced whatever remained of the measured discourse of the past. Nevertheless, as the First Presidency always reminds us, we have the responsibility to become informed about the issues and candidates and to independently exercise our right to vote. Voters, remember, this applies to candidates for the many important local and state offices as well as the contested presidential election. II. We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness. We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense. Remember this teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith: While one portion of the human race [is] judging and condemning the other without mercy, the great parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; he views them as his offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men.1 I spoke about this subject two years ago in an October general conference talk titled “Loving Others and Living with Differences.” My message focused on doctrine and its application to the differences we face in our diverse circumstances in Church and family and in public, but the principles I taught are also relevant to political differences. I said: We are to live in the world but not be of the world. We must live in the world because, as Jesus taught in a parable, His kingdom is “like le
Kevin J Worthen|Sep. 06, 2016 Welcome to the start of a new semester. We are so glad to have you students here on campus. Our community comes alive in a new way because you are here. Most of our new students arrived two weeks ago. Many of them participated in what is now becoming a tradition: forming the Y at LaVell Edwards Stadium. This is a wonderful and symbolic reminder that you, the students, are the Y—meaning that you are both the reason why we exist as a university and, for those with whom you interact, the embodiment of what BYU stands for. You represent the Y wherever you go. I love this recent tradition. There is another BYU tradition, one that began long before any of you were born. In 1924, students hiked up to the block Y on Y Mountain, dipped mattress stuffing in oil, placed the mattress balls around the edges of the Y, and lit them with torches they had carried up the mountain—thus lighting the Y for the very first time. Since that time the Y has been lighted every year for Homecoming, graduation, and other special events. Fortunately the torch fires never spread to the rest of the mountain in the ensuing decades. By the 1980s, those involved decided not to tempt fate any longer, and the mattress balls and torches were replaced with a generator and a string of lightbulbs stretched around the Y, making the Y brilliantly visible throughout the valley. This past summer, permanent lighting was literally cemented in place, and new technology was installed to allow remote lighting, thereby ensuring that the tradition of lighting the Y will continue for years to come. Just as I hope that the more recent tradition of forming the Y in LaVell Edwards Stadium reminds you that you are the Y, I hope that the continuation of the long-standing tradition of lighting the Y reminds you of an invitation that I will give to each of you students today: Don’t just light the Y; let the Y light you. What do I mean by that? Perhaps it can best be explained by a familiar story told by President James E. Faust. In the 1980s, prior to his becoming a member of the First Presidency, President Faust worked alongside many others to establish the BYU Jerusalem Center. In a 2005 general conference address, President Faust recalled one historic meeting regarding the lease for the land on which the . . . Jerusalem Center . . . was later built. Before this lease could be signed, President Ezra Taft Benson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of Brigham Young University, agreed with the Israeli government on behalf of the Church and the university not to proselyte in Israel. President Faust then said: To our knowledge the Church and BYU have scrupulously and honorably kept that nonproselyting commitment. After the lease had been signed, [however,] one of our [Israeli] friends insightfully remarked, “Oh, we know that you are not going to proselyte, but what are you going to do about the light t
Peggy S. Worthen|Sep. 06, 2016 BYU is a wonderful place because it has wonderful students. I hope you all realize how much potential you have. You are all future leaders. You will lead in the Church, you will lead in businesses, you will lead in communities, you will lead in volunteer efforts, and, most important, you will lead in your families. One of the things I hope you learn here is how to be better leaders. If you do, you will be an enormous force for good. I would like to share with you some things I have learned about leadership over the years, things I wish I had known about leadership when I was your age. I begin with a personal experience—one that provides several lessons about leadership. From the time we were first married, Kevin and I have gone to visit my parents at their cabin in the mountains about seventy-five miles south of Provo. A number of years ago, while we were preparing to come home after one of those visits, my then young son needed to get something out of our locked car, so I gave him the keys and told him to be careful to not lock the keys in the car. A few minutes later he returned, looking a little sheepish. He then hesitantly, but bravely, confessed that he had locked the keys in the car. What ensued was one of those moments that my children still refer to many years later: “Do you remember what mom did when the keys were locked in the car?” Yes, upon hearing the brave confession of my young son, I responded in a way that corresponded more to his age than to mine. I threw a tantrum. I raised my voice, and I even kicked the car tire. I let my emotions take over. Fortunately that lasted only a few moments. My father calmly reminded me that I had roadside assistance insurance for times like this. His calm reminder instantly calmed me. I called roadside assistance, and we were soon on our way home. Now you might wonder what lessons could possibly come from an experience like that. Let me suggest four. Learn from Your Mistakes First, I learned that we can learn from our mistakes. I immediately regretted the way I had behaved that day. I reflected on the fact that, as a mother, I was a leader and a teacher to my children. And I resolved to do better. That experience had a powerful impact on me. While I am not perfect, I think I am doing better in that regard. Fortunately, as Elder Bruce C. Hafen once observed, “Because of the Atonement, we can learn from our experiences without being condemned by them” (“The Temple and the Natural Order of Marriage,” Ensign, September 2015). That is a powerful lesson for leaders to learn. Learn from the Examples of Others Second, I learned that we can learn from the good example of others. My father’s calm reaction to my outburst quickly and powerfully reminded me how I should act in those situations. Although I already knew how I should act, seeing his example provided me with a distinct reminder that has
Kim B. Clark|Aug. 22, 2016 I count it a great blessing and a privilege to speak today at this university conference. I love to come to this campus. Before I begin my formal remarks, I am going to tell you a little story about why I feel so strongly about this place. It is not only because as a student here for a year after my mission I found my professional calling to be a teacher and a scholar at the feet of truly, truly inspiring teachers like Larry T. Wimmer and others, but it is also because I met Sue here. I want to tell you this little story about why I get a chill that just covers me when I walk on this campus. I had met Sue, and we were in the same family home evening group. We went for a walk one night, and I had the very distinct impression from the Spirit: “This is your eternal companion.” Fortunately, she had the same feeling. Just a couple of days later I was walking along a diagonal sidewalk toward where in those days the sidewalks met in a big X, right about where the Harold B. Lee Library annex is now. I was walking along toward that X when the national anthem began playing, so I stopped. When it finished playing, I walked along the sidewalk and came to where the sidewalks crossed in an X. I ran into Sue right there in the middle of the X. It was on a Wednesday afternoon, and there were thousands of students in that area. And I ran into my eternal companion in the center of the X! I didn’t say this to the Lord, but I got it. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated our forty-fifth anniversary. She is the love of my life. I came here to find her because she wasn’t in Boston. She was here. I am so grateful. And whenever I walk on this campus I feel the same way. So I love to come here. And I love you. The Lord has blessed me with the gift of love for you. I believe He wants me in my responsibilities now to see you and love you the way He sees you and loves you. I pray that you will feel that love today. I also pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us as we consider together the implications of a very simple message. This message has come to me personally, but I feel that I should share it with you. The Need to Be Better Here it is: Whatever level of spirituality we now enjoy in our lives; whatever degree of faith in Jesus Christ we now have; whatever strength of commitment and consecration; whatever degree of obedience, hope, or charity is ours; and whatever level of professional skill or ability we have obtained, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. I believe this message fits into a beautiful pattern the Lord has established in the Restoration, beginning with His appearance with His Father to Joseph Smith in 1820. Line upon line, precept upon precept, and step by step, Jesus Christ has built up His Church and His people. He has said: For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness.1
Kevin J Worthen|Aug. 22, 2016 It is a joy to be with you this morning. There is something about the beginning of a new school year that brings hope and optimism. Perhaps it is the chance to start out fresh—no matter how challenging the prior semester has been. Perhaps it is the promise that fall, with its crisp air and changing leaves—and, for me, football season—will soon arrive. Hopefully for all of us it is the thrill you feel in being involved in the intellect-expanding, soul-refining, celestializing endeavor in which we are all engaged. This last year has brought many successes and a few challenges. Since we last met in this setting, more than 7,700 of our students graduated and moved on to the next phase of their lifelong learning process. During their stay here, many accomplished great things, ranging from receiving a Truman Scholarship to temple marriage. Others excelled as they represented the university in various settings. The BYU Ballroom Dance Company won the Blackpool competition in modern formation, a feat they have accomplished every time since 1989 that their three-year cycle has taken them back to England. They also took first place in Latin American formation—another repeat championship. The men’s volleyball team, the men’s rugby team, and the women’s rugby team all competed in their respective national championship games, all on the same day. Hopefully you can identify and celebrate other successes in your areas. They are evident all around us. Improvements have also been made to our campus infrastructure. We completed fund-raising for the new Engineering Building, and construction is now underway. Expansion of the Harman Building has begun, in large part to expand the online learning environment here on campus, and the new Marriott Center Annex, housing our men’s and women’s basketball teams, is nearing completion. My thanks to all those involved in these and numerous other projects on campus. We have also faced challenges in this past year—challenges that give us opportunities to improve. As I am sure you are all aware, we are examining in depth the reporting process for our students and other aspects of the way we handle sexual assault cases. It causes us deep sorrow to know that members of our community would be victimized in such a devastating way. We are anxious to help them. A group of faculty and administrators have worked tirelessly during the summer to help us know how best to do that. We anticipate that this fall the advisory council will present their recommendations to the President’s Council. We will then address the topic with the campus community more in depth. In the meantime, let me emphasize that the top priority in this extensive effort is the safety and well-being of our students, especially those who have been the victims of sexual assault. Efforts will continue until sexual assault is eliminated from our campus environment. Learning at Brig
Brent W. Webb|Aug. 22, 2016 Our university conference theme comes from Doctrine and Covenants 64:34: Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind. It seems quite natural to talk about “a willing mind” in this setting of academics—with nearly 1,500 of you whose training and trade is thinking, sharing the products of your thinking with your disciplines, and guiding and focusing the thinking of students. The product of the mind is our business. However, in undertaking His work, the Lord requires both a willing mind and the heart. Nelson Mandela once wrote, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”1 One might ask why the Lord needs both our minds and our hearts. It can be argued that the heart is the center of our humanity and the source of our love, motivation, desire, joy, anguish, satisfaction, hope, and aspiration. Consider for a moment how references to the heart are woven so frequently into our everyday idiomatic conversation: soft heart, hard heart, kind heart, halfhearted, bleeding heart, broken heart, heartthrob, heavy heart, faint of heart, eating your heart out, aching heart, from the bottom of your heart, the heart of the matter, follow your heart, heart of stone, heart of gold, bless his heart, heart-to-heart, learn by heart, sinking heart, makes my heart sing, my heart skips a beat, young at heart, pure in heart, my heart isn’t in it, pour your heart out, take heart. . . . I am sure you can think of even more examples. It seems that it is more the heart than the mind that defines us. You may have read in the national media in recent weeks the touching story of a woman from Swissvale, Pennsylvania, by the name of Jeni Stepien. In 2006 Jeni’s father was shot by a sixteen-year-old assailant in a robbery. He was mortally wounded, and the family made the difficult decision to donate his organs. Arthur Thomas from New Jersey, then sixty-two years old and suffering from congestive heart failure, was the recipient of Mr. Stepien’s heart. Late last year, ten years after losing her father, Jeni Stepien was engaged to be married, and her first thought after her engagement was, “Who will walk me down the aisle?” At her fiancé’s suggestion, Ms. Stepien asked Arthur Thomas—the recipient of her father’s donor heart—to do the honors, and he agreed. The wedding took place in the church in Swissvale in which Ms. Stepien’s parents had been married. Mr. Thomas suggested that as they walked down the aisle, Jeni grip his wrist, where his pulse was the strongest: “I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” he said, adding, “That’s her father’s heart beating.” After the ceremony the bride was photographed with her hand on Mr. Thomas’s chest. “I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart,” said Mr. Thomas. “If I had to, I would’ve walked.”2 In our Latter-d
Jeffrey R. Holland|Aug. 16, 2016 One of my BYU professors of yesteryear—actually quite a few yesteryears—was Edward L. Hart, who wrote the text of a much-loved hymn in the Church. The second verse of that hymn, Our Savior’s Love, reads this way: The Spirit, voice Of goodness, whispers to our hearts A better choice Than evil’s anguished cries. Loud may the sound Of hope ring till all doubt departs, And we are bound To him by loving ties.1 An omnibus word familiar to us all that summarizes these “loving ties” to our Heavenly Father is religion. Scholars debate the etymology of that word just as scholars and laymen alike debate almost everything about the subject of religion, but a widely accepted account of its origin suggests that our English word religion comes from the Latin word religare, meaning “to tie” or, more literally, “to re-tie.”2 In that root syllable of ligare you can hear the echo of a word such as ligature, which is what a doctor uses to sew us up if we have a wound. So, for our purpose today, religion is that which unites what was separated or holds together that which might be torn apart—an obvious need for us, individually and collectively, given the trials and tribulations we all experience here in mortality. What is equally obvious is that the great conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, the moral and the immoral—conflict that the world’s great faiths and devoted religious believers have historically tried to address—is being intensified in our time and is affecting an ever-wider segment of our culture. And let there be no doubt that the outcome of this conflict truly matters, not only in eternity but in everyday life as well. Will and Ariel Durant put the issue squarely as they reflected on what they called “the lessons of history.” “There is no significant example in history,” they said, “of [any] society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”3 If that is true—and surely we feel it is—then we should be genuinely concerned over the assertion that the single most distinguishing feature of modern life is the rise of secularism with its attendant dismissal of, cynicism toward, or marked disenchantment with religion.4 How wonderfully prophetic our beloved Elder Neal A. Maxwell was—clear back in 1978—when he said in a BYU devotional: We shall see in our time a maximum . . . effort . . . to establish irreligion as the state religion. [These secularists will use] the carefully preserved . . . freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as [they reject] the value . . . o
Gordon B. Hinckley|Oct. 29, 1974 It is good to be here with you this morning, my dear young friends. I ask that the Lord will help me to say something that will help you. Recently I spent the better part of a week in Washington, D.C., living in a hotel room. Each morning I watched the early news on television and then read the morning paper while eating breakfast. President Ford had just granted a pardon to his predecessor. The amount of venom that spewed from the mouths and pens of the commentators was unbelievable. They were aflame with indignation. In all that week of morning watching and reading I never heard nor read among the commentators and editorialists a single paragraph of positive thought. The speakers were brilliant. They were men of incisive language, scintillating in expression. The columnists were masters of the written word. With studied art they poured out the sour vinegar of invective and anger, judging as if all wisdom belonged to them. At the conclusion of that week, I too made a negative observation. Said I, “Surely this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker.” The tragedy is that this spirit is epidemic. Criticism, fault-finding, evil speaking—these are of the spirit of the day. They are in our national life. To hear tell these days, there is nowhere a man of integrity among those holding political office. In many instances this spirit has become the very atmosphere of university campuses. The snide remark, the sarcastic gibe, the cutting down of associates—these, too often, are of the essence of our conversation. In our homes wives weep and children finally give up under the barrage of criticism leveled by husbands and fathers. Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, sometimes a catalyst that leads to failure. Even in the Church it sows the seed of inactivity and finally apostasy. I come this morning with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey and blossoms. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated. What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a boy our father often said to us: Cynics do not contribute. Skeptics do not create.
Richard B. Miller|Jan. 19, 2010 When couples get married, their love is deep, and they joyfully anticipate the prospect of spending the eternities together. They enjoy having endless talks, going for long walks, and spending time together. It is a wonderful feeling being with someone you love so deeply. Unfortunately, for many couples the bliss of deep love and immensely satisfying companionship that was present when they first got married doesn’t last. Long talks become replaced with frequent arguments, and when not spent fighting, their time together is characterized by angry silence. Many of these couples divorce. Others manage the hostility by emotionally withdrawing from the relationship. The spouses become distant from each other, and they keep their interaction to a minimum. President Spencer W. Kimball described these couples when he said: There are many people who do not find divorce attorneys and who do not end their marriages, but who have permitted their marriage to grow stale and weak and cheap. There are spouses who . . . are in the low state of mere joint occupancy of the home. [In Marriage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 44–46; adapted from Kimball, “Marriage and Divorce,” BYU devotional address, 7 September 1976] How do these couples go from ecstatic levels of love and happiness to frequent conflict, bitterness, and, in many cases, eventual divorce? A number of reasons have been identified by researchers, but lately I’ve been thinking that most of these reasons can be boiled down to two fundamental factors: a lack of repentance and a lack of forgiveness. It is important to note that these principles of repentance and forgiveness apply to all relationships, not just to marriage. They apply to roommates, family members, and colleagues at work. So, no matter what one’s marital status is or what the prospects in the near future are, these principles are important to all of us. In most cases we are married for only a short time before we hurt our spouse’s feelings. Whether it is intentional, based on selfishness, or just inadvertent mistakes, we all end up doing things that create hurt in our spouse. The remedy is pretty straightforward. We say, “I’m sorry.” We feel badly that we hurt our spouse, apologize, learn from the experience, and do our best not to make the same mistake again. We repent, and, assuming that the problem wasn’t too major, the issue is over. Elder Joe J. Christensen said: To develop a solid marriage, we must be able to admit we are sorry for the mistakes we make. . . . When conflicts in marriage arise, we should be swift to apologize and ask for forgiveness, even though we may not be totally at fault. True love is developed by those who are willing to readily admit personal mistakes and offenses. [One Step at a Time: Building a Better Marriage, Family, and You (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 39] In o
Sally Taylor|Nov. 05, 1996 I am humbled by the awesome responsibility of speaking before you today, and I appreciate President Bateman’s kind introduction. I am truly a person who has worn many hats in my life. Like Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats, one just keeps popping on the minute I take another off: daughter, wife, mother, grandmother; student, teacher; missionary, visiting teacher, Relief Society president, nursery leader, choir member; and on and on (see Dr. Seuss, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins [New York: Random House, 1989]). My life has been one of marvelous experiences. Introduction The title of my talk today is “The Holy Ghost: Our Infallible Guide.” The Holy Ghost has touched my life in many ways. One might say his influence is multifaceted, like a precious diamond, or that he also wears many hats. These hats—callings, functions, roles, or gifts—and their manifestations are so numerous that full books could be written about them (as I found when I was preparing this talk). So today I would like to narrow my discussion to three special functions of the Holy Ghost that dynamically affect our lives at Brigham Young University: teacher, guardian, and comforter. I pray that you may listen by the spirit of the Holy Ghost to discern those things that are most needful in your individual lives. I have keenly felt the importance of the Holy Ghost as a teacher, a guardian, and a comforter in my life because I have also worn these hats. My students know me here as a teacher of Shakespeare, technical writing, and creative writing. They also know that unlike the Holy Ghost, I am not infallible. Just this week, I found I had mixed up the colors in the War of the Roses and gave the red rose to the York faction instead of the Lancaster faction. Thank goodness for sharp students who set me right. I appreciate them for helping me be a better teacher. As a mother, I have also been a teacher and a guardian. But I wasn’t a perfect mom, either. My children had their share of cut lips and skinned knees. Try as I might, I couldn’t save them from all the bumps of life. And when either my students or my children—and now my grandchildren—have these bumps, I whip out my hat of the comforter and give this other role a try. But I’m not infallible here, either. I can’t always take away the hurt. I must hand the hat over to that wonderful personage, the Holy Ghost. As I discuss the three roles or functions of the Holy Ghost, may I share with you true accounts of the marvelous influence of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost as a Teacher First is the function of the Holy Ghost as a teacher. As students and teachers at Brigham Young University, we are engaged in the immediate task of gaining knowledge. We read, we listen, we experiment, we test, we write. We grow “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12) in both our fields of specialty and our general knowledge. Sometim