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William B. Lund|Aug. 5, 2014 How many of you recall seeing the great arch of the Milky Way span the sky over your head, along with millions of other stars that cover the dome of the heavens? Because I live in a city, one of the things that I forget is the glory of that night sky stretching from one horizon to the other. Prior to the industrialization of society, a view of the night sky filled with stars would have been common. It is breathtaking to realize that the stars seen from Earth are only a few of the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy, which is estimated to contain on the order of 300 billion stars. Sometime back our friends who have a cabin in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado invited us to a star party in which a group gathered with telescopes far from city lights to view interesting features such as planets in our own solar system and nebulae in our galaxy, as well as the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor. The telescopes ranged in size from small refracting telescopes on tripods to large reflecting telescopes that required a ladder to get to the eyepiece. As powerful as these amateur telescopes were, astronomy research requires much more powerful instruments. One of those powerful instruments is the Hubble Space Telescope, built in 1990. It orbits about 350 miles above the earth, far above the interference of the atmosphere. Hubble’s mirror is 2.4 meters in diameter, and the entire telescope weighs more than ten tons. Since its launch it has made more than one million observations, resulting in more than 100 terabytes of data. Astronomers from all over the world use the Hubble in their research. Many of you have likely seen images from the Hubble. Even amateur telescopes can capture a detailed view of Saturn, but the Hubble Telescope is able to catch colorful views of Saturn in wavelengths not visible to the human eye. Saturn is, in my view, the most beautiful planet in our solar system, and it lies only about 1.1 light-hours from Earth at its nearest approach. Although viewing the planets of our own solar system has yielded spectacular results, the Hubble isn’t limited to close-range objects. Looking beyond our solar system, the Hubble Telescope has captured images of the Ring Nebula, located about 2,000 light-years from Earth, that shows the varying colors of each ring of debris from the supernova that created the nebula thousands of years ago. C. Robert O’Dell noted that the nebula is not like a bagel, but rather, it’s like a jelly doughnut, because it’s filled with material in the middle. . . . With Hubble’s detail, we see a completely different shape than what’s been thought about historically for this classic nebula. The new Hubble observations show the nebula in much clearer detail, and we see things are not as simple as we previously thought. [Quoted in “Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula’s True Shape,” NASA, 23 May 2013, nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/ring
Brent E. Nelson|June 10, 2014 After receiving the call from President Worthen asking me to speak at devotional today, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what I might say. One evening my daughter Andrea, who is a recent graduate of BYU, said, “Dad, don’t worry. I always went to devotional to feel the Spirit and to have a rest from the stress of a week of school. As long as you bring the Spirit, it will be okay.” My prayer since then has been for the Spirit to attend us here today and to teach us all something new. I would like to start with a favorite scripture. In 1 Nephi the young Nephi desired to see the same things that his father, Lehi, saw in a vision. An angel came and showed him what Lehi saw—and even more—and asked him, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11:16). Nephi replied, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). I remember reading the Book of Mormon as a boy and coming to these verses and thinking, “I don’t even know what that word—condescension—means! But wow, I love Nephi’s answer! He knew that his Heavenly Father loved him, and that was what mattered most to him.” I have spent years pondering this declaration of Nephi’s. It tells me who I am: I am a child of a loving Father in Heaven. Many in the world today deny the divinity of man. They claim that we are merely the victors in a biological race for superiority of the species on this planet. But I testify that, through holy prophets, God has revealed that as we are His children, there is a purpose to our lives. We should all rejoice in this knowledge that we have. But we should realize that not all people have it. After arriving in the mission field many years ago, one of the first things I learned was that most of the people in Taiwan with whom I came into contact had no concept of God as their Father in Heaven. I realized that I, however, had always just taken that knowledge for granted. Back then the discussions were memorized and were designated by letters of the alphabet. My favorite discussion quickly became the D discussion, the plan of salvation. I loved it mainly because it allowed us to teach this most fundamental truth—that of our relationship to a loving Heavenly Father. I saw this truth change the lives of the Taiwan Saints. Once they learned it, they were changed people; they radiated a love for their Heavenly Father. In contrast, a few years ago we had a graduate student in our department who exhibited the opposite. Having been raised in a communist and atheistic country, he had no knowledge of what we are talking about here today. At one point in his studies he had a series of setbacks. From these he concluded that “fate” had turned against him. He felt powerless and not in control of his own destiny. He concluded he was not meant to complete his degree and decided to leave our graduate progra
Mark DeMoss|Jan. 24, 2012 This is one of the highest honors I’ve ever received. When I looked to see who some other forum speakers have been, I quickly felt out of place. In fact, I felt like the speaker I heard a few years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Some 4,000 guests attend this breakfast each February, including the president, the vice president, members of the cabinet, House and Senate members, visiting heads of state, and world leaders. Past speakers include Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Tony Blair. Well, like me, this particular speaker was not especially well known and felt a bit intimidated by his task. He told of sending an email to his pastor the night before, seeking some moral and spiritual support. His pastor wrote back, “Just remember, if you’re representing the Lord, you have nothing to worry about—it’s the Lord who should be worried!” Well, I’m not worried this morning, but I am aware that I’m not smart enough to be addressing a prominent university audience. Being in an academic setting reminds me of a story I heard about a class that had been studying birds for much of the semester. They had studied everything you could possibly study about birds—their feathers, their eyes, their color, and their mating and migration habits. Well, the day for the final test arrived. The teacher distributed a single sheet of paper with 10 pictures showing just the feet of 10 birds and a blank line under each one. He gave the instructions: “Identify each bird by its feet, and you’re free to go.” Just then a guy at the back of the room pounded his fist on his desk and shouted, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen!” He wadded his paper into a ball, threw it toward the trash can, and headed for the door. Just as he reached the door, the teacher yelled, “Young man, what’s your name?” The student ripped off his shoes and socks, pulled up his pant legs, and said, “Here, Teacher! If you’re so smart, why don’t you tell me?” I’ve always wanted to visit Brigham Young University. Most of you were still in high school when Jerry Falwell went to heaven five years ago. Jerry founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, 40 years ago, and in 1980 I went to Liberty, where I played football for four years as a placekicker. Since the earliest days of Liberty University, Jerry famously and repeatedly declared, “I want Liberty University to be for the evangelical young person what Notre Dame is for the Catholic and Brigham Young is for the Mormon—a world-class university.” Well, God gave him enough years to see that dream largely realized. Today Liberty has 78,000 students, including 13,000 on campus, making it the seventh-largest school of any kind in the country. As an alumnus and a trustee of Liberty, I’ve looked forward to the day I would see BYU for myself. So thank you for honoring me with th
Russell T. Osguthorpe|Mar. 8, 2011 Thank you, President Samuelson. It is great to be here today. As that choir was singing, it reminded me that my wife and I met with our seats assigned in a choir just like that a few years back, and we’ve been sitting next to each other ever since. This place is really like a second home to me. I spent a good part of my adult life at BYU. When people ask me how long I’ve been here—which they do at times—I say I came with Karl G. Maeser. So this is where we met, and this is where our children received their education. It’s where I came to understand that learning can go on forever. I love the students here. I love the staff. I love the faculty. I love games like the one we had with Wyoming on Saturday. I like championships. I love BYU. When I’m walking across campus, I like to say hello to as many people as I can. I especially like it if they say hello back. I guess it’s my retro way of doing social networking. I once looked at a student approaching me on the sidewalk. She was on her cell phone—which oftentimes we are—but she still gave me a cell-phone wave. Quite often those I pass on the sidewalk are using headphones. But sometimes I even get a headphone nod. And this morning I got a headphone smile. Once I was sitting outside a conference room in the library working on my laptop. A student approached me and asked a little awkwardly, “So, what are you doing?” I explained that I was waiting for a meeting, but then I closed my laptop, stood up, and said, “You know, students never do that to me. They never just come up and start a conversation. Why did you do that?” He responded, “Well, I thought I might learn something.” We had a memorable conversation. He had just returned from a mission, and he shared some of his favorite experiences with me. Meeting new people can enrich our lives in miraculous ways. My wife and I recently visited Bucaramanga, Colombia, on a Church assignment. Bucaramanga is a city of 1.2 million very friendly people. In fact, they pride themselves on being the friendliest city on the planet. When we arrived, many were there to greet us. They made us feel like we were the most important people they had ever met. We had never been to this city before. We had never seen the people who were greeting us. And yet we felt their love. Love is one of the most powerful positive forces in existence. It is one of the strongest statements in all of scripture, and it occurs twice in Moroni: “If ye have not charity, ye are nothing” (Moroni 7:46; also see verse 44). No matter how competent we might be, how bright, how talented, how athletic, how attractive, how hardworking—if we are not acting out of love, we are nothing. Those people in Bucaramanga were not thinking of themselves. They were not trying to prove anything to anyone. They were simply reaching out to us in love. And that student who approached me in the library literally made my day. Hi
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