We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life: but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God; then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows . . . , you would be constrained to exclaim, “But what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here.”
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:275
Likewise important, however: Only an excellent university can really help the Church much. Mediocrity won’t do either academically or spiritually. A unique Church deserves a unique university!
Neal A. Maxwell, “Out of the Best Faculty,” BYU Annual University Conference, 26 August 1993
I love this statement Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made in a 1983 devotional when he was president of BYU. The emphasis is mine:
The court in which you have come to play and the contest you have chosen to undertake is that of Latter-day Saint higher education. This is a university, and you are invited to immerse yourself in developing your learning, and your love for learning, here. I have said before that there are less expensive ways to hold young adult conferences. Furthermore we could help you get dates, watch ball games, and stand in various and sundry lines without building and staffing what I believe to be the finest university in the world. You come here today as BYU students have for over a hundred years, committed to the proposition that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36) and that “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18). We come to the university above all to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).
Study as if your life depended on it, for surely in the most important ways it does. You will have paid too much of your own and others’ money if you do not take away from here the very best education we can provide you. Resist the temptation to idle your way through. Study first and then relax, when you can be more honorable and less troubled in doing so. Discipline. Discipulus. Pupil. Discipline your mind and your will and your habits. Set a course for yourself now that will make you successful in every private and public endeavor you pursue for the rest of your life. Get up in the morning and go to bed at night, not vice versa. Work hard. Go the extra mile along the remarkable pathway that is so generously provided you here. See the meaning now and avoid the lamentations later. I could be an independently wealthy man if I had a dollar for every freshman who wasted his first year, even in so noble a cause as waiting for a mission call. Far, far too many return to the university only to learn that like the great mark of the beast recorded in the book of Revelation, those D’s and E’s are forever inscribed on the forehead of their official academic transcript. Make every opportunity count–every class, every semester. Attend our forum and devotional series. They are some of the rarest opportunities BYU can afford, untried and unafforded at any other university in the country. As with every privilege we need to “use it or lose it.
There are treasures to find at BYU that may well never be our privilege to pursue again once we leave here. These include “great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures,” to quote scripture, and it is your privilege to seek them out and claim them as your own.
Quotes from Cecil O. Samuelson, President, BYU, 2003-
I want us to be as good as we say we are and as others think we should be.
“A Few Questions and Answers,” BYU Annual University Conference, August 26, 2003
We must never forget that BYU is not just another “good” university. It was established by the Lord’s servants and continues to be blessed with the direction and support of prophets, seers, and revelators. While we may not understand all of the details, we do know that Brigham Young University occupies a key place in the Lord’s plans for the completion of His work in these last days.
“What Is It That We Honor?,” Campus Devotional, 12 September, 2006
BYU has never been more highly regarded academically than it is now, and the successes, recognition, and achievements of our faculty and students provide more supporting evidence than ever before that this is so. We have not arrived at where we need to be, but we have positive confirmation that we are on or near the path.
We will always compare ourselves to what we must become—thus our continuing and relentless quest for excellence.
“Our Quest for Excellence,” BYU Annual University Conference, 28 August 2007
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966)
In October of 1997, Elder Neal A. Maxwell visited the campus of Brigham Young University–Idaho to speak in a devotional. During the day he was on the campus, we talked together about a variety of gospel topics in general and about the youth of the Church in particular. I remember Elder Maxwell making a statement that greatly impressed me. He said, “The youth of this generation have a greater capacity for obedience than any previous generation.”
He then indicated that his statement was based upon a truth taught by President George Q. Cannon: “God has reserved spirits for this dispensation who have the courage and determination to face the world, and all the powers of the evil one, visible and invisible, to proclaim the Gospel, and maintain the truth, and establish and build up the Zion of our God, fearless of all consequences. He has sent these spirits in this generation to lay the foundation of Zion never more to be overthrown, and to raise up a seed that will be righteous, and that will honor God, and honor him supremely, and be obedient to him under all circumstances.”
Elder David A. Bednar, “Things as They Really Are,” CES Fireside, May 3, 2009
There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.
George Steiner, quoted in The Daily Telegraph (London, 1989-05-23)
Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means “good conduct”.
Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, Section XIII. Full text online.