Helping students learn who they really are

My guess is that what matters most, as you and I try to help our students, will not be so much whether they master a particular subject or pass our exam. That will matter some, but what will matter most is what they learn from us about who they really are and what they can really become. My guess is that they won’t learn it so much from lectures. They will get it from feelings of who you are, who you think they are, and what you think they might become.

Henry B. Eyring, “Teaching Is a Moral Act,” BYU Annual University Conference, 27 August 1991


Letting every voice be heard

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. … If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

John Stuart Mill

The test of faith is more important than any peer review

This university is a continuing experiment in the concept of there being a first-class academic community of scholars led by a board of trustees consisting mostly of prophets, seers, and revelators. This presupposes that the administrators, faculty, and staff accept those prophets, seers, and revelators as a principle source of ultimate truth. It is also presumed that there is loyalty to their leadership and the policy they set. No other university has ever been quite so positioned.

Other great institutions in the world have moved from a spiritual underpinning to a completely secular footing, perhaps thus feeling more secure in their acceptance in the academic world of intellectual elitism. There is so much secular knowledge for mankind to learn, but all of it together is only the smaller part of the learning challenge. I do not believe that the administrators, scholars, teachers, or students of this university can rise to their full potential of knowledge without the larger part of the challenge, which is an increase in the full enjoyment of the inspiration of heaven. With these blessings, both teacher and student and secular knowledge will be greatly enlightened. To do this, we must become more certain of spiritual enlightenment than secular knowledge.

The test of faith for those of this university is, in my opinion, more important than any peer review for faculty or any examination in the classroom for students. When the ultimate spiritual power of heaven is fully invoked by the administration and faculty at this university, God can pour out his blessings upon all in a transcending way. He is the fountain of sure knowledge of all truth. As this spiritual competency increases, great and marvelous things will be accomplished by ordinary people. 

James E. Faust, “Enhancing Secular Knowledge Through Spiritual Knowledge and Faith,” BYU Devotional, 23 August 1994

Allowing God to expand the time we have available in His service

I realize that there are some, perhaps many, for whom my urging you to capture leisure time cuts like a knife. You feel overwhelmed by the lack of time. You have left unfinished tasks in your Church calling. You’ve carried your scriptures all day but still not found a moment to open them. There is someone in your family who would be blessed by your thoughtful attention, but you haven’t gotten to them yet. You will go to a job tomorrow that barely pays enough to keep food on your table and pay your bills. There is a term paper or a project due soon that you are yet to start and there are examinations looming. Rather than finding ways to capture leisure time for learning, you are trying to decide what to leave undone.

There is another way to look at your problem of crowded time. You can see it as an opportunity to test your faith. The Lord loves you and watches over you. He is all-powerful, and He promised you this: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

That is a true promise. When we put God’s purposes first, He will give us miracles. If we pray to know what He would have us do next, He will multiply the effects of what we do in such a way that time seems to be expanded. He may do it in different ways for each individual, but I know from long experience that He is faithful to His word….

I cannot promise academic success or perfect families. Nor can I tell you the way in which He will honor His promise of adding blessings upon you. But I can promise you that if you will go to Him in prayer and ask what He would have you do next, promising that you will put His kingdom first, He will answer your prayer and He will keep His promise to add upon your head blessings, enough and to spare. Those apparent prison walls of “not enough time” will begin to recede, even as you are called to do more.

Henry B. Eyring, “Education for Real Life,” CES Fireside for Young Adults, 6 May 2001

A training program to become virtuous

I truly believe that one virtuous young woman or young man, led by the Spirit, can change the world, but in order to do so, we must return to virtue. We must engage in strict training. As the marathon runner Juma Ikangaa said after winning the New York Marathon, “The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.” Now is the time to prepare by exercising more self-discipline. Now is the time to become “more fit for the kingdom.” Now is the time to set our course and focus on the finish. A return to virtue must begin individually in our hearts and in our homes.

What can each of us do to begin our return to virtue? The course and the training program will be unique to each of us. I have derived my personal training program from instructions found in the scriptures:

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.”
“Cleave unto [your] covenants.”
“Stand … in holy places.”
“Lay aside the things of [the] world.”
“Believe that ye must repent.”  
“Always remember him and keep his commandments.”
And “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, … seek after these things.”

Now more than ever before, it is time to respond to Moroni’s call to “awake, and arise” and to “lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.”

Elaine S. Dalton, “A Return to Virtue,” October 2008 General Conference

A certain fire that must be kept burning

Inaugural procession of Franklin S. Harris, October 17, 1921. Harris stands on the right.

90 years ago Franklin S. Harris said these words at his inauguration as the fourth president of Brigham Young University:

“There has grown out of the history of the institution a particular mandate that must be respected – a certain fire that must be kept burning….

“The first task of the future is to preserve at the institution this spirit that comes to us from the past – the true spirit of the Brigham Young University. This spirit places character above learning, and indelibly burns into the consciousness of the student the fact that the most enduring joy is dependent on spiritual growth which looks toward eternal progression.

“One cannot look toward the future of Brigham Young University without becoming enthusiastic. The very fact that it is…devoting its energies to the teaching of truth to a large group of young people who are to assume leadership in building up the world makes one grow humble in feeling and reverent in attitude.

It now remains for us who are charged with the responsibility of conducting the institution to live up to our possibilities. May God grant us wisdom and strength to play well our part.”