Pull together

There will always be a need for civility and trust throughout the large BYU family, harnessed as we are together. John Taylor observed,

Many of us are tried and tempted, and we get harsh and hard feelings against one another. And it reminds me of your teams when going down hill with a heavy load. When the load begins to crowd on to the horses, you will frequently see one snap at his mate, and the other will prick up his ears and snap back again. And why? A little while before, perhaps, and they were playing with each other. Because the load crowds on them. Well, when the load begins to crowd, do not snap at your brethren, but let them feel that you are their friends, and pull together. [John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 21:214-15]

Lead horses are especially snapped and nipped at, even though they are pulling more than their share of the load.

Neal A. Maxwell, “Out of the Best Faculty,” BYU Annual University Conference, August 26, 1993

Exchange you cap and gown for a robe and crown

Today we recognize your very significant achievements. We are happy for you and with you. We place robes on your shoulders and mortar boards, tassels, and other marks of honor upon your head and about your neck. At the same time, my plea to you is not to let this achievement or any other success or failure blind you to your central purpose on earth: to learn to do whatsoever the Lord your God may command. You and I achieved success in the moral test of our premortal first estate. It was a limited but crucial test that opened the way for our current and broader test—one that takes place in a physical body, in a fallen world, and outside God’s personal presence. Whatever time and experiences your particular moral test may entail, success will mean glory (that is, light and truth) “added upon [your] heads for ever and ever.” Without diminishing this day, I urge you to keep your eye on the prize. Let your cap and gown point you to the infinitely greater robe and crown that await you in God’s celestial realm.

D. Todd Christofferson, “Our Moral Test,” BYU Commencement address, 22 April 2010

Faculty must give their students an assurance they are God’s children

Our concern is for the whole student—his spiritual as well as his academic development, and the way he lives as much as what he studies.

I have often told the BYU faculty, “If you have come here only to teach Greek or nuclear physics, and you do not give your students an assurance that they are God’s children, that they have a divine purpose for being here, and that they are to be engaged in a life of service, you will have failed as a teacher and we will have failed as an institution.”

Ernest L. Wilkinson, “Brigham Young University,” Ensign, May 1971

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


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

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.”