What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

  I would like to project your thinking forward to a future April or August commencement day, your own graduation day. I should like to ask, at this early day, What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

First is intellectual discipline. I hope that while you are here you will develop a degree of mental acuity that finds its expression in a mind that is alert, that is orderly in its processes, that is hungry for more of the kind of thing it has been fed while here….

Be a man or a woman with a mind and a will and a bit of discipline, with a zest for learning that will be cultivated in this institution while you are here and that will be expanded through all the years to come….

Second, I hope you will develop a spirit of fellowship, a social ease, the capacity to mix and mingle with people wherever you meet them, of low caste or high caste, recognizing their strengths and powers and capacities and goodness….

A vibrant personality that comes of the capacity to listen and learn, that comes of the ability to contribute without boring, that comes of a talent for mingling and mixing with people in a constructive way is something very precious, indeed, that can come as a part of your life on this campus. The cultivation of such will keep you from the moral traps that catch so many….

Develop the social ease that gives you the capacity to mingle with others and talk with others in a stimulating and uplifting manner. Social grace is so important a quality–it can be developed on campus and will bless you throughout your life.

Third, when you walk out of this hall, with your diploma in hand, I hope you will take with you an unassailable spiritual strength….How marvelous a thing in the human character is a certain and solid assurance that God our Eternal Father lives. How richly blessed is that young man or woman who knows that he or she can approach the Almighty in quiet and humble prayer. How enriched is the individual who, as he or she goes out into the world, knows that all men and women are sons and daughters of God, each endowed with a divine birthright. How beneficial to come to the realization that, since we are all children of God, we all are brothers and sisters in a very real sense….

None of these things that I have spoken of will be mentioned on the diplomas you carry from this institution on graduation day. But they are all implicit in the purposes and design of this university. If you carry them with you, your lives will be blessed. Your experiences will be challenging, but they will be sweet and enriching, and you will become the means of bringing good to all whose lives you touch.

Learning by faith is no task for a lazy man

l to r: N. Eldon Tanner, Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Dallin H. Oaks, 1971, at President Oaks' inaugural

…perhaps I can impress upon you again what I have said to you before, especially some things that I said at the inauguration of President Dallin Oaks in 1971. The First Presidency had previously declared that because of its unique combination of revealed and secular learning, Brigham Young University is destined to become a leader among the great universities of the world. If that lofty goal is to be obtained, it must be based upon the extraordinary efforts of the students of Brigham Young University, as well as the dedicated and skillful instruction and research of faculty and staff of the university. And I added at that inaugural exercise,

“The acquiring of knowledge by faith is no easy road to learning. It will demand strenuous effort and continual striving by faith. In short, learning by faith is no task for a lazy man.” Someone has said, in effect, that, “such a process requires the bending of the whole soul, the calling up from the depths of the human mind and linking the person with God. The right connection must be formed; then only comes knowledge by faith, a kind of knowledge that goes beyond secular learning, that reaches into the realms of the unknown and makes those who follow that course great in the sight of the Lord” (President Brigham H. Roberts).

Harold B. Lee  in “Be Loyal to the Royal within You,” 1973 BYU Devotional and Ten-Stake Fireside Address, 1973
Photo: l to r: N. Eldon Tanner, Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Dallin H. Oaks at President Oaks’ inaugural, November 12, 1971.

Compare this statement from President Kimball:
As previous First Presidencies have said, and we say again to you, we expect (we do not simply hope) that Brigham Young University will “become a leader among the great universities of the world.” To that expectation I would add, “Become a unique university in all of the world!”

Spencer W. Kimball, The Second Century of Brigham Young University, 10 October 1975

Study as if your life depended on it

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.

Cecil Samuelson quotes

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

Who is it that we really honor?

Below are several comments from Church and educational leaders that directly or indirectly relate to the Honor Code. I appreciate they way they expand my thinking about the relationship between dress and conduct and the process of learning in spaces that are dedicated to God.

1. Dressing for “Brain Work”

Elder Charles Didier made these comments in his devotional address on 21 September 2004:

What about our clothing and our physical appearance on this campus or in other circumstances? Does it matter, or does it make a difference in your behavior and influence your environment if you wear baggy or immodest clothes or tattered jeans? Does what I read in the Honor Code about modesty really apply to you? “Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church” (Dress and Grooming Standards, BYU Honor Code).

I cannot resist quoting from one of your professors, S. Neil Rasband, stating that what you wear affects the educational environment:

What about torn or tattered jeans? They simply suggest that someone is unable to distinguish between being engaged with intellectual challenges and working on the welfare farm. They’re dressed for barn work, not for brain work. . . .
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