BYU President Karl G. Maeser in his office, 1884. Courtesy BYU Archives.
History of the Academy
A glance over the conditions of mankind in this our day with its misery, discontent, and corruption, and disintegration of the social, religious, and philosophic fabrics, shows that this generation has been put into the balance and has been found wanting. A following, therefore, in the old grooves, would simply lead to the same results, and that is what the Lord has designed shall be avoided in Zion. President Brigham Young felt it in his heart that an educational system ought to be inaugurated in Zion in which, as he put it in his terse way of saying things, neither the alphabet nor the multiplication table should be taught without the Spirit of God.
Thus was started this nucleus of a new system. When, years after, a certain person could find no other fault with it than that it should have started some twenty years before, I thanked God that it hadn't; for if it had been thus started without teachers to comprehend its aims, without boards to enter into its spirit, and without students to feel its necessity, unavoidable failure would have postponed a successful commencement for a generation or more.
All the above-mentioned adversities of the infant institution were blessings in disguise. Without means, by relying upon the liberality of her patrons, the Academy engendered a growing interest among the people in its aims. Without teachers sufficiently devoted to its sacred cause to labor for a mere nominal salary, the Academy was forced to create a Normal department composed of volunteers, to raise her own teachers; without a board of members experienced in educational affairs, they went through an empirical training in having their attentions turned gradually from the primitive conditions of the beginning to the more complex organization of the school's further advancement.
If amidst all these changing scenes clouds of discouragement did occasionally darken the horizon of our vision, they were always dispelled by the voice of the spirit whispering: "O ye of little faith."
Amid the ever-changing scenes of development which Brigham Young Academy has passed through, whether holding forth in one single room under makeshift arrangements or enjoying the benefits of more suitable facilities: whether in rented premises, fitted up for the time being, or in her own palatial habitation; whether laboring according to the humble programme of the primary and intermediate grades or aspiring to academic or collegiate honors; there must go through it all, like a golden thread, one thing constant: the spirit of the latter-day work. As long as this principle shall be the mainspring of all her labors, whether in teaching the alphabet or the multiplication tables, or unfolding the advanced truths of science and art, the future of Brigham Young Academy will surpass in glory the fondest hopes of her most ardent admirers.
This address was delivered on October 16, 1891, at Brigham Young Academy's first Founder's Day exercises. Karl G. Maeser served as president of Brigham Young University from 1876 to 1892. Printed in Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1928), 12832.