Elder Boyd K. Packer at a BYU commencement, April 1994. Courtesy Mark A. Philbrick/BYU.
Spiritual Orientation: Three Addresses
Shortly after I was called as a General Authority, I went to Elder Harold B. Lee for counsel. He listened very carefully to my problem and suggested that I see President David O. McKay. President McKay counseled me as to the direction I should go. I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do.
I returned to Elder Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, "The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning." I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: "You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you." Then he quoted these eighteen words from the Book of Mormon: "Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."
Those eighteen words from Moroni have been like a beacon light to me. Let me put them in their setting:
During the twenty-nine years following that experience, I have learned over and over again that all of us must walk by faith--near the edge of the light. Like Nephi, who said, "I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do" (1 Ne. 4:6), each of us must learn to take a few steps into the darkness of the unknown.
A desire to learn is one thing. An expressed willingness to be taught and to be corrected is quite another. I have found, and we have taught our children, that there is always someone older and experienced who knows much about the challenges you face, whether they be spiritual or temporal. It is worth inviting them to help you.
While there is great value in seeking a personal interview to receive counsel, what I am talking about is something else. It is an unstructured process, with counsel and suggestions offered in bits and pieces and you responding with thanks. That process survives only where there is a genuine desire to learn and an invitation to those who can teach and correct you. That invitation is not always in words, but more in attitude. Could that be the reason that the scriptures counsel "Ask and ye shall receive" more than any other statement? I believe the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost, which can be a constant companion, operates on those terms.
Once when I returned from a mission tour totally exhausted, my wife said to me, "I have never seen you so tired. What is the matter; did you find a mission president who wouldn't listen?" "No," I replied, "it was just the opposite. I found one who wanted to learn."
Many will say they want to learn but feel threatened if there is the slightest element of correction in what they are given. I have learned that few respond when that kind of teaching or correction is offered and fewer still invite it. If you are willing, a teacher will spread a cloth and share nourishing morsels from his or her store of experience.
In 1965, Elder Harold B. Lee taught me to take counsel from courage rather than from my fears. At that time, there were an impressive 2,235,000 members in the Church. Today, the Church is even larger and continues to grow rapidly. Literally thousands of them dream of enrolling at BYU. Most of them cannot be admitted simply because of enrollment ceilings imposed by limits on space and funds. During these years of very rapid growth in membership in the Church, the enrollment at this university has remained constant. It cannot grow as the Church grows, and the growth of the Church cannot be held back. The competition for admission to Church colleges and universities grows ever more intense.
General Authorities frequently receive letters from young people all over the world, begging for the opportunity for an education, wanting desperately to come to a Church-sponsored college. I have just now received one from a young woman in the Philippines. She wants to be a doctor. "I've the grade," she wrote, "but money I've nothing. I kept on praying asking Him, whom will I ask to help . . . and you know what? My heart says it's you, Elder Packer, who can understand what I feel, so here I am asking the Apostle of God to help me."
How painful it is for us to see so many worthy ones for whom there is no room. It is little wonder that the First Presidency would want to "ensure that students who are active Church members are not excluded through enrollment ceilings while inactive members enjoy the blessing of attending Church schools. . . . Students who have not been endorsed may not register for university or college classes for the next academic year." The Church Board of Education and the BYU Board of Trustees are struggling now to update our policy on admission. We have no choice but to make some adjustments to accommodate the growth of the Church. The administrators of Church colleges and universities have no choice but to enforce those policies; they are not free to do otherwise. Entrance requirements cannot be based on grades alone. Church schools are not solely for the academically gifted.
That word trustee is worth a comment. In a public institution, trustees are responsible to the taxpayers. In the Church, we are responsible to tithe payers and to the Lord. We presently have institutes of religion at 1,711 colleges and universities across the world. The institutes enroll 126,000 Latter-day Saints. In this way, we are able to bring religious education, the one discipline essential to the mission of the Church, to our members of college age without the expense of duplicating the whole secular curriculum. High quality education is widely available at state and private colleges and universities.
Notwithstanding the institute program, frequently at stake conferences we face a parent or a Church leader who desperately wants some student to be admitted to BYU. They always ask, "Are the Brethren planning to build another university?" to which we must answer, "They are not." Next question: "Why?" I simply meet that question with one of my own: "Do you have any idea how much money it costs to mow the lawns and wash the windows at BYU?"
Never could we keep pace with the growth of the Church. Education is a very expensive undertaking. The operation of a large university in this country is not possible on a budget of millions or tens of millions of dollars annually. It requires the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Some time ago, I was sent to inspect a college campus, smaller than this but as modern and beautifully constructed as is this campus. It had been offered to the Church for the taking, with the single requirement that we continue its operation as a college. But we declined, even though it was in a center of Church population. Such offers have come more than once.
We are not only trustees for our school, we must balance the resources of the Church so that the central mission of the Church will be accomplished. Did you know that there are members of this Church who eat only one meal a day? We help them all we can, considering political barriers. We face some very sobering choices. If we must choose between giving more and more to those already well favored and helping them less, we will do just as you would do.
The Church once owned and operated a system of hospitals, a very defensible endeavor. In 1974 the First Presidency stated, "Because the operation of hospitals is not central to the mission of the Church, the Church has . . . decided to divest itself of its extensive hospital holdings." And they were given away.1
Question: Are colleges and universities central to the mission of the Church? I might answer, "That all depends."
In his statement to you, President Rex Lee quoted a predecessor, Dallin H. Oaks, who said:
You will contribute to the central mission of the Church only when you receive and maintain a testimony of the restored gospel to complement an education of superior quality. And there need be no choice between the two, for we can meet, even surpass, the academic standards of those organizations established to improve and accredit colleges and universities.
Why would anyone feel unsettled at a review of your worthiness to remain at a Church college? It is no different than the test to measure your academic progress, no different than the requirement that you maintain a certain grade point average.
BYU is owned by the Church. It was paid for from tithes and offerings of the Saints and other generous donors. We have kept ourselves free from being supported by public funds in order to remain independent. If government funds ever are accepted, it is on a quid pro quo basis. Everything from the pinnacle of the Carillon Tower to the utility tunnels under the earth belongs to the Church. All were paid for from Church resources.
None of this belongs to you or to us. We are but trustees. It was here before we came; it will serve generations after we have gone. For the present, it is placed at our disposal so that as students we may study and as teachers we may teach in an environment that is clean, both spiritually and temporally. It is made available to us at far below the operating costs. That demands that we respect both the property and the purposes for which it was established.
Tuition and fees do not make up one-fourth of the per-student cost of running this university. More than 70 percent comes from the tithes of the Church, from the widow's mite. There is too much toil and faith and self-denial represented in those funds to expend them on one who is unappreciative of the opportunities afforded to progress both spiritually and academically.
How can we justify expending those sacred funds on a student who will dishonor the agreement he or she signed at the time of admission or on the salary of a faculty member who has his or her own agenda which is at variance with the central mission of the Church, particularly when there is a lineup, ever growing, of both students and teachers waiting and anxious to come to learn or to teach and advance the mission of the university and the central mission of the Church?
As to the student body--the lot of you--what a miracle! Where on earth, now or in any past generation, could you assemble such a student body? Individually, you are impressive; together you are powerful, compelling. We admire you! You are unbelievable to the stranger who comes among you. You are a witness of the restoration, you are a joy to your parents, to all of us. You are the object of approval before him who is the father of our spirits and his son who is our Redeemer.
Granted there may be a few among you who feel uncomfortable with the conservative philosophy at Church schools. Each has that choice. If it is a different life-style you choose, you are not chained here. There are plenty of places to find whatever life-style you desire. But together with you, we will maintain this university with a style of its own. We who love this university will not allow some few to alter the life-style here. And, with your help, we will maintain to the best of our ability an environment that is totally free from the use of narcotics, the abuse of prescription drugs, from steroids and stimulants, from gambling or any other destructive addiction; where chastity and decency and integrity are fostered; where their opposites are subject to correction or expulsion.
Always there are those who chafe under standards and guidelines and restraints and want them lowered or loosened or lifted. Always they play on the word freedom and ask, "Is not free agency a basic doctrine of the gospel?" Those who think standards contradict their agency may wish to read the seventy-eighth verse of section 101 in the Doctrine and Covenants. They will find that the agency vouchsafed to us from God is a moral agency and that everyone is accountable. There can be no freedom without choice. We are determined to maintain standards and guidelines and restraints so those who want to live under them may have that choice.
Now about the faculty and staff. What a miracle. Where on this earth now or in any generation past has there been assembled a faculty and staff of men and women like this, who have achieved the highest academic degrees. Many have been acclaimed for outstanding accomplishments, and at once you are men and women of humility and faith. You of the faculty and staff are exemplary of the fact that on this campus there need be no choice between academic achievement, intellectual inquiry, and simple faith and reverence.
While that balance may be difficult to achieve and a challenge to maintain, are not these the brightest of minds and the most refined of spirits, these teachers and administrators, upon whom the Lord can depend? Does not every soul of you have the supernal gift of the Holy Ghost to be your companion and teacher? You of the faculty and staff, perhaps more than any other, will answer the question, "Can a university contribute to the central mission of the Church?" As with the students, there are perhaps a few faculty and staff who are restless over the conservative philosophy of education in the Church.
There should be no reticence in relating secular truths to revealed truths. Indeed, that is what President McKay gave as the sole purpose of this university. Nor should there be a problem with teaching about any topic or philosophy or subject for we should seek all truth. However, to advocate an unworthy philosophy, rather than to teach about it, to appoint one's self as an alternate voice, is out of harmony with the purpose of Church schools and with the central mission of the Church.
In the early thirties, there developed what might be termed a drift from fundamental moorings in the Church schools. Two things are symbolic of such a drift. One of them is apparent when the teachers of other disciplines look upon the teaching of religion as having less stature than they accord themselves. The other is when teachers or administrators develop agendas of their own and adjust the course from the compass bearing which has been set by the trustees, to a course which is a degree or two worldward. This usually in order to gain, if they can, more approval of the world. Such things do not go unnoticed by those whose compass is sensitive to eternal things.
Concerned over what was happening then, the First Presidency organized a summer school. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. was assigned to speak for the First Presidency. He spoke of course settings and compasses and said, "I shall bring together what I have to say under two general headings--the student and the teacher. I shall speak very frankly, for we have passed the place where we may wisely talk in ambiguous words and veiled phrases. We must say plainly what we mean, because the future of our youth, both here on earth and in the hereafter as also the welfare of the whole Church are at stake."2 I commend this address to every student and every teacher. Read it carefully, for we are not free from the possibility of such a drift today.
In conclusion, a final lesson. There is one category of experiences which by long-standing rule I do not speak of in public. However, I am going to set aside that rule and tell you a part at least of one such experience. I do so because it has to do with light and darkness and may fix in your minds the lesson I have been trying to teach.
In 1971, I was assigned to stake conferences in Western Samoa, including the organization of the Upolo West Stake. After the necessary interviews on Upolo Island, we chartered a plane to the Island of Savaii to hold a midweek stake conference of the Savaii Stake. There were in our party besides myself and John H. Groberg, now of the First Quorum of Seventy and who was then a Regional Representative; President Wayne Shute of the Samoan Mission, now a professor of education here at BYU; Mark Littleford, superintendent of Church schools in Samoa; and Brother Laeausa, a Samoan talking chief who would represent us in some ceremonies.
The plane landed on a grass field at Faala and was to return the next afternoon to take us back to Apia on Upolo Island. The next afternoon it was raining a little. Knowing the plane would not land on the grassy field, we drove to the west end of Savaii where there was a runway of sorts atop a coral water-break. We waited until dark; no plane arrived. We were finally able to learn by radiophone that it was storming on Upolo Island and that the plane could not take off. We were able as well to tell them we would come by boat and to have someone meet us at Mulisanua. We then drove about three hours back around the island to Saleleloga. There President Tuioti, a counselor in the Savaii Stake presidency, arranged for a boat and obtained the necessary police permit to make the night crossing.
As we pulled out of port, the captain of the forty-foot boat, the Tori Tula, asked President Shute if he happened to have a flashlight. Fortunately he did and made a present of it
to the captain. We made the thirteen-mile crossing to Mulisanua on Upolo Island on very rough seas. None of us realized that a ferocious tropical storm had hit Upolo Island.
At Mulisanua, there is one narrow passage through the reef. A light on the hill above the beach marked that narrow passage. There was a second lower light on the beach. When a boat was maneuvered so that the two lights were one above the other, it was lined up properly to pass through the reef.
But that night, there was only one light. Someone was on the landing waiting to meet us, but the crossing took much longer than usual. After waiting for hours, watching for signs of our boat, they tired and fell asleep in the car, neglecting to turn on the lower light.
The captain maneuvered the boat toward the single light on shore while a crewman held a flashlight off the bow. It seemed like the boat would struggle up a mountainous wave and then pause in exhaustion at the crest of it with the propellers out of the water. The vibration of the propellers would shake the boat nearly to pieces before it slid down the other side.
We could hear the breakers crashing over the reef. When we were close enough to see them with the flashlight, the captain frantically shouted reverse and backed away to try again to locate the passage through the reef. After many attempts, he knew it would be impossible to find the opening. All we could do was try to reach the harbor in Apia, twenty miles away. We were helpless against the ferocious power of the elements. I do not remember ever being where it was so dark.
We were lying spread-eagled on the cover of the cargo hold, holding on with our hands on one side, with our toes locked on the other to keep from being washed overboard. Mark Littleford lost hold and was thrown against the low iron rail. His head was cut front and back, but the rail kept him from being washed away.
As we set out for Apia Harbor, I kept a post on the rail in line of sight with the one light on shore. We made no progress for the first hour even though the engine was full throttle. Eventually we moved ahead and near daylight pulled into Apia Harbor. Boats were lashed to boats several deep at the pier. We crawled across several of them, trying not to disturb those sleeping on deck. We made our way to Pesanga, dried our clothing, and headed for Vailuutai to organize the new stake.
I do not know who had been waiting for us at Mulisanua. I refused to let them tell me. Nor do I care now. But it is true that without that light, the lower light--the light that failed--we all might have been lost.
There is in our hymn book a very old and seldom-sung hymn that has very special meaning to me.
What has happened since 1830 did not come about because we followed the wisdom of men. It came because we followed the light described in the scriptures as "a light that shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not" (see D&C 6:21; 10:58; 34:2; 39:2; 45:7; 88:49; 88:67).
witness of Him. He lives; this is his church. The universities and colleges
and schools and institutes and seminaries are his.
II. "I Say unto You, Be One"
As a mission president, I taught the missionaries to ask a few questions about the town in which they were to labor. Where did the town get its name? When was it settled and why? "Then," I told them, "you will know more about the town than even those who have lived here all of their lives." Most people do not know the very simple and, ofttimes, fascinating things about the community in which they live.
You come to Brigham Young University from all over the world. It is my purpose to tell you things about this great community of learning that you do not know. I will tell you things about the past, why it is unique; why and how this university was founded; something about the present, how it is governed; and something of the future, what we must do if we are to keep faith with those who founded it. Most of what I tell you, you will not find written in books.
Church Education in the Early Years
From the beginning, the Church has fostered both spiritual and secular learning, for that is in the revelations. The Lord revealed that "the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one. [Ye are commanded] to bring up your children in light and truth" (D&C 93:3637, 40). Another revelation tells us that "whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection" (D&C 130:18). There are other scriptures which emphasize the importance of both religious and secular learning. One of them includes a promise: "Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand" (D&C 88:78).
As the early Saints moved to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, they established elementary and secondary schools in each settlement. Schools of the Prophets were organized for adult leaders in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833, and other such schools were organized even after the settlement here in the West. I know they had a school of the prophets in Brigham City, for instance. In 1840, a university had been established in Nauvoo.
During the trek to the Rocky Mountains, elementary classes were conducted in the camps. In the fall of 1847, within three months of arriving in the valley, the first schools were organized. Three years later, the University of Deseret was founded.
There is another chapter. In fairly recent times, elementary and secondary schools were established many places in the world where schools were not available to our members. When public education became available, more than a hundred schools, including a university, junior colleges, academies, secondary and elementary schools, were transferred to state governments or were closed.
In order to coordinate the programs and growth of Church schools, a general Church board of education was organized in 1888, consisting of selected local Church leaders--stake presidents, for instance. Karl G. Maeser was named the first superintendent of Church schools, a position that later became the commissioner of Church education.
Working As One
In recent years, the board of education of the Church and the board of trustees for Church colleges and universities has been the First Presidency, six members of the Quorum of the Twelve, a member of the Presiding Bishopric, and the presidents of the Relief Society and the Young Women of the Church.
I can best tell you how you are governed today, how the board of trustees functions, by explaining the principles and procedures we follow in the meetings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. These procedures protect the work from the individual weaknesses apparent in all of us.
When a matter comes before the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a temple meeting, one thing that is determined very quickly is whether it is of serious consequence or not. One or another of us will see in an apparently innocent proposal issues of great and lasting consequence.
It is clear from the revelations that the decisions of the presiding quorums "must be by the unanimous voice of the same; . . . unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings" (D&C 107:27, 29). In order to ensure that to be the case, matters of consequence are seldom decided in the meeting where they are proposed. And, if the proposal is a part of a larger issue, sufficient time is taken to "bring us all along" so that it is clear that each of us has either a clear understanding of the issue or, as is often the case, has a very clear feeling about it.
The Doctrine and Covenants instructs us: "Let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege" (D&C 88:122). It would be unthinkable to deliberately present an issue in such a way that approval depended upon how it was maneuvered through channels, who was presenting it, or who was present or absent when it was presented.
Often one or more of us is away during regular meetings. We all know that the work must proceed and will accept the judgment of our Brethren. However, if a matter has been studied by one of the Quorum in more detail than the others or he is more familiar with it either by assignment, experience, or personal interest, the matter is very often delayed until he can be in on the discussion. And always, if one of us cannot understand an issue or feels unsettled about it, it is held over for future discussion. I remember occasions when a delegation was sent to the hospital to discuss with a member of the Council who was ill some urgent matter that should not be delayed but which needed that "unanimous consent." There are occasions, as well, when one of us will leave the meeting temporarily to call one of our number who is abroad to get his feelings on a matter under discussion.
There is a rule we follow: A matter is not settled until there is a minute entry to evidence that all of the Brethren in council assembled (not just one of us, not just a committee) have come to a unity of feeling. Approval of a matter in principle is not considered authority to act until a minute entry records the action taken--usually when the minutes are approved in the next meeting.
Sometimes an afterthought keeps one of us restless over a decision. That is never dismissed lightly. It cannot be assumed that that restless spirit is not in fact the Spirit of Revelation.
That is how we function--in council assembled. That provides safety for the Church and a high comfort level for each of us who is personally accountable. Under the plan, men of very ordinary capacity may be guided through counsel and inspiration to accomplish extraordinary things.
Even with the best of intentions, it does not always work the way it should. Human nature may express itself on occasion but not to the permanent injury of the work. I have a deep, even a sacred, regard for councils; inspiration is evident in them. If ever another course has been followed, trouble has followed as surely as night follows day.
If we are to meet the great challenges now facing this university, we must respect these principles. The Lord said, "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). And the Lord added: "I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise" (D&C 82:910). And I repeat, "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27).
While secular achievements deserve and receive our respect, as indicated by what the members of the board of trustees have done in their fields, they are not the qualifications on which we place the highest values. Those of higher value relate to the qualities of character which establish a balance in education and have to do with moral stability.
We know the method of learning associated with the working of the Spirit. We treasure the gift of the Holy Ghost which has been conferred upon every member of the Church and which can influence others who are seeking the truth.
We know the voice of the Lord when he speaks; we know the processes of revelation and how to teach them to those who want to learn. These qualifications we do talk about constantly and strive ever to measure up to them.
"By Study and Also by Faith"
Now listen carefully! It is crucial that you understand what I tell you now. There is danger! Church-sponsored universities are an endangered species--nearly extinct now. The January 1991 journal of the New Yorkbased Institute on Religion in Public Life was devoted to the de-Christianizing of American universities. I quote from their editorial, entitled "The Death of Religious Higher Education."
IF, if we succeed in keeping BYU in faith with the founders, we will do something very few others have done. And the survivors are well on toward such a separation.
Our best protection is to ensure that the prerogatives of this unique board of trustees are neither diluted nor ignored. Boards of education, trustees, and regents are venerable and indispensable institutions in education in the free world. They are not to be taken lightly. Theirs, and theirs alone, is the right to establish policies and set standards under which administrators, faculties, and students are to function. Standards of both conduct and of excellence.
It is not unusual for highly trained professionals to smart under the necessity of working under a lay board whose members may not be as highly educated as they consider themselves to be. But the future of education in the free world, and of this unique university, depends on safeguarding the prerogatives of the boards of education.
The ties between universities and churches that founded them have been severed because of the constantly recurring contention between the spiritual and the temporal; the never-ending controversy between a narrow view of science and religion; the ancient conflict between reason and revelation.
There are two opposing convictions in the university environment. On the one hand, "Seeing is believing"; on the other, "Believing is seeing." Both are true! Each in its place. The combining of the two individually or institutionally is the challenge of life. Neither influence will easily surrender to the other. They may function for a time under some sort of a truce, but the subtle discord is ever present. They mix like oil and water mix--only with constant shaking or stirring. When the stirring stops, they separate again. It takes a catalytic process to blend them. This requires the introduction of a third ingredient, a catalyst, which itself remains unchanged in the blending process.
Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits, but requires it. An individual who concentrates on either side solely and alone will lose both balance and perspective. History confirms that the university environment always favors reason, with the working of the Spirit made to feel uncomfortable. I know of no examples to the contrary.
Spirituality, while consummately strong, reacts to very delicate changes in its environment. To have it present at all and to keep it in some degree of purity requires a commitment and a watch care which can admit to no embarrassment when compared with what the scholarly world is about.
The moral and spiritual capacity of the faculty and what they shall give, and the spiritual atmosphere in which students are to learn and what they receive, will not emerge spontaneously! They happen only if they are caused to happen and thereafter maintained with unwavering determination. We at BYU can be competent in both and at once merit the respect of those charged with the accreditation of institutions of higher learning.
Some have envisioned BYU as a great graduate research university as opposed to an undergraduate teaching university. A few years ago, the term "the Harvard of the West" was tossed about, and moves were made to recast BYU in that image. But that transformation was not initiated by the board of trustees.
Recently, lengthy discussions on the future role of BYU have been held between the board of trustees and the administration. They have led in the direction of defining BYU as an "academically selective, teaching-oriented, undergraduate university, offering both liberal arts and occupational degrees, with sufficiently strong graduate programs and research work to be a major university."5 When that role is finally defined, it will be determined by the board of trustees, whose fundamental credentials were not bestowed by man and whose right and responsibility it is to determine policy and "approve all proposed changes in basic programs and key personnel" and establish standards for both faculty and students.6
We spoke of the catalytic process where two seemingly antagonistic influences can merge and each give strength to the other. The essential catalyst for the fusion of reason and revelation in both student and faculty is the Spirit of Christ. He is "the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (D&C 93:2). The blending medium is the Holy Ghost, which is conferred upon every member of the Church as a gift.
The blending of opposites is everywhere present in life.
A base metal, fused with a precious one, can produce an alloy stronger and with more resilience than either component alone. Such a blending is seen in the priesthood of God, ordained to be conferred upon the ordinary man who must live in the base, workaday world, where reason and the muscles of his body are the substance of his livelihood. The blending in of revelation will make him anything but ordinary. While such a man must remain in the world, he is not of the world. Marriage is the wedding of opposites, the union of the man (who faces the world) with woman (who is often the more refined in spirit). When neither seeks to replace the other, the complementing differences in their nature are fostered. Then, in expressions of love, life itself is conceived, and together they receive a fullness of joy. The fusion of reason and revelation will produce a man and woman of imperishable worth.
On the one hand is reason: the thinking, the figuring things out, the research, the pure joy of discovery, and the academic degrees which man bestows to honor that process.
On the other is revelation, with the very private and very personal, the very individual, confirmation of truth. The combining of them is the test of mortal life!
"The spirit and the body are the soul of man" (D&C 88:15; italics added).
Now, all of that is but a preface, an introduction, to my message, which I present in two short sentences.
To you of the administration and faculty, I repeat the counsel given to Dr. Karl G. Maeser by President Brigham Young when he sent him here to start this school: "You ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God. That is all. God bless you."7
To you students, I quote a revelation to you from the Lord: "As all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118).
I give to you my sure witness of the Lord and pray that he will protect this great university as together we move into the perilous years ahead.
III. The Snow-White Birds
With the faculty, staff, and administration present in this audience, only the students are missing. It is in their interest that I have entitled my message "The Snow-White Birds." President Rex Lee has urged me to reminisce about my years of association with Brigham Young University.
President Harold B. Lee told me once that inspiration comes easier when you can set foot on the site related to the need for it. With a very sincere desire to be guided in preparing what I should say to you, early Sunday morning, before you were about, I stood in the Maeser Building, and I found that President Lee was right.
In one sense, this is a graduation. President Rex Lee has reported periodically to the public on the condition of his health, most often with Janet at his side. The Lees have served faithfully and well. They both have our commendation and affection.
In another sense, I too am graduating tonight. After thirty-four years on the board of trustees for BYU, most of it on the executive committee, I have been released. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve will now be rotated on the board.
Since the future of the Church rests with our youth and since the budget for their education is the second largest of all Church appropriations (the budget for BYU alone is in the hundreds of millions of dollars), you deserve the responsible attention of all of the Twelve. And I am sure you will have that.
It has been said that young men speak of the future because they have no past, and old men speak of the past because they have no future. Responding to President Lee's request, I will act my age and reminisce.
Our first visit to this campus was forty-eight years ago this month. Donna and I were returning from our honeymoon. Seven years later, I walked into the Maeser Building, then the administration building, to an office I was to occupy as chairman of a summer school for all seminary and institute personnel. There were problems, and so we had been called in for some reinforcement, some shaping up.
Our instructor was Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He invited guest lecturers. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. came more than once. President Joseph Fielding Smith, Elders Spencer W. Kimball, Mark E. Petersen, Marion G. Romney, LeGrand Richards, Delbert L. Stapley, and Richard L. Evans; President Belle S. Spafford of the Relief Society (one of the greatest women of our time); and others came. For two hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks we were taught at the feet of the Apostles. The influence of those days is still evident in our lives and in Church education.
The following year, as a supervisor of seminaries and institutes, I returned to the Maeser Building. I occupied an office there until the administration moved to the newly completed Smoot Building.
In 1958, A. Theodore Tuttle, the other supervisor of seminaries, was called as a member of the First Council of the Seventy. In October 1961, I was called as an Assistant to the Twelve. One of my first assignments was to the Church Board of Education, the BYU Board of Trustees, and the executive committee.
I can remember Presidents Franklin S. Harris, Howard McDonald, and Acting President Christen Jensen. I have had a close association with Presidents Wilkinson, Oaks, Holland, and Lee. I remember as well Sunday, January 8, 1956. To understand why that is memorable to me, we must go back to 1910.
George Brimhall, having already served nineteen years as president of BYU, determined to establish a recognized teacher's college. He had hired three professors: one with a master's degree from Harvard, one with a doctorate from Cornell, and the other with a doctorate from Chicago. They hoped to transform the college into a full-fledged university. They determined that practicality and religion, which had characterized the school, must now give way to more intellectual and scientific philosophies.
The professors held that "'the fundamentals of religion could and must be investigated by extending the [empirical] method into the spiritual realm,'" and they "considered evolution to be a basic, spiritual principle through which the divinity in nature expressed itself."8 The faculty sided with the new professors, and the students rallied to them.
Horace Cummings, superintendent of Church schools, became concerned because they were "'applying the evolutionary theory and other philosophical hypotheses to principles of the gospel and to the teachings of the Church in such a way as to disturb, if not destroy the faith of the pupils,'" and he wrote, "'Many stake presidents, some of our leading principals and teachers, and leading men who are friends of our schools have expressed deep anxiety to me about this matter.'"9 Superintendent Cummings reported to the board that
Superintendent "Cummings concluded his report by saying that the professors 'seem to feel that they have a mission to protect the young from the errors of their parents.'"11
President Brimhall himself defended the professors--that is, until some students "'frankly told him they had quit praying because they learned in school there was no real God to hear them.'"12
Shortly thereafter President Brimhall had a dream.
Now deeply embarrassed by the controversy and caught between opposing factions, President Brimhall at first attempted to be conciliatory. He said, "'I have been hoping for a year or two past that harmony could be secured by waiting, but the delays have been fraught with increased danger.'"14 When an exercise in administrative diplomacy suddenly became an issue of faith, President Brimhall acted.
And now to Sunday, January 8, 1956. President David O. McKay came to Brigham City to dedicate a chapel built for students of the Intermountain Indian School. I stood next to him to introduce those who came forward to shake his hand. A very old man, a stranger to me, came forward on the arm of his daughter. He had come some distance to speak to President McKay. It was impossible for me not to hear their conversation. He gave President McKay his name and said that many years ago he had taught at BYU. President McKay said, "Yes, I know who you are." Tears came as the old man spoke sorrowfully about the burden he had carried for years. President McKay was very tender in consoling him. "I know your heart," he said. That old man was one of the three professors who had been hired by President Brimhall in 1910.
Let me share with you another experience or two from which I learned valuable lessons. During our BYU years, we lived in Lindon. Early one Christmas Eve, I received a telephone call. I told Donna that I must run in to Provo to the office. By doing so, one of our teachers could have a much happier Christmas.
I thought I was alone in the Maeser Building. Not so. President Ernest L. Wilkinson, whose office was at the other end of the hall, walked into President Berrett's office, then into Brother Tuttle's office, looked in the storeroom, and then stepped into my office. Without saying a word to me, he looked around my office and walked out. Although I knew him to be absorbed in whatever he did, I shook my head and muttered to myself, "Well, [cuss] you!"
Shortly thereafter, Vice President Harvey L. Taylor came into the office and made the same tour. Startled to find me at my desk, he asked, "What on earth are you doing here on Christmas Eve?" I explained why I was there. He then told me how much I was appreciated and how grateful he was for one who would go the extra mile. He wished me a merry Christmas and left.
After he was gone, I had generous thoughts about President Wilkinson. If he was smart enough to have a man like Harvey Taylor follow him around, I could put up with his exasperating ways.
Some time later, I was summoned to a meeting of the administrative council in President Wilkinson's office. They were discussing the appointment of someone in St. George to recruit the graduates of Dixie Junior College to BYU. I recommended the director of the institute there and said, "To appoint someone else would be misunderstood." The others there agreed. But after discussion, President Wilkinson said someone else would be better. I responded, "That's all right, President, but you are still wrong."
Suddenly there was dead silence. When President Wilkinson was greatly amused or angry, he had a way of running his tongue around the inside of his cheeks. He stood up and walked around his desk two or three times. I suppose he was trying to get control of himself. Finally he sat down, and Joseph T. Bentley said quietly, "President, Brother Packer is right."
At that point, I was excused from the meeting. That night I told Donna that we would be leaving BYU, and I hoped we could return to Brigham City to teach seminary. Two days later, I received a memo from President Wilkinson appointing me to the Administrative Council of Brigham Young University.
During the years I served on that council, I came to appreciate President Wilkinson. He had a profound influence on the university; and the naming of a building, this building, for him is little enough by way of tribute to him.
In 1966, BYU underwent an accrediting evaluation. The evaluation of the College of Religion by two clergymen from differing faiths was thought to offer a fresh insight into the role of religion at BYU. These two "outsiders" expressed concern over the intellectual climate and the "revelational and authoritarian approach to knowledge." They recommended that, for the purpose of intellectual ferment and free inquiry at BYU, the university should have one or two atheists on the faculty. President Wilkinson wrote a response to the accreditation report and asked for corrections. He pointed out that "there were no limitations on teaching about these philosophies, but there were cautions about advocating them!" Although the chairman of the commission invited a response to President Wilkinson's letter, none was ever received.
Perhaps the answer came from the 1976 Accreditation Committee. They explained in the introduction of their report:
accreditation report was highly favorable. They found BYU "'to be a
vibrant and vital institution of genuine university calibre.'"16
If students are going to partake of the fruit that is "desirable to make one happy," yea, "desirable above all other fruit" (1 Ne. 8:10, 12), which Lehi saw in his vision, they had better have their ladder leaning against the right tree. And they had better hold onto the iron rod while they are working their way toward it.
Now, in an absolutely remarkable consensus, leaders in politics, government, law enforcement, medicine, social agencies, and the courts recognize that the breakdown of the family is the most dangerous and frightening development of our time, perhaps in all human history. They are casting around for answers.
There is a desperate need for stable families and teachers who know how to teach values. Were we not better equipped a generation ago to produce them? Have some among us measured themselves against the world and its sophisticated intellectual standard? Have they "cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed" (1 Ne. 8:25) and let go of the iron rod of Lehi's vision?
The prophet Jacob spoke of wasting one's time by following those who "when they are learned they think they are wise." "To be learned is good," he further said, "if they hearken unto the counsels of God" (2 Ne. 9:2829; italics added).
Surely you will remember that the board of trustees has directed that in order to contribute to the central mission of the Church,
Let them honor this direction from the minutes of the board of trustees: "Boards make policy and administrators implement policy. Boards must be informed of all proposed changes in basic programs and key personnel in order to achieve better understanding with the administrators."18
All of you would do well to read carefully Jacob's parable of the olive vineyard in the Book of Mormon. You might stand, as the Lord of the vineyard did, and weep when he saw that some branches "grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves." You might ask with him, as we have asked, "What could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it?" (Jacob 5:47, 48). And yet some branches bring forth bitter fruit. And you might do as the lord of the vineyard did and as Brother Brimhall did. They pruned out those branches that brought forth bitter fruit and grafted in cuttings from the nethermost part of the vineyard. And by so doing, "the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning" (Jacob 5:74).
Now I must speak of the snow-white birds that Brother Brimhall saw in his dream or vision. I say vision because another old man, Lehi, told his son Nephi, "Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision" (1 Ne. 8:2). We have now enrolled in our institutes of religion 198,000 students. We spend approximately $300 a year on each of them. We spend more than $7,500 a year on each student at BYU and over $12,000 per student on the Hawaii campus, all of it from tithing funds. That inequity worries the Brethren.
We are trying to reach out to those in public colleges, as well as to the college-age members who are not, for various reasons, in school. We have invited them to attend classes in the institutes.
General Authorities often speak at firesides in the Marriott Center. Lately we have been broadcasting these messages to the institute students by satellite. Last time I was assigned, I spoke from Seattle. I wanted to show an equal interest in and an equal desire to be close to those who do not attend Church schools. They need our help, these snow-white birds who now must fly in an atmosphere that grows ever darker with pollution. It is harder now for them to keep their wings from being soiled or their flight feathers from being pulled out.
The troubles that beset President Brimhall were hardly new. Paul told Timothy that, even in that day, they were of ancient origin: "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses," he told Timothy, "so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith" (2 Tim. 3:8). Paul prophesied plainly that those challenges would face us in the last days. They seem to cycle back each generation. They emerged in the early '30s. The Brethren called all of the teachers of religion together for a summer school at Aspen Grove. President J. Reuben Clark Jr., speaking for the First Presidency, delivered the landmark address "The Charted Course of the Church in Education" (1938). That address should be read by every one of you every year. It is insightful; it is profound; it is prophetic; it is scripture.
That opposition emerged again in the institutes of religion in the early '50s, and the Brethren called the summer session of which I spoke earlier, with Elder Harold B. Lee of the Twelve as our teacher.
We need to be alert today. Although there are too many now in our schools for us to call all of you together, here at BYU much is being done to reaffirm standards. You yourselves have helped refine the credentials for one who will influence these snow-white birds of ours. That standard is temple worthiness, with a recommend in hand for members and a respect for our standards by those who are not.
But that is not all. There must be a feeling and a dedication and a recognition and acceptance of the mission of our Church schools. Those standards will and must be upheld. The largest block of the tithing funds spent at BYU goes for teaching salaries. We cannot justify spending the widow's mite on one who will not observe either the letter or the spirit of the contract he or she has signed. Every department chair, every director, every dean and administrator has a sacred obligation to assure that no one under their care will pull the snow-white birds from the sky or cause even one to say, "Alas, we can never fly again!" or to "believe only what could be demonstrated in a laboratory" or to think that "their prayer could go no higher than the ceiling, or to see no heaven--no hereafter."
We expect no more of anyone than that you live up to the contract you have signed. We will accept no less of you. The standards of the accreditation agencies expect no less of us. It is a matter of trust, for we are trustees.
I have said much about teachers. Many of you look after housing and food services or maintain the libraries, the museums, or the sports fields or keep the records, protect law and order and safety, service equipment, keep up the campus, publish materials, manage the finances, and a hundred other things. Without you this institution would come apart in a day. You are absolutely vital to the mission of Brigham Young University. Your obligation to maintain standards is no less, nor will your spiritual rewards fall one bit below those who are more visible in teaching and in administration.
All of you, together with the priesthood and auxiliary leaders from the community who devote themselves to these snow-white birds of ours, are an example, an ensign to the whole Church and to the world. The quality of your scholarship is unsurpassed, your service and dedication a miracle in itself. There is not now, nor has there ever been, anything that can compare with you. Much in the future of the restored Church depends on you. Your greater mission lies ahead.
The prophet Isaiah said:
President Brigham Young told Karl G. Maeser: "I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God. That is all. God bless you. Good-bye."19
Now I would, as one standing among those who hold the keys, do as President Young did, and that is invoke a blessing. I invoke the blessings of the Lord upon you, as teachers, as administrators, as members of the staff, as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. May you be blessed in all that you do, that the Spirit of the Lord will be in your hearts and that you will have the inspiration combined with knowledge to make you equal to the challenge of teaching the snow-white birds who come to you to learn how to fly.
1David Croft, "Church Divests Self of Hospitals," Church News, published by Deseret News, Sept. 14, 1974, 3.
2J. Reuben Clark Jr., "The Charted Course of the Church in Education," above in this volume.
3Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), 335, verses 1 and 3.
4"The Death of Religious Higher Education," First Things (Jan. 1991): 8.
5Minutes of the Board of Education, June 7, 1990.
6Minutes of Executive Committee, April 27, 1982.
7Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography by His Son (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1928), 79.
8Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, vol. 1 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 415.
9Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:419. Cummings's report detailed additionally that they taught the following:
Miracles are mostly fables or accounts of natural events recorded by simple people who injected the miraculous element into them, as most ignorant people do when things, strange to them, occur. . . . Sin is ignorance--education, or knowledge, is salvation. . . . Ordinances may be helpful props to weak mortals, but knowledge is the only essential. . . . Memory gems are immoral, since fixing the words fixes the thought and prevents growth. I was told that one teacher, before his class, thanked God he could not repeat on[e] of the Articles of Faith and another took his children out of Primary Association because they were taught to memorize. . . . As we grow or change our attitude toward any truth, that truth changes. . . . To get the real truth in any vision or revelation, modern as well as ancient, the mental and physical condition of the prophet receiving it must be known. After eliminating the personal equation, the remainder may be recognized as inspiration or divine. (Report of General Superintendent Horace H. Cummings to President Joseph F. Smith and Members of the General Church Board of Education, January 21, 1911, Brigham Young University Archives, Provo, Utah, 12)
Moreover, Cummings reported that
while these teachers extol the living oracles, it came to me from several sources that if their teachings are to be investigated they will demand that the ones who do the investigating shall be men of the same learning as themselves; none others could understand them and do them justice. . . . Faith now seems to be regarded with pity as a superstition and is not a characteristic of the intellectually trained. (Report of Cummings to Smith, 3)
10Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:423. Cummings also confirmed that
these teachers have been warned by the presidency of the school and by myself, and even pleaded with, for the sake of the school, not to press their views with so much vigor. Even if they were right, conditions are not suitable; but their zeal overcomes all counsel and they seem even more determined, if not defiant, in pushing their beliefs upon the students. Report of Cummings to Smith, 4.
11Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:423.
12Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:421. Cummings's autobiography notes: "Teachers urged the students not to let their parents or the authorities at home know what a change was taking place in their faith. . . . The Apostles were good men, but utterly unfit to judge them. . . . Students ceased to pray, and the teachers did not pay their tithing as before. One or two left off their garments and denounced their faith." Autobiography of Horace Cummings, Brigham Young University Archives, Provo, Utah, lesson 41, page 4.
13Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:42122.
14Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 1:430.
15Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 4:112; italics added.
16Wilkinson, First One Hundred Years, 4:113.
17Adopted by Board of Trustees, June 1990; italics added.
18Executive Meeting Minutes, April 27, 1982; italics added.
19Maeser, Karl G. Maeser, 79.