Richard O. Cowan, "Appendix A: Excerpts from Foundational Documents," Teaching the Word: Religious Education at Brigham Young University (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 2008) 104–23.
Appendix A: Excerpts from Foundational Documents
The Charted Course of the Church in Education
President J. Reuben Clark Jr., August 8, 1938
As a school boy I was thrilled with the great debate between those two giants, Webster and Hayne. The beauty of their oratory, the sublimity of Webster’s lofty expression of patriotism, the forecast of the civil struggle to come for the mastery of freedom over slavery, all stirred me to the very depths. The debate began over the Foot Resolution concerning the public lands. It developed into consideration of great fundamental problems of constitutional law. I have never forgotten the opening paragraph of Webster’s reply, by which he brought back to its place of beginning this debate that had drifted so far from its course. That paragraph reads:
Mr. President: When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float farther on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are. I ask for the reading of the resolution.
Now I hasten to express the hope that you will not think that I think, this is a Webster-Hayne occasion or that I think I am a Daniel Webster. If you were to think those things—either of them—you would make a grievous mistake. I admit I am old, but I am not that old. But Webster seemed to invoke so sensible a procedure for occasions where, after wandering on the high seas or in the wilderness, effort is to be made to get back to the place of starting, that I thought you would excuse me if I invoked and in a way used this same procedure to restate some of the more outstanding and essential fundamentals underlying our Church school education.
The following are to me those fundamentals:
The Church is the organized priesthood of God, the priesthood can exist without the Church, but the Church cannot exist without the priesthood. The mission of the Church is first, to teach, encourage, assist, and protect the individual member in his striving to live the perfect life, temporally and spiritually, as laid down in the Gospel, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” said the Master (Matthew 5:48). Secondly, the Church is to maintain, teach, encourage, and protect, temporally and spiritually, the membership as a group in its living of the gospel. Thirdly, the Church is militantly to proclaim the truth, calling upon all men to repent, and to live in obedience to the gospel, for every knee must bow and every tongue confess (see Mosiah 27:31).
In all this there are for the Church, and for each and all of its members, two prime things which may not be overlooked, forgotten, shaded, or discarded:
First—that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, the Creator of the world, the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for the sins of the world, the Atoner for Adam’s transgression; that He was crucified; that His spirit left His body; that He died; that He was laid away in the tomb; that on the third day His spirit was reunited with His body, which again became a living being; that He was raised from the tomb a resurrected being, a perfect Being, the First Fruits of the Resurrection; that He later ascended to the Father; and that because of His death and by and through His resurrection every man born into the world since the beginning will be likewise literally resurrected. This doctrine is as old as the world. Job declared: “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:26–27).
The resurrected body is a body of flesh and bones and spirit, and Job was uttering a great and everlasting truth. These positive facts, and all other facts necessarily implied therein, must all be honestly believed, in full faith, by every member of the Church.
The second of the two things to which we must all give full faith is that the Father and the Son actually and in truth and very deed appeared to the Prophet Joseph in a vision in the woods; that other heavenly visions followed to Joseph and to others; that the gospel and the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God were in truth and fact restored to the earth from which they were lost by the apostasy of the primitive Church; that the Lord again set up His Church, through the agency of Joseph Smith; that the Book of Mormon is just what it professes to be; that to the Prophet came numerous revelations for the guidance, upbuilding, organization, and encouragement of the Church and its members; that the Prophet’s successors, likewise called of God, have received revelations as the needs of the Church have required, and that they will continue to receive revelations as the Church and its members, living the truth they already have, shall stand in need of more; that this is in truth the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and that its foundation beliefs are the laws and principles laid down in the Articles of Faith. These facts also, and each of them, together with all things necessarily implied therein or flowing therefrom, must stand, unchanged, unmodified, without dilution, excuse, apology, or avoidance; they may not be explained away or submerged. Without these two great beliefs the Church would cease to be the Church.
Any individual who does not accept the fulness of these doctrines as to Jesus of Nazareth or as to the restoration of the gospel and holy priesthood, is not a Latter-day Saint; the hundreds of thousands of faithful, God-fearing men and women who compose the great body of the Church membership do believe these things fully and completely, and they support the Church and its institutions because of this belief.
I have set out these matters because they are the latitude and longitude of the actual location and position of the Church, both in this world and in eternity. Knowing our true position, we can change our bearings if they need changing; we can lay down anew our true course. And here we may wisely recall that Paul said: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Returning to the Webster-Hayne precedent, I have now finished reading the original resolution.
As I have already said, I am to say something about the religious education of the youth of the Church. 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.
The youth of the Church, your students, are in great majority sound in thought and in spirit. The problem primarily is to keep them sound, not to convert them.
The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the Spirit; they are eager to learn the gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted. They want to know about the fundamentals I have just set out—about our beliefs; they want to gain testimonies of their truth. They are not now doubters but inquirers, seekers after truth. Doubt must not be planted in their hearts. Great is the burden and the condemnation of any teacher who sows doubt in a trusting soul.
These students crave the faith their fathers and mothers have; they want it in its simplicity and purity. There are few indeed who have not seen the manifestations of its divine power. They wish to be not only the beneficiaries of this faith, but they want to be themselves able to call it forth to work.
They want to believe in the ordinances of the gospel; they wish to understand them so far as they may.
They are prepared to understand the truth, which is as old as the gospel and which was expressed thus by Paul (a master of logic and metaphysics unapproached by the modern critics who decry all religion):
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11–12).
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16–18).
Our youth understand, too, the principle declared in modern revelation:
“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation” (D&C 58:3).
“By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God. . . . And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. . . . And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision” (D&C 76:12, 19–24, 28).
These students are prepared, too, to understand what Moses meant when he declared: “But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him” (Moses 1:11).
These students are prepared to believe and understand that all these things are matters of faith, not to be explained or understood by any process of human reason, and probably not by any experiment of known physical science.
These students (to put the matter shortly) are prepared to understand and to believe that there is a natural world and there is a spiritual world; that the things of the natural world will not explain the things of the spiritual world; that the things of the spiritual world cannot be understood or comprehended by the things of the natural world; that you cannot rationalize the things of the Spirit, because first, the things of the Spirit are not sufficiently known and comprehended, and secondly, because finite mind and reason cannot comprehend nor explain infinite wisdom and ultimate truth.
These students already know that they must be “honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and [do] good to all men” and that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 1:13)—these things they have been taught from very birth. They should be encouraged in all proper ways to do these things which they know to be true, but they do not need to have a year’s course of instruction to make them believe and know them.
These students fully sense the hollowness of teachings that would make the gospel plan a mere system of ethics. They know that Christ’s teachings are in the highest degree ethical, but they also know they are more than this. They will see that ethics relate primarily to the doings of this life, and that to make of the gospel a mere system of ethics is to confess a lack of faith, if not a disbelief, in the hereafter. They know that the gospel teachings not only touch this life, but the life that is to come, with its salvation and exaltation as the final goal.
These students hunger and thirst, as did their fathers before them, for a testimony of the things of the Spirit and of the hereafter, and knowing that you cannot rationalize eternity, they seek faith and the knowledge which follows faith. They sense, by the Spirit they have, that the testimony they seek is engendered and nurtured by the testimony of others, and that to gain this testimony which they seek for, one living, burning, honest testimony of a righteous God-fearing man that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph was God’s prophet, is worth a thousand books and lectures aimed at debasing the gospel to a system of ethics or seeking to rationalize infinity.
Two thousand years ago the Master said:
“Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?” (Matthew 7:9–10).
These students, born under the covenant, can understand that age and maturity and intellectual training are not in any way or to any degree necessary to communion with the Lord and His Spirit. They know the story of the youth Samuel in the temple, of Jesus at twelve years confounding the doctors in the temple, of Joseph at fourteen seeing God the Father and the Son in one of the most glorious visions ever beheld by man. They are not as were the Corinthians, of whom Paul said:
“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Corinthians 3:2).
They are rather as was Paul himself when he declared to the same Corinthians:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
These students as they come to you are spiritually working on toward a maturity which they will early reach if you but feed them the right food. They come to you possessing spiritual knowledge and experience the world does not know.
So much for your students and what they are and what they expect and what they are capable of. I am telling you the things that some of you teachers have told me, and that many of your youth have told me.
May I now say a few words to you teachers? In the first place, there is neither reason nor is there excuse for our Church religious teaching and training facilities and institutions unless the youth are to be taught and trained in the principles of the gospel, embracing therein the two great elements that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph was God’s prophet. The teaching of a system of ethics to the students is not a sufficient reason for running our seminaries and institutes. The great public school system teaches ethics. The students of seminaries and institutes should of course be taught the ordinary canons of good and righteous living, for these are part, and an essential part, of the gospel. But there are the great principles involved in eternal life, the priesthood, the Resurrection, and many like other things, that go way beyond these canons of good living. These great fundamental principles also must be taught to the youth; they are the things the youth wish first to know about.
The first requisite of a teacher for teaching these principles is a personal testimony of their truth. No amount of learning, no amount of study, and no number of scholastic degrees can take the place of this testimony, which is the sine qua non of the teacher in our Church school system. No teacher who does not have a real testimony of the truth of the gospel as revealed to and believed by the Latter-day Saints, and a testimony of the Sonship and Messiahship of Jesus, and of the divine mission of Joseph Smith—including, in all its reality, the First Vision—has any place in the Church school system. If there be any such, and I hope and pray there are none, he should at once resign; if the Commissioner knows of any such and he does not resign, the Commissioner should request his resignation. The First Presidency expect this pruning to be made.
This does not mean that we would cast out such teachers from the Church—not at all. We shall take up with them a labor of love, in all patience and long-suffering, to win them to the knowledge to which as God-fearing men and women they are entitled. But this does mean that our Church schools cannot be manned by unconverted, untestimonied teachers.
But for you teachers the mere possession of a testimony is not enough. You must have, besides this, one of the rarest and most precious of all the many elements of human character—moral courage. For in the absence of moral courage to declare your testimony, it will reach the students only after such dilution as will make it difficult if not impossible for them to detect it; and the spiritual and psychological effect of a weak and vacillating testimony may well be actually harmful instead of helpful.
The successful seminary or institute teacher must also possess another of the rare and valuable elements of character, a twin brother of moral courage and often mistaken for it. I mean intellectual courage—the courage to affirm principles, beliefs, and faith that may not always be considered as harmonizing with such knowledge, scientific or otherwise, as the teacher or his educational colleagues may believe they possess.
Not unknown are cases where men of presumed faith, holding responsible positions, have felt that, since by affirming their full faith they might call down upon themselves the ridicule of their unbelieving colleagues, they must either modify or explain away their faith, or destructively dilute it, or even pretend to cast it away. Such are hypocrites to their colleagues and to their co‑religionists.
An object of pity (not of scorn, as some would have it) is that man or woman who, having the truth and knowing it, finds it necessary either to repudiate the truth or to compromise with error in order that he may live with or among unbelievers without subjecting himself to their disfavor or derision as he supposes. Tragic indeed is his place, for the real fact is that all such discardings and shadings in the end bring the very punishments that the weak-willed one sought to avoid. For there is nothing the world so values and reveres as the man who, having righteous convictions, stands for them in any and all circumstances; there is nothing toward which the world turns more contempt than the man who, having righteous convictions, either slips away from them, abandons them, or repudiates them. For any Latter-day Saint psychologist, chemist,
physicist, geologist, archeologist, or any other scientist, to explain away, or misinterpret, or evade or elude, or most of all, to repudiate or to deny the great fundamental doctrines of the Church in which he professes to believe, is to give the lie to his intellect, to lose his self-respect, to bring sorrow to his friends, to break the hearts and bring shame to his parents, to besmirch the Church and its members, and to forfeit the respect and honor of those whom he has sought, by his course, to win as friends and helpers.
I prayerfully hope there may not be any such among the teachers of the Church school system, but if there are any such, high or low, they must travel the same route as the teacher without the testimony. Sham and pretext and evasion and hypocrisy have, and can have, no place in the Church school system or in the character building and spiritual growth of our youth.
Another thing that must be watched in our Church institutions is this: It must not be possible for men to keep positions of spiritual trust who, not being converted themselves, being really unbelievers, seek to turn aside the beliefs, education, and activities of our youth, and our aged also, from the ways they should follow into other paths of education, beliefs, and activities which (though leading where the unbeliever would go) do not bring us to places where the gospel would take us. That this works as a conscience-balm to the unbeliever who directs it is of no importance. This is the grossest betrayal of trust; and there is too much reason to think it has happened.
I wish to mention another thing that has happened in other lines, as a caution against the same thing happening in the Church Educational System. On more than one occasion our Church members have gone to other places for special training in particular lines. They have had the training which was supposedly the last word, the most modern view, the ne plus ultra of up-to-dateness; then they have brought it back and dosed it upon us without any thought as to whether we needed it or not. I refrain from mentioning well-known and, I believe, well-recognized instances of this sort of thing. I do not wish to wound any feelings.
But before trying on the newest fangled ideas in any line of thought, education, activity, or what not, experts should just stop and consider that however backward they think we are, and however backward we may actually be in some things, in other things we are far out in the lead, and therefore these new methods may be old, if not worn out, with us.
In whatever relates to community life and activity in general, to clean group social amusement and entertainment, to closely knit and carefully directed religious worship and activity, to a positive, clear-cut, faith-promoting spirituality, to a real, everyday, practical religion, to a firm-fixed desire and acutely sensed need for faith in God, we are far in the van of on-marching humanity. Before effort is made to inoculate us with new ideas, experts should kindly consider whether the methods used to spur community spirit or build religious activities among groups that are decadent and maybe dead to these things are quite applicable to us, and whether their effort to impose these upon us is not a rather crude, even gross anachronism.
For example, to apply to our spiritually minded and religiously alert youth a plan evolved to teach religion to youth having no interest or concern in matters of the Spirit would not only fail in meeting our actual religious needs, but would tend to destroy the best qualities which our youth now possess.
I have already indicated that our youth are not children spiritually; they are well on toward the normal spiritual maturity of the world. To treat them as children spiritually, as the world might treat the same age group, is therefore and likewise an anachronism. I say once more, there is scarcely a youth that comes through your seminary or institute door who has not been the conscious beneficiary of spiritual blessings, or who has not seen the efficacy of prayer, or who has not witnessed the power of faith to heal the sick, or who has not beheld spiritual outpourings of which the world at large is today ignorant. You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in his ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with him. You do not need to disguise religious truths with a cloak of worldly things; you can bring these truths to him openly, in their natural guise. Youth may prove to be not more fearful of them than you are. There is no need for gradual approaches, for “bedtime” stories, for coddling, for patronizing, or for any of the other childish devices used in efforts to reach those spiritually inexperienced and all but spiritually dead.
You teachers have a great mission. As teachers you stand upon the highest peak in education, for what teaching can compare in priceless value and in far-reaching effect with that which deals with man as he was in the eternity of yesterday, as he is in the mortality of today, and as he will be in the forever of tomorrow. Not only time but eternity is your field. Salvation of yourself not only, but of those who come within the purlieus of your temple is the blessing you seek, and which, doing your duty, you will gain. How brilliant will be your crown of glory, with each soul saved an encrusted jewel thereon.
But to get this blessing and to be so crowned, you must, I say once more, you must teach the gospel. You have no other function and no other reason for your presence in a Church school system.
You do have an interest in matters purely cultural and in matters of purely secular knowledge, but, I repeat again for emphasis, your chief interest, your essential and all but sole duty, is to teach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as that has been revealed in these latter days. You are to teach this gospel, using as your sources and authorities the standard works of the Church and the words of those whom God has called to lead His people in these last days. You are not, whether high or low, to intrude into your work your own peculiar philosophy, no matter what its source or how pleasing or rational it seems to you to be. To do so would be to have as many different churches as we have seminaries—and that is chaos.
You are not, whether high or low, to change the doctrines of the Church or to modify them as they are declared by and in the standard works of the Church and by those whose authority it is to declare the mind and will of the Lord to the Church. The Lord has declared that he is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (2 Nephi 27:23).
I urge you not to fall into that childish error, so common now, of believing that merely because man has gone so far in harnessing the forces of nature and turning them to his own use that therefore the truths of the Spirit have been changed or transformed. It is a vital and significant fact that man’s conquest of the things of the Spirit has not marched side by side with his conquest of things material. The opposite sometimes seems to be true. Man’s power to reason has not matched his power to figure. Remember always and cherish the great truth of the Intercessory Prayer:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
This is an ultimate truth; so are all spiritual truths. They are not changed by the discovery of a new element, a new ethereal wave, nor by clipping off a few seconds, minutes, or hours of a speed record.
You are not to teach the philosophies of the world, ancient or modern, pagan or Christian, for this is the field of the public schools. Your sole field is the gospel, and that is boundless in its own sphere.
We pay taxes to support those state institutions whose function and work it is to teach the arts, the sciences, literature, history, the languages, and so on through the whole secular curriculum. These institutions are to do this work. But we use the tithes of the Church to carry on the Church school system, and these are impressed with a holy trust. The Church seminaries and institutes are to teach the gospel.
In thus stating this function time and time again, and with such continued insistence as I have done, it is fully appreciated that carrying out the function may involve the matter of “released time” for our seminaries and institutes. But our course is clear. If we cannot teach the gospel, the doctrines of the Church, and the standard works of the Church, all of them, on “released time” in our seminaries and institutes, then we must face giving up “released time” and try to work out some other plan of carrying on the gospel work in those institutions. If to work out some other plan be impossible, we shall face the abandonment of the seminaries and institutes and the return to Church colleges and academies. We are not now sure, in the light of developments, that these should ever have been given up.
We are clear upon this point, namely, that we shall not feel justified in appropriating one further tithing dollar to the upkeep of our seminaries and institutes of religion unless they can be used to teach the gospel in the manner prescribed. The tithing represents too much toil, too much self-denial, too much sacrifice, too much faith, to be used for the colorless instruction of the youth of the Church in elementary ethics. This decision and situation must be faced when the next budget is considered. In saying this, I am speaking for the First Presidency.
All that has been said regarding the character of religious teaching, and the results which in the very nature of things must follow a failure properly to teach the gospel, applies with full and equal force to seminaries, to institutes, and to any and every other educational institution belonging to the Church school system.
The First Presidency earnestly solicit the wholehearted help and cooperation of all you men and women who, from your work on the firing line, know so well the greatness of the problem that faces us and which so vitally and intimately affects the spiritual health and the salvation of our youth, as also the future welfare of the whole Church. We need you; the Church needs you; the Lord needs you. Restrain not yourselves, nor withhold your helping hand.
In closing, I wish to pay a humble but sincere tribute to teachers. Having worked my own way through school—high school, college, and professional school—I know something of the hardship and sacrifice this demands; but I know also the growth and satisfaction that come as we reach the end. So I stand here with a knowledge of how many, perhaps most of you, have come to your present place. Furthermore, for a time I tried, without much success, to teach school, so I know also the feelings of those of us teachers who do not make the first grade and must rest in the lower ones.
I know the present amount of actual compensation you get and how very sparse it is—far, far too sparse. I wish from the bottom of my heart we could make it greater; but the drain on the Church income is already so great for education that I must in honesty say there is no immediate prospect for betterment. Our budget for this school year is $860,000, or almost 17 percent of the estimated total cost of running the whole Church, including general administration, stakes, wards, branches, and mission expenses, for all purposes, including welfare and charities. Indeed, I wish I felt sure that the prosperity of the people would be so ample that they could and would certainly pay tithes enough to keep us going as we are.
So I pay my tribute to your industry, your loyalty, your sacrifice, your willing eagerness for service in the cause of truth, your faith in God and in His work, and your earnest desire to do the things that our ordained leader and prophet would have you do. And I entreat you not to make the mistake of thrusting aside your leader’s counsel, or of failing to carry out his wish, or of refusing to follow his direction. David of old, privily cutting off only the skirt of Saul’s robe, uttered the cry of a smitten heart:
“The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24:6).
May God bless you always in all your righteous endeavors. May He quicken your understanding, increase your wisdom, enlighten you by experience, bestow upon you patience, charity, and, as among your most precious gifts, endow you with the discernment of spirits that you may certainly know the spirit of righteousness and its opposite as they come to you. May He give you entrance to the hearts of those you teach and then make you know that as you enter there you stand in holy places that must be neither polluted nor defiled, either by false or corrupting doctrine or by sinful misdeed. May He enrich your knowledge with the skill and power to teach righteousness. May your faith and your testimonies increase, and your ability to encourage and foster them in others grow greater every day—all that the youth of Zion may be taught, built up, encouraged, heartened, that they may not fall by the wayside, but go on to eternal life, that these blessings coming to them, you through them may be blessed also. And I pray all this in the name of Him who died that we might live, the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, amen.
© 1994 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
The Second Century of Brigham Young University
President Spencer W. Kimball, October 10, 1975
Brigham Young University [should become] an “educational Everest.” There are many ways in which BYU can tower above other universities—not simply because of the size of its student body or its beautiful campus—but because of the unique light BYU can send forth into the educational world. Your light must have a special glow, for while you will do many things in the programs of this University that are done elsewhere, these same things can and must be done better here than others do them. You will also do some special things here that are left undone by other institutions.
First among these unique features is the fact that dedication on this campus deliberately and persistently concerns itself with “education for eternity,” not just for time. The faculty has a double heritage which they must pass along: the secular knowledge that history has washed to the feet of mankind with the new knowledge brought by scholarly research—but also the vital and revealed truths that have been sent to us from heaven. . . .
BYU is being made even more unique, not because what we are doing is changing, but because of the general abandonment by other universities of their efforts to lift the daily behavior and morality of their students. . . . We have no choice at BYU except to “hold the line” regarding gospel standards and values. . . .
When the pressures mount for us to follow the false ways of the world, we hope in the years yet future that those who are part of this University and the Church Educational System will not attempt to counsel the Board of Trustees to follow false ways. We want, through your administration, to receive all your suggestions for making BYU even better. I hope none will presume on the prerogatives of the prophets of God to set the basic direction for this University.
While the discovery of new knowledge must increase, there must always be a heavy and primary emphasis on transmitting knowledge—on the quality of teaching at BYU. Quality teaching is a tradition never to be abandoned. It includes a quality relationship between faculty and students. . . . “Whatever you do, be choice in your selection of teachers,” stressed President John Taylor. “We do not want infidels to mould the minds of our children. . . . I would rather have my children taught the simple rudiments of a common education by men of God, and have them under their influence, than have them taught in the most abstruse sciences by men who have not the fear of God in their hearts . . .” (Journal of Discourses, 24:168–69).
We [must] continue, in the second century, to be concerned about the spiritual qualities and abilities of those who teach here. In the book of Mosiah we read, “. . . trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” (23:14).
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!”
The Gospel Teacher and His Message
President Ezra Taft Benson, September 17, 1976
I am sure you appreciate the fact that you have been given custody of some of the choicest spirits of all time. I emphasize that. These are not just ordinary spirits, but among them are some of the choicest spirits that have come from heaven. These are they who were reserved to come forth in this time to bear off the kingdom triumphant.
This evening I desire to speak on the subject “The Gospel Teacher and His Message.” In doing so, I speak not only to the teacher who spends time in the classroom, but I speak also to you partners, for you are a teaching team. Unless you and your mate are united in purpose, dedication, and loyalty, you will not succeed to the extent you otherwise could.
Prepare Yourself Spiritually
. . . All of you were interviewed by a General Authority when you applied for employment in the Church Educational System. I assume most of you were asked if you possessed a testimony—that personal witness—of Joseph Smith’s calling and of the divinity of Jesus Christ. . . . We assume that every one of you, without any equivocation, has such a testimony; otherwise, you are flying under false colors and your teaching is a sham—a pretense. . . .
Before you can strengthen your students, it is essential that you study the doctrines of the kingdom and learn the gospel by both study and faith. To study by faith is to seek understanding and the Spirit of the Lord through the prayer of faith. Then you will have the power to convince your students. This is not just good advice; it is a commandment of the Lord [see D&C 88:77, 78; 42:14; 11:21]. . . . The sequence to possessing the power of God in your teaching is to seek first to obtain the word; then comes understanding and the Spirit, and finally the power toconvince. . . .
Always remember, there is no satisfactory substitute for the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. These should be your original sources. Read and ponder more what the Lord has said, and less about what others have written concerning what the Lord has said.
I would hope that each morning before you leave your homes you kneel before the Lord in secret as well as family prayer. I also hope that before you go into the classroom you ask to be led by the Spirit. The most important part of your teaching preparation is that you are guided by the Spirit.
Teach Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ
. . . In 1938 President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., speaking for the First Presidency, pronounced a charge to you in an address entitled “The Charted Course of the Church in Education.” All of you should have a copy of this address and read it at least at the beginning of each teaching year. . . .
More recently, President Harold B. Lee renewed this charge in these words: “You’re to teach the old doctrines, not so plain that they can just understand, but you must teach the doctrines of the Church so plainly that no one can misunderstand” (“Loyalty,” address to seminary and institute personnel, July 8, 1966, 9; emphasis added). As you stay with the fundamental doctrines and gospel principles, adhering to the standard works, the words of the Brethren, and your Church Educational System outlined courses of study, seeking the guidance of the Spirit, you should have no trouble following this counsel. . . .
Some of our teachers have said, “I can see how the counsel to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ is applicable to gospel subjects, but what about subjects such as Church history that deal in facts?” I would answer this by saying that facts should be taught not only as facts; they should be taught to increase one’s faith in the gospel, to build testimony. . . . Should you wonder how this is done, carefully study the Book of Mormon to see how Mormon did it with his “and thus we see” passages. . . .
Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church.
Live As You Teach
. . . Be consistent in your life with the message you declare to your students. The majority of you have provided strong, commendable examples of what a Latter-day Saint life and home should be. How many students have been induced into righteous decisions because of the examples of their seminary and institute teachers! . . .
President Harold B. Lee made memorable this expression: “If you want to lift another soul, you yourself must be standing on higher ground.” That “higher ground” is your persuasive example in keeping the commandments. . . .
I witness to you that God lives. He hears and answers prayers. Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world and Advocate with the Father. These two heavenly beings did in very deed appear to Joseph Smith—the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I witness that this is the Lord’s Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He presides over it and is close to his servants. He is not an absentee Master; of that you can be assured.
I witness to you that President Spencer W. Kimball is His living prophet. I love and sustain him with all my soul. Listen to his messages, for that is what the Lord would have you understand for our day and time.
God bless you. I pray the Lord’s blessings on you and your families. May you be ever faithful and true to the great trust the Lord and his First Presidency have reposed in you to uphold, sustain, and defend the faith. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
The Mantle Is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect
President Boyd K. Packer, August 1981
The fact that I speak quite directly on a most important subject will, I hope, be regarded as something of a tribute to you who are our loyal, devoted, and inspired associates.
I have come to believe that it is the tendency for many members of the Church who spend a great deal of time in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization, and leadership, present and past, by the principles of their own profession. Ofttimes this is done unwittingly, and some of it, perhaps, is not harmful.
It is an easy thing for a man with extensive academic training to measure the Church using the principles he has been taught in his professional training as his standard. In my mind it ought to be the other way around. A member of the Church ought always, particularly if he is pursuing extensive academic studies, to judge the professions of man against the revealed word of the Lord. . . .
You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.
As one who has taken the journey a number of times, I offer four cautions before you begin.
There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work. . . . If anything, we are more vulnerable than those in some other disciplines. Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer. . . . If we who research, write, and teach the history of the Church ignore the spiritual on the pretext that the world may not understand it, our work will not be objective. . . . We would end up with a history with the one most essential ingredient left out. . . .
There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. . . . Teaching some things that are true, prematurely or at the wrong time, can invite sorrow and heartbreak instead of the joy intended to accompany learning. . . . It matters very much not only what we are told but when we are told it. Be careful that you build faith rather than destroy it . . . . One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession, regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for “advanced history,” is himself in spiritual jeopardy. If that one is a member of the Church, he has broken his covenants and will be accountable. . . .
In an effort to be objective, impartial, and scholarly, a writer or a teacher may unwittingly be giving equal time to the adversary. . . . In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on, and we are engaged in it. It is the war between good and evil, and we are belligerents defending the good. We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . Those of you who are employed by the Church have a special responsibility to build faith, not destroy it. If you do not do that, but in fact accommodate the enemy, who is the destroyer of faith, you become in that sense a traitor to the cause you have made covenants to protect. . . . We should not be ashamed to be committed, to be converted, to be biased in favor of the Lord. . . .
The final caution concerns the idea that so long as something is already in print, so long as it is available from another source, there is nothing out of order in using it in writing or speaking or teaching. Surely you can see the fallacy in that. . . . Moroni gave an excellent rule for historians to follow [see Moroni 7:16–17].
Those are the cautions I give to you who teach and write Church history. . . .
The Brethren then and now are men, very ordinary men, who have come for the most part from very humble beginnings. We need your help! We desperately need it. We cannot research and organize the history of the Church. We do not have the time to do it. And we do not have the training that you possess. But we do know the Spirit and how essential a part of our history it is. . . .
May God bless you who so faithfully compile and teach the history of the Church and build the faith of those you teach. I bear witness that the gospel is true. The Church is His church. I pray that you may be inspired as you write and as you teach. May His Spirit be with you in rich abundance.
As you take your students over the trails of Church history in this dispensation, yours is the privilege to help them to see the miracle of the Restoration, the mantle that belongs to His servants, and to “see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of the Church .. . the overruling, almighty hand of [God]” (Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, April 1904, 2).
As you write and as you teach Church history under the influence of His Spirit, one day you will come to know that you were not only spectators but a central part of it, for you are His Saints.
This testimony I leave, with my blessings, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
“Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith”
President Boyd K. Packer, April 1974
What I shall attempt to do is to pinpoint a feature or two against the background history of religious education at Brigham Young University and in the Church. You should already be familiar with that history, and we can give it little attention, save to spotlight a place or two where we may have stubbed our toe, where we have tripped and almost stumbled. If we are wise we will step over such places in the future. . . .
In 1954, all the seminary and institute teachers (by this time a goodly number) were assembled for the first time in many years for a Summer School of intensive instruction. The Brethren sent a teacher, Elder Harold B. Lee, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. . . . There was good reason to check the moorings. For there had grown up among many teachers the feeling that the teaching of basic principles of the gospel might somehow be left perhaps to the Sunday School. These few teachers felt there were more interesting things to do in their classes. They would explore some of the side roads, those that had not received attention in Sunday School or from the Brethren.
They seemed to feel that a testimony would come automatically to their students. Perhaps by accretion the environment would satisfy that need, and they would add the unusual things that they had discovered in their academic wandering. Some took their students with them on these academic excursions, and many of them were lost.
Follow the Brethren
. . . When I was appointed as supervisor of seminaries. . . . [we] spent no small part of our time trying to satisfy the inquiries of General Authorities who had been to conferences throughout the Church and had received complaints that some students, while studying religion at Church schools, had lost their testimonies. On one significant occasion, . . . we spent the day wrestling with the problems of our seminary and institute teachers. . . . The exertions of that day brought us three simple words: Follow the Brethren. This became our motto. . . .
“Division of Religion”
At about that time I had my first close association with the teachers of religion at Brigham Young University. In those days they labored under a designation that unfortunately was only too descriptive, the “Division of Religion.”
They were not only divided among themselves, but from the faculties of the other disciplines at the University. They were divided from their brethren in the seminaries and institutes of religion, compatriots who, like themselves, had chosen to devote themselves to the occupation of teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in the classroom. Some of them were divided in lengthy philosophical contests, for the most part over what mix there would be in the learning “by study” and also “by faith.” . . .
In the Division of Religion, the brethren wanted, and naturally so, a place in the sun. . . . [So] in January of 1959, the College of Religious Instruction was organized, . . . [but it] has now been dissolved; for that too, by the very title, tended to isolate you from the other faculties, who sometimes assumed that they had little responsibility for the spiritual development of their students. . . .
So here we are. We find ourselves on course. . . .
May I counsel you as to where you might stumble. First, avoid the tendency to feed meat when milk would suffice. Surely that reference needs no explanation to you.
Next, there may be the tendency for you to teach without talent and inspiration because you have a captive audience. Every student at the University is obliged to take religion courses during every semester that he is in residence. No student will be penalized by this rule unless you take advantage of it and become lazy.
Next, many of you are specialists, and you ought to continue to specialize. But please know that however specialized you become in one thing, you must remain expert in several others. For instance, if you are a specialist in the archaeology of the Old Testament, there is not the slightest excuse for you to be deficient as a teacher of the Book of Mormon or of the Doctrine and Covenants or of the New Testament. If you are assigned to teach these areas to undergraduates and feel that you are being misused because you are a specialist, you need to repent. If you have a tendency to set aside these things, you are drifting from what it is all about.
The adulation of the young can easily be misunderstood and misused. If you are a talented teacher, you may have the tendency to be as foolish as the missionary who draws a convert, not to the gospel and the Church, but to himself. I caution you vigorously about that.
I add the tendency to be diverted from your teachings to do research and writing. Now, that may sound strange to you, but it seems to me that writing and research are, in true perspective, subsidiary to teaching. Both can make teaching more effective. Each has a proper place. I do not say ignore them; I say “do not be diverted by them.” . . .
Finally, I speak of pedagogical hobbies. A teacher may see something to which others may not be paying adequate attention. He may appoint himself to see that it is not neglected, and then overdo it. Almost anything can be overemphasized, as well as neglected. We have examples of that in religious education as it relates to economics or politics, to patterns of Church government, even to the priesthood. I advise you to be careful and remember this Book of Mormon definition:
“Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Nephi 26:29).