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BYU will remain “a religiously oriented religious university”


Brigham Young University will not stray from its religious and spiritual roots like other American colleges and universities have done, the school’s new liaison to its board of trustees said Tuesday during a devotional. at the Provo, Utah campus.

“It’s a religious university with a religious purpose,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert in his first address to BYU since being named commissioner of the education system for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. in May 2021.

“BYU is prophetically led and will remain a spiritual beacon to the world,” he added.

Elder Gilbert said BYU, the flagship school of the religious system, is unaffected by the three main factors that pull many religious universities away from their spiritual origins identified by Robert Burchael — faculty promotion is outsourced to secular disciplines, funding is transferred from the sponsoring religion to outside sources, and university management is separated from the sponsoring institution.

Sometimes some people suggest that the Church of Jesus Christ should move away from BYU as it got rid of junior colleges nearly a century ago.

“Let me explain why this will not happen to BYU,” said Elder Gilbert, who became a General Authority Seventy of the church in April 2021. “First, the prophets foretold the important role that this university will perform in the kingdom of God. Additionally, we have outstanding faculty and staff who have come to BYU precisely because they believe in the university’s unique spiritual mission.

Two weeks ago, church leaders moved to ensure faculty remain spiritually aligned with church and BYU missions by announcing that all newly hired Latter-day Saints will be required to hold a recommendation to temple use, which signifies their faith in Jesus Christ, the church and its leaders.

Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church Education Commissioner, speaks during a BYU devotional at the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday February 8, 2022.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Second, Brother Gilbert said BYU’s governance structure is unique.

“Perhaps the most fundamental reason BYU will remain grounded in its religious goals is that its oversight and governance remain closely tied to the church itself,” Elder Gilbert said. “By design, the President of the Church Board of Education and the BYU Board of Trustees is the prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. The vice presidents are his two advisers, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

Third, he said church leaders on the board remain invested in BYU students. He didn’t mention it, but the church subsidizes tuition for each student. Brother Gilbert said the board also invests time and support. The presidents of BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Pathway Worldwide, and Ensign College meet once a month with the full board and a second time a month with the executive committee of the board , chaired by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and former president of BYU.

“By any external standard, this is a remarkable council,” Gilbert said, referring in part to the fact that three council members are former university presidents and the president is a former college professor. of Medicine. “But more importantly, they are spiritual, even prophetic leaders. They pray for you. They advise you on your needs. They receive revelation for this institution. They love BYU and they love you.

As the church’s education commissioner, Elder Gilbert, a former Harvard business professor who specializes in disruptive innovation and former CEO of Deseret News, liaises between the board and universities and coordinates monthly meetings.

Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church Education Commissioner, embraces Nathan Relken after delivering a BYU devotional speech at the Marriott Center in Provo Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church Education Commissioner, embraces Nathan Relken after delivering a BYU devotional speech at the Marriott Center in Provo Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“Every major expenditure, all faculty appointments, key program decisions and the selection of college presidents are reviewed and approved by the Church Board of Education,” he said. “So when BYU’s mission statement states that the university is ‘founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ know that this is part of the very design of the university.

“BYU is designed for a distinct spiritual purpose.”

Elder Gilbert, who is the former president of BYU-Idaho and BYU-Pathway Worldwide, walked around a circular stage on the arena floor of the Marriott Center as he addressed an estimated audience in 2,413 people, according to center staff.

He shared thoughts on his time as a BYU student who graduated in 1994 with a degree in international relations and a wife, Christine, with whom he has eight children. He said BYU is a temporary spiritual refuge

“A lot of us come from places where we were religious minorities and have been through things like Elder Gilbert talking about being made fun of in a high school congregation,” said Nick Burrup, 21, a student in finance in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “So we all come here and we are united in faith.”

Brother Gilbert pointed out that the size of the school is not large enough to accommodate all the Latter-day Saints who would like to attend.

He told the students that he wanted them to understand “in what sacred seat each of you sits.”

“Students from regions such as Africa, Brazil and the Philippines look up to you as role models,” he added. “They would do anything to receive the opportunities that you have to be on this campus, to live in this community and to be at this devotion.”

This notion struck a chord with 21-year-old Eleanor Molver of Seattle, Washington.

“It made me think of students all over the world who would give anything to be here,” said Molver, a second-year bioscience student. “Sometimes I don’t pay attention in class and I was like, ‘I should.’ I should be constantly grateful to BYU and to the great church leaders who set such a good example.

Elder Gilbert advised students to take root in Jesus Christ at a time when people he quoted, such as David Brooks and Rod Dreher, noticed that society was disintegrating spiritually. He said some young church members have told him they fear getting married and having children in a world that Dreher says is losing its bonds.

“My message today is that we can find peace, even in the midst of turmoil,” Elder Gilbert said, quoting President Nelson’s recent message that “despite today’s unprecedented challenges, those who build their foundations on Jesus Christ and have learned to tap into his power, need not succumb to the unique anxieties of that time.”

He said BYU can change the lives of students in lasting ways if they let it. He told them that he and his friends weren’t perfect as BYU students, “but most of us were trying our best to become something more in Christ, and we were grateful to BYU’s impact in this effort.”

“I appreciated the clip he shared of President Nelson about how we don’t focus on perfection but on improvement, improving ourselves through Jesus Christ,” said Andrew Logan, 21, a mechanical engineering student from Oakland, Calif.

Brother Gilbert asked the students to remember four things:

• Christ will take us wherever we are: “Brothers and sisters, you don’t have to be perfect to be in this church. You just need to do your best, which includes repentance, as you strive to become something more in Christ.

• He will love us even if we don’t return that love: “In this season of polarizing public speaking, I am grateful for Christ’s pattern of charity and love. Even when we feel attacked for our most cherished beliefs, he inspires us to respond with empathy and kindness.

• “In these troubled times, Christ is the Mender of the breaches in our lives.

• He will help us in our infirmities: “For those of you who are struggling with challenges that do not seem right, do not look to the world. Please turn to the covenants that bind you to Jesus Christ. He can comfort you like no one else can.

The Tuesday Devotional is available now for on-demand viewing on BYUtv.org. Video, text and audio will be available later speech.byu.edu.