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President, Southern Virginia University
October 3, 2007
I am deeply grateful for the warmth of the welcome, President Woodhouse. I am grateful for your introduction, but most particularly for the gift of your friendship. As President Woodhouse and I both know, presidents are not always the most popular person on campus. A single story, my favorite, seems to capture this sentiment. A faculty member comes in to the president’s office with a parking ticket, puts the parking ticket on the desk in front of the president’s assistant and says, “I want the president to take care of this parking ticket.” He doesn’t even notice that the assistant has been crying. The assistant then says, “Well, the president died this morning. He had a heart attack.”
“Hmph,” he takes the ticket and walks off with it. Five minutes later, he’s back and puts the ticket down again. “Well, I’ve waited quite some time. To my knowledge the ticket has not been taken care of, so here it is. Have the president take care of it.”
The assistant says, “Well, I told you that the president passed away last night.”
“Hmph.” The ticket is gone.
But five minutes later, they’re back again. There’s the ticket. And at this point in time, the assistant—always ever so diplomatic—isn’t quite so diplomatic. She says, “I have told you once. I’ve told you twice. And I’m telling you a third and a final time.
The president died last night. He can’t take care of your ticket!”
The faculty member leaned back and said, “I just had to hear the good news one more time.” And so it is with college presidents.
On a more serious note, I want you to know that it is a joy to be with you, to have felt the spirit of the choir, to have been buoyed and strengthened by that wonderful invocation, and the introduction makes me feel very much at home. I am particularly grateful to be here at this very special time of the year, when we prepare for General Conference. I want you to know that I have long been impressed with the quality of educational opportunity that’s offered at the LDS Business College. If you take full advantage of this fine educational opportunity, you will be blessed spiritually, intellectually and temporally.
My remarks today will focus on how you can take greater advantage of your education in all its forms by being scholar disciples. Before turning directly to that topic, however, I want to share a little information about Southern Virginia University. We started in 1996 as a liberal arts college in the LDS tradition, with just 74 students. We have since then grown ten-fold. Over 95% of our students are LDS, coming from throughout the United States and many foreign nations. We’ve been blessed to have a number of graduates of the LDS Business College attend SVU, and we have been very pleased with their preparation, spiritually and intellectually.
Like the LDS Business College, the only two-year college in the LDS context, Southern Virginia is a one-of-a-kind institution. We are an independent undergraduate college that focuses on letters, arts and sciences, and emphasizes LDS standards, with an Honor Code, firesides, weekly devotionals, and the largest daytime Institute east of the Rockies. Together with Princeton, the University of Chicago and 47 other fine universities and colleges, we were recently named by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as one of the top 50 all-American colleges for students of faith. Our emphasis on student engagement in a small-class setting with extracurricular opportunities in athletics and the arts has also been recognized nationally. The National Survey of Student Engagement under the auspices of the University of Indiana School of Education found that we outperformed all other private and public universities with large LDS student enrollments in all five categories assessed: 1) Level of academic challenge, 2) Active and collaborative learning, 3) Student-faculty interaction, 4) Engaging educational experiences, and 5) Supportive campus environment. With small classes taught by highly-qualified faculty, it is not surprising that our freshmen are twice as likely to describe our faculty as “available and helpful” as freshmen at larger universities.
A whopping 89% of our seniors describe the quality of their relationship with faculty in the very highest terms, whereas fewer than half of the students at larger universities gave such a rating. Students at SVU are almost twice as likely to be highly engaged in extracurricular activities, when compared with students at larger universities.
Ninety-four percent of SVU seniors report that they engage in activities to enhance spirituality often or very often, which makes them four times as likely than students at colleges nationally to report that college life is helping them very much in their efforts to develop a personal code of values and ethics.
Students who stay at SVU receive their bachelor’s degree, on the average, in less than four years, while their counterparts at larger universities take five to six years, making SVU a great value. The NSSE, the student engagement statistics, confirm what I sensed the very first time I stepped on campus—SVU is a place where students, faculty and staff are engaged spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. It is not surprising therefore that Richard L. Bushman, the Gubenor Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University and a distinguished Latter-day Saint historian, made the following observation during a recent visit to Southern Virginia: “When the history of education in the Church is written, I think that what is happening at this moment at Southern Virginia University will play a large part. And who knows where it will go from here.”
We have study abroad programs with discounted tuition at places like Oxford University, Rome, Greece and China. We will host our first program in Nauvoo thisMay. We offer these summer programs at a discount, which makes tuition competitive with state universities and BYU. This year, with 700 students, we will award approximately four million dollars in scholarships based on merit and need. We even have a special scholarship for returned missionaries. We do everything we can to make the quality education we provide at SVU affordable. We even help cover expenses related to visiting campus, because over half of the students who visit campus become enrolled at the University.
At Southern Virginia University, we are educating scholar-disciples, that they might become the next generation of leader-servants, following in the footsteps of the Master Servant, Jesus the Christ. While we embrace this significant mission, I think the same thing can be said in so many ways about the experience you are having at the LDS
Business College. So few of our Father in Heaven’s children are blessed to enjoy the twin blessings of the fulness of the gospel and a quality education. You have been given much, and where much is given, much is required. I believe that it is expected that you will be leader-servants. If you are to fulfill that expectation, you must become scholardisciples now.
I know many of us are fearful of that word “scholar”. Some may even hold it in disdain, believing that it refers to the conceit of those who purport to be intellectuals.
The dictionary reveals that the meaning of scholar is certainly something within the reach of everyone present. It teaches that the root of scholar is scholaris, which is defined as “of a school.” You are all attending a wonderful college that is dedicated to learning.
Indeed this very mortal life, this world in which we live, is a grand school. I have come to understand more fully that a scholar is simply one who is teachable. We can occasionally be foolish and still be teachable. I learned that during the final semester of my senior year of high school. I was in civics class. I was somewhat bored, as was my friend Don Sada, who turned to me and said, “I’ve had enough. I am out of here. Are you with me, Rod?”
Not quite sure what I meant, I responded, “I’m with you, Don.” I was astonished to see him rise from his seat and jump out of the second-floor window during the middle of class. I had promised Don that I would follow him. We should not promise others we will follow them until we’re certain of where they’re going. I am sure all of my classmates and my teacher, Bob Campbell, were watching as I rose from my seat and jumped out of the window, catching my foot momentarily in the blinds. Freed from the blinds I tumbled to the ground beside Don. I then asked him, “Well, what do we do now?”
We discussed that very relevant question for a moment, and then decided to return to class. We were ready to face whatever justice the foolish act warranted. Returning to our desks, we were surprised when Mr. Campbell simply continued leading the discussion, clearly ignoring us. The class ended and we proceeded out of the classroom, confused. Our teacher slid quietly behind us and whispered so that only we could hear, “I’ve been teaching for 25 years and that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I still remember the sting of those words. I had learned a great lesson, and came to respect, even love, my teacher very much. A decade later, I served as city attorney, learning anew from Mr. Campbell, our mayor. Two decades later I went to visit Mr.
Campbell, my favorite high school teacher and friend, who was dying of cancer. It was my last visit with him. As he walked painfully to the door with me, he said, “Rod, you were the best student I ever had.” How grateful I was that he saw through my foolish moment and came to see me as a scholar—as one who was, in fact, teachable.
Professor Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University, one of the world’s foremost scholars in the field of developmental psychology, has studied the work of the brain in great detail. In her book, Mindset, she shares what she has learned. She concludes that there are two mindsets—the fixed mindset, and the growth, or teachable mindset. She discovered, based on a major study performed in her brain-wave laboratory at Columbia
University, that “people with a fixed mindset were only interested if the feedback reflected on their ability.” She added that, “Only people with a growth mindset paid close attention to information that could stretch their knowledge. Only for them was learning a priority.” She then concluded, “People have to decide what kinds of relationships they want—ones that bolster their ego, or ones that challenge them to grow.” (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) I have now lived long enough to know the truth of what Professor Dweck discovered in her lab. The teachable among us continue to grow by being willing to learn, even when it is difficult. They are scholars, ever learning.
Scholarship—being teachable—requires three commitments on our part: a desire to learn, willingness to work, and the faith necessary to apply what we learn that we might become the leader-servants we are required to be. B.H. Roberts, one of the great theologians of the Latter-day Saint tradition, did not learn to read until he was ten years old. When he was young, his foster mother was reading to him and fell asleep. Elder Roberts recounts, “I sat alone with the paper and my thoughts, marveling at the miracle that a paper could speak to one only if he had the power to read it. On this thought my mind dwelt, and after some time elapsed, I spoke out loud. ‘Will the time ever come when books and papers will speak to me? Will I ever read books?’ Then a peculiar silence, and the soul voice said, ‘Aye, and you will write them too.’” We can imagine what joy B.H. Roberts felt as he was blessed to learn to read. If we share his desire to learn, we as children of the living God can surely begin to feast upon what we are learning, and learning can become a joyful experience. But it is not enough to merely desire to be teachable. We must work at it.
Again, Elder Roberts put it well when he taught, “There is no progression fromease to ease.” I learned this lesson when I turned in my first paper in college. I was excited when I received it back. I just knew that I was about to receive my first “A”. I was shocked to find that my desired A was in fact a C-minus. That grade shook my confidence, and the comment that followed cut me to the very core. The professor had written, “You should have put in more of your own, or could you?” He was certainly not enamored of my critical thinking. I returned to my apartment and shared my sad experience with my roommates. They were sophomores, those paragons of the collegiate experience. With an air of diffidence that implied their lack of confidence in me, they said, “Well, he’s a tough professor. Just hope you can get a C in the class.” I responded that I would yet get an A from that professor. They laughed and walked away. I worked hard on my next paper, and I was thrilled to receive a B. I listened in class; I read each book with real desire to learn, then I prepared my final paper, toiling over it. Oh, how I treasured the A-minus I received on that last paper. The grade matters little today, but the lesson I learned—that scholarship requires hard work— is one that I have never forgotten. I switched my major to philosophy and began to take very challenging courses. I still remember the difficulty of my “Philosophy of Sartre” course. We were assigned his book, Being and Nothingness. It was incredibly rough going. In fact, in writing it, Sartre, with characteristic arrogance, is reputed to have said, “If readers are not willing to work hard, they don’t deserve my work.” I recently picked the book off my shelf and turned to the middle. I want to read to you the first two sentences that my eyes fell on. Sartre wrote: “The first solution is known by the name solipsism, yet if it is formulated in conformity with its denomination as the affirmation of my ontological solitude, it is purely a metaphysical hypothesis perfectly unjustified and gratuitous. For it amounts to saying that, outside of me, nothing exists, and so it goes beyond the limits of the field of my experience.” I do not share those sentences with you believing that they contain great wisdom.
They merely are part of Sartre’s effort to explain existence without God—Sartre’s existentialism. I share them because I am better for having read them, not because they are wise, but because in reading them I discovered that with effort I could understand even the most ponderous material. Today, I certainly prefer the words of scholars of faith like C.S. Lewis and the tender teachings of the gospel to the words of philosophers like Sartre.
Compare with me the words of C.S. Lewis to the words of Sartre. Lewis writes: “Imagine yourself a living house, and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing, and so you’re not surprised. But presently, he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he’s building quite a different house from the one you thought of— throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace.”
B.H. Roberts puts this principle at work a bit more succinctly: “The attainment of the condition of Christian righteousness,” he writes, “is a matter of character building under the favorable conditions provided by the gospel. And character building, eve nunder favorable conditions, is a matter of slow self-conquest.”
The third attribute of teachableness, therefore, is faith. Our study, our writing, our work, indeed all we do needs to be imbued with faith. We must have desire to learn, we must work hard at it, and must crown this whole process with faith. Knowing we are children of God and that we are therefore, by our very nature, scholars. In the Lectures on Faith we learn that faith is a principle of power. We learn, as we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive. But faith is not a principle of action, but of power also in all intelligent beings whether in heaven or earth.
We also learn that if we take this principle or attribute of faith—for it is an attribute according to the Lectures on Faith—if we were to take it from Deity, He would cease to exist. Who cannot see that if God, who framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that He exercises power over earth, and that faith is the principle of power. And if a principle of power, it must also be in man as well as in Deity. As children of God, we can learn by faith. It is more than a power that is within us. It is an attribute that we may claim.
Hayes Larsen, a distinguished graduate of SVU who now teaches at the Naval Academy, relates how he felt the swellings of the Spirit as he first studied Plato. He witnessed in that moment that faith strengthens both our desire and our capacity to learn. If you want to learn math or any other subject that may be hard for you, and you are struggling or working at it, you can turn to your faith. You can pray and you will find that your desire and your earnest efforts will be augmented by the power of your faithfulness. You will have done your part. You will have worked at it. And you will know, as I know, that the Holy Ghost makes up the difference. Exercise faith as you desire to learn and work at it, and you will, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Be humbled by the palace the Lord is building in your life, by the person you are blessed to become.”
I testify of the importance of being teachable, of being scholars. President Hinckley is wonderfully accomplished. He loves the letters, arts and sciences, and has found much joy in them as he has studied by faith over the course of his life. They are part of who he is.
I served a number of years ago as a stake mission president. As I sat in the Gospel Essentials class, I was struck by the apparent differences among all who were present in that class. There was a woman from India, a lawyer, a student, and others from various walks of life and cultural ethnic backgrounds. I wondered, “What do they all have in common?” Tutoring me in that very moment, the Spirit whispered in my mind, “They are all teachable.” My eyes were then turned by that same power to look upon President Hinckley’s picture on the wall, and the Spirit again whispered to me, “And he is the most teachable of all.”
Of course, in the annals of time, we know that truly the most teachable of all is the Savior, Jesus Christ. I marvel that after a marvelous recounting of Christ’s birth, Luke notes: “The child grew, and waxed [and became] strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40) We know that he learned “line upon line.” (See Isaiah 28:10)
Luke then chronicles the Savior’s experience in the temple as a boy of twelve, sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)
The Joseph Smith Version adds that the teachers “were hearing him, and asking him questions.” This give and take, in a small class setting with teachers and students learning together, is one of the highest forms of education. When His mother found Him, after worrying greatly over his whereabouts, she inquired, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
Ever the scholar both learning and teaching, He responded in a loving and profound manner, saying, “How is it that ye have sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:48-49) He knew, as we have come to know, that when we learn, we are about our Father in Heaven’s business. We must be ever learning, that the Father’s work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal lives might be fulfilled (See Moses 1:39).
It is touching to me that in the Book of Mormon, we last encounter the Savior teaching among the people of this continent. Having learned all, He is the Master Teacher, and we are scholars in His school. We see how He learned and lived, and He beckons us to do likewise. May we desire with every fiber of our beings to learn, may we work hard to do our part in that great learning process, and may we have faith that through the Holy Ghost, our minds might be opened and our hearts touched, that we might be the scholars we are called to be.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it, “To be a disciple-scholar in our time is a call to high adventure.” Let us turn therefore from scholarship to discipleship. A scholar who is not a disciple is like a ship without a rudder. True discipleship is the pure love of Christ. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches, “The pure love of Christ, or charity, is a state of being and not a mere act. It defines who we are, if we are disciples.”
Clearly the Atonement was the defining moment in all history. We learn much of the Savior’s character, of who He is, through understanding the Atonement. In his wonderful book, Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister wisely observed, “The Atonement was both an exercise of power and an acquisition of power. One of the ironies of life is that we acquire love when we give it away. We increase in knowledge as we dispense what we learn.”
It is clear, therefore, the pure love of Christ, the essence of discipleship or who we are, like faith, is also a principle of power. My wife, Danielle, taught me so much about discipleship. I remember the first time I saw her; she had just graduated from BYU and was a waitress at a small, Mexican food restaurant. I saw the light of Christ in her countenance as I observed her kindness as she waited on tables. Alas, she was not my waitress. I remember wishing that she was LDS, and my heart beat faster as she approached our table and said hello. She then said, “Didn’t I see you in church on Sunday?” At this point, my heart was not only beating faster, it was soaring. And my mind was struggling to keep up as I tried to think of something clever to say to a girl I really wanted to impress.
I said what first came to mind: “Well, I don’t recall seeing you at church, and I make it a point to notice attractive young women.” I thought I was saying, “You’re really attractive. I don’t know how in the world I failed to notice you.” She believed I said, “If you were attractive, I would have noticed you.” I am deeply grateful to my wife for her goodness in forgiving me and for giving me another chance. There is a lesson in this for single young women present. No, wait, there’s one for them too, but first let me get the young men. There is one for you young men, first of all. Look. There’s hope for all of you. There’s also a lesson for all single young women present. Be a disciple. Be kind to even the most bumbling of all young men, because he may one day be your husband.
In a talk entitled, “King Benjamin’s Manual of Discipleship,” Elder Neal A.Maxwell reflected on King Benjamin’s great discourse and said, “Finally, as a leaderservant full of years and rich in experience, wise Benjamin urged the people to pace themselves in the arduous journey of discipleship.” If we are to become leader-servants like King Benjamin, we must pace ourselves in the arduous journey of discipleship. President James E. Faust taught, “The word for disciple and the word for discipline both come from the Latin root discipulos, which means ‘pupil.’ It emphasizes practice or exercise. Self discipline and self control are consistent and permanent characteristics of disciples.”
C.S. Lewis put it well when he said, “Little people like you and me, if our prayersare sometimes granted beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly entreated. If we were braver, we might be sent with far less help to defend more desperate posts in the great battle.”
Being a disciple is not easy; it is calisthenics for the soul, calling on the very best we have to offer. However, as President Faust reminds us, “Many think that the price of discipleship is too costly and too burdensome. For some it involves giving up too much. The cross is not as heavy as it appears to be. Through obedience, we acquire much greater strength to carry it.”
I will never forget the last time I was blessed to be with President Faust. I had the opportunity to tell him that of all sentences I have heard in General Conference, one that he uttered has had the greatest impact in my life. His words have shaped my life and learning. He taught that “The Atonement advances the mortal course of our learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect.” This perfecting process that calls us to greatness as the children of God is arduous. Greatness never comes easily, in scholarship, athletics, arts or any area of our lives.
As a young man, Luciano Pavarotti toiled at menial labor and resisted the allure to spend his hard-earned dollars on momentary pleasures so that he could use them for voice lessons. His voice, which has blessed so many lives, was forged in the crucible of this sacrifice. We would all do well to follow, therefore, his example and the example of Dale Murphy’s family and put the following saying on our refrigerators: “We can do hard things.”
Disciples do hard things, knowing that their growth and capacity for service depend on such effort. To be disciples, we must follow the example of the Master Teacher, who took the great yoke of the Atonement upon Himself, and taught us in turn that we must take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. To do so, we must lay aside the natural man and woman in each of us.
Elder L. Tom Perry relates that “Mother was a great delegator. Each Saturday morning, as my brothers and sisters and I were growing up, we received housecleaning assignments from her. Her instructions to us had been learned from her mother. ‘Be certain that you clean thoroughly in the corners. If you’re going to miss anything, let it be in the center of the room.’ She knew very well that if we cleaned the corners, she would never have a problem with what was left in the center of the room. That which is visible would never be left unclean.” Elder Perry analogized this experience to the cleansing of our lives, the laying aside of the natural man.
My son likes to say that there are three parts to all of our lives: the public, the private, and the secret. At SVU, we begin each school year with “Rise Up for Honor,” a tradition in which we join together on the mountain behind our university as the sun rises and collectively stand and pledge our willingness to abide by the Honor Code. In his remarks at our “Rise Up for Honor” this year, our dean of students called on all present to make sure that we were not double-minded or double-tongued by ensuring that what we do and say in private comports with our public lives. I would add that what we secretly think or do when no one is looking must also be perfectly consistent with what we profess publicly if we are to be disciples. I challenge everyone present to look closely at the corners, the private and secret parts of our lives, and make a solemn determination today to clean them as disciples must. I submit that a disciple is one who seeks the power of the pure love of Christ at all times, in public, private and secret moments. If we are disciples and have the pure love of Christ with us at all times and places, our thoughts, words and deeds will bless our lives and the lives of all around us. We will be better students, better teachers, better friends, and happier for it. There are great, substantive and precious benefits or blessings that accompany such discipleship.
I love the words of Isaiah, who with a wisdom garnered from a life of study and experience, knew that man’s intellect was dim in comparison to the omniscience of the Lord our God, Isaiah concluded, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [the Lord’s] ways higher than [our] ways, and [the Lord’s] thoughts than [our] thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) But with the Holy Ghost guiding our efforts, our thoughts can become His thoughts over time. He can and will enlighten the minds of His disciples.
Driven with the will of a disciple, Elder James E. Talmage, a great scientist, sought to learn science that he might know how worlds are created. When we study science or math or English or art, or any subject for that matter, as a disciple we do so earnestly, knowing we want to be better, more Christlike. To all that earnestness, the Lord will add enlightenment, and opportunities will follow enlightenment. He will also open the minds and hearts of His disciples, that they might bless lives and might be tools in His great work.
How wise Paul was in teaching the Corinthians and us that “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) The pure love of Christ helps our minds and heart become more teachable. It edifies. Highly educated but wicked men and women have dotted all of human history, and their knowledge was but a tool in the arsenal of evil. Disciples must harness that same knowledge to meet the measure of their creation, through acts of goodness and to be good men and women.
I can testify of this. When I was a young lawyer and bishop, one of my ward members came into my office. Her husband had taken her child and run off with another woman. His lifestyle was such that, if he kept the child, that child would have few opportunities to enjoy the true blessings of this life. The young woman was weeping.
She had no money, and she feared that all was lost. As I represented her, I cared deeply and was highly motivated to learn the applicable law and do all that I could to ensure that the child was returned to his mother’s arms. It took time and much effort, but I can attest to the fact that the Lord’s thoughts became my thoughts as the case unfolded. And I shed tears the day the child was returned to his mother. Had I better understood when I was in college that I was learning so that I might be serviceable in blessing lives later, in returning babes, if you will, to the arms of their mothers, I would have studied with more earnestness, with more prayerfulness, and with the discipline of a disciple, knowing that the gift of knowledge is one of the blessings a disciple may claim. Having the pure love of Christ and gift of discipleship, our capacity to learn is magnified by the powers of Him who knows all, and our opportunity for service is expanded.
In July of 1973, I was studying earnestly to learn whether the Book of Mormon is true. I wanted to know whether I should be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will forever remember the moment when I was reading verse 16 of Moroni, chapter 8. As I started that verse, I did not know. As I finished it, I knew that the Book of Mormon was true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, the one called to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of all times. The words of that verse have been instructive throughout my lifetime, and I share them with you. The second sentence of that verse reads, “Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.”
Perfect love casteth out all fear. If there is anything that we know to be good, but we fear the challenge of doing it, that fear can be cast out by love. I am fearful of my own inadequacy each day as I walk toward my office to serve as president of SVU. The task is so much bigger than I am, but I know that the Lord loves the university, and that He loves me despite my faults, and I walk in the light of courage borne of the pure love of Christ.
I have learned to use that perfect love to cast out fear in all areas of my life, both spiritual and temporal. Even in such simple areas as a time when I used to play basketball. As a basketball player, I learned that if I was shooting a free throw that might win a game, I need not fear, if I simply let my mind and heart be filled with the pure love of Christ. Now, I might not make the free throw, but my nervousness would evaporate, and I could have peace, the pure love of Christ as a great, claming power and a marvelous capacity to focus our minds and hearts.
Let me conclude therefore, with three ways in which we can harness the power of the pure love of Christ in our lives. First, we must pray earnestly for such power. Second, we must come to always remember the Savior and His love for us and all His children. Finally, we must commit to pay the price of discipleship in our lives. In Moroni 7:47-48 we learn, “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
It is only charity that never faileth. It imbues our thoughts and deeds with meaning. We must pray earnestly for it. I commend to you the practice of praying earnestly, even pleading, as we bend our knees for the first time each day, that we may have the pure love of Christ fill our hearts and minds. Such prayers, particularly when accompanied by visualizing our hearts and minds filling with such love, are exceedingly effective. Second, we must, as we covenant to do each time we take the sacrament, always remember Him. We must always seek to have the pure love of Christ with us. When a roommate says something unkind, we must respond with love. When we study, we should do so with earnestness and pure love. When we go to class, we should pray that such love will open our minds and hearts, and then participate in a manner that makes it possible. When others gossip, we must defend the defenseless, or walk away. When we see unkindness in our midst, we must step forward to address it, knowing that the pure love of Christ will show us the way. When we are subjected to the allure of the world’s temptations or buffeted by its trials as we surely will be, we must fill our hearts and minds with pure love, and those very thoughts and feelings will dismiss the temptations and make the trials bearable moments of learning. Imagine how transformative the pure love of Christ can be if we carry it with us at all times and in all places, and truly commit to be disciples.
Finally therefore, we must commit to be disciples as well as scholars, to harness the power of the pure love of Christ in all aspects in our lives. As I prepared this talk in my mind and heart, it became clear that the Lord wanted me to make such a commitment. I have made this very commitment many times before, but it should be renewed with added force each day. I made this commitment this morning, and I renew it at this moment: I commit, even covenant, to do better, to seek to harness that great power in my life. I urge you all to join in that commitment. If you do, I witness that your life will be one of joy.
I conclude with my testimony of Him whose mind and heart are full with pure love. His disciple above all else I want to be. I join in testifying of the heartening words of President J. Rueben Clark Jr., who testified of the power of such love to harmonize justice and mercy when he said, “I believe that in His justice and mercy, He will give us the maximum reward for our acts—give us all that He can give. And in the reverse, I believe that He will impose the minimum penalty which is possible for Him to impose.” I cannot remember when I first came to know that Jesus is the Christ. It is among my first memories, perhaps even one that simply came with me to this life. With time, my belief in Christ led me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I committed to being ever teachable and began in earnest the arduous but exhilarating journey of discipleship. I have rejoiced in moving from a mere belief in the Savior to adoration for the Savior, and ultimately to a fervent desire to emulate the Savior. I have been so imperfect, but His love has always buoyed me. His Atonement has both cleansed and taught me, and I testify again, as one who desires above all else to be His disciple, that He lives and loves us with a pure love that is all-powerful and merits our emulation, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction of President Smith by President Stephen K. Woodhouse To begin with, I’d like to congratulate all of you students who are here today. You know, we have this long, narrow room, so we have to keep making sure we recognize these people down here on this end. Thank you for being here. We feel your spirit. We’re so glad that you’re students here, and that you have taken the time to attend our devotional today. It’s a great pleasure for me to introduce to you Dr. Rodney K. Smith. He’s the President of Southern Virginia University. I first met Dr. Smith when we were at a dinner for college presidents down in Phoenix, where we meet every year. We sat at the same table where I got to know him, and he got to know us, and we invited him here, and he invited Sytske and I to speak out there in a few weeks, and we’re looking forward to that.
The thing that I didn’t tell him is that every speaker who stands at this podium has to be approved by our executive committee and our board of trustees, and so I have to take those names forward. It takes me about a month to do that, and, as most of you know, the chairman of the board of trustees is President Gordon B. Hinckley. So you have been personally approved by the Prophet.
Dr. Smith has held administrative positions at four other institutions, including the University of Memphis, the University of Arkansas, the Capitol University Long Graduate Center, and the University of Montana. He received his masters in law from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Juris Doctorate from BYU. That’s that institution to the south of us. He has held many church positions. Twice he has been a stake mission president, three times a high councilor, three times a bishop, and—my personal favorite—he’s been a Sunbeam teacher.
He and his wife Danielle have eight children and twelve grandchildren. I asked Sister Smith how they met, because I always find that to be such an interesting story. She said they were the only two single adults in the ward in Bishop, California. And that brought them together. It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to Dr. Rodney K. Smith.
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