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It was more than just a pep talk for faculty and staff at Brigham Young University Tuesday as Elder Boyd K. Packer urged educators to focus on the future of their students, giving them the opportunity to fly as "snow-white birds."

Elder Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke before some 4,000 faculty, staff and administrators who gathered at the Wilkinson Center ballroom for the school's annual University Conference.Relating a story about former BYU President George Brimhall, Elder Packer talked about the president's determination in establishing BYU as a recognized teachers college in 1910.

"(Brimhall) had hired three professors," Elder Packer said. "They determined that `practicality and religion, which had characterized the school, must now give way to more intellectual and scientific philosophies.' "

Among the tenets the teachers were espousing included treating the Bible as a collection of myths, folklore and drama, that the theory of evolution was treated as demonstrated law and that visions and revelations are mental suggestions.

Brimhall then dreamed that "snow-white birds" captured in flight were brought to the ground by a group of professors. The birds turned out to be confused BYU students dressed in ancient Greek clothing.

Elder Packer said Brimhall interpreted the dream to mean students were being taught to "believe only what they could demonstrate in the laboratory."

In relating the experience, Elder Packer said professors must not limit students by focusing solely on intellectual and scientific ideologies, while disregarding religion and spirituality.

"Is the teaching of religion given a pre-eminent place, and are those who teach religion full time recognized for the vital contribution they make to every other discipline?

"Has the responsibility to prepare teachers been divided up and parceled out and lost?" he said. "Have such words as training, instruction, values been brushed aside in favor of loftier theoretical and intellectual considerations?"

Elder Packer also told those attending the conference that he has been released from his position on the church's Board of Trustees after 34 years. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve, he said, will now be rotated on that board.