Brigham Young University students, like the school itself, must have a clear vision of their purpose, President James E. Faust said Tuesday.
The second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told students to ask themselves the question, "Why am I at this university rather than at any other university which will teach only secular learning?"The answer, President Faust said, is: "You are here to learn for eternity."
He reminded students that the only things they will take with them into the next world are faith, understanding and knowledge. The education students gain during their stay at BYU and throughout their lives is important preparation for the next life, he said.
"We do not want to arrive in the next world educationally bankrupt," President Faust said. "The quest for eternity begins now, this year, this month, this day, this moment."
The balance between spiritual and secular learning at BYU has been an increasingly common topic of discussion recently. Besides President Faust, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and BYU President Merrill J. Bateman have also addressed the topic in the past three months.
The attention of professors and students on campus seems to have been drawn toward the subject as well, perhaps in relationship with a report about BYU's climate for academic freedom published in a national professors' association journal this year.
"I have repeatedly stated that Brigham Young University is a continuing experiment on whether an institution, the majority of whose trustees are prophets, seers and revelators, can continue to be true to its trust by the changing world standards and yet be a first-class university academically," President Faust said.
"At Brigham Young University the secular must be taught in a spiritual context."
President Faust related a definition of education made by the university's namesake, Brigham Young. He said, "Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world's work, and the power to appreciate life."
President Faust said thinking clearly involves paying attention to current events, discussing ideas with others, reading good literature and maintaining a healthy body. Asking questions - with a sense of searching but not doubting - is a vital part of learning, he said.
Acting well means employing one's knowledge in the service of others. Graduating with an academic degree should not lead to pride but should foster kindness and patience in one's heart, President Faust said.
Patience is particularly necessary for highway drivers during the current glut of road construction.
"Do not let yourselves be drawn into road rage," he said. "Slow down. Play a tape of pleasant music and remember what the Savior taught, `For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.' "
Finally, he said, students should learn to appreciate life, whether it involves studying, working or raising a family. He also advised students not to be so serious all the time.
"Don't forget to laugh at the silly things that happen," he said. "(Humor) is a powerful force for good when used with discretion."
President Faust said students who are fortunate enough to attend BYU owe a debt that can only be repaid through the quality of their lives, their achievements and their faith and devotion. He said he can relate to the heartache felt by many who cannot attend BYU because his granddaughter was not admitted to the school because her grades were "just a whisker below the minimum requirements."