PROVO — President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the newest building on the Brigham Young University campus Tuesday, hailing its namesake, Joseph F. Smith, as "a man of unshakable courage in the face of adversity."
"He was the sixth president of the church," said President Hinckley, who now heads The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU. "I am the the 15th, and I feel like a pygmy when I think of standing in the same circle with him."
President Smith's formal education was over by the time he was 14, but President Hinckley credited the lessons the young man learned from his mother and as a missionary for making him a man of experience, intelligence and eloquence.
"It is my opinion that no man, save the Prophet Joseph (Smith) only, has had a greater and better understanding of the origin and history of the church," President Hinckley said. "There have been other great exponents, but none has had a broader or deeper understanding, nor spoken so eloquently concerning these matters."
President Hinckley said President Smith encouraged church members to get a solid education on spiritual matters, as well as temporal ones. In that spirit, President Hinckley said, the church now maintains BYU to show to all the world that "the acquisition of secular knowledge is important, but just as important is the acquisition of spiritual truth."
The new JFSB replaces another building named for the same man, the Smith Family Living Center. That building was razed following the 2001-2002 school year, and the new building was built on the same site.
The building houses one of the largest colleges on campus, the College of Humanities, and will also provide space for one-third of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.
Architects were given the theme of "Light and Truth" for the project, and came up with a Renaissance-themed building that features an enormous interior courtyard.
The building has 25 classrooms, including the unique "rotating classrooms," two rooms that can rotate to face into an auditorium for larger classes, or close off for smaller classes.
There are numerous labs in the building, including the Family History and Genealogy Center. Ten LDS wards and four stakes will also call the new building home.
"It is a beautiful, highly functional structure that sends a message to the the university and the community about the importance of the humanities and the social sciences," said John Rosenberg, dean of Humanities. "We wanted to build a building where not only would we teach, but the building itself would teach."
Rosenberg called Tuesday's ceremony a "beautiful, unifying event" and said President Hinckley's dedicatory prayer provided a map for faculty and students for what they need to do in the building.
But with all of Tuesday's pomp, Rosenberg said his department was more inclined to express gratitude than celebrate.
"The faculty and the students from this college are deeply grateful to the donors and university administration that made this possible," he said.