PROVO — Brigham Young University students should be pleased that for 10 straight years, BYU has been recognized as the nation's most stone-cold sober school, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said Tuesday during a devotional assembly to kick off Homecoming Week.
"You've done it again," he said. "I congratulate you most warmly. How proud you ought to feel about this designation. No smoking. No drinking. No drugs. You are living up to the Honor Code of Brigham Young University. You will be blessed to do so.
"Why would anyone else on this campus, which is heavily subsidized by the church, want to do anything less?"
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns and operates BYU. The stone-cold sober ranking is based on tens of thousands of student surveys gathered by The Princeton Review and published in its annual college guide, "The Best 366 Colleges."
BYU officials estimated 22,297 attended the devotional in the Marriott Center.
As chairman of BYU's Board of Trustees, President Hinckley encouraged them to develop the characteristics described at the beginning of the church's 13th Article of Faith: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous and in doing good to all men."
"I agree it is a grinding experience to earn a degree here," he said, but BYU offers students "a bundle of ethical, moral and spiritual values."
One way to exhibit honesty is to work hard, he said.
"There is nothing more honest than good, hard work. That is what is expected of you."
President Hinckley twice mentioned the "heavy subsidy" — in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year — the church provides to BYU students and the large number of college-age church members who wish to be at BYU but were not accepted because of the enrollment cap.
President Hinckley illustrated his point about hard work and honesty through a book he recently read, "No Shortcuts to the Top," by Ed Viesturs.
Viesturs climbed Mount Everest six times, but it took him 30 expeditions to become the first American to reach the summit of all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter mountains (26,247 feet) without the use of supplemental oxygen.
President Hinckley said the loss of chastity can devastate lives, warning students, "Satan is chasing after you, and you better run away as fast as you can."
Students can become virtuous, which he described as having the strength to do whatever needs to be done, through prayer, consistent scripture study, timely payment of financial obligations and adherence to the laws of health.
He spent several minutes talking about Norman Borlaug, an example of "doing good to all men." Borlaug is the scientist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his breakthroughs in wheat production and went on to revolutionize rice production, too, averting worldwide famines.
"He has arguably saved more lives than anyone in history," President Hinckley said, though he is now largely unknown and unsung.
The devotional will be rebroadcast at 8 a.m. Monday on BYU Television.