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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s widely discussed talk at BYU on Monday included some overlooked news made by one of the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Holland issued a formal charge in his role as a member of BYU’s Board of Trustees that was backed by his history as both one of BYU’s past presidents (1980-89) and a former Church Commissioner of Education (1976-80).
He charged the new Commissioner of Education, Elder Clark G. Gilbert, with working alongside BYU President Kevin Worthen to evaluate the university’s progress toward the vision laid out for it on its 100th anniversary in 1975 by late church President Spencer W. Kimball.
President Kimball talked then about BYU’s second century. The halfway point of that second century arrives in 2025.
“Noting that we are just a few years short of halfway through those second hundred years of which President Kimball spoke,” Elder Holland said, “I think it would be fascinating to know if we are, in fact, making any headway on the challenges he laid before us and of which Elder David Bednar reminded the BYU leadership team just a few weeks ago.”
President Kimball described BYU becoming an Educational Everest towering above other universities “because of the unique light BYU can send forth into the educational world.”
He described a special kind of bilingual ability required of BYU faculty that has been repeatedly referred to by church leaders and administrators ever since:
The faculty has a double heritage which they must pass along: the secular knowledge that history has washed to the feet of mankind with the new knowledge brought by scholarly research — but also the vital and revealed truths that have been sent to us from heaven ... Your double heritage and dual concerns with the secular and the spiritual require you to be ‘bilingual.’ As LDS scholars you must speak with authority and excellence to your professional colleagues in the language of scholarship and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things. We must be more bilingual, in that sense, to fulfill our promise in the second century of BYU.
President Kimball described many other areas that could be measured and evaluated by Elder Gilbert and President Worthen:
- He said BYU should become the acknowledged language capital of the world because of the importance to the church of language training, including excellence in teaching English as a second language.
- He also famously said he was “hopeful and expectant that out of this university and the church’s educational system there will rise brilliant stars in drama, literature, music, sculpture, painting, science and in all the scholarly graces. This university can be the refining host for many such individuals who will touch men and women the world over long after they have left this campus.”
- He said the university “must not be made over in the image of the world.”
- He emphasized quality teaching must be a heavy and primary emphasis for faculty.
- He noted that an ever-smaller percentage of Latter-day Saints would be able to attend BYU as the church grew and became more global and said those who did attend BYU would have “an even greater follow-through responsibility to make certain that the church’s investment in them provides dividends through service and dedication to others as they labor in the church and in the world elsewhere.”
- He told faculty, “Your light must have a special glow, for while you will do many things in the programs of this university that are done elsewhere, these same things can and must be done better here than others do them. You will also do some special things here that are left undone by other institutions.”
Elder Gilbert — a BYU graduate who became a Harvard business professor, president of the Deseret News, president of BYU-Idaho and then first president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide — became a General Authority Seventy in April and church commissioner earlier this month. The Church Education System serves 1.2 million students across the church-sponsored universities, BYU-PW and the Seminary and Institute programs.
“I hope you will come to see quickly the remarkable strengths Elder Gilbert brings to his calling,” Elder Holland said, “even as he learns more about the flagship of his fleet and why our effort at a Church Educational System would be a failure without the health, success and participation of BYU.”
Read President Kimball’s talk, “The Second Half of the Second Century.”
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