Elder Andersen, ASU president talk about learning, working together

Credit: Image courtesy Arizona State University
Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

TEMPE, Ariz.

“Now is a good time to find opportunities to learn,” Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during the second LDS Family Education Night sponsored by Arizona State University on Aug. 29.

Hosted in the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium on ASU’s main campus in Tempe, Ariz., the event brought close to 3,000 Phoenix area LDS high-school-aged youth and their parents together for an evening with the university’s president, Dr. Michael M. Crow and Elder Andersen.

Done in a panel discussion format, President Crow and Elder Andersen were joined by other guests on stage including Sister Kathy Andersen, Tempe YSA Stake President Edward “Trey” Basha and Sister LeAnn Basha.

“We received more than 1,000 questions from students and parents,” said moderator Derrick Anderson, an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs and an advisor to the president of ASU.

Questions for the event came from the audience members prior to the event via an RSVP online. Members of the panel discussion took turns answering a handful of questions on a variety of topics.

Meant to be a “conversation” with the special guests representing a number of different perspectives, the event covered a variety of topics including religious freedom, the relationship between the university and institute of religion, as well as the importance of education.

“One of the reasons we love ASU is because years and years ago, Dr. Crow — when he was very new and he had to push against pressures — helped us in the creation of that unbelievable institute building right in the center of campus, something that many were opposed to,” Elder Andersen said.

Recognizing the opposition the Church has had in years past regarding the institute building’s location on campus, Elder Andersen thanked President Crow for working with the Church to allow a presence on the ASU campus.

“I’d like to say how grateful we are for Dr. Crow, who is not only a world-class president of a university, but is a one of the foremost innovators and thinkers in education in the United States and around the world,” Elder Andersen said. “He’s a man who opens his mind and his heart to everyone. He’s doesn’t have an ounce of prejudice in him, he sees the good in all people and he’s been a champion of the many different kinds of people, us included, on the campus of ASU.”

Elder Andersen spoke of the opportunities of students who attend ASU, including receiving a good education while still being able to have religious teaching at the institute.

“The LDS community in particular is unbelievably civic-minded, unbelievably focused on producing great futures, so what we’ve tried to do is build a highly responsive university, one that is inclusive to everyone,” President Crow said.

President Crow also explained that the university has worked hard to correct any religious discrimination from the past. One way of doing that is by allowing students with scholarships to keep them while serving a mission.

“Why wouldn’t we want a great individual who had been out learning a language in other cultures, working with people, helping advance people’s lives and so forth?” President Crow asked. “Why wouldn’t we want them back as part of our student body to greatly enhance our student body?”

When asked about the institute on campus, President Crow called it a “tremendous facility” with “tremendous energy.”

Elder Andersen added that it is important for those who are at the institute to keep the doors wide open to people of good will from all different thinking patterns.

“We do not close ourselves in,” Elder Andersen said. “Sometimes our doctrine is so strong and our devotion is strong, we can be tempted to cloister ourselves in. We have to push ourselves not to do that, open our doors, appreciate the beliefs of others, learn more about them and if they need a place to meet, invite them to come use our facility.”

When asked about concerns with the rising generation, President Crow spoke of having a positive outlook.

“I don’t have many concerns for a generation that is coming up because I know that we live in a moment in history where we have much more awareness, much more ability to understand things. We have increased capacity to understand differences, be educated about differences, to respect differences,” he said. “Having said that, my concern about the future is for folks not to succumb to negative energy. There is no problem that has ever been solved by complaining.”

Elder Andersen spoke of a need to develop and cultivate a belief in Christ. Recognizing that the number of true believers in Christ has decreased immensely in just one or two generations, he encouraged listeners to build their faith in Christ as they build their professional education.

“This is not just something you either have or you don’t,” he said. “You nurture it, it grows. … You make [your faith in Christ] a strong part of your educational period.”

When asked about what to do as a parent when a child has experienced emotional bullying and exclusion at Church, Sister Andersen reminded listeners that “this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

She encouraged listeners to evaluate their own behavior, asking themselves “Have I ever been unfair? Do I ever exclude others? Especially with the young men and young women who are here — please think of how others feel and please be sensitive. … And, remember that we are all children of God and that He loves us and He loves us when we love each other.”

When asked what high school juniors and seniors can do to prepare for college, President Crow quickly replied, “Read.” After repeating that word 10 times he said, “And when you wake up from being tired from reading you should read some more.”

President Basha added, “I would tell you that you need to start preparing to work. Sometimes high school is a little easier than college and if you come understanding that it’s work, and you are ready to work, then you will do well.”

Sister Basha added, “Learn how to be patient with yourself and those around you.”

At the end of the event, more information was provided about the recent collaboration between BYU-Idaho and ASU. For more information about what is available, visit

In his concluding remarks, Elder Andersen said, “Do not ever sell yourself short. Don’t ever have someone tell you you can’t do it. You can do it. You start one step at a time. You get on your knees and you pray, you have faith in God, and you take those steps to become who you want to become.”

With a student body of 73,000 students and a faculty of 3,400, ASU has five campuses in the metropolitan Phoenix area. Many community members, including elected officials, attended the evening in addition to local stake presidents, Area Seventies and supporters of the university.

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