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University of Utah President Taylor Randall challenges institute students to seek ‘worth’ at devotional featuring Elder Holland, Elder Gilbert


Whenever University of Utah President Taylor Randall or others in his family grab their car keys and venture outside, they are greeted by a plaque hung near the garage door. 

The plaque is inscribed with a reminder: “Do Something of Worth.”

That defining reminder doubled as President Randall’s anchoring message in the Sunday, Jan. 30, devotional at the Institute of Religion located adjacent to the University of Utah. Thousands of students gathered inside the institute chapel, while scores found seats in nearby overflow rooms to watch the meeting via closed-circuit television. 

Part of the attraction bringing such attendance was seated behind President Randall on the stand. Welcoming the new university president to the “Institute family” were two fellow Latter-day Saint educators and former university presidents themselves — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church commissioner of education.

“During this COVID crisis, we’ve been wondering where all of our students are — and it looks like they’re at the institute,” said President Randall, prompting laughs from his vast devotional audience. “I’m glad you’ve got your priorities straight.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

Elder Holland and Elder Gilbert spoke briefly at the beginning of Sunday’s devotional, emphasizing President Randall’s central role at the gathering.

“It is special for us to have the president of the University of Utah be in attendance tonight and speak to a group like this,” said Elder Holland. “He has done it lovingly and enthusiastically.”

Each student attending Sunday’s devotional has individual educational, professional and spiritual goals and ambitions. Like the Randalls, they are hoping to “do something of worth” in their own studies and personal lives.

“You’re in the preparatory stages of your life,” said President Randall. “There are so many questions coming at you right now, and you’re trying to answer them: Should I get married? What should I major in? Where should I live? Am I going to make enough money?”

Those students are grappling with those questions, and many more. It can be frustrating and a little frightening.

But facing those questions, assured President Randall, “is worth the wrestle. It’s worth it.”

He offered three suggestions to help students discover “worth.”

1. The path to creating worth begins by realizing that you are of worth

“To put that in a very spiritual sense, it means that you are of worth to a loving God in heaven,” he said. 

Understanding and believing in the implications and applications of one’s value to a loving Heavenly Father is essential to realizing one’s worth. Not believing in that divine relationship, he added, is akin to majoring in English without knowing the alphabet, or majoring in math without learning multiplication.

“This is something that you must learn to know and appreciate over and over again in your life.

“Because your relationship with your Father will allow you to peek around the corner just a little bit. He will give you strength and comfort when you need it. He will inspire you to do things that are absolutely unimaginable.”

2. Creating worth means thinking beyond yourself. It’s not all about you

University of Utah President Taylor Randall speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

University of Utah President Taylor Randall speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

“We live in a remarkably divided society,” he said. “But each of us has an opportunity, on a daily basis, to think beyond ourselves. And if I were to ask you one thing, other than to sign up for institute, it would be to reach out beyond yourself.”

President Randall said he is uplifted by the many students, faculty and staff members at the University of Utah who are extending themselves beyond their own small groups of friends and associates and connecting with others.

“There may not be a greater challenge for us now than thinking about others and thinking about how we can build a community together.”

3. Be patient as you create worth in your life

“Often worth gets created by thousands of small acts that accumulate over time,” he said.

President Randall shared experiences of his grandfather Phillip Foremaster, who served an extended mission to Mexico before returning to his home to St. George, Utah, marrying, starting a family and working as a farmer and rancher before dying at age 96.

“Did my grandfather have a life of worth? Absolutely. But interestingly, what we have found of worth in our family from his life is the fact that he kept a journal every single day.”

Those journals remain living testimonies of a life well-lived — a life of worth — through the daily, small acts of kindness, curiosity and courage by a man dedicated to his family and faith.

“Brothers and sisters, when I look at this audience, I see nothing but potential,” President Randall concluded. “I pray that you will understand that you are all of divine worth. That what you study here in this institute is as important as what you study across the street at our university.

“This will be the bedrock and the foundation that will give you the tools to create something of worth in your life.”

Foundation stone for education

A former president of Brigham Young University who began his professional career on the faculty of the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah, Elder Holland began his brief remarks at the beginning of Sunday’s devotional with some good-natured rivalry humor.

“I’m here to get tickets for the next Rose Bowl game. … And I want you all to remember where your coach [Kyle Whittingham] got his training,” he said, smiling.

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham was a star linebacker at BYU during Elder Holland’s time as president of the university. He has since enjoyed a successful college coaching career that included a recent conference-winning run to the 2022 Rose Bowl.

Institute choir performs at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

Institute choir performs at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

Elder Holland said the Church has always enjoyed a “warm and cordial relationship” with university leadership. Now having a returned missionary and a former young single adult leader at the helm of Utah’s flagship university will further augment that friendship.

Elder Holland then cited a quote President Randall shared in an interview with the Church News shortly after assuming his new leadership role at the University of Utah: “We want [Latter-day Saints] to feel comfortable, included and welcomed here, as we do for all of the different groups. … That may sound idealistic, but isn’t that why universities exist? We get to put out ideals and try to move toward them.”

Participating in institute remains essential for Latter-day Saint students, regardless of their college majors or professional paths.

“You are learning a lot about, say, economics or English or sociology or civil engineering,” Elder Holland told the students. “But as a foundation stone for all of that, we say, ‘Come, follow Him.’

“Understand the gospel of Jesus Christ — and then the economics and the English and the sociology and the civil engineering will mean infinitely more to you now, and in the future.”

He concluded his testimony by bestowing a brief apostolic blessing upon the institute students, faculty and staff attending Sunday’s devotional. “There are a lot of other things you could be doing tonight. Part of this blessing comes simply because you’ve chosen to be here.”

Elder Clark G. Gilbert speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

Elder Clark G. Gilbert speaks at Jan. 30, 2022, devotional at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah.

Credit: Jason Swensen, Church News

Elder Gilbert noted that many of today’s key Church leaders were products of the University of Utah — including President Russell M. Nelson and President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Gilbert also spoke of his own professional admiration and personal friendship with President Randall. Look to him as an example of someone who can be inclusive and friendly to all without compromising one’s self.

“President Randall is a man of character. He will be a friend to diverse communities on this campus. He’ll build bridges to others, including people not of our faith. He’s done that throughout his entire career.

“But President Randall is also true to who he is. And that’s one of the things I hope you will watch in him, not just tonight, but throughout his time as the president on this campus.”

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