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Elder Holland charges newly inaugurated BYU–Pathway president to both watch and make history in helping provide education worldwide


Elder Holland charges newly inaugurated BYU–Pathway president to both watch and make history in helping provide education worldwide

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland charged newly inaugurated BYU–Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton not only to watch history unfold but also to make history — and to follow some of the new president’s own counsel he gave BYU–Pathway students in a devotional several years ago.

Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education was among a number of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — who participated in President Ashton’s inauguration Thursday evening, March 10, at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

He succeeds Elder Clark G. Gilbert, BYU–Pathway’s first president since the 2017 creation of the Church-sponsored online education program, with its mission to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, at Church and in their communities. Nearly 60,000 students from more than 180 countries are studying to complete online degrees and certificates at a significantly reduced cost.

In his keynote message, Elder Holland cited Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19, 88:118 and 93:28-29, 32, 36-37 as examples of the importance of learning, knowledge and intelligence in the “revelatory beginnings laid down as the gospel was being restored.” And he highlighted BYU–Pathway Worldwide’s global footprint as being key to a Church Educational System serving nearly 1 million students, with more than 60,000 instructors and several major campuses for primary, secondary and higher education.

Witness history and make history

The Apostle told President Ashton he has the opportunity not only to witness history as measured against the early revelations but also to lead out in a new era to make history as a result of contemporary revelation.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“I consider the creation of BYU–Pathway Worldwide to be the most important and most far-reaching development in the Church Educational System of this Church since the creation of seminaries and institutes of religion over a century ago,” Elder Holland said.

He encouraged President Ashton to help students with self-reliance and independence, being able to improve their lot in life and pass advantages on to their children and grandchildren — not just an obvious temporal, day-to-day application but serving as a spiritual blessing as well.

“Spiritually speaking, it will fortify that divine reach, that spiritual impulse within all of us, that helps us grow into the full measure of divinity that God intends for us to achieve,” he said. “That is why love for and loyalty to the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His gospel must be the ultimate end product of your educational efforts and the ultimate mark of your success.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Education, discipleship a central solution

Elder Holland said the new president — along with faculty and staff — “will be serving in real time with real lives” across the globe, with students needing to have connection and to be started — or sometimes restarted — on a life-changing journey.

Which he tied to current events.

“Even as we say that, we are saddened by the conflicts that continue to unfold around the globe. If, in the course of working together there exists some disagreement, whether that be among individuals or nations, the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer in bringing peace and harmony,” Elder Holland said.

Whether it be violence, greed, a lack of a sense of history or a lack of a sense of respect when considering the rights of others, “an education — especially an education in discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ — should be a central, majestic part of the solution,” he continued. “We hold firmly to the Savior’s declaration that we should know the truth, and the truth would make us free. That truth is the truth He teaches. That truth is the truth He is.”

Elder Holland concluded by inviting President Ashton to follow counsel the latter himself gave to students at a BYU–Pathway devotional three years previous: “Trust that ‘with God all things are possible.’ Don’t give up because learning something seems impossible. Don’t ‘take counsel from your fears.’ Rather, move forward in faith. If you can’t see the solution to your problems now, believe that those solutions will come as you move forward if you are doing what God wants you to do.”

A charge to the new president

Assisted by President Oaks — the First Presidency members are officers of the BYU-Pathway Worldwide board of trustees — and on behalf of the board, Elder Holland installed President Ashton, with his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, at his side at the podium. Elder Holland charged the new president to be “chief moral and spiritual officer” for all involved in and touched by the global educational program.

President Dallin H. Oaks speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

President Dallin H. Oaks speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“While readily acknowledging the education, social and economic boon this program will be to the students, it is this spiritual impact — the part that is not readily available from other universities or other programs — that will justify the Church’s support and justifies your appointment this day,” he said.

“The eternal welfare of these sons and daughters of God is and ever will be a principal concern for you as this singular, sacred trust is placed in you.”

President Oaks added brief benedictory remarks, saying “God bless you and God bless BYU–Pathway as we go forward in the work of the Lord.”

Pathway’s second-ever president

Elder D. Todd Christofferson conducts the March 10, 2022, inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson conducts the March 10, 2022, inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Christofferson conducted the inauguration ceremony, streamed live to BYU–Pathway students and viewers worldwide. Church leaders with Pathway or CES board assignments who attended included Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham and Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon, who were joined on the rostrum by the presidents of Church universities.

Appointed in 2021 as Pathway’s second-ever president, President Ashton had been first vice president of field operations, since 2018. With a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University, he began his career as a management consultant and has been a founder, executive and board member at several startup companies.

President Ashton has previously served as second counselor in the Church’s Sunday School general presidency from 2015 to 2019, bishop, high councilor, elders quorum president and missionary in the Peru Lima South Mission.

He married Melinda Earl in the St. George Utah Temple in 1996; they are the parents of seven children. She served in the Spain Malaga Mission, graduated from BYU and attended medical school in Chicago, Illinois. Together, they presided over the Texas Houston South Mission from 2012 to 2015 as mission president and companion.

‘Pathway for the kingdom’

Elder Gilbert — now a General Authority Seventy and Church commissioner of education — acknowledged watching President and Sister Ashton since the time all three were university students together nearly 30 years ago, and he saluted them for letting God prevail throughout their lives.

Elder Clark G. Gilbert speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Elder Clark G. Gilbert speaks at the inauguration ceremony for BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton on March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He cited a phrase said by President Russell M. Nelson about BYU–Pathway Worldwide in its early years — “Pathway is for the kingdom” — pointing out three implications.

First, rather than being created for any one university or institution, BYU–Pathway is a resource for the entire Church, starting with its connections with the Church Educational System. A second is how Pathway works with the Church’s departments, including long partnerships with Welfare and Self-Reliance Services and the Missionary Department and its growing relationships with the Church’s administrative areas and area presidencies.

And the deepest purpose of Pathway being “for the kingdom” is to develop disciples of Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church and their communities and help prepare the Church for the return of the Savior. “BYU–Pathway is one of the resources the Lord has prepared for the great gathering ahead of His return to the Earth,” Elder Gilbert said. “One of the ways this will happen is by helping students all across the Church deepen their discipleship so they can build others and build the Church.”

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton speaks at his inauguration ceremony March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton speaks at his inauguration ceremony March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Ashton’s inaugural response

In his inaugural response, President Ashton underscored the importance of following the divine pattern of learning, building disciple leaders of Jesus Christ, serving the “hidden many,” and helping students reap the spiritual blessings of education.

“BYU–Pathway’s employees, service missionaries, other volunteers, students and partners must use the educational pattern provided by the house of the Lord in all we do,” President Ashton said. “If we ever stray from appropriately using that pattern, we will find ourselves in trouble as an institution.”

If BYU–Pathway does its job well, the righteousness and truth that students embody will cause those they serve to follow the students’ lead and result in lasting change,” he said.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton holds the hand of his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, during his inauguration ceremony March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton holds the hand of his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, during his inauguration ceremony March 10, 2022 in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“BYU–Pathway and its partners can only build these types of leaders as we help them bring the Holy Ghost into their lives,” President Ashton explained. “We do this by focusing our students on Jesus Christ, emphasizing the need to make and keep sacred covenants, especially in the house of the Lord; teaching pure truth in the context of the plan of salvation; helping students to apply those truths; and providing opportunities for service. We must also assist these future disciple leaders to be self-reliant.”

After emphasizing BYU–Pathway’s mission to make education more accessible across the globe and all economic levels, President Ashton said the Church’s education institutions need to increase awareness of BYU–Pathway, allow its operating model to be scalable for whatever size is needed, continue to seek to decrease costs, provide scholarships to meet needs, and offer mentorships.

Other needs include overcoming technological barriers, exploring non-English avenues, simplifying application and endorsement processes, shortening time to graduation and helping students more effectively prepare for jobs.

“As we build disciple leaders and make the blessings of education available and affordable to more of God’s children — thus bringing the Holy Ghost more fully into their lives — we will assist in filling the world with truth and light and help bring an increasing number of the willing hearted and their families to Christ,” he said.

A virtual choir comprised of BYU–Pathway students from across the globe provided two musical selections during the inauguration ceremony, and Sara McGill, a Pathway service missionary also spoke. Elder Christofferson and President and Sister Ashton shared brief remarks during a dinner prior to the inauguration.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton and his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, pause for a photo with their family in the Conference Center Theater on the day of his inauguration, March 10, 2022.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton and his wife, Sister Melinda Ashton, pause for a photo with their family in the Conference Center Theater on the day of his inauguration, March 10, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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