Ricks College began work that will add "another jewel" to its campus as Elder L. Tom Perry broke ground June 29 for the new John Taylor Religion Building. This will be the college's first new building in 17 years and the first building on the campus to be named in honor of a pioneer prophet.
Elder Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, represented the two-year, Church-owned college's Board of Trustees as he turned the soil for the 60,000-square foot building just south of the Manwaring Center on the south portion of campus. Assisting Elder Perry with the groundbreaking was his wife, Barbara, and Ricks College Pres. Steven D. Bennion and his wife, Marjorie.Representing the office of the Church Commissioner of Education was G. Paul Sorenson, administrator of finance and budget for the Church Educational System. Also attending was Edwin Cozzens, assistant administrative vice president for BYU Physical Facilities. Brother Cozzens assists the commissioner's office with the development and building of new Church Educational System facilities.
Others present were Ricks College faculty, staff and students; campus ecclesiastical leaders; and local community leaders and citizens. A crowd of nearly 1,000 gathered for the groundbreaking.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Perry said, "The influence of Ricks College continues to spread and make an ever-increasing contribution for good in the world in which we live."
The apostle spoke of the man for whom the new building will be named - John Taylor, the third president of the Church. "I have first-hand knowledge of how noble and great this Taylor blood is," Elder Perry noted, referring to his wife, who is President Taylor's great-great-granddaughter.
Continuing, Elder Perry said he associates three words with the life of President Taylor: conversion, loyalty and articulateness.
"May the strength of his conversion, his loyalty to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to the Church, and the articulate way in which he defended the Church with polish and refinement always be remembered as we will use this great new addition to the campus of Ricks College," Elder Perry said.
Speaking of the prophet's conversion, Elder Perry related that President Taylor heard and accepted the gospel from Elder Parley P. Pratt. At the time of his conversion in 1836, John Taylor was a preacher in Toronto, Ontario. In the twilight of his life, John Taylor said of his conversion, "I have never doubted any principles of Mormonism since."
The Lord prepares the leadership of His Church in every age the gospel is on the earth, Elder Perry said. "No two men were more loyal and more strong in their defense of the Prophet Joseph Smith than were Brigham Young and John Taylor."
President Taylor was known to be intelligent, articulate and a tough-minded leader. "He was always given difficult assignments to articulate the gospel of our Lord and Savior, and was always able to subdue the false doctrines that were being published against the early Mormon Church," Elder Perry said.
In her remarks, Sister Perry told of her great-grandmother, Ida Oakley Taylor Whitaker, daughter of President John Taylor.
"It's a blessing to be from such great posterity," Sister Perry noted, "but I was always taught that it was important for me to live my life the best I could and not ride on his shirt tails.
"Such a name should carry with it the great legacy which is ours as we remember the contribution of the prophets whose teachings and examples have enriched our lives. Pres. Bennion and his staff have been inspired in the selection of the name of this building."
Speaking of President Taylor's rich historical connection with Ricks College, Pres. Bennion said in his address at the groundbreaking that President Taylor was the prophet who invited Thomas E. Ricks to colonize the Upper Snake River Valley in the 1880s. "He was continuing the vision of his predecessor (Brigham Young) to invite the Latter-day Saints to settle in the mountain valleys of Utah, Idaho and other parts of the West," Pres. Bennion related. "It is indeed appropriate to name the Ricks College religion building after President Taylor, a fearless defender of the faith."
Continuing, Pres. Bennion, who conducted the ceremony, said the last time Ricks College broke ground for a new building was in 1978 for the Eliza R. Snow Center for the Performing Arts. Initial planning for the new religion building began five years ago and completion of the building is anticipated in April 1997. "This is a day we have long awaited," he added. "This is a glorious day!"
The college president thanked the faithful tithe payers of the Church. "This building would not be possible without you. So many of the seeds taught on this campus help our students grow in faith and testimony. It is essential that these seeds be planted and nurtured."
Offering brief comments was Mack G. Shirley, vice president of Student Life and chairman of the religion building's planning committee. The John Taylor Religion Building, he said, has been designed to "reflect the elements of spirituality and religious reverence which symbolize the mission of Ricks College."
The new building, which will house the religion and humanities departments, will also be utilized Tuesday nights and Sundays by one campus stake and nine student wards. A permanent chapel that seats 400 people will combine with a cultural hall to seat 2,000. In addition, the facility will be used for forums, summer devotionals, stake conferences and firesides.