As BYU Campus Education Week hosts people from all over the country, its late summer date would make it easy to assume that few youth would be found among conference attendees because of the precious playtime left before school starts. However, the opposite holds true, as youth ages 14-18 were among education week’s most eager students, prepared and well-equipped with pen and paper to take in all the wisdom that instructors had to offer.
“You are awesome,” presenter John Bytheway told youth in a lecture given on Aug. 15. “Here I am talking to a bunch of teenagers who have chosen to come today and walk around campus and listen to talks. … And at the end of the week you’ve got a book full of notes, you’re fired up and ready to go back to school to be a standard to the nations.”
Brother Bytheway’s talk, titled “The way to be happy is to live righteously,” was just one of 90 classes offered to youth during the week. Classes with topics ranging from Church history to teenage survival to ballroom dancing were conducted during the week, and each offered some sort of valuable tool to assist youth in building a successful future.
Like many other education week instructors, Brother Bytheway shared guidance — including prophetic counsel and scriptural references — on how to live righteously in a trying world. His lecture included a modern-day parable, the “parable of the marinade” he called it, which demonstrated the principle of immersing, surrounding or “marinating” oneself in not just good, but great things. He quoted Springville seminary teacher and musical artist Dallyn Bayles saying, “Regardless of your original intention, you will eventually become what you surround yourself with.”
If a teenager’s marinade recipe includes only worldly music, worldly television, worldly books and worldly conversation the outcome will predictably be a worldly character. “You can’t say, ‘Well I’m going to watch telestial shows, telestial movies and telestial Internet and have a celestial marriage one day,” Brother Bytheway said as he advised teens to be aware of influences of the world.
After quoting from Doctrine and Covenants 1:16, which says, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world …,” Brother Bytheway encouraged youth to stand as a light to the rest of the world. “You came here to change the world, not to let it change you,” he said.
One of the many tools given to help youth stay righteous in the world is agency, Brother Bytheway said. “Whenever there is a stimulus there is an [automatic] response,” he said. “This is true, for animals. It’s always true for animals, like Pavlov’s dog. But you are not … a dog. You don’t have to respond that way because between stimulus and response for human beings there is a space and in that space lies your freedom to choose that response.” Brother Bytheway added that one’s happiness relies on freedom to choose righteousness.
Another suggestion Brother Bytheway gave to help teens choose righteousness is to surround themselves with greatness, such as great books, media and friends. “You have to find a way every day to marinate in the Spirit,” he said. Quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, he added, “You can change by changing your environment. Let go of lower things to reach for higher. Surround yourself in the best books, music, art and people. … When I feel that God is far away I find that if I immerse myself in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns.”
While greatness may not always be easy to find, trust in the Lord is essential, Brother Bytheway said. “If we marinate in doubt and fear what do we become? Doubtful and fearful,” he said, instructing teen attendees that “worrying doesn’t do any good but exercising faith might. … You turn that worry around into faith. … You marinate in hope and love.” With the help of and faith in Heavenly Father, greatness is possible not only for the youth but for all.