“Becoming” and “doing” were major themes of Brigham Young University’s first devotional of the new winter semester, given on Jan. 9 by BYU President C. Shane Reese and his wife, Sister Wendy Reese.
“God wants us to become like Him. It’s our collective work at BYU to help one other along this journey of discipleship,” President Reese said.
He highlighted Book of Mormon examples of people who developed eyes to see what they needed to become. Alma the Younger, for instance, initially rebelled against his father’s teachings but repented and became a mighty missionary, Sariah worked through frustrations to achieve a testimony of God’s plan for her and her family, and Zeezrom, who initially used his intellectual gifts to create contention, experienced a change of heart and became a servant of God.
Now, it’s BYU students’ turn to write their individual and collective stories of becoming, President Reese said. He referred to his inaugural address, in which he urged the campus community to “strive to become the BYU of prophecy” by:
- Strengthening the student experience.
- Retaining and strengthening a focus on undergraduate teaching.
- Reinforcing BYU’s “dual heritage,” or being “bilingual,” for faculty, staff and students. (In this context, being “bilingual” means speaking with “confidence and power” about both spiritual and academic matters, President Reese said.)
- Developing the courage to be different.
- Building a covenant community of belonging.
- Investing in mission-inspired scholarship.
- Focusing on mission-aligned hiring.
“Doing all of this... will require us to see our studies and our work through a gospel lens, rather than merely seeing the gospel through a societal lens or a disciplinary lens or any other lens that limits our vision and our perspective,” President Reese said. “In other words, if we are to become the BYU of prophecy, we will need ‘eyes to see’ ... [And] we will only develop eyes to see as we view our lives, our world and our circle of influence through a gospel lens.”
He continued that developing eyes to see means focusing resolutely on celestial things so that light chases away darkness, allowing individuals to gain a deeper understanding of “all things.”
“Fortunately, for those of us who might sometimes feel like we have mathphobia, or writer’s block, or are a little tone deaf, there may be no greater scriptural promise than to be able to understand ‘all things,’” President Reese said. “Keeping our eyes focused intently on things celestial will help us to understand the seemingly impossible-to-understand topics and subjects.”
He also encouraged students to develop eyes to see others and eyes to see their divine identities. Individuals find themselves, he said, as they care for the needs of others. He referred to Matthew 16:25, in which Jesus promises that those who lose their lives for His sake will find their lives.
“In other words, one of the best forms of ‘self-care’ is to look first to care for the needs of others,” President Reese said. “This seemingly ironic statement of losing our lives to find our lives runs in stark contrast to the current trends toward seeking our own self-interests as a primary mode of coping with personal challenges. The eyes to see others and then lose ourselves in serving them becomes a win-win scenario with both the giver and the receiver better for the effort.”
In her remarks, Sister Wendy Reese urged students to focus on “doing.” New semesters provide new opportunities, she said, but students must take action to see results.
Sister Reese said doing the Father’s will is one of the most fundamental characteristics of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Becoming doers of the word and not just hearers is “central to our beliefs and challenges us to move beyond passive engagement with our faith to actively living the principles of the gospel that we hold dear.”
To truly become doers, individuals must first shift their mindsets, internalizing gospel teachings rather than merely accumulating knowledge, Sister Reese said. Dormant, unused faith is like owning a recipe book without ever stepping foot in a kitchen.
As people strive to become doers, the Savior is the perfect example to look to, she continued.
“Jesus did more than just feel compassion for others. He acted to serve and lift those around Him,” she said. “Following the example of our Savior by ‘doing’ will help us feel of His love and in turn shows our gratitude and love for Him.”