When President Worthen was invited to take on the role of BYU president, he wasn't given many specifics. (Or at least many that he can remember.) So when President Henry B. Eyring spoke at Inauguration last September, President Worthen decided he'd better listen closely because it could be a good opportunity to get some direction. And he was right.
Recounting this experience during the General Session of University Conference on Monday, President Worthen said as he listened to and studied the address from President Eyring, he was particularly impressed by President Eyring's statement that the course of the University had been set by Brigham Young in a one-sentence declaration: "Put forth your ability to learn as fast as you can, and gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith you possibly can, and then distribute your knowledge to the people."
President Worthen said that from this declaration, he has gained three important insights helpful to anyone at BYU:
First, those of us at this university have an obligation to learn as fast as we can.
Second, this kind of learning requires all the strength of both our minds and our faith.
And third, our responsibility does not end when we have acquired all the knowledge that results from that kind of effort; we are required to distribute that knowledge to others ? or as President Eyring phrased it later in his remarks: "The vision at the founding was that all here will seek truth not for themselves alone, but will distribute what they have learned to bless others."
Before he talked about each of these three points, President Worthen assured the audience of faculty and staff that everyone -regardless of their role at this university - could find instruction in this direction.
"I believe that this three-fold description of learning, teaching and serving not only makes clear that every person involved in this enterprise has a role to play, but more importantly, it also describes the three-fold responsibility that every person shares no matter what his or her particular role may be," he said.
The more we focus on learning, teaching and serving, said President Worthen, the more we will be able to influence the BYU community for good. President Worthen said:
President Eyring used a distinctive phrase to describe the kind of university this effort would produce: "This is a vibrant and determined community of learners and lifters." What a wonderful description of what we should be - a community of learners and lifters. I believe it is by creating a community of learners and lifters that we will be able to play our individual roles in assisting individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life."
Acknowledging that this is an ambitious and abstract goal, President Worthen said he didn't know how it would play out in every corner of the University. However, he did challenge faculty and staff to continue this conversation to figure out how they and the groups they work with throughout campus can be better learners and lifters.
President Worthen focused on several places where he sees this work happening already. For example, 36 percent of BYU students have worked with a faculty member on a research project, which is 50 percent higher than other comparable universities. Then, 40 percent of BYU alumni three years after graduation have completed or are in graduate school. There is a correlation between those two numbers that isn't coincidental, President Worthen said.
"Such one-on-one interaction is one prime example of the way in which faculty learners become lifters in the very process of learning," he said.
Classroom and mentored learning are important, but we must be sure to be engaged in spiritual mentoring as well, President Worthen said.
"I implore you not to hide what is most important to you and what will be most important to those whom you mentor," he said. "You can best help lift them at critical points in their quest for perfection and eternal life if they understand clearly the true source of all knowledge and wisdom and service and power."
With this focus on learning, teaching and serving, we will be able to get this year off to a great start, President Worthen said.
"We look forward to the coming year with optimism, knowing that as we become a vibrant and dedicated community of learners and lifters, we will truly assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life."