Spencer Fluhman, executive director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and an associate professor of history, delivered Tuesday’s Devotional address in the de Jong Concert Hall about the unique role of education at Brigham Young University and the perspective it provides.
Fluhman loves the goodness and light he finds at BYU and in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it pushes him to be better. Fluhman spoke of the unique role universities have in the search for truth, the daunting nature of that task and the opportunity for education to unite.
Universities provide a place for growth, educationally and intellectually.
To Fluhman, universities stretch, exhilarate and feed curiosity. Universities fill the gaps of knowledge missing within us.
Universities should also help facilitate our spiritual renovation. This transformative process is at the heart of God’s great plan of happiness. “Put most simply, for believers to be studying created things is to be studying the works of Christ… Religion pours out, hot and demanding, into every field at this university because it must,” Fluhman said.
This divine call of the university means members of its community are enlisted to promote its ideals and aims. We must call upon our best selves in order to help.
“To be casual or flippant about our collective aspirations would be to trifle with sacred things,” Fluhman said. “Expect your courses to be difficult… your professors to wrestle mightily with their topics… unfinished business all around. Expect to now and again fall short of our stated aspirations – those failures are crushing but necessary. And expect to wrestle yourself. There is deep magic in the intellectual and spiritual struggles demanded here.”
Early Saints, despite their persecution, made the creation of universities a top priority.
“Prioritizing something like a university when so much else seemed tenuous surely tells us something about the place of the life of the mind in God’s kingdom,” Fluhman said. “The plain fact of this university shouts quite a sermon, don’t you think?”
Other universities have restraints that prevent them from being able to answer questions regarding the human experience. BYU, however, has the unique opportunity to provide insight on such matters with an enlightened perspective.
The importance of our education can be intimidating.
At BYU, expectations and aspirations are far-reaching. The problems may seem overwhelming; the tasks daunting.
Though we may fall short, God is seeking us and fitting us for a world that is in need.
“There are always problems afoot that will demand our best and then some,” Fluhman said. “From poverty to racism to ecological collapse to rampant inequality to sexual violence to poor healthcare to religious freedom to deficient education – this world groans under the weight of our collective failures and yearns for a people with a broad and compelling vision infused with the hope and compassion the gospel of Jesus Christ inspires in each of us.”
Fluhman hopes that when a need arises, members of the Church will be there to do the things that need to be done to help those forgotten by others, to stay longer than necessary and help those in need. If students and faculty let it, time spent here can be wide-ranging.
Our education should unite, not isolate.
Through education, it can be easy to grow cynical and impatient, and some perspectives can seem more important than others.
Fluhman suggests reframing problems as, “How can my academic training answer the problem of human suffering or contribute to the redemption of the human family?”
When problems are reframed away from cynicism, we can grow closer rather than farther from our fellow Saints. Education can instead help bring stillness and provide an opportunity to gather strength.
“Faith, hope and charity are audacious in such a world as this. But make no mistake, we’ll find the place that God has prepared for us, even if it seems far away today,” Fluhman concluded. “Just when your strength is flagging, you’ll catch the glint of some gleaming tower off in the distance and you’ll sense that God is there…. The ride will not end, the restoration will not conclude, until every daughter and son of God who will come has been safely gathered into his extended, covenantal embrace.”
Next Devotional: Pam Musil
Pam Musil, associate department chair of the dance department, will deliver the Devotional address on Tuesday, August 6, at 11:05 a.m. in the de Jong Concert Hall.
Her remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio.