"Weekly field trips include traveling to biblical sites throughout the Holy Land"
Name: David M. Whitchurch
BYU employee since: 1998
My job at BYU is... Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture. BYU has given me career opportunities I never anticipated. Most of my career I have taught Bible and Book of Mormon classes. In addition to teaching, my wife and I just completed our fourth assignment at the Jerusalem Center (2013 to 2016), this time I served as the associate director over the academic program. Weekly field trips included traveling to biblical sites throughout the Holy Land and out-country trips to Jordan and Egypt. For me, it doesn’t get any better! My publications include, for example, articles and books on the history of the English Bible, symbolic understandings of artifacts discovered in the Fayum (Egypt), historical Salt Lake City and a soon-to-be published collection of letters between Joseph F. Smith and his sister Martha Ann Smith Harris, 1854-1916.
I get most excited about my work when… I see students learning for the right reason, which means learning beyond the grade. While grades are important, the real reward of teaching is helping students learn for the sake of learning, application and personal growth.
What makes teaching the greatest job in the worlds is… it never gets old. There is always more to study, more to learn and understand and more to teach.
My advice to incoming freshman is… learn to budget and balance your time. For most people effective learning requires consistent and meaningful study. Learn for learning’s sake in ways that help internalize subject matter. Early on in my teaching career one of my students told me, “It’s nice to be smart but it is even better to be smart and to work hard.” I agree completely. The student who told me this was a very, very successful student.
I chose to come to BYU because… I grew up near the University of Utah. It was my school of choice. All of my brothers attended the “U." I never imagined that one day I would teach at BYU. While I still think the U of U is a great place to go to school, there is something extraordinary about going to BYU. This university institutionally incorporates the Lord’s mandate to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). For me there is no better place in the world that I would rather be than BYU.
Whenever I’m asked about favorites I respond, “I really don’t have “favorites.” Really!? For example, what’s my favorite ice cream? It pretty much depends on what’s in front of me. The same would be true about the scriptures, most foods, places that I visit, etc. I can’t imagine having a favorite daughter or a favorite grandchild. They are all my favorites. (Having said that, I do have a favorite wife.) So, keeping that in mind here are some things I really like:
Joke: Here’s one I told as a child. What kind of note do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft? … A flat minor.
Movie: The Blind Side. It’s one of the few I’ve seen multiple times.
Quote: One that comes to mind is from James Allen, a well-known English author and poet. I committed it to memory as a teenager, and still remember it:
Mind is the Master power that molds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills: —
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, originally published by Thomas Crowell Publishers, New York, 1903