Chemical engineering professor delivers BYU Devotional message
Thomas H. Fletcher, a professor in the Brigham Young University Chemical Engineering Department, addressed students Tuesday in a campus devotional address he called, “Harvey and Howard: Lessons from Two Grandfathers.”
Fletcher is the grandson of Harvey Fletcher, whom the university honored during Homecoming Week in 2010. Though Harvey was a renowned scientist, Fletcher’s message was that he learned lessons from both this famous grandfather and his other grandfather, a man named Howard Tonks, who quietly raised his family and worked on a farm his entire life.
From his two grandfathers, he learned the following lessons:
1. Be both good and great.
Harvey Fletcher was singled out as a youth by Karl G. Maeser, who hearing him speak said, “This boy will go a long way in the church and among the leaders of men. Someday this boy will be a great man.” This opened Harvey to teasing by his peers, and he later told others, “I would rather be good than great!”
“Good here means to be a follower of the Savior Jesus Christ and to follow His teachings,” Thomas Fletcher said. Quoting the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, he continued, “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”
2. Do your best in school and at work.
Harvey Fletcher once received an F grade in physics because he didn’t do the homework. Afterward, he took his schoolwork very seriously. He earned top grades, including the physics class he retook, and was soon teaching math and physics as he worked toward his own degree.
“So what is the lesson here?” Thomas Fletcher asked. “Perhaps it is to do all of the homework in school. Perhaps it is to do your best the first time, or you will have to do it over. I think that the real message is that you should do something that you really want to do, no matter how hard it is. Don’t be discouraged if it does not work out the way you wanted at first. Keep trying with your best effort.”
3. Stay true to your testimony.
After being recruited heavily by the premier physics lab in the country, Harvey Fletcher, with President Joseph F. Smith’s blessing and an admonition, left teaching at BYU for a job with Western Electric in New York City. He followed President Smith’s counsel to keep active in his church activities and to keep his testimony strong, and he ended up sharing his faith in God with scientists from all over the world.
“The lesson that I have learned is to stay true to your testimony,” Thomas Fletcher said. “I have met many people in science that seem to ignore God because they cannot prove that He exists. There is no logical argument that can persuade someone that the church is true. The only way to know of the existence of God is to have a personal revelation through the Holy Ghost, as explained in Moroni.”
4. Serve faithfully in callings.
Fletcher’s other grandfather, Howard, was a great example of missionary service. He inspired Fletcher with a determination to serve, and because the war prolonged Howard’s mission by a full year, Fletcher also learned that when serving, “you serve as hard as you can and do not worry about how long you serve in that calling.”
5. Be devoted to your spouse.
“Both Howard and Harvey were sealed to their spouse in the temple of God, and they were very devoted husbands,” Fletcher said. “If you are still looking for a spouse, pray that the Lord will guide you and let you know when it is right. If you have made a marriage covenant already to someone with whom you fell in love, stay in love and honor your covenant.”
6. Have a positive attitude.
Another lesson Fletcher learned from Harvey was about attitude. Even when he was in his nineties, when people would ask him how he was doing, Harvey would shuffle his feet and respond, “I can still dance!”
7. Be humble, and try to be like Jesus.
“The biggest lesson that I have learned from Howard Tonks,” Fletcher said, “is to be humble and to be close to Jesus Christ. Howard worked hard on the sheep ranch and dairy farm. The climate in Victor, Idaho, is harsh, yet animals still have to be fed and cared for every day. Despite the hard, rugged work, Howard remained faithful to the Lord his whole life.”
Fletcher said Howard was always cheerful, never complaining, and always gentle and kind.
“One became an internationally-known scientist,” he said, “bearing his testimony to large numbers of people throughout his life, working in New York City. The other quietly served a mission, raised a family, worked hard on the farm in Victor, Idaho, and served the Lord whenever called with all of his heart. Perhaps in the eyes of the world, one was great and one was relatively obscure. However, in the eyes of the Lord, I think that both were good. Both were valiant servants of our Lord, Jesus Christ throughout their life. In the end, when we come before the Savior, the words that I would most like to hear would be ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant.’”