BYU’s mission and destiny to become a great university through unique means should lead all who work and study at the university to continue forward with inspiring learning.

 

President Kevin J Worthen speaks at the general session of University Conference
Photo Credit: 
Nate Edwards/ BYU Photo

Speaking at a conference for BYU faculty and staff, Worthen compared statements made by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Spencer W. Kimball about the destiny of BYU. Each prophet spoke about the future of BYU with three common elements:

  1. BYU has a prophetically declared destiny to become a great university
  2. Every employee has a part in realizing and fulfilling that destiny
  3. Achieving that greatness will happen in a way that is unique from other universities

Worthen acknowledged there is little point in being different for difference’s sake. BYU’s uniqueness must be consistent with the board-approved (and prophetically-approved) mission.

Worthen observed two key ways in which BYU is already distinctive. First, unlike most major private universities that started off as faith-based institutions, BYU remains closely aligned with and is closely directed by the sponsoring Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Second, of the CES schools, BYU is the only institution that requires faculty to excel not only in the classroom but also in the research arena.

“I believe that on these two issues — the compatibility of faith and learning and the compatibility of teaching and research — we at BYU are in the messy middle,” Worthen said. “I believe that, when viewed in the light of gospel truths, these two seemingly irreconcilable dichotomies become mutually reinforcing convergences which produce a truly unique kind of education that is part of our prophetically-declared destiny.”   

Quoting Elder Oaks’s remarks at a recent BYU leadership retreat, Worthen reiterated the primary purpose for the Church’s large investment in faculty scholarship and creative work at BYU is to enable the university to be a refining host for our students.

“I believe this unique combination of faith-based teaching and student-centered research is a key ingredient to the kind of holistic learning and character development that President Kimball called education for eternity,” Worthen said. “This kind of student learning and character development is at the heart of our prophetically declared destiny.”

Executing those combinations is not without challenges. Navigating through the combination of faithfulness with learning and researching with teaching requires extra effort. It’s difficult to quantify how impactful the research endeavor has on students. Pride can get in the way as scholars seek for the praise of the world or become arrogant in their own uniqueness.

“None of this will be easy, but it will be enlivening, exhilarating and, yes, ethereal,” Worthen said. “At times, we will need to forge new paths; that’s what uniqueness is all about. But the impact will be larger than we may think.”