Professor Monte R. Swain's great-great-grandfather came to the Salt Lake Valley in 1865 alone, divorced and excommunicated with no useful skills to offer the Saints. He died 30 years later, fully "in the faith" and surrounded by his large family.
Swain's ancestor was refined through years of work as a stonemason on the Salt Lake Temple. Likewise, students are being "constructed" and refined as they work and study, Swain, a professor in the School of Accountancy, told students and faculty at Tuesday's university devotional in the de Jong Concert Hall.
"BYU is not an academic program or an athletic program or even a missionary or leadership program that is under construction here. It is you. You and I are the whole point of it," Swain said.
To illustrate his point, Swain called on a stirring talk given by then university president Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that he read while still a university student. The speech told the story of the building of the Salt Lake Temple. The early saints spent nearly 40 years building the temple and suffered many setbacks, including rebuilding the entire foundation.
The temple dedication ceremonies were "much more than the dedication of a building. They represent the dedication of an entire people to God," Swain quoted Richard Holzapfel as saying in his history of the Salt Lake Temple.
Just as the ultimate purpose of building the temple was to perfect the saints, the work we are given throughout life is the Lord's way of perfecting us.
"He who is omnipotent really does not need us to move the wheel or to build anything for Him. It is not His ultimate objective to cover the world with chapels and temples," Swain said, referencing the hymn "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel."
"I believe that He cares more about the shoulder than about the wheel--that wheel is how we are moved to come home to Him. The wheel, the work, is a blessing to us."
Though school may be extremely challenging at times, and there will be days when "our life gets bumped hard by an experience or challenge here that is painful," Swain said, the Lord is building each of us into temple a he can reside in.
"The key to finding rest and renewal is to give ourselves wholly and whole-heartedly to God's work and His will," Swain concluded.
The devotional will be rebroadcast Sunday, June 8, on BYU-TV at 8 a.m. and 4 and 10 p.m., and on KBYU at 6 and 11 a.m.
Writer: Alexis Plowman