News Release

President Oaks Reminds BYU of Its Unique Mission to Provide Secular and Spiritual Education

‘As students, do you dare to be different?’

Brigham Young University (BYU) faculty and students should continue to courageously carry out their unique mission to pursue secular and spiritual education.

This was President Dallin H. Oaks’ message on Tuesday at the Church-owned school’s weekly campuswide devotional.

BYU should be “different from the world’s ways when [the world does] not follow the Lord’s way,” said the First Counselor in the First Presidency. “We must not forget the Savior’s teaching that the ‘first and great commandment’ in the law is to ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,’ and the second commandment ‘is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’

“The love of neighbor — however important — does not come ahead of love of God and obedience to His commandments,” President Oaks continued. “If we truly love God and serve Him as He has taught us, we will love our neighbor as God loves him or her and as He would have us love and serve them.”

President Oaks titled his talk, “Going Forward in the Second Century.” This is a variation on a landmark 1975 talk from former Church President Spencer W. Kimball, titled “The Second Century of Brigham Young University” — an address given during the school’s centennial.

At the time, President Oaks was BYU’s president.

“I listened to and subsequently pondered his talk as intently as any person living,” President Oaks said.

President Oaks quoted abundantly from President Kimball’s remarks. For example:

  • “As previous First Presidencies have said, and we say again to you, we expect (we do not simply hope) that Brigham Young University will become … a unique university in all of the world!”
  • “We expect the natural unfolding of knowledge to occur as a result of scholarship, but there will always be that added dimension which the Lord can provide when we are qualified to receive and He chooses to speak.”
  • And, President Kimball said, BYU must sometimes “be willing to break with the educational establishment (not foolishly or cavalierly, but thoughtfully and for good reason) in order to find gospel ways to help mankind. Gospel methodology, concepts, and insights can help us to do what the world cannot do in its own frame of reference.”

President Oaks said BYU’s uniqueness is captured in the following comment from current Church President Russell M. Nelson, made earlier this year in a worldwide devotional for young adults:

“There is a major difference … between the responsibilities of secular educators and my responsibility as the senior Apostle on earth. Their job is to educate and prepare you for your mortal experience — meaning, how to succeed in your life’s work. My responsibility is to educate and prepare you also for your immortal experience — meaning, how to gain eternal life.”

"The uniqueness of our Church education has the same purpose: education for eternity as well as education for our mortal experience. We go forward with that goal," President Oaks said. 

President Oaks played a clip (shared by Elder Clark G. Gilbert at BYU’s August 2022 Education Week) from “Candid Camera,” a hidden-camera reality TV series. In the video, four actors enter an elevator facing the wrong way. A fifth person, not in on the prank, inevitably gives in to pressure and turns to face the same direction as the other four.

“As students, do you dare to be different?” President Oaks asked. “Are you willing to face the opposite direction in the world’s elevators? More important than what you do as a student are the choices you are making in your personal life — the priorities you are adopting consciously or subconsciously. Are you going forward against the world’s opposition?”

The Apostle also encouraged students and faculty to remember their covenants, play an active part in Church life, keep the commandments of Christ and stand up for the marginalized.

“Keeping gospel standards does not make you second class or condemn your example to obscurity,” President Oaks said. “All of us know of persons whose performance is enhanced in quality and visibility by being different from the crowd. President Nelson taught us this a year ago: ‘Please believe me, that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power.’”

Watch President Oaks’ full address at byutv.org.

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