Help
Home

1988: Lance D. Chase - The Idea of a Mormon University


Watch Online Watch streaming video

1988: Lance D. Chase - The Idea of a Mormon University

L ChaseAppointed to Church College of Hawaii as a faculty member in English in 1973, a scant two years later Lance D. Chase accepted the chairmanship of the Division of Religious Instruction, a position he held for ten years, while continuing to teach sporadic course in literature. When he delivered the twenty-sixth McKay lecture, he had moved again, this time to the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Like Dr. Baldridge, Chase was both a convert to the Church and a charter member of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society. Following a mission in Texas (196101963), he completed his B.S. in 1966 and his M.A. 1969 at Brigham Young University, earning a Ph.D. from Marquette University in 1980. His Church callings have included service as bishop, high councilor, scoutmaster, temple worker, and, periodically, gospel doctrine teacher. The host of "Focus Hawaii," a television show broadcast from BYU-Hawaii, Chase is associate bibliographer for Christianity and Literature. He met his wife Londa, a special instructor in speech communication, when they both attended BYU; they have nine children, eight of whom are living: David, Anne, Joshua, Zachary, Elisabeth, Daniel, Steven, Sara, and Benjamin.


My brothers and sisters, thank you for the honor you have conferred upon me both by selecting me to deliver the David O. McKay lecture and by your presence here today. I have heard fourteen of these lectures. I reexamined Lynn Henrichsen's in preparing my own and my admiration for it and him increased. Among others, I recall the wonderful feeling provided by Ken Baldridge's and Dean Andersen's brilliantly simple message with its perfect title. By way of suggesting I am keeping the honor given me in perspective, I wish to read to you the following observation made by a woman who had profound insight into people of very mediocre gifts. I have taken only a little license with it:

what mortal is there of us, who would find his satisfaction enhanced by an opportunity of comparing the picture he presents to himself of his own doings, with the picture they make on the mental retina of his neighbors? We are poor plants buoyed up by the air-vessels of our own conceit: alas for us, if we get a few pinches that empty us of that windy self-subsistence! The very capacity for good would go out of us. For, tell the most impassioned orator, suddenly, that his [shirt tail is hanging out or his fly unzipped] and that he is tickling people by the oddity of his person instead of thrilling them by the energy of his [oratory], and you would infallibly dry up the spring of his eloquence. That is a deep and wide saying, that no miracle can be wrought without faith--without the worker's faith in himself, as well as the recipient's faith in him. And the greater part of the worker's faith in himself is made up of the faith that others believe in him.

Let me be persuaded that my neighbor [Thornock] considers me a blockhead, and I shall never shine in conversation with him any more. Let me discover that the lovely [Anna] thinks my squint intolerable, and I shall never be able to fix her blandly with my disengaged eye again.

Thank heaven, then, that a little illusion is left to us, to enable us to be useful and agreeable--that we don't know exactly what our friends think of us--that the world is not made of looking-glass, to show us just the figure we are making, and just what is going on behind our backs! By the help of dear friendly illusion, we are able to dream that we are charming--and our faces wear a becoming air of self-possession; we are able to dream that other men admire our talents--and our benignity is undisturbed; we are able to dream that we are doing much good--and we do a little. (Amos 51-52)

My title comes, of course, from John Henry Newman's book, The Idea of a University (1873). My task is to attempt to define the differences between Brigham Young University-Hawaii in 1988 and the ideal Brigham Young University and to suggest some ways in which the real might be made more closely to resemble the ideal.

A few miles from my birthplace in New Hampshire, high up in the White Mountains, is a great stone face, sculpted by nature, really one of the wonders of New England. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short story about this grand natural phenomenon in which he tells of a boy named Ernest who dreams that someday a man will come whose appearance will match the divinity of the features he imputes to the great stone face. Hawthorne explains:

It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet, as if it were the glow of a vast, warm heart, that embraced all mankind in its affections, and had room for more. It was an education only to look at. (6)

First a rich merchant, then a famous general, next a presidential candidate, and finally a great poet come home, all former inhabitants of the valley beneath the stone face, each expected to match the image. Some agree that each in turn does, but others, and especially Ernest, recognize that the great one has not yet arrived, and he continues to hope for his appearance. I have chosen this image and story to represent the subject of my lecture, "The idea of a Mormon University," since the essence of each is a search for identity.

Let me explain the structure of my presentation. I have selected some images familiar to all of us to serve as touchstones, as objective correlatives to evoke associations important to my argument. The mosaic on the outside of the north wall of the McKay foyer serves as an image for my discussion of the r™le of a Mormon university. The Bartolini sculpture located outside McKay 167 provides an objective correlative for my discussion of the faculty role, and the Kapiolani mural on the inside wall (mauka) of the foyer is the touchstone for my discussion of students in the Idea of a Mormon University. Let me illustrate the need for a definition of a Mormon university by citing some contradictory views on what BYU should be.

The stated mission of Brigham Young University-Hawaii is "to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. . . [t]hat assistance. . . provid[ing]. . . period[s] of intensive learning [resulting in]. . . the balanced development of the total person" (Brigham 11). Ernest Wilkinson, seventh president of BYU, stressed that the "prime emphasis" at BYU should be a "comprehensive indoctrination of Mormon theology" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 3). Consistent with Wilkinson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 1984 stated "one of the most distinctive characteristics of Brigham Young University is our proud affirmation that character and morality are more important than learning" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 374). Yet consider President Oaks' statement at his inaugural in 1971 as BYU's eighth president:

We cannot use success in attaining our spiritual goals. . . as an alibi for failure to enjoy first-class status as a university. . . . [L]et us banish forever the illusion that Brigham Young University exists for any purpose. . . than to provide a university education. (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 34).

President Oaks further stated that "rigorous standards in any intellectual discipline are not at odds with faith and devotion unless we make it [sic] so by a dogmatic certitude" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 34). Yet by the time of President Oaks' valedictory address in 1980, he reported "a genuine mingling of the insights of reason and revelation is infinitely. . . difficult" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 367).

The actual working out of these contradictory signals, says a recent history of BYU, "the persistent attempt to integrate secular and religious teachings at BYU has produced a Gordian knot of conflicting messages and confused priorities" (Bergera and Priddis 91). Describing the situation in 1987, BYU historian David Whittaker noted: "Inherent tensions between 'ecclesiastical statesmen' who have a responsibility to protect the institution and 'scholar historians' who are committed to a quest for the truth [have] increased" ("Conference" 40). The 1985 publication, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, further describes the climate at the Provo university:

Almost to a man, church officials have questioned the aims and intent of many of the school's most academically competent faculty, while many academicians, especially those who have tried to relate their disciplines to their religion, have found their scholarly expertise at odds with the practical demands of their religious file leaders. . . .

The recurring conflicts between BYU's struggle to balance successfully its secular aims with its religious goals underscore the dynamics of secular scholarship and spiritual sensitivity--a problem that may have no ready solution. Research. . . has consistently indicated that 'religion and scholarship tend to be incompatible,' that the 'greater [the] involvement in college life,' especially at 'high-quality institutions,' the more likely is the university experience to be 'conducive to [religious] apostasy'. . . . [C]hurch and university officials. . . historically. . . have not been able to stress either religion or academics without weakening their commitment to the other. . . . The inevitable, ensuing tension has been and remains one of the hallmarks of the Mormon quest for higher education. (Bergera and Priddis 91-92)

So defining what a Mormon university does or is can be difficult. My thesis is that something the prophet we honor today said at General Conference in April of 1951 provides an answer to the question, "what is a Mormon university?" David O. McKay told the world "what you sincerely in your heart think of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be" (qtd. in Sharing 81). Unfortunately, what is thought of Christ even by people led by prophets and who are satisfied they understand his teachings, varies so widely that further elaboration on President McKay's statement is necessary.

Probably every BYU faculty member has complained at one time about the lack of intellectuality among his students, in some cases forgetting our own adolescence. But consider the following very reasonable assessment of one of the popular Western Civilization textbooks from which I teach: "The teachings of Jesus. . . might be considered anti-intellectual" (Greer 150). Obviously, what some think of Jesus will not determine that they adopt an intellectual orientation toward life, even university life. However, the Christ in modern revelation emphasized the importance of the life of the mind when he urged his followers to "seek. . . out of the best books," to "seek learning. . . by study and. . . faith" (D&C109: 7). He instructed us to "study and learn, to become better acquainted with all good books, languages, tongues, and people" (D&C 90: 15).1 It was a Roman Catholic nun, a professor of mine in graduate school, who, when asked why she had made the study of literature her life's work, reminded me that another name for Christ was "the Word" (John 1: 1-3). This Christ reminds us repeatedly that all truth may be circumscribed into one great whole. The philosophy of this Jesus is perfectly consistent with President Alton Wade's direction that we become a first class liberal arts university ("Inauguration" 4). Defining the liberal arts is difficult, but perhaps what the liberal arts do as described by Dr. Waldemar Doescher will suffice for our purposes: a "comprehensive and harmonious maturing of human personality through the development of man's intellectual, artistic, volitional, and spiritual capacities" (50).

The University

Let me begin my description of the ideal of a Mormon university by calling forth an image we see virtually every time we set foot on campus. It is not easy to pin down exactly what the nature of the "vision" was which resulted in the construction of Brigham Young University-Hawaii but accounts describing that seventh day of February, 1921, indicate Elder McKay wanted a temple of learning to complement the House of the Lord already in existence just a few hundred feet away (Law 25-30). That he should describe it as a "temple" connotes an attitude of reverence associated with teaming perfectly consistent with that found in scripture.2 As often as we have heard of the prophetic destiny of BYU-H, it is apparent that this prophetic destiny and the school's religious purposes may not always be understood even by academics employed here (Bergera and Priddis xi-xii). It is clear also that some BYU students do not fully understand that purpose either, although we may see some truth in a BYU student's hypercritical description of BYU as simply "a parochial school. . . masquerad[ing] as a university in order to sell a church" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 324).

Professor Arthur F. Holmes of Wheaton College in his book The Idea of a Christian College (1975) espouses a unified vision relative to the mission of Christian schools. He said our distinctive mission should be to "cultivate. . . the creative and active integration of faith and learning, of faith and culture" (16). There must be no distinction between "piety and scholarship, faith and reason, religion and science, Christianity and the arts, theology and philosophy. . . . All truth is God's truth, no matter where it is found" (Holmes 16-17).

Certainly anyone who has been concerned about his college age son or daughter straying while at college has prayed that the college succeed in its in loco parentis rôle and continues to be grateful for university teachers whose primary goal is to teach their students the doctrines of Mormonism. Elder J. Reuben Clark, Jr., almost exactly fifty years ago, gave a sort of constitution to Church educators which serves as a bedrock guide in its insistence that Church Education System teachers teach above all else that Jesus is the Christ and Joseph Smith the prophet of the restoration (2-3). Having said that, and it must be said, I see our task as much more complex. While President Clark was addressing seminary and institute instructors, not the broader range of a university faculty, I strongly feel that even religion teachers must perform a much broader mission than that described by President Clark. If we do not, then even that mission so ardently described by President McKay's counselor cannot be fully completed. Philosopher Russell Kirk identified that mission, described in similar terms by prophets and professional educators alike. He wrote:

In the eyes of the Indoctrinators, the scholar and teacher are servants, hired for money to do a job. In the eyes of the Doctrinaire Liberals, the scholar and the teacher are masterless men, rather like Cain, and ought to remain so. In my eyes the scholar and the teacher are Bearers of the Word--that is, the conservators and promulgators of knowledge in all its forms; they are neither simply hired functionaries nor simply knights-errant in their lists. (qtd. in Holmes 83)

We may have a responsibility to indoctrinate. But such indoctrination should be for those who would be lost if we tried to educate them, in other words to do something more than teach them to accept a system of thought uncritically. Admittedly, educating has its dangers when we have students with tender testimonies or no testimony at all in our classes. But indoctrination is not truly a university function, and Arthur Holmes described the dangers of indoctrinating without educating. By so doing, he said, indoctrinators hope to provide a safe environment plus all the answers to all the problems posed by all the critics of orthodoxy and virtue:

The trouble with it is that there often are no ready-made answers, new problems arise constantly, and the critics are perplexingly creative. The student who is simply conditioned to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli is at a loss when he confronts novel situations, as he will in a changing society undergoing a knowledge explosion. He needs disciplined understanding of his heritage plus creativity, logical rigor and self-critical honesty, far more than he needs prepackaged sets of questions and answers. The mistake in cloistering young people to keep them from sin and heresy, as. . . [we] should realize, is that these things come ultimately not from the environment but out of the heart. And while every parent feels protective toward his youngster, over-protectiveness can stifle faith and hope and love, and trigger opposite excesses of thought and conduct. (14-15)

Our task is not a defensive but a constructive one. We need to beware of the kind of education and educators which teach us only to accept rather than discover.

The Assistant Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Barbara Jackson, further described the difference between indoctrination and education:

Although the purposes of school and religious training are not mutually exclusive, they are different. The school teaches how to think. A religious institution teaches what to think. The school's function is to present all views related to an issue. A religious institution presents its view. . . . Unless educators are willing to insist on development of a populace that dares to question, challenge, weigh, and even refute, we will not have educated people. We will have indoctrinated people. (5)

In his book published in 1963, The Church College in Today's Culture, Dean Waldemar O. Doescher further illustrated our task. We must not mentally coerce, dogmatize, "mechanically" stuff "heads" of "hapless students with stereotyped formulas" (Doescher 35). We "must make the appeal to intelligence and reason and moral insight even in matters of faith" (Doescher 35). All of us in the Church Education System have had experience identifying both in ourselves and our students a dogmatic subjectivism that identifies final truth with beliefs acquired by uncritical conformity to social environment. It may be that conformity protects us, but it should never be our final resting place. We need to recognize and combat the false, sentimental, and complacent spirituality that often arises from it.

Let me move down the abstraction ladder to illustrate. Some time ago a situation occurred on our campus which has been played out repeatedly at Provo at least since 1911 when three faculty members were required to resign for teaching organic evolution and biblical criticism. In our case, Department A complained that Department B taught students in its classes that a cardinal tenet of Department A was false, but, worse still, Department B taught that this cardinal tenet was at least approved, if not actually authored, by Satan. Department A knew that some very prominent Church leaders themselves believed in this tenet, although others had strongly attacked it.3 My view is that when situations like this arise, might we ask ourselves if it is possible that no widely influential doctrine is wholly false; might there not be some measure of truth in virtually every theory that has commanded allegiance of large numbers? Would it not be Christlike to study any theory that commended the view to some great mind and his many followers (Doescher 93)?

As a BYU student so adeptly put it: "Academics is the essential function of a university--even a Mormon one. Mediocrity. . . represents a kind of treason on the part of the BYU community against the. . . tithe-payers who support us" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 254). Allen and Leonard in The Story of the Latter-day Saints (1976), recently republished by Deseret Book, described what they saw happening in the Church Educational System, and what I feel should happen, as well. The Mormon historians noted that traditional Mormon literalism was being challenged at Mormon universities:

The result was stress within the university community, since the traditional function of a university was to teach students to think independently--even to question traditional kinds of authority in their independent search for truth. Although this approach tended to disturb some students, Church universities and institutes of religion attempted to employ a class of teachers who could deal with such problems in a well-informed and non-dogmatic, yet faithful and constructive way and help students over such religious-secular hurdles. (588)

Such a situation is entirely consistent with the "temple of learning" described by President McKay and identified in the official history of BYU published in 1975 which stated that "the entire university enterprise--its classrooms, its laboratories. . . is a sacramental act, a form of worship" (Bergera and Priddis 4).

The Faculty

I have selected Lorenzo Bartolini's sculpture La Carita as an objective correlative of the faculty-student relationship both for the visual representation and the inscription which explains that the artist wanted to depict the children's trusting response to affectionate devotion and tender care for their mother. What an obvious if non-traditional collegiate model for faculty at BYU! But let me elaborate further.

I have admired the insights of Martin Marty, Cone Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago. Recently, a Mormon historian interviewed Marty about the Church. Professor Marty said:

no people, agency, institution, nation, or cultural entity can resist idolatry, self idolization, unless there is pressure and motive to engage in constant self-examination. I can't point to an institution in world history that renews itself unless there is a built-in mechanism for calling things into question. . . . I don't think that usually occurs because of the pressures from without. In fact, outside pressure tends to create an inbred defensiveness and, if anything, one is free to break ranks while the group is under attack. So any mechanism for preventing self-idolization has to be from within, from those who share the presuppositions of the larger group. (qtd. in "It" 48)

It is in the spirit of that self-examination and with the belief that our inbred defensiveness can now largely be a thing of the past that this paper was written.

There is a sine qua non for faculty members involved in our kind of task. We must realize that the nature of moral development is at least partly dependent on an awareness of a true sense of life's difficulties, of their full complexity and toughness. This is illustrated for prospective missionaries in their student manual, used here on campus. Counselor to four presidents of the Church, Elder George Q. Cannon said at General Conference in April of 1898: "The men that have instructed the people, from Joseph himself down through the ranks of the Priesthood, have been fallible men; their judgment has been imperfect; their conclusions have perhaps not always been as they should have been" (Report 35). President Cannon then reinforced the idea that the Lord is in control so those following counsel will be safe (Report 35). What is illustrated here is the complexity of the religious life, especially for those who do their utmost to follow counsel, since the Lord chastens those he loves (Heb. 21: 6). Joseph's brother Hyrum Smith shed further light on the difficulty of our endeavor when he said, as recorded in the Documentary History of the Church (1932-1951) by Joseph Smith: "the Saints had to act oftentimes upon their own responsibility without any reference to the testimony of the Spirit of God in relation to temporal affairs" (94). A speech Elder Hugh B. Brown made in 1958 is relevant here:

Both religionists and scientists must avoid arrogant dogmatism . . . . Even in our own church men take issue with one another and contend for their own interpretations. But this free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men remain humble and teachable. (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 157).

The complexity of our task especially for those in the humanities and fine arts is further illustrated by something a visitor to our campus, former mission president and Dean at BYU, Richard Cracroft, wrote in response to an embarrassing situation at Provo in 1978-79. A student objected to some assigned reading material and sent a copy of her required book report to President Kimball. An investigation was made, and Dean Cracoft's report on the problem illuminates the difficulty many of us face:

sometimes [we] forget to view the world from the point of view of the eighteen-year-old boy or girl who has continued, as we encourage them to continue, with an absolutist point of view regarding morality. On the one hand, we insist there can be no compromise, but we make no differentiation between forbidden physical and spiritual compromise and, on the other hand, the necessity of increased insights into the world which are possible when one has developed his or her spiritual strength and experience to the point where to read of and to understand is, in fact, to become more like our Heavenly Father and not more satanic. (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 336)

Having said this much about the need for awareness of life's difficulties for the faithful, I want to comment further on the essential qualities of faculty personality at a Mormon university. Princeton Ph.D. Waldemar Doescher said it well. University teachers

must be able to impart to the student the excitement of adventurous thought, the exhilaration of large and generous vision, and the vital stimulation imparted by contact with a mind that exudes enthusiasm and manifests some originality and penetration. (Doescher 91)

A non-Latter-day Saint, Doescher describes the ideal faculty: "the religious objectives of the Christian college must include. . . the integral nurture of Christian life and character. . . [and not just] the intellectual response only" (124). This is brought on by the spiritual influence of a Spirit-filled faculty:

The Christian virtues of love, patience, humility, courtesy, gentleness, and service are made appealing when embodied in personal character. The fellowship of such persons creates the spiritual atmosphere which contagiously permeates all its members. . . . Both academically and spiritually a university can be no better than its faculty. (Doescher 125-126)

David O. McKay observed that from this campus would go forth "men and women whose influence [would] be felt for. . . the establishment of peace internationally" (3). Doescher said somewhat the same thing. Like Archimedes we could say, "give me a faculty big enough [intellectually and spiritually] and I will move the world" (Doescher 126).

In the past it has been a condition of employment at BYU-H that one be able to teach religion on campus. Since so many of us have or will be involved in that activity, I want to say something about religion teachers. Both religion teachers and the religion department on the three main campuses in the Church Educational System have come in for more than their share of criticism. I believe it is occasionally deserved because of our tendency to intellectual flabbiness, a sometimes adolescent approach, our occasional temptation to substitute pious sentiment for incisive thinking. Certainly there are times when the maturation level of our students compels us to be this way. On the other hand, we need to take Christianity, Mormonism, if you will, seriously and teach our theology on a mature level, insofar as possible. Some of that criticism and student cynicism toward us can be traced to our attempts to dogmatically impose our faith rather than presenting it graciously and reasonably. Sometimes in weak moments we pontificate answers rather than assisting students in grappling with their problems themselves. Is it possible we can get so busy taking the motes of immaturity out of students' eyes that we forget the beam of finiteness, fallibility and inflexibility in our own (Holmes 78)?

Finally, as professors we must realize the importance of educating the emotions as well as the intellect. We must recall that truth reflects upon our senses, but apparently error does, too. Many of our students may be relatively inexperienced, but they have been reared in an environment wherein an emotional appeal to their senses is likely to produce a greater response than a rational appeal to their intellect. Today's movies, television, music teach "it can't be wrong if it feels so right" (Brooks). Victorian novelist George Eliot noted that "our good" is dependent "on the quality and breadth of our emotions" (Middlemarch 344). C. S. Lewis tied the intellect to the emotions when he wrote "a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honor, cannot be long maintained without the aid of. . . sentiment" (16). I will never forget one of my early encounters with unjust sentiments on this campus. I sat on the Standards Board and heard testimony by a witness which settled the case against the accused. Then the latter appeared before the Board and heard the accusations of his countryman. It was as though we were hearing two different cases. I stared in mute disbelief as the witness testified, all but exonerating his peer. Such loyalty is not without some merit usually, but it was perverted here because it was based on dishonesty. C. S. Lewis recognized the problem when he wrote "the right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments" (9). "Feeling," then, "must ultimately conform to the truth" and not the truth to how "we may feel" (Holmes 75).

The Staff

I want to say just a word about the importance of the staff to a Mormon university. The visual image at BYU-H is quite simply what we see when we look at the campus from an esthetic viewpoint. Those who have been here longest have the best basis for comparison, yet even in my fifteen years the improvements have been dramatic. Dean Waldemar Doescher described the relationship between the outward appearance and inner spirit:

Even the outward beauty and dignity of the college campus and the excellence of its architecture and landscaping are significant as the external symbols for this inner spirit. A cheap and dingy physical plant is apt to be indicative of a similar impoverished spirit within. Hence, physical attractiveness is an important aspect of the college as a cultural community. It silently moulds the mind and shapes the spirit in its own image and breeds a divine discontent with all that is misshapen, ugly, and deformed. (61)

The vision of the University and its mission must be sold from the point of a student's recruitment and admission through freshman orientation into the residence hall program. The campus publications, the counseling program, all non-academic phases of campus life must combine to create an atmosphere of Christian learning. The commitment to an integration of faith and learning must be emphasized throughout the university community. Thus it is inconsistent to recruit students only for athletic purposes or performing groups. Our central purpose for existing is to provide an academic education and we must say so. But when saying so, we must not lose sight of the importance of those staff members performing non-academic tasks. If they do not perform well, academic functions are hindered or may not progress at all. We sometimes forget this despite having taught in rooms without power or next to a bathroom where sewage is backed up. Much more should and could be said here if time permitted.

Chief administrators must not be left out of our discussion. Doescher's counsel might well lend comfort to President Wade and Vice-President Britsch. The Dean of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, said:

the chief duty of a college president is to find good faculty--a group of dedicated persons who are both scholars and Christians. It is a formidable task, and only a man of imperturbable idealism, who is nevertheless inured to sad disappointment, and who can muster infinite patience with mediocrity, should attempt to be a college president. (cited in Doescher 126)

The Students

In December of 1824, just four years after the first missionaries arrived in Hawaii from New England, legend has it that Princess Kapiolani walked much of the 120 miles to Kilauea Volcano, ate berries consecrated to Pele and, descending to the so-called Black Ledge, declared to her frightened followers that Jehovah and not Pele was her God. The explanation in the McKay Foyer quotes her: "If I perish by her anger then you may fear Pele; but if I trust in Jehovah, and He preserve me when breaking her tabus, then you must fear and serve Him alone" ("Dawn"). This is both a heroic and fitting illustration relative to students at BYU-H. Many of our students are, like many of us, first generation college students from their families. For them a liberal arts education challenges the social and cultural "gods" or mores which have governed their lives. Parents, watching from afar, are quite as fearful as were Kapiolani's followers for the safety of one of their number who serves as such a figure of hope for those remaining behind. Many of our students have much less motivation than Kapiolani and may be here because parents sent them, neither they nor those parents knowing what college is about beyond tentative vocational goals or questionable social aspirations. In the 1950s and 1970s studies were done pertaining to student attitudes toward academics at BYU. The results were relatively the same in each study; 85 per cent of incoming freshmen said the "'chief reason'" for attending BYU was "'the spiritual environment and to associate with LDS people'" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 345). More alarming is the finding that sophomores attached even "'less importance to. . . keeping up to date on political affairs, and living and working in the world of ideas'" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 345). These second year students "'more often view[ed] education as a means of increasing earning power' and were less enthusiastic than freshmen about learning to think independently" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 345). Kapiolani provides an inspirational although much unheeded ideal.

A very popular and very condemnatory editorial, negative as it is and biting, must have struck a responsive chord since it has reappeared over a period of years in The Daily Universe. Entitled "Riders of the White Horse Told Where to Get Off," it describes what some feel to be a common species at BYU:

The returned missionary can be seen at any hour treading with pious men the halls of our venerable institution as he compassionately ponders the transgressions of others . . . . A veritable fountain of truth, he graciously confers the manifold blessings of his advice on high and low alike. Neither bishop nor stake president is beyond the kind chastening of this sage as he goes about his noble task of reforming everyone but himself. (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 258)

Of course, we all recognize the satire pertains to the occasional returned missionary on the Provo campus, never at BYU-H. Nevertheless, the more introspective among us may recall a period after our own missions when we may have fit the description.

The traditional question asked by students puzzled by the list of liberal arts courses apparently having no connection with vocational objectives is "What can I do with this stuff?" The question students at BYU-Hawaii must learn to ask is "what is this stuff doing to me?" They must realize that education has to do with the making of a Christian person; that it is God's work and it is ours, and theirs. In George Eliot's final novel, one in which the Book of Mormon is mentioned, the author satirized Victorian students, the protagonist in this passage obviously atypical:

Every one interested in him agreed he might have taken a high place if his motives had been of a more pushing sort, and if he had not, instead of regarding studies as instruments of success, hampered himself with the notion that they were to feed motive and opinion--a notion which set him criticizing methods and arguing against his freight. . . when he should have been using all his might to pull. (Daniel 219)

The message is, students and faculty alike must understand that studies are designed to feed our Christlike motives, to help us form cogent opinions, rather than make us all independently wealthy.

Students need to know that their education is their prime calling from God for those years, that their education must be an act of love, even of worship, of stewardship, in a way a wholehearted response to God. This may be very idealistic, but consider the impact on academics at BYU-H if students were convinced of the divinity of scholarly occupation and were to spend the five hours per day on their studies that athletes average on their athletic teams (Bergera and Priddis 280).

One of the figures who has remained increasingly influential in my life is Henry David Thoreau. Listen to what this New England Transcendentalist said about that supposedly primary collegiate activity, reading:

To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that [may well] task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. (91-92)

Is it possible that at a Mormon university we could re-enthrone books? Admittedly, Thoreau did not have the glowing screen to distract him. But with all our limitless technology, it still appears that the only way into the minds of the greatest men and women is through the printed word, primarily as it appears in books!

Dr. Arthur H. Holmes strikes uncomfortably close to home when he describes the climate which is inimical to learning:

A community that argues ideas only in the classroom, a teacher whose work seems a chore, a student who never reads a thing beyond what is required, a campus that empties itself of life and thought all weekend, an attitude that devaluates disciplined study in comparison with rival claimants on time and energy, a dominant concern for job preparation--these can never produce a climate of learning. (101)

We need not go outside the Church to find leaders whose counsel relative to academics is consistent with the thesis of this lecture. First counselor to David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, gave a long remembered address to BYU students in 1969:

Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned whether. . . your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. (qtd in Bergera and Priddis 71)

As an undergraduate at BYU, I had moments when I felt the way I imagine Joseph Smith to have felt when he received revelation; it seemed to me as though pure light were flowing into me. These moments generally came when I newly apprehended some relationship or when a heretofore hidden meaning in a story or poem became clear, when I saw clearly into a man or woman's heart or mind. I shall never forget reading Romeo to a classmate's Juliet. Shakespeare came alive to me in a way I cannot fully explain and which probably has only something to do with the fact that my Juliet was an attractive blonde. I am not sure that these moments of truth, of revelation, made me capable of greater articulation. For instance, when I first finished Heart of Darkness (1902), I found myself unable to say anything terribly cogent about what I had read, but I was very much aware that I had had a profound experience. I knew I had read great literature. Since that time, of course, I have developed greater facility in identifying elements which make Conrad's story a great piece of fiction. My point here is to sensitize students, to alert them for those few moments, the more memorable for their rarity, when education transcends the mundane. These mystical flashes of insight are sublime rewards even when they are as inarticulate as mine with Heart of Darkness. I am convinced these experiences partake of the Divine.

In concluding my counsel to students at a Mormon university, I call your attention to a publication from BYU concerning General Education. It states: "Avoid premature reconciliations of contradictory views whenever a real reconciliation would require more knowledge than is presently available" ("Philosophy"). Scientist Robert Oppenheimer concludes similarly in a text written by Huston Smith we use here for World Religions. He calls it his "Law of Complementarily," and it holds "that opposing facts must be held in tension even where logically they are at odds if they can help account for the phenomena observed" (287-288). Both as students and faculty we need to be more willing to employ the Law of Complementarily, especially in areas such as science and religion, history and theology, faith and reason. Elder Hugh B. Brown, speaking at commencement exercises in BYU in 1968, said:

Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. . . . Do not have the temerity to dogmatize in issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent. (qtd. in Allen and Leonard 592)

Conclusion

I began this lecture with the thesis that what we sincerely in our heart think of Christ will determine what we are, will largely determine what our acts will be. Try to simplify the Christ or His teachings as we will, we remain left with complexities beyond our finite ability to comprehend. It is a condition of this life and was meant to be. When we left the premortal existence, the veil was placed for a divine purpose. He said He was the Prince of Peace. He said also that He came not to bring peace but a sword, to divide, and to unite (Matt. 10: 34-35). A nationally recognized, non-LDS scholar, Thomas F. O'Dea provided an analysis of a group of Mormon students, unfortunately not at BYU, whom he admired for their ability to distinguish passing tradition from the essential elements of the Mormon faith:

Strains, yes; conflict, perhaps; but strains and conflict are both signs and sources of vitality. . . . Conflict and strains have not been sufficient to prevent. . . orderly functioning [of the Mormons] over the last many decades. . . . That its values still provide a meaningful context to great numbers. . . cannot be denied. Its flexibility in the past and its viability under the most adverse conditions do not augur badly for its future. (qtd. in Allen and Leonard 589)

Former Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington, one of the editors of a history of BYU, further identified these strains and provided a warning even while recognizing their value: "'One of the strengths' of Brigham Young University. . . 'is the creativity implicit in the ever-recurring tension between academic excellence and religious training, between indoctrination and inquiry'" (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 367). We must beware of emphasizing indoctrination over inquiry, or religious, to the exclusion of academic, excellence.

Martin Hickman, Dean of Social Sciences for seventeen years at BYU, suggested a relationship between the ecclesiastical statesmen and the scholar-truth seekers. His idea, and I subscribe to it, is that the prophetic vision of those Church leaders must stand outside the scholar's search for truth and be the critic of it. An attempt to "meld them together" would "rob the prophetic vision of its ability to be the critic of the scholarly world" (Hickman qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 367). This is what Elder Oaks was saying at BYU in the summer of 1987 when he asked that we "all pursue our search for truth with the tools of honest and objective scholarship and sincere and respectful religious faith, in the mixture dictated by the personal choice each of us is privileged to make" (qtd. in "Conference" 41).

I conclude with the Christlike, metaphorical expression of our r™le at BYU formulated by President Jeffrey Holland at his inauguration in 1984:

The ideal university [is] a pastoral, nurturing institution where those older and wiser cautiously lead out into deep water, stroking briskly enough to strengthen, but never too far away to extend the always firm hand of faith if fear strikes the floundering freshman. (qtd. in Bergera and Priddis 42).

The working out of that brisk stroking and the extension of that "always firm hand of faith" remains to be worked out by our reason, our vision and time. And work out they will if we recognize our responsibility at Brigham Young University-Hawaii to pursue the Christlike ideal of academic excellence, to build faith and to maintain a reverent respect [for] the life [of] the mind as well as the heart.

Notes

1While there are many other scriptures emphasizing the importance of learning, the following make clear Christ's desire that men pursue learning of all kinds: D&C 130: 18-19; D&C 131: 6; Prov. 1: 5; John 8: 31-32; Mosiah 1: 2. Back to Top

2Ed. Note. Neither the word "temple" nor the phrase "temple of learning" appears in the most celebrated account of President McKay's vision concerning the future BYU-Hawaii; however, the diary entry of Samuel H. Hurst written the day after McKay's visit to Laie certainly evinces his legendary regard both for the sacredness of education and for the necessity of its being available to all people: "Elder McKay said that he was very strongly impressed that such a church school was the big need of the mission, and that before many days he would write a letter to the First Presidency recommending that one be built" (qtd. in Law 29). Back to Top

3Such General Authorities as James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe and B. H. Roberts are identified as Church leaders who believed in at least certain aspects of organic evolution. See Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, particularly chapter 4, "The Organic Evolution Controversy" (Bergera and Priddis 131-171).
Back to Top

Works Cited

Allen, James and Glen Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976.

Bartolini. La Carita. Model of original restored by Oreste Andriene. Brigham Young University-Hawaii Art Collection.

Bergera, Gary James and Ronald Priddis. Brigham Young University: A House of Faith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985.

The Bible.

The Book of Mormon.

Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus, 1987-1988 General Catalog. [Laie]: [Brigham Young University-Hawaii], [1987].

Brooks, Joseph. "You Light Up My Life."

Clark, J. Reuben. "The Charted Course of the Church Education." Address. Brigham Young University Summer School. Aspen Grove, UT, 8 August 1961.

"Conference Asks Questions While Hoffmann Raises New Ones." Sunstone 11.4 (July 1987): 38-41.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902. The Portable Conrad. Ed. Morton Dauwen Zabel. New York: Penguin, 1969. 490-608.

"The Dawn of Christianity in Hawaii." McKay Building Foyer, Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

The Doctrine and Covenants.

Doescher, Waldemar O. The Church College in Today's Culture. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1963.

Eliot, George. Amos Barton. Scenes of Clerical Life. 1857. London: Penguin, 1973. 41-115.

  • --. Daniel Deronda. 1876. Ed. Barbara Hardy. London: Penguin, 1967.
  • --. Middlemarch. 1872. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1956.

Greer, Thomas H. A Brief History of the Western World. 5th ed. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, 1987.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Great Stone Face." Tales of the White Hills and Sketches. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1894. 5-30.

Holmes, Arthur F. The Idea of a Christian College. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1975.

"Inauguration Highlights." Profile 13.4 (Spring 1987): 4-5, 13.

"It Finally All Depends on God: A Conversation with Martin Marty." Sunstone 11.2 (March 1987): 46-48.

Jackson, Barbara. [Untitled Column]. ASCD Update. March 1987: 5.

Law, Reuben D. The Founding and Early Development of the Church College of Hawaii. St. George, UT: Dixie College P, 1972.

Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man. New York: Macmillan, 1967.

McKay, David O. Address. Ground Breaking Service, The Church College of Hawaii, 12 February 1955. [Laie]: [Church College of Hawaii], [1955]; original ts. in Church College of Hawaii History Collection, Archives, Brigham Young University- Hawaii.

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of A University. 1873. Ed. Martin J. Svaglic. New York: Holt, Rinehart, 1960.

"A Philosophy: General Education as a Process," ts., n. pag. April 1986; copy in possession of Lance D. Chase.

Report [of the Sixty-eighth General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1898.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Ed. John E. Hankins. Baltimore: Penguin, 1960.

Sharing the Gospel. Salt Lake City: Church Education System, 1976.

Smith, Joseph. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1932-1957. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973. Vol. 3.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. 1854. Walden and Other Writings. Ed. Brooks Atkinson. New York: Modern Library, 1950. 3-297.

Other Works Consulted

Smith, Huston. The Religions of Man. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1964.