Photo of Elder Uchtdorf

“Moving Forward and Upward”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor, First Presidency
September 15, 2015


My dear Brothers and Sisters, dear friends, distinguished guests. I am pleased and grateful that President Monson has allowed me to celebrate with you the inauguration of President Clark G. Gilbert as the sixteenth president of Brigham Young University-Idaho and as the new leader of this great university. President Gilbert has served at BYU-Idaho very effectively since he took office last April. This inaugural ceremony confirms the confidence of the Board of Trustees as it officially inaugurates his presidency today.

Dr. Clark Gilbert, this is a great institution over which you preside. We welcome you into the family of institutions that are known as the Church Educational System. We are confident that you will follow the trail marked by your distinguished predecessors and move BYU-Idaho forward and upward.

You have known, worked with, and learned from President Kim B. Clark since you both were at Harvard University. Some years ago President Clark even brought you to BYU-Idaho to help with some key projects in preparing the university for the future. The First Presidency didn’t let you stay here very long because we needed you in Salt Lake—but now you are back.

Today, we also honor President and Sister Clark for their many accomplishments as they led BYU-Idaho for the past ten years. Their educational ideals and achievements, spiritual and temporal, will always be fixed at the heart of this University and its worldwide family of students.

BYU-Idaho students come from all parts of the United States and from across the world to receive an excellent education that will be spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, and character building. This education will lead students to embrace lifelong learning and service.

We are proud of our faculty, staff, and administration who work together in an exemplary way to see that these objectives are realized.

Fifteen years ago, Ricks College became BYU-Idaho. Let me quote from the official statement of that day: “Ricks students currently number about 9,000... BYU-Idaho will operate on a year-round basis. No large increases in enrollment are expected. Minimal changes to physical facilities are expected [in the near future].”1

I would say that this was at least a slight understatement of the future of this great institution.

The total enrollment is now more than 43,000 (including online and Pathway students). I am told that this is the largest group of students among its BYU sister institutions. In these fifteen years the Rexburg Idaho Temple and the BYU-Idaho Center were built, the Manwaring Center was expanded, and many other wonderful physical facilities have been added that have a direct impact on the daily life of this great university. What a great development.

Of course all these wonderful accomplishments cost money. In our meetings as Board of Trustees and Church Board of Education we are always reminded by our dear Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, that these resources come from the tithing funds of the Church. They are sacred. They represent the widow’s mite as well as the rich man’s tithe. We need to be cognizant of that and the need to be prudent, careful, wise and always eager to seek the Lord’s guidance on how to use these sacred funds.

The worldwide Church has grown to a vast family of more than 15 million members. Many of our young people would love to come and study at a Church university. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate all of them. Each year this challenge grows and becomes more acute.

We teach our church membership the importance of education in their lives. The Lord was clear when He instructed His people,

“Verily I say unto you, my friends, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”2

Helping our members to live up to these instructions from the Lord is a challenge which constantly demands our attention, and one for which we do not have an adequate answer yet. We are grateful for the tremendous seminary and institute programs which are all a part of our world-wide educational effort. We recognize that today’s challenges cannot be solved with yesterday’s tools. We are very grateful for the inspiring innovations we have seen in past years like the Pathway program, online learning, learning model, and the balanced tracks. These are efforts in the right direction, but we must not forget that the foundation for past and for future innovations must always be grounded in divine gospel truth and the inspired charted course of Church education.

During my childhood and teenage years we lived in an area without seminary or institute. Later as parents, it was our responsibility to teach seminary and institute to our children in our home. When I was 15 the first temple outside the US and Canada was built. It took us many hours of travel to get to this house of the Lord in Switzerland.

Very early during the restoration of the gospel the Lord instructed the Church, “organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”3

Here in Rexburg, Idaho, we have this significant university and this beautiful temple right next to each other. How much better can it get?

Brothers and sisters, my dear students, you are among the favored ones to be part of this great university with a temple in walking distance. May I ask you to always be grateful for the privilege and joy of being part of this wonderful institution, whether it be as student, faculty or staff. This gratitude can best be shown by daily living gospel principles, respecting one another, learning and working hard, building strong individuals and families as described in the plan of happiness. Remember to always have a current temple recommend and attend the house of the Lord regularly.

As President Hinckley once said,

“[Brigham Young University-Idaho] represents an important part of the overall responsibility of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to assist the Almighty in bringing to pass His work and His glory, in leading His children to immortality and eternal life. … [Recognizing the plan of salvation] inherently leads to the recognition that all men are brothers [and sisters] …The great overriding objective of this University must be to lead the minds of youth in the discovery of those great unchanging principles which come from a loving Father [in Heaven] for their blessing and happiness now and forever.”4

President Gilbert, we are grateful that you have responded to the invitation to come and preside over this wonderful institution of higher education. You are well qualified and you have been well prepared. All of your past experience has led to this opportunity.

You grew up in Arizona. You served a mission in Japan. You studied at BYU, Stanford, and Harvard. You taught at Harvard. You have worked with President Kim Clark at BYU-Idaho. You have built our own Deseret Digital Media and you have greatly strengthened our Deseret Management Corporation. Besides all these impressive accomplishments you served in the Church as a bishop, in a stake presidency, and as a youth leader. Whenever you are asked what you love most, on top of that list is always your family.

This is no surprise to anyone who has met your wife, Christine, and your eight wonderful children. Christine was raised in Provo, graduated from BYU, taught elementary school in California, and was also an early morning seminary teacher.

The Gilberts are a fun family. I remember one day when I was returning from a hike on the Bonneville Shoreline trail near Salt Lake City. It was a quiet summer morning when I saw a large group of people coming up the hill. From the distance they appeared a little like the people of Israel – you could hear them well and they were moving steadily, forward and upward. It was the Gilbert family - Clark, Christine, their children and many, many friends. This family is impressively strong, united, happy and focused. For me, they are an authentic LDS family who are living the gospel - and living it joyfully.

Dr. Clark Gilbert, for a season the Lord has placed the destiny of this institution in your hands. This remarkable school had its beginning during humble pioneer years. It is now heading into a period often described as the days of the new American university. You are particularly well prepared and suited for leading this university during such a time. Some describe you as a visionary. At Harvard you studied disruptive innovation. Here at BYU-Idaho you helped to establish an innovative approach to online learning. This university and all the schools of our Church Educational System must prepare for further worldwide growth of membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its resulting educational needs. Please work closely with your sister schools. One hundred years ago Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote that we “will find a surprising harmony between the Gospel and all discovered truth.”5

President Gilbert, follow the charted course of Church education. Help students and faculty build their lives around a strong testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by faith in God, our Heavenly Father, and by the Spirit of Christ that we can recognize what is good and true.

I bear witness that the hand of the Lord has guided and prospered this university and its leaders. God will continue to do so.

President Gilbert, dear Christine, dear Gilbert family, welcome to BYU-Idaho. We love you.

As you begin this exciting journey, I invoke a blessing of the Lord upon you. I invoke a blessing upon this faculty, upon all your associates and staff. I invoke a blessing upon our precious students who come here year after year. I invoke a blessing upon this beloved Brigham Young University-Idaho, that its influence for good will spread throughout the world and God’s purposes will be fulfilled. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Hide Footnotes

  1. “Ricks College to Become Four-Year BYU—Idaho,” Ensign, Aug. 2000.
  2. D&C 88:117,118.
  3. D&C 88:119.
  4. See “Charge to President Bednar,” President Gordon B. Hinckley, Friday, February 27, 1998.
  5. John A. Widtsoe, Rational Theology, [1915], Preface.