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President and Sister Gilbert brought their family to the podium at the end of their last devotional address at BYU-Idaho before heading to Salt Lake City to head the new BYU-Pathway Worldwide program.

March 28, 2017
Writer: Mackenzie Holbrook

President Clark Gilbert and Sister Christine Gilbert addressed students at their last BYU-Idaho devotional on March 28, 2017.

Sister Gilbert spoke about two different lessons she wanted students to remember.

The first, "Families are created on the Lord's timetable, not ours," focuses on reminding students of the importance of faith and prayer when facing difficult decisions, including choosing a spouse and when to have children.

"I recognize that not everyone in this life will be able to marry or have children of their own," Sister Gilbert said, "wouldn't it be easier if we could completely control the timing of these sacred events? Finding the right spouse is just the beginning on a long road of family life."

She said President Gilbert likes to say he knew immediately that they should marry, but it took more time and consideration for her to make the decision.

"In hindsight, I'm grateful for the process because it allowed us to establish our courtship on faith and prayer, and it helped prepare us for more difficult decisions and experiences ahead," Sister Gilbert said.

She said another time when understanding the Lord's timetable was important was when she and President Gilbert decided to start having children.

"I vividly remember starting the conversation about whether it was the right time for us to begin our family," Sister Gilbert said. "Fears that I didn't realize were deep down inside me started to set in."

She said she remembered kneeling by her bed as a young girl pleading with Heavenly Father asking for help to get her body to work correctly.

"I feared that my complications might hinder my ability to have children someday," Sister Gilbert said. "Heaven answered those prayers by an inspired mother who recognized my symptoms and arranged early on for the right medical care ... Years later, as my new husband and I discussed this topic together, I felt his respect, love and compassion for me with all of my concerns and insecurities. We walked together in faith and prayer to start our family."

Sister Gilbert said the story of their family weaves together beautifully and they can see the purposes of their challenges.

"This path provided an amazing opportunity for us to act in faith and taught us the lesson that families are created on the Lord's timetable, not ours."

The second lesson Sister Gilbert wanted to teach students was that challenges can bring us closer to our families and to the Lord.

"We know that each of our lives will be filled with challenges," Sister Gilbert said. "My challenges won't be the same as yours; but if we let our trails lift us, they can bring us closer to our families and to the Lord."

She told the story of how, 10 years ago shortly after moving to Rexburg for the first time, the house they were building caught fire and, due to the wind and the lack of water pressure in the nearby fire hydrants, the house was impossible to salvage.

"While this was, for us, a very visible and financially difficult trial, heaven was mindful of our needs," Sister Gilbert said. "I will never forget how, in the days and months after the fire, our family become the recipients of countless acts of love and service. We were able to find peace as our family relied heavily on faith and prayer, like never before."

She said that during that time, their family learned powerful lessons in repentance and forgiveness as they faced mistakes that had been made and moved on.

"I am a witness that challenges can bring us closer to our families and to the Lord as we are willing to learn and grow from the trials we face," Sister Gilbert said.

In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Sister Gilbert said she felt this devotional address was the place to share these stories that are so close to her heart.

"They're really meaningful stories to me, and really have shaped my testimony in a lot of ways and ours as a family," Sister Gilbert said. "So, as we kind of wrap up speaking about the family and some of the things that we've done, I felt like it was the right time to share these stories to tell how our family has grown together through the experiences that we've had."

She said she and President Gilbert hope the students at BYU-Idaho will remember their commitment to the family and their efforts to share their family and fulfill the charge President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave them with their assignment to the university.

"So, ‘fear not, little flock.' You can find assurance even when His timetable is not what you expect, and even when you face hardships in your lives. I know that as each of us strives to establish and maintain our marriages, families and lives on the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can find joy and happiness."

In our interview, she said the words of the Savior can help students who are struggling with their faith.

"Those simple words can help give us courage and help us look to our Savior and to find courage in Him and the plan of our Heavenly Father and not fear - not feel the world's weight upon our shoulders, but to look to the Savior," Sister Gilbert said.

During President Gilbert's address, he quoted part of his inaugural response from September 2015 when he said, "It was a pioneer's heart that enabled the Lord to gather His Saints at the opening of this dispensation. Those early pioneers brought a spirit of frugality, a faith and optimism for the unknown, a longing for prophetic direction, and a spirit of personal sacrifice to their trek west. It was those same attributes that allowed the Lord to reveal the ideas and innovations needed to gather His people ... At BYU-Idaho we draw on that same pioneer's heart, a gift of the early settlers who came to this valley and eventually founded this college. The pioneer's heart has been preserved by the Lord in the very location of this campus. It has been carefully cultivated in the Spirit of Ricks. Regardless of its origin, the pioneer's heart was held in this valley ‘for such a time as this' when the Lord would significantly expand His educational gathering across the Church."

In our interview with the Gilberts, President Gilbert said he decided to tie this last devotional address to his inaugural response because of the miracles that built BYU-Idaho.

"The principles that created BYU-Idaho are the same principles we'll want to build BYU-Pathway around," President Gilbert said. "I also think that even at BYU-Idaho, we had such a miraculous founding and a prophetic direction in the creation of the university. But it's really incumbent upon us here at BYU-Idaho to preserve those characteristics that made this university special in its inception.

President Gilbert reminded students of how they can preserve the pioneer's heart, even in periods of great change.

He said the spirit of frugality is the first characteristic in preserving the pioneer's heart.

"Forward-thinking pioneers realize that the very uncertainty of their journey requires the preservation of resources for uncharted paths. You see, when we are frugal, we cannot get very far without asking whether we are on the right path, on His path. Being prudent with the Lord's resources also allows us the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, keeping nimble as the terrain changes."

He said when he and Sister Gilbert were asked to leave Boston to come to Rexburg, he was grateful they had been living well within their means and were able to follow the new direction they were given without encumbrance.

"The spirit of frugality also provides more than simple flexibility," President Gilbert said. "A sense of scarcity, financial or personal, keeps us reliant on the Lord and reminds us of our dependence on Him."

He said the second characteristic required to preserve the pioneer's heart is a faith and optimism for the unknown that comes on the frontier.

"President Henry B. Eyring has taught that ‘[t]he purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to change you so that you're not trying to resist change," President Gilbert said. "Change can be frightening, but facing such fear with faith and optimism is what the Lord expects of His pioneers. In fact, Elder Kim B. Clark has taught that ‘[i]f you want to know the Savior, go to the frontier, because that is where you will see Him in action. It is the frontier where He does His work.'"

President Gilbert said at BYU-Idaho, that frontier came when LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced a student-centered, teaching-focused university, and that for BYU-Pathway Worldwide, those frontiers involve distributed gatherings using online and onsite instruction to build hope and confidence in student across the Church.

"A new frontier is emerging for both institutions through prophetic counsel given to stay close to each other," President Gilbert said. "BYU-Pathway needs the expertise of the faculty and the strength of the online organization on this campus."

He said that BYU-Pathway Worldwide also needs the modesty and frugality modeled by the faculty and staff at BYU-Idaho.

"In turn, BYU-Idaho needs the opportunity to serve a worldwide Church made possible through BYU-Pathway," President Gilbert said. "The need for BYU-Idaho to serve a worldwide Church is grounded in its prophetic destiny. The need for BYU-Idaho to stay close to BYU-Pathway also provides added protection to help avoid overshooting the needs of its own students right here on campus."

He said the third characteristic in preserving the pioneer's heart is to seek prophetic direction.

"It is not enough to simply be willing to go to new places," President Gilbert said. "We need to want to go to the places the Lord wants us to go. To know that, we need direction and guidance from His servants. In this sense, the Lord's pioneers are very different from the world's pioneers. Both group came to the frontier, but the world's pioneers came seeking adventure, wealth or even self-ambition. In contrast, the Lord's pioneers came under the direction of a prophet, and this made them unique. With the Lord's pioneers, there was a spiritual deference, even with their pioneering initiative."

President Gilbert said, although it is something we need, prophetic counsel does not mean we have all the answers.

"President Hinckley did not explain to us how the three-track system would work or how our online courses should be designed," President Gilbert said. "But there is, on this campus, a spiritual deference that comes when we seek prophetic direction. I have seen how our employees lean on BYU-Idaho's foundational addresses to find guidance in their work. I have seen it as our deans review proposals for new degrees. I have even seen it from a department that rewrote their entire senior capstone project once the faculty realized they were overshooting the needs of the majority of everyday students. I am grateful for so many of the Lord's pioneers who have studied the prophetic direction given to this university and sought to innovate within the parameters the Lord has set."

Lastly, President Gilbert said preserving the pioneer's heart requires personal sacrifice.

Again, he shared the story of the Mission on the Muddy, which he shared the day the announcement of BYU-Pathway Worldwide was made.

"The exchange came during a meeting where Brigham Young simply called out names at a conference for those assigned to the mission," President Gilbert said. "When Elizabeth [Claridge] heard her father's name called, she cried and cried. Trying to console her (and I'm paraphrasing), a friend said, ‘I don't know why you are so sad. My father's name was called, and there is no way he'll go.' Elizabeth replied in tears, ‘My father wouldn't be my father unless he would go.'"

President Gilbert said he has felt the echoes of Elizabeth Claridge's story in the lives of many of the Pathway employees as they watched a live stream of the announcement of BYU-Pathway Worldwide.

"Beyond the initial excitement, there was also some trepidation when President Uchtdorf announced that the new organization would be moving to Salt Lake City," President Gilbert said. "Throughout the ensuing weeks, many of those employees had to ask whether their call to the frontier would require a modern sacrifice - affecting not just livelihoods, but also whole families."

With the approval of one of the BYU-Pathway employees, President Gilbert shared a note from Bryan Pope, entitled ‘The Pioneer Spirit.'

"Tuesday's announcement has become a waypoint in our lives. It is a point that JaNan and I will look back on and mark the progress of our faith and our testimonies of Jesus Christ.

"My great-grandfather helped settle this valley. He was the first to dry farm on the Rexburg bench. The grain was so hard he had to pull his wagon all the way to Mud Lake to find a mill strong enough to grind it. My youth was spent following in my grandfather's legacy - dry farming, ranching and serving others. JaNan and I have worked very hard so that we could return to Rexburg and raise our family in the shadow of that legacy.

"Tuesday marked the day that we decided that living in their legacy is insufficient, and that we need to harness their pioneering spirit and forge our own legacy of faith. We feel called to this work and know that in our extremity the Lord will bless both this program and our family - Minerva Teichert could not have known how well she painted our feelings."

Handcart Pioneer -- Zion Ho by Minerva Teichert

President Gilbert ended his address by showing the painting of a pioneer woman by Minerva Teichert that he showed during his inaugural response in 2015.

"Thus, I end where I started," President Gilbert said. "The painting by Minerva Teichert shows a pioneer sister beaconing all of us to forge our own legacy of faith and to gather for His purposes. Some of you might say: ‘Wow, President. I don't know if I can make those kinds of sacrifices.' But you do and you are. It is my prayer that each of you can preserve the pioneer's heart by maintaining a spirit of frugality, a faith and optimism for the frontier, a longing for prophetic direction and a spirit of personal sacrifice."

In our interview, the Gilberts said one of their favorite things about serving at BYU-Idaho has been the students.

"We love working with the students," President Gilbert said. "I've been in lots of roles where I've had to play a leadership role or help with organizational change and innovation, and that's all present here at BYU-Idaho, but being able to do it here where the reason for all the work is for the students. BYU-Idaho is a uniquely student-centered university, and that affects everything from the daily work of our faculty to the role of the president, and Sister Gilbert and I have had such powerful experiences serving, working with, interacting and being with the students at BYU-Idaho. We know how much the Lord loves the students here, and we get to do that together, and that's just been a blessing for both of us."

Doctor Clark G. Gilbert will assume his new position as the president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide on April 10, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He will be followed by President Henry J. Eyring, who is currently the Academic Vice President of BYU-Idaho.