|Change. While much is being said about what is or isn't currently changing on the campus in Rexburg, Idaho, there is a very real, ongoing process of change that occurs within the hearts and souls of hundreds and thousands. Not only are even more young people being affected in monumental ways by coming to BYU-Idaho, but those who provide the opportunity for that change in these youth of Zion, by giving of their substance, are changed themselves.
Even those who may approach a philanthropic gift to BYU-Idaho as a tax benefit are often struck during the proceedings with a firsthand understanding of the true root and meaning of the term "philanthropy"--loving mankind. The essence of Christianity, loving God and therefore loving our neighbor by losing ourselves in the service of others, is clearly represented in the act of charitable giving.
While there are numerous organizations that do an enormous amount of good, many individuals, couples, and families have deter-mined that they would voluntarily give of themselves for the good of the students at this university. At some point, these people have recognized the great change they, as agents, can bring about for these young men and women.
As it says in Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28, "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."
You and I, by freely giving of ourselves, have the opportunity to truly be agents unto ourselves in bringing to pass much good. We have chosen to do the will of the Lord, whether it be through simply loving our neighbor or by literally building up the kingdom of God.
There are yet other agents who quietly facilitate the gifts that specifically bring about changes in those associated with BYU-Idaho; these representatives are employed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the offices of LDS Foundation. Several of these donor liaisons are assigned to help with BYU-Idaho objectives and priorities.
Although their backgrounds and personalities are varied, each has a firm testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the Church. Each knows he was led to his current station of employment by the Spirit. And they each know of the very real change that can be affected in the hearts of the giver and in the recipient of a charitable gift.
These are the individuals who meet with generous Latter-day Saints and other interested parties on a regular basis to discuss the priorities of BYU-Idaho and how they might match up with their desire to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" by making a difference in the lives of others. They have witnessed a spectrum of generosity and have witnessed joy in the eyes of those who realize the blessings that come from giving--experiences that are sacred to them. They are capable and qualified to discuss all types of philanthropic matters and consult with donors' financial advisors; but mostly they simply serve as agents of change.
In his 28 years with LDS Foundation, Kimber Ricks has worked extensively with corporations and individuals and has found his greatest fulfillment in knowing people who sacrifice in order to show true charity.
"I've been privileged to see the real impact charity can have on the donor and not just on the students they help," Kimber says. "People I may have known for a long time just show up, unexpected, to give a generous gift or to let us know that they have included BYU-Idaho in their will."
"That's what keeps me here. And it just keeps getting better. I see people stretch, giving not just from their abundance, but making a sacrifice to help someone else, someone who may never be able to thank them personally. And the givers are blessed with wonderful, sweet, good feelings. The significant thing is that they feel so good from doing it that they come back and want to keep doing it. That's what it's all about, when somebody emulates the Savior by doing something truly unselfish, lives are changed forever." He concludes, "A true act of charity changes lives."
After having lived in places like Boston, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, and Maui, David Brown now finds much of his focus on the little town of Rexburg. "It is at BYU-Idaho," David says, "that an environment is created where students can acquire skills and education necessary for this life, built on the foundation of gospel principles, where they can find experienced mentors able to counsel from the Lord's perspective concerning challenges of life and where they can interact with their peers through wholesome and appropriate activities, hopefully culminating in a temple marriage."
Of his role in what takes place at BYU-Idaho David says, "I have found that being an 'agent of change' means working through other people in partnership with the Lord. The part I play in this process is simply facilitating gifts that enable the priorities of BYU-Idaho to be accelerated and achieved so these changes in the lives of these young people can occur."
"There is one man I work with who is in the construction business," says Shayne Summers, "and he has done very well for himself. His significant support of scholarships at BYU-Idaho has very personal meaning to him and he does not want any recognition for it. He hardly allows me to thank him and recognize the tremendous difference he has made.
"I will never forget the day he met me at the entrance of the driveway which leads to his gorgeous home. I can still picture the impeccable landscaping. It was a beautiful day. We stood together, right in front of this brick wall that he had built to display a very large, solid brass plaque with letters spelling out his name and house number. He had previously shared with me that the plaque was a generous gift from a few of the subcontractors he did business with. It represented well his financial success.
"After greeting one another, I handed him a three-ring binder and told him the reason I had come was to present him with it. He opened it and tears came to his eyes as he read the letters of gratitude from individual students who had been the recipients of scholarships he made possible. He looked up at me and said, "Thank you, Shayne; this is the greatest gift I have ever received."
"There we were standing in front of this impressive placard and the thought that occurred to me was that in all his success, through all his personal struggles, this binder was a mirror of his best self."
John Burnett calls working with friends who support BYU-Idaho a "sacred opportunity." He explains, "When it comes to the process of gifting a major portion of one's estate, it is a very serious matter. When we have worked with someone to establish a plan for their estate, a mutual trust is created that I can only describe as joyous."
Over time the friendship that develops comes from the sincere desire to make a difference. He smiles as he shares an example of that kind of relationship. "One of our special friends was a lady with whom I was lucky to have this kind of trust. Several times she called and asked me to help her balance her checkbook. Each time I arrived she would have a check made out for more than $20,000. That's what she meant by helping her balance her checkbook."
To this good sister, and so many like her who may not give in such large amounts but do so from their hearts, the process of giving is part of balancing the important things in life.
"The best experiences with donors," says Tom Rassmussen, "are those instances where they are able to experience the gratitude of the students receiving of their beneficence. Reading or hearing a personal account of how the donor's help produced a life-changing situation of new opportunity and spiritual growth has often moved a donor to tears and a true sense of the meaning of charity."
Tom recognizes that those who choose to support BYU-Idaho do so for various reasons. Sometimes they do so simply because they see the opportunity to give help through one of the many Church charitable venues. Some have never been to the campus; others are alumni who know well the potential for encompassing growth at this institution.
"BYU-Idaho provides an environment where young people can interact, discover more about themselves, and mature with those who share common ideals," Tom says. "There are many 'schools of hard knocks' available to teach the youth. BYU-Idaho offers an alternative method where one can tune in to the quiet prompting of the Spirit without the cacophonous discord of the secular world." Of his role, Tom says, "My part is insignificant; I am just an appreciative cheerleader."
Terry Wall has grown to love one gentleman who is a widower of over a decade and a convert to the Church. "He simply has a great yearning to do something beyond himself which comes directly from a love of the Lord," Terry says. "And he wants his children to recognize his devotion and follow his example."
This man came to campus for the first time last year. "I took him on a tour of the facilities and let him meet some students," says Terry. "Before he left, he gave me a check for $5,000.
I had no idea he could give that kind of money; in fact, I'm not sure he can. This is not a man who makes millions; that gift (combined with his tithing) may very well have been 20 percent of his income as a retired postal worker." Terry adds, "As far as I'm concerned, I saw the widow's mite."
Not too long ago this same man called Terry from his home in Oklahoma and said he was driving to Rexburg with his son-in-law so he could share the Spirit he had experienced on his previous visit. He arrived in town around 9 p.m., but before he could check into a hotel he stopped by Terry's house. "He apologized for the late hour," says Terry, "then he handed me a check for $2,000 and told me he couldn't hold onto it any longer." The heart of this generous soul was not just changed when he joined the Church, but continues to grow.
"Of his part, Terry says, "I merely assist others who live the truth, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me' [Matt 25:40]."
Bradley Petersen says, comparing his previous job to his current service at LDS Foundation, "What I loved most about working for the hospital was being able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of needy families. The donated funds did not guarantee a miracle--for example a child surviving cancer--but did give a child the hope and chance to try. It's a lot like what I am doing now, helping give students at BYU-Idaho the chance to make miracles happen in their own lives."
"The opportunities students are given here not only focus on temporal issues, like their eventual occupations, but ultimately about eternal matters."
Just the other day Bradley was talking with an instructor who has taught welding for many years. Bradley shares, "The teacher told me that whenever he had a few extra minutes at the end of class he would bear his testimony. He told me that when a former student contacted him recently, this professor had asked what the student remembered from his class. He paused and said, 'that I needed a testimony.'"
The seven donor liaisons introduced here have been commissioned to encourage and facilitate voluntary philanthropic gifts to Church institutions such as BYU-Idaho. As a result of this responsibility, they are agents of the change that occurs in the hearts of giving men and women, as well as the ultimate change in the lives of the student recipients of those charitable acts.
You may already know one of these brethren, or you may run into one of them in the future. When you talk to them, ask them to share with you another life-changing experience, or tell you how you might have one of your own.
We each have the potential and power to be agents in bringing to pass so much good in the world. As stated earlier, the Lord has in fact given us a charge to be "... anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will ...." He reminds us that "... the power is in [us], wherein [we] are agents unto [our] selves."
Students by the thousands are learning, growing, and changing their lives through experiences made possible by agents, brothers and sisters like yourself, who make their dream for an education in the spiritual setting of Brigham Young University-Idaho a reality. The students thank you, and we thank you.
Development and Alumni Relations Office
220 Kimball Building
Rexburg, ID 83460-1655
800-227-4257 or 208-496-1128
David G. Richards, pictured center below, is the assistant to President David A. Bednar, for Development and Alumni Relations. Brother Richard and most of his staff are employed by LDS Foundation to assist those who support BYU-Idaho.
Since 1957 the First Presidency has sent periodic letters to Church leaders regarding LDS Foundation. Still, up until the last few years, many members of the Church did not know the Foundation existed, let alone the precise purpose it served. It was established, under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric's Office, to facilitate philanthropic giving to the Church and its institutions by Latter-day Saints and other individuals or organizations.
Following is an excerpt from one of the most recent letters from the First Presidency:
"From time to time, members of the Church inquire as to how they might donate beyond the normal contributions made through the ward. Operating under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric, the LDS Foundation was established by the First Presidency to receive such gifts. Outright gifts, or gifts through wills or living trusts, as well as tax-advantaged charitable trusts that provide an income during the life of the donor may be made to the Church through LDS Foundation. These gifts may be in the form of real or personal property, securities, or cash. LDS Foundation representatives are available to assist members and their financial advisors to understand these options and the many Church programs to which they might donate."
Gordon B. Hinckley
Thomas S. Monson
James E. Faust
Top Row: Lisa Close, Jennifer Schwartz, and Kathy Godfrey;
Middle Row: John Burnett, Kimber Ricks, Lori Thompson,
Dave Richards, Jolene Sortor, Kristine Tighe, Tom Rasmussen, and
Shayne Summers; Bottom Row: Steve Davis, Bradley Petersen,
Brett Sampson, Terry Wall, and David Brown
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