BYU-Idaho Student Support Managing Director
I'm grateful to have my wife and children with me today. I like many others in the Church have married way above my head. I can promise the brethren in the audience today that if you marry well, your children with become all that you want them to become. Many of the good things my children do are a result of their mother and I want to publicly thank her today for all she does for me and my children. Almost 25 years ago, I met Nola in a religion class on this campus. Brethren, I know you can marry well, just look around, enough said about that. I love this place and all the things that happen on this sacred campus. My family and I have been richly blessed to live and work in this place.
I come to this assignment today with a prayer in my heart and I've prayed for and hope to invite the Holy Ghost. I know you come to devotional prepared to be taught and I hope that true learning and teaching will be accomplished today and I understand the responsibility to address you at this great institution. It is a powerful experience to sit on the stand and watch as you all hold up your scriptures. I also realize that this may be the last semester for many of you and as a result of your hard work you will graduate from this sacred and set-apart place. For many of you this is been your first semester. In either case, I hope you understand your great responsibility and solemn privilege to attend BYU-Idaho. I have known about this speaking assignment since late last fall and I've had time to ponder and prepare for this talk. I have fond memories of my time here and I look forward to the future with great promise and you should too. I've learned that things can change quickly in this environment and you will be and have been the benefactors of these changes. In the presiding councils of BYU-Idaho, we don't ever consider changes without asking the important question, "How will this affect the students?" Knowing this you can be assured that the things you take part in here are for the benefit of the Kingdom of God and you have a dedicated responsibility to achieve your full potential as you learn and study at BYU-Idaho.
I want to speak to you this afternoon about Becoming a Disciple and what that should mean for you and me. Much of my understanding about this process of becoming a disciple comes from one of the foundational addresses give from this very pulpit by Elder David A. Bednar. I know most of you are familiar with his talk given on August 31, 2004 in which he referred to BYU-Idaho as a "Disciple Preparation Center a DPC." I've pondered the idea of BYU-Idaho being a Disciple Preparation Center and hope to share some of those insights with you today. The question in your minds might be--what is involved in becoming a disciple? Becoming a disciple involves much more than simply attending classes and receiving a degree. I want to speak plainly and sincerely today. If you attend classes and achieve a degree and that's all you leave with, you have wasted the sacred tithes of the church. There are many places you can gain secular learning, but here, there is a clear expectation that you will leave with a deeper testimony of the Gospel and become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The entire Church membership should expect and receive many blessings as a result of your attendance and participation in the sacred learning processes and training that are available here. You will owe a debt to the members of the church as a result of this privilege. It will not be a debt that you will be able to pay with money, but you will be placed in a position to manage your debt to the Church. Becoming a Disciple will surely be the way to manage that debt.
In Elder Bednar's address, he describes some important characteristics of this DPC.
1. It is rather isolated geographically. I'm sure many of you have considered Rexburg, Idaho quite isolated. This fact will allow you to study without many of the distraction in the world today.
2. You will reside and study here for a relatively short period of time. If you are just starting your education, four years may seem like a very long time. I can promise, it will be over faster than you might expect.
3. The nature of the instruction is focused and intense. The new academic calendar certainly requires all to raise their personal bar of study and focus.
4. The distinctive requirements for demeanor and dress are hallmarks of this institution and bless the lives of all who attend. For some it may have taken some adjustment considering the atmosphere that abounds in the world.
5. One of the most important characteristics of a DPC is the location near a temple and with the recent dedication of the Rexburg temple; we have the rich blessing of receiving specific knowledge of our Heavenly Father and his plan for each of us.
Elder Bednar goes on to say, "In this special and sacred and set apart place, you and I have access to unparalleled spiritual resources that can assist us in developing and deepening our devotion as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the primary and most important reason for the existence of Brigham Young University-Idaho and for its sponsorship by and affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus a disciple of Christ is a follower of Jesus who learns of and from Him and lives according to His teachings."1
So what can we do to become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and develop and deepen our devotion? I would recommend six guidelines in becoming a disciple.
Guideline One. We learn of Him by studying his words. This comes through our study and by truths taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. In this set apart place you have the opportunity to have religious instruction in all aspect of your BYU-Idaho education. In our family we have tried to follow the counsel of prophets and apostles to study from the Book of Mormon each day. Our only daughter Kalli, who is six years old and sitting by her mom today, is in kindergarten learning to read. When we read together as a family and we get to the phase "And it came to pass", we simply say "Kalli" and she says the words "And it came to pass". That phrase is repeated often in the Book of Mormon. This allows Kalli the opportunity to participate in our family scripture study. What a blessing it has been for our family to read together from the Book of Mormon. This devotional is something unique in the world in which we live. And I testify that by faithful attendance at devotional you and I have the opportunity to receive personal instruction through the Holy Ghost. You will always be taught from the scriptures in this devotional setting. Your campus wards and stakes provide inspired learning and teaching. Your church leaders are called by inspiration and priesthood keys are given to these dedicated servants for your benefit and blessing. Please take full advantage of your campus ward and serve faithfully in what ever assignment your bishop may give you. I would like to share a personal story regarding the efforts of your campus bishops. I had the opportunity a few years ago to serve as a campus bishop. Prior to any of our regular bishopric meetings we would come together for early morning study. Each member of the bishopric, which included students, would take a turn teaching the gospel doctrine lesson for that week. This would often require our entire bishopric to be at the Kirkham Auditorium at 6:00am and dedicate the first thirty minutes of our busy Sabbath day to gospel instruction. I was taught the power of this instruction while serving as a stake clerk in the BYU-Idaho 5th stake. The entire stake presidency would take turns teaching and this was a bit intimidating for me as a new clerk because our stake president and one of his counselors were former mission presidents. Wow do I remember the pressure the first time I gave the lesson on that early morning hour in the Snow building. I testify that this kind of gospel instruction is available to all of us, but to receive the benefits of these lessons requires each of us to come prepared. I would suggest that we make a greater effort to come to our meetings prepared for that week's lessons, both in gospel doctrine and in our priesthood and relief society classes. I've watched as new students called as teacher were inspired and inspiring to those who attended their classes. Some of these teachers may have been in Priest or Laurel classes only a few weeks earlier. And yet when hands were laid upon their heads and they were set apart, they could give powerful lessons through the Holy Ghost. Doctrine and Covenants 42:61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things-that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.
Guideline Two. We develop our discipleship by learning the principle of Remembering. The principle of remembering is used often in the scriptures and in our modern day revelations. The Book of Mormon has numerous examples of what happened when the Nephites remembered the Lord and when they failed to remember. Much of our discipleship will be dependent on our ability to remember the blessings we receive daily from the hand of the Lord. As we learn to recognize and remember these blessings, we will avoid the pride of the world. In Helaman 12:2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper this people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that they should not declare wars against them; ye, and in fine, doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, this is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One--yea and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity. Elder Henry B. Eyring gave an inspiring address in October 2007 General Conference regarding the need to remember the blessing we receive from the Lord. He said, "My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness. It will build our testimonies; you may not keep a journal. You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve. But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done. It will not be easy to remember. Living as we do with the veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to live with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premotal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives. Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost's companionship in a wicked world. And the challenge to remember has always been the hardest for those who are blessed abundantly. He concludes by saying, "Tonight and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him."2
We will become disciples as we learn to focus on and remember the covenants we make at baptism and in the temple. We can achieve this as we renew and remember those promises each week as we partake of the sacrament and by regular temple attendance. Our success in this life will be contingent on our ability to remember sacred things.
Guideline Three. Becoming a disciple requires our understanding of the principle of one by one. I learned this principle of one by one from Elder Bednar shortly after I was called to be a campus bishop. Elder Bednar, then President Bednar called me to his office after I was called as a campus bishop and I have remembered that lesson to this day. Elder Bednar taught me this principle of one by one using the story of the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. The brother of Jared had molten 16 stones to light their barges as they crossed the ocean to the Promised Land. In Ether 3:4-6 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear. In this example the Lord touched the stones one by one. I'm sure the Lord could have simply passed his hand over the stones and made them all glow at once. But imagine the powerful witness it was for the brother of Jared to see the finger of the Lord each time he touched the stones. Another example of the principle of one was taught by the Savior. In 3 Nephi 17:21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. I've come to realize that as a disciple we can change others one by one and have lasting influence. I have tried to apply that learning in all my service to others. I have two pieces of art work hanging in my office. They are from the Book of Mormon. One is the picture depicting Abinidi preaching to wicked King Noah and the wicked priests. Abinidi's preaching comprises only six chapters in the Book of Mormon, yet the influence of this one man was felt throughout the record. Because of Abinidi, Alma was converted and then converted his son and the sons of Mosiah, who converted the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, who were the parents of the 2,000 stripling warriors. I'm sure many of you have had the opportunity to influence others for good. In every calling we have in the church we can be an influence for change one by one. I would like to share an insight from a young man that was in my campus ward. His name is Jon and I share this with his permission. He said "I've loved being involved with Wards and Stakes, with leaders who love and care about me and those that I have served with. I have enjoyed being anxiously engaged in the work that I have been assigned there. I have witnessed blessings in my life and the lives of those around me as we have chosen to give of our time and talents to help and serve others. I know that the Lord takes care of those who are generous with the things that he has given them." To be completely honest, Jon did meet his future wife, Ruth in our ward and I'm sure he would agree that was a direct result of his dedicated service to others. His wife, Ruth adds "I appreciated the information I learned about being a faithful visiting teacher. As I now attend different wards outside of the BYU-Idaho campus I realized that the simple characteristics of praying for the sisters, preparing the lesson, and reporting visiting teaching is more rare then common. I'm grateful that these principles were testified to me and applied in my life." I also recognize that many of you have been recipients of the one by one service of church leaders, bishops, and other teachers. Remember the strength of one by one service in every assignment you receive.
Guideline Four. As a disciple you must be able to lead and teach others in a way that doesn't set you above them, but allows you to influence them for good. This is not only expected of BYU-Idaho graduates, it has been prophesied that you will do this. That prophesy was given in another foundational address "A Steady, Upward Course" given by Elder Henry B. Eyring on September 18, 2001. Elder Eyring prophesied that you would become the type of individuals that lead and teach. He said, "You can imagine the joy of an employer or a Church leader when such a graduate arrives. The graduates will be at personal peace by having kept the commandments. They will be natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn. They will have power to 8nnovate and improve without requiring more of what money can buy. Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become-and this is a prophesy that I am prepared to make and make solemnly--those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve. I hope I live long enough to someday meet some employer who employed one of you and says, where did that come from? I've never had such a person. Why people just flock around that person. And they want to follow. They don't have to be led; they're seeking to go where that person wants to go. And they come up with new ideas. I don't know where that comes from. They seem to find a better way, and the budget doesn't go up. I can't understand it. And I'll smile and say, well come with me to Rexburg and I may not be able to show it to you, and I may not be able to prove it to you, but you'll feel it." 3 I know that many of you have had those types of teaching and leading moment when you have been an influence for good in the lives of those you've come in contact with. Remember those moments and work toward achieving them often throughout your lives. This will happen in your work, the church, and most importantly, your families. To illustrate this principle of leadership and teaching I would like to share an email from a student who served on my Student Support Council. Her name is Kiersten and I received her permission to share her insight today. She said, "When I went to that first meeting, I was overwhelmed. I saw all of these men, in their black suits with briefcases. When I sat down, I felt like I was amongst giants. As we had the first of many prayers, I was struck by the fact that these men would bow their heads, and ask Heavenly Father for inspiration on how to guide the students at BYU-Idaho. I had always seen the administration building as a place away from the school, I had no idea that they cared about students to the extent they did. I was very pleasantly surprised and humbled. I haven't seen you in a while and there is something really interesting I'd like to tell you about. Do you remember a couple of months ago when we used to have one on one meetings in your office? In one of those meetings, you told me that the experiences that I would gain by sitting in those council meetings would prepare me for being a Relief Society President someday. I thought to myself Yeah, this will prepare me, but not for something like that. Well Brother Harris, as ironic as it is, I was called to be a Relief Society President and I was sustained this past Sunday. I was just thinking about how huge of a responsibility this is going to be for me, and I was thinking that I don't know where to start...but then I started thinking of the meetings that I was in, and how everything was brought up in that council. I guess that the Lord has ways of preparing people in ways that we will always be thankful for." Now I know that Kiersten needed to learn many things in order to serve, but she put forth the effort to make her experience all that it could be. I testify that this experience happens many times each semester and you have the unique opportunity to learn these of leadership and teaching skills. The graduates of BYU-Idaho will be the answer to a bishop's prayer for a great youth leader to be a positive influence in the lives of the youth in his ward. Please take full advantage of that opportunity.
Guideline Five. Becoming a disciple requires a mighty change take place in our hearts. This is a personal judgment that each of us must make as we evaluate where we are in relationship to our Father's plan and our progress towards that might change. The scriptures have many instances where this might change is described. Two I would like to share today come for the Book of Mormon. Please turn to Mosiah 3:19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a little child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to this father. Elder Maxwell has called this verse "One of the greatest gems in scriptures." I find it interesting that this verse has 11 footnotes, which would suggest the need to spend time in study and seeking understanding. I will not attempt to break down all the principles taught in this scripture, but would suggest that you take a moment during this week to study and contemplate the importance of this verse. Putting off the natural man and yielding to the enticings of the spirit is important in the process by which we experience the mighty change of heart. Again in Mosiah we read, Mosiah 5:2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. Can you imagine what kind of world we would have if we all had a mighty change take place that we all wanted to do good continually. As disciples you must achieve this mighty change so you can have that same influence on others.
Guideline Six. Disciples understand the importance of making and keeping sacred covenants. This university is a set apart place that many have referred to as a temple of learning. This comes about as a result of the presence of the Holy Ghost and the true principles that are taught here. There are certain requirements to attend the temple and there are certain requirements to attend BYU-Idaho. Some may look at these requirements as too restrictive, but in reality these requirements help us prepare to enter into those saving ordinances of the gospel that can only be accomplished in the House of the Lord. If you have looked at the dress and grooming requirement and were bothered about living by these standards, I would suggest you take a hard look into your soul and make a mighty change in your life. All of this is designed to help us make and keep sacred covenants. In the temple we make covenants and witness to the Lord that we can be trusted with sacred things. Once we learn the importance of our covenants we will be well on our way to becoming disciples. I testify that through regular temple attendance you will begin to see the Lord's plan more clearly and you will understand your responsibility in that plan. As children come into your life, and I know for many of you, that experience of parenting is already underway, you will come to see the great plan of salvation and your roles as righteous parents in Zion. The strength and future of the church lies in the teaching and training of your children because you understand and keep sacred covenants.
In conclusion, the principle of becoming a disciple is not just the completion of six guidelines I've proposed today, nor is it simply completing certain tasks or assignment you might receive during your lifetime. It is rather the application of knowledge that leads us to be truly converted to the Gospel of Christ and to act for ourselves and not be acted upon. Perhaps the apostle Paul said it best in Ephesians 4:13-14 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. We have the sole responsibility to become disciples. Many will attend this great institution and become a force for good around the world. The sacred tithing funds that support our efforts here should be treated with great reverence by all who attend and work here. There are many in the church that do not get the opportunity to attend and your chance to be here can have great benefits in your life and the lives of others that you serve. Become a disciple and live up to your true potential. President Hinckley said the following in a regional conference in Oahu, Hawaii on January 22, 2000
"Believe in yourselves, Believe in your capacity to do great and good and worthwhile things. Believe in the nature with you, the divine nature, that you are in very deed a son or daughter of the Living God. There is something of divinity within you, something that stands high and tall and noble. Get above the dirt and the filth of the earth and walk on a higher plane with your heads up, believing in yourselves and in your capacity to act for good in the world and make a difference."4
I think the summary statement made by Oliver Cowdery at the end of the Joseph Smith History section of our scriptures is quite fitting for all who attend here and who will go into the world armed with the skill, tools, and knowledge to make a difference. He said, "These are days never to be forgotten--to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven awakened the utmost gratitude in this bosom!" I believe we will look back on this time in the history of the Church and know that we were all a part of something very special. I'm truly grateful for my blessing of being here at BYU-Idaho at this historic time and my heart is full of gratitude to God for that blessing. As the Kingdom of God rolls forth and the Church is recognized in more parts of the world, you will stand as beacons of light in a world that is desperate to find such a light in their lives. And many will look to your example and will want to follow. May we each have a renewed sense of gratitude and do all within our power to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I testify that there is great power in the Book of Mormon. I am strengthened every day as I study from the pages of that book. Personal revelation is available to each of us as we diligently study the Book of Mormon. I declare with all the strength of my being that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I know that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration and that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that priesthood power is real and that all priesthood keys are upon the earth at this time. President Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the earth today. I testify that the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for all men and women to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. I know these things independent of any other person and declare this in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Elder David A. Bednar, Brigham Young University-Idaho: A Disciple Preparation Center (DPC), August 2004 2 Elder Henry B. Eyring, General Conference, October 2007 3 Elder Henry B. Eyring, A Steady Upward Course, September 2001 4 President Gordon B. Hinckley, Regional Conference, Oahu, Hawaii, January 2000
Becoming a Disciple
Audio of Kip Harris' BYU-Idaho devotional address, Spring 2008