President Clark G. Gilbert
Clark G. Gilbert became the 16th president of Brigham Young University-Idaho in April 2015.
President Gilbert brings a range of academic and professional experiences to his assignment in Rexburg. Prior to coming to BYU-Idaho in 2015, President Gilbert served as CEO of Deseret News Publishing Company and Deseret Digital Media. He also served as an associate academic vice president at BYU-Idaho, overseeing the implementation of online learning and the Pathway program. As a deeply committed teacher, President Gilbert had administrative responsibility for the Learning Model at BYU-Idaho. Prior to coming to Rexburg, he was a professor of entrepreneurial management at the Harvard Business School where he taught and studied in the field of organizational innovation.
President Gilbert graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in International Relations. He earned a master's degree in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and a doctorate degree in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.
President Gilbert has served in multiple ecclesiastical roles, including counselor in a stake presidency, bishop, counselor in a bishopric, Young Men's president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and Scoutmaster. He currently teaches the CTR 9 Primary class with his wife, Christine.
President Gilbert was born in California and raised in Arizona. He and his wife, Christine, are the parents of eight children.
I would like to spend some time talking with you today about the importance of education and its role in our spiritual progression. In this audience, there is a student who isn't sure whether he can make it in college. There is also a young woman who isn't really focused on her education, because she doesn't see its connection to her role as a mother. There is a returned missionary who wishes he could rediscover his spiritual purpose. There is a student who is satisfied to just get by. There is another student who sees no point in helping others. Finally, there is a student listening today who is one of our brighter students but who views herself as superior to others.
All of these students are struggling to understand who they are and what is expected of them. And, as we shall soon see, they are also struggling with real conversion.
Conversion Brings a Drive to Learn
President Henry B. Eyring has taught that "conversion brings a drive to learn." In fact, this is a pattern that can be observed from the start of the Restoration. "Joseph Smith had essentially no formal schooling, yet the effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ on him was to make him want to learn more so that he could be more useful to God." As early as 1833, Church leaders established the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio. When the Saints later settled Nauvoo, their original charter included the creation of a university. After the martyrdom of the Prophet and the trek west, the Saints followed that pattern again as they established the University of Deseret (later to become the University of Utah). Those early Saints had barely harvested their first crops, and they had already begun a temple, a newspaper, and a university. The pattern of education continued as over 30 frontier academies were established. One of those academies was built right here in Rexburg and would later become Ricks College and eventually BYU-Idaho. We share a legacy of sacrifice and investment in education, an investment that came not from a previous culture of learning but rather from a newfound conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Consider the painting by Ken Baxter entitled "Embarkation of the Saints at Liverpool," which depicts the early British Saints boarding for Zion.
I love this scene because it is a reminder that our Church started with immigrants who were poor and largely uneducated. Those early pioneers used the gospel to lift themselves and become a mighty people.
Why would those early members do so much to invest in education? Part of the explanation is that we are commanded to learn. President Uchtdorf has taught, "For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea--it's a commandment." We have a responsibility to acquire education because it will help provide for the financial security of our families. In today's society, education is the gateway to opportunity and financial security. Education also enables us to serve in the Church. President Eyring stated the following: "Why worry about education? Because learning is how we prepare to serve both now and in eternity."
While the financial, professional, and leadership benefits for education are compelling, there are still deeper reasons for the commandment that Latter-day Saints pursue an education. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read, "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." President Eyring described education as the "[mighty] struggle for perfection." And Brigham Young taught, "The first great principle that ought to occupy the attention of mankind ... and which is the main spring of all action ... is the principle of improvement." Like Elder Neal A. Maxwell's description, education is the "scaffolding for the soul," a structure that starts us on a journey of spiritual growth and personal improvement.
Overcoming Obstacles in Our Educational Journey
So if education is the transcendent process of personal and spiritual progression, how do we reconcile that with the very real daily challenges of life? This takes me back to the students I described at the start of my talk. If we truly understand the role of education, we should become attuned to anything that inhibits our learning. In fact, like so many of the blessings that come from heaven, the adversary seeks to either prevent or corrupt all of our sacred opportunities. For the rest of our conversation today, I'd like to take you on a pilgrim's journey, if you will, in our efforts toward acquiring an education. On this journey, I will present five profiles of students in their educational struggle for perfection. Imagine these as deepening layers of challenge, almost like zooming in on Botticelli's depiction of stories across layers in Dante's Inferno. But unlike Botticelli or Dante, at each step of our struggle for perfection, I hope to also share ways to overcome the immediate educational challenge, which in every case will involve and require a deepening of conversion.
Let's start with our first student. I will call him the doubter. This individual perhaps understands the value of education and even nods his head as I read quotes from the prophets on its importance. But when it comes to him personally, he doesn't believe those messages actually apply to him. I've met these students across the Church as they weighed whether to apply to Pathway. I've met these students here on this campus, who weren't sure whether they had what it takes to succeed in college. Where does such doubt come from? Maybe they struggled in high school. Maybe others in their lives made them feel like they weren't capable of higher academic work. But while the challenges the doubter faces are real, he must learn to resist those feelings of self-doubt. I think of Moses being tempted by Satan to see himself only as a product of his earthly circumstances and to ignore his divine heritage and potential. Moses learned to realize he was a son of God, endowed with divine potential. President Hinckley declared to the youth of the Church, "You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind."
Part of overcoming doubt and fear is learning who you are and understanding the potential that is in you. Overcoming doubt often requires you to find people who will believe in you. I would like to share a personal experience of this in my own life.
In my grade school, they had an accelerated learning program called the Gifted Program. I applied to the program four separate times and never made it. It must have been the picture I submitted in my application. Adding to my frustration was the fact that each of my siblings made it the first time they tried. I soon concluded that I must not be "gifted." In fact, I viewed myself as just an average student who had little hope for accelerated learning. However, as I graduated middle school, one teacher recognized my efforts and presented me with an award for character and scholarship. This recognition unlocked a belief in my potential that I didn't know I had and changed my entire high-school experience.
Students, look for people in your lives who will believe in you, and lean on them for support. To our faculty, look for that potential in your students. For you students, find that friend, family member, teacher, or mentor--someone who can cheer you on, keep you accountable, and hold you to high expectations.
Another way to overcome doubt is to not be paralyzed by the risk of failure. We have a family motto in the Gilbert home to "Do Your Best." My father used to tell us as children, "I don't care what grades you receive as long as each of you 'does your best.'" Over time, that caused us to work hard, fear failure less, and in fact eventually improve our ability to succeed as students. So, to the doubters out there, believe in yourself, know of your potential, find others who believe in you, do your best, and get back up when you struggle. As President Monson has said,
I urge you to not take counsel of your fears. I hope you will not say, "I'm not smart enough...." Our Heavenly Father will make you equal to your tasks. If one should stumble, if one should take a course and get less than the "A" grade desired, I hope such a one will not let it become discouraging to him. I hope that he will rise and try again.
The Student with Misplaced Zeal
I'd next like to describe a student who misses the connection between otherwise righteous endeavors and his or her formal education. I call this individual the student with misplaced zeal. One manifestation of this comes in the future mother who doesn't see her schooling as important because, in her words, "I'm just here to get married." To be clear, there is no more noble a goal for young men or young women at this university than to prepare for marriage and parenthood. I hope you could feel Sister Gilbert's commitment to motherhood today. But I would also encourage you young women to consider your academic stewardship prayerfully. President Monson has said, "Statistics reveal that at some time, because of the illness or death of a husband or because of economic necessity, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider.... I urge you to pursue your education--if you are not already doing so or have not done so--that you might be prepared to provide if circumstances necessitate such." Of course, there are spiritual reasons for you to take your education seriously. Certainly, your education will help you be a better mother. You will be more effective at teaching and communicating with your children as they grow. You will also be better prepared to serve in the Church. As President Nelson recently taught,
We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out.... We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous."
Of course, sisters aren't the only ones who suffer from misplaced zeal. I meet so many young men, returned missionaries, who complain that they miss being involved in purposeful work. To those young men, I can only extend an admonition to repent and get to work understanding how to develop your educational stewardship. I can hear a few of you saying, "Yeah, right, President. Tell me how accounting or mechanical engineering or political science is as meaningful as missionary work." My response is that none of those are as meaningful unless you know that is what you are supposed to study and you consecrate those efforts to the Lord. C.S. Lewis addressed this in his lecture entitled "Learning in War-Time." It was 1939 and all of England knew that war was imminent. The question then became, if we are on the eve of war, shouldn't everyone pour every effort into preparing for the pending battle against Hitler? Isn't it less patriotic or even selfish to send our youth off to school rather than focus everything on preparing for war? Lewis then turns the argument to the battles for men's souls, asking "how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or to hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology." And at BYU-Idaho, if we are involved in a battle between good and evil, shouldn't our entire curriculum be focused on producing seminary teachers? For Lewis, as it should be for all of us, the answer comes down to the intent of our learning: "The work of a Beethoven and the work of a [house cleaner], become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly 'as to the Lord.'" In other words, choose your major and your profession in a way that is consecrated to God.
The Student Who Is Going It Alone
The next category of student I will discuss seems to be heading down that path with very little velocity, commitment, or direction. I call this the student who is going it alone. He views his academic experience with some indifference and is happy simply to get by.
Nearly four years ago, I received a call from a graduating BYU-Idaho student named Jonathan, whom I had mentored for over a decade since our time together in Boston. Jonathan had come from a broken home in inner-city Boston, out of a community where very few students attended college, let alone finished. In some ways, Jonathan was just happy to be graduating, but he could sense I was less taken with the milestone. My reply was loving but firm: "Jonathan, I am so pleased with what is happening. You have come so far, and I am so proud of you. But you also need to understand that this is actually just one step in a future path that the Lord has been preparing all along. Indeed, if you truly understood what the Lord expects, you would realize He needs you to keep working, even though you have made it this far."
In the three years since that graduation, Jonathan has moved on to meaningful professional work. Then, last year, he walked through another graduation from a master's program on the East Coast. He now manages millions of transactions at one of the nation's leading e-commerce companies. More importantly, Jonathan has grown in the work of his family and in his service to the Church.
The Selfish Student
The next student I will describe is one who only wants to engage if there is something in it for himself. I call this the selfish student. He wants to get his education and move on to the next stage of life. He views others he has to interact with as an annoyance or even a distraction. President Eyring taught us the failure of such thinking when he explained how learning is never for us alone. In his words, "The university is, like the temple, a place where success can come only if we help others succeed.... The climbs to the places God would have us go are never for us alone. If we forget that, we will not have His full power to lift us." In fact, the fifth principle of the BYU-Idaho Learning Model states that "learners and teachers at BYU-Idaho love, teach, and serve one another." So the next time you are asked to pair up and help someone in your class or you are assigned to work on a team with others, get to work helping to lift and build these students, and realize you are learning something much more important than even the topic you are studying. In fact, you are fulfilling President Eyring's prophecy when he said, "They will be natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn.... Those graduates of BYU-Idaho will become--and this is a prophecy 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." Education and our mighty struggle for perfection are not for our own glory but must be fundamentally connected to helping others.
The Prideful Student
The last student we will consider today is perhaps the one I worry about most. From the outside, this might be surprising because this student is succeeding in class, has many natural abilities, and perhaps has even been recognized for his strong academic work. But somewhere in the process of learning, this student has used his very success to make him feel superior and maybe even make others feel less so. In 3 Nephi we see the Book of Mormon pride cycle and how education led to pride and class distinction.
And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
Learning can be used in an attempt to elevate ourselves above others. Learning can also lead to entitlement, a presumption that we deserve something more because of our education. Elder David A. Bednar has repeatedly given this warning to members of this community:
If the day ever were to come that intellectual arrogance, a lack of appreciation, and a spirit of demanding entitlement take root on this campus--among the students, the faculty, the employees, the administration, or within the community ... then in that day the Spirit of Ricks will be well on the way to being extinguished.... Conversely, as long as intellectual modesty, humility, gratitude, obedience, and frugality continue to characterize those who learn and serve at Brigham Young University-Idaho, then this university will shine forth ever brighter as a beacon of righteousness and of inspired educational innovation.
Today we have gone on a journey together exploring the mighty struggle for perfection that comes through education. We have explored the challenges of five different students: the doubter, the student with misplaced zeal, the student going it alone, the selfish student, and the prideful student. Likely, all of us could see some of ourselves in each one of those students. I also hope we could see opportunities to rise above those challenges through increased conversion and commitment to the Lord. It is my prayer that you will see this opportunity and use your time at BYU-Idaho to lay that foundation of a lifetime of improvement, growth, and development. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Henry B. Eyring, "Education for Real Life," Ensign, Oct. 2002.  Ibid.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:127.  Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Two Principles for Any Economy," Ensign, Oct. 2009.  Henry B. Eyring, "Real-Life Education," Youth Articles, March 2013.  Doctrine and Covenants 93:36.  Henry B. Eyring, Inaugural Response Ricks College, Dec. 1971.  Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 85-91.  Neal A. Maxwell, "True Believers in Christ," BYU Speeches, Oct. 7, 1980.  Moses 1:1-22.  Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stay on the High Road," Ensign, April 2004.  Thomas S. Monson, "Decisions Determine Destiny," Ensign, Nov. 1979.  Thomas S. Monson, "Three Goals to Guide You," Ensign, Oct. 2007.  Russell M. Nelson, "A Plea to My Sisters," Ensign, Oct. 2015; quoted in Boyd K. Packer, "The Relief Society," Ensign, Nov. 1978.  C.S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time," (sermon preached to the students of the University of Oxford, Oct. 22, 1939).  Ibid.  Henry B. Eyring, "The Temple and the College on the Hill," BYU-Idaho Foundational Address, June 2009.  Henry B. Eyring, "A Steady, Upward Course," BYU-Idaho Devotional, Sept. 2001.  3 Nephi 6: 12.