President of BYU-Idaho
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 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 serves as a Sunday School teacher 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.
Sister Gilbert's background is also in education, having taught in elementary schools in California and in the Seminary program of the Church Educational System. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in Family Sciences and Human Development. Sister Gilbert was born in Indiana and raised in Utah. She has also held various ecclesiastical roles in the Church, including Primary president and Gospel Doctrine teacher.
I would like to start today's devotional with one of my most frightening experiences from high school. I grew up in an area where members of the Church were quite visible, but also clearly in the minority. As a high school senior, I was invited to participate in a dating game at a pep rally before our entire high school. Here is a picture of that crowd gathered in the high school gym.
I so wanted to be accepted and thought highly of by my high school peers. As part of this activity, I was one of three young men who were asked a series of dating questions. Based on our responses, a young woman would then choose one of us to go on a Valentine's date. What started for me as a fun activity turned to panic as I realized that all of the questions they were asking had been designed to make fun of my choices as a member of the Church. As I stared into that crowd, I realized that they were mocking me for commitments to the Word of Wisdom, the law of chastity, and other values we cherish as members of the Church. In fact, at one point when they asked each of us about our taste in music, I decided I would play along with the joke by responding that my favorite song was, "I am a Child of God." I thought I was quite clever until they asked me to sing it. So, I may be the only teenager to ever sing a primary hymn in front of his entire high school class.
The gap between the Church and the world will only continue to widen. In the October 2015 general conference, President Thomas S. Monson declared:
...[A]s the world moves further and further away from the principles and guidelines given to us by a loving Heavenly Father, we will stand out from the crowd because we are different. We will stand out because we dress modestly. We will be different because we do not use profanity... We will be different because we avoid off-color humor and degrading remarks. We will be different as we decide not to fill our minds with media choices that are base and demeaning... We will certainly stand out as we make choices regarding morality... Those things which make us different from most of the world also provide us with that light and that spirit which will shine in an increasingly dark world.
As we progress through life, each of us will have the opportunity to stand up for truth and light. For some of us, that will come in very public settings like the one I described in front of my high school. For others, the setting may not be so public; but it may be just as difficult with even more dire consequences around family, work, and even personal friendships. In all of these settings, we will need to learn what it means to stand as a disciple in the last days.
The Last Days
Past prophets foresaw our time and knew of the challenges that we would face. Paul described this season when he foretold:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.
Nephi also spoke of this same antipathy toward good in the last days:
For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
In fact, it was this same animosity towards good that Lehi saw in his dream that led those in the great and spacious building to mock those who had chosen the path toward the fruit of the tree of life:
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
I love Greg Olsen's depiction of this scene.
You can see the path to the fruit of the tree of life. It is marked clearly by the rod of iron. You can also see the crowds in the great and spacious building pointing at those on the path. And yet, for all their mockery, no one in the great and spacious building had access to the joy that came with the fruit of the tree of life. No one in that dark building could realize the blessings of following the true path to the light. They could only mock and despise others for choosing the good that they themselves had failed to realize.
This exchange reminds me of the courage that it takes to defy the crowd. Occasionally, I will hear someone complain that at BYU-Idaho there are so many people with the same values that you have to work hard to be different. Those who make such a claim miss the bigger picture. First, they fail to recognize that our graduates come from and will live in communities where Church members are the minority. We know from our alumni records that in the future most of you will live in places where members of the Church are not part of the dominant faith. It is but for a short reprieve that many are gathered here in the strength of the Church. Second, even here in Rexburg we swim in a current of social media and other entertainment sources where standing for good will always take courage. There is no such thing as a closed community in today's media environment.
This reality made me think of the following candid camera clip where a group of staff conspired to make people conform to norms that they otherwise knew were wrong.
The world will increasingly ask you to follow the crowd, to turn the wrong direction in the elevator, and to do what you know to be wrong. So when others conspire against our very efforts to be good, we should simply smile and continue facing the front of the elevator with confidence. We should not be afraid or discouraged. Rather, we should take heart to know that prophets long ago foresaw this day and have prepared us to stand apart from the crowd. As President Monson warned us in this last general conference:
May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.
As we work as a university community to stand as disciples in the last days, I would like to suggest five characteristics that will help us defy the crowd and stand for good.
Follow the Prophet
The first pattern of those who stand as disciples in the last days is to follow the prophet. I remember 15 years ago sitting in general conference and listening to President Gordon B. Hinckley warn the Church to get out of debt. President Hinckley stated:
I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.
So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings. ...There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.
This counsel was repeated several times in the following years. Many of the Saints gave heed to this prophetic warning, cut back their budgets, and reduced their debt. But years later as I observed dozens of homes in our neighborhood in foreclosure, I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if more members of the Church had followed President Hinckley's counsel.
Today, President Monson is not only calling us to defy the crowd and stand for that which is good, he has taught us to help rescue those in need, to realize that "decisions determine destiny," and to seek the temple as a place of refuge. These are not just good thoughts from a loving man. These are the Lord's messages to us through a prophet for our time, in our day. They are important, not only in their substance but in their timing. Disciples in the last days will need to listen to and follow the prophet of God.
Strengthen the Family
Those who have watched President Monson and the other Apostles will recognize another recurring message for our day - that of strengthening and defending the family. Disciples in the last days will need to stand up for and strengthen the family, both in society and in their own homes. The following are messages from the Brethren that speak to the importance of the family.
President Thomas S. Monson The family must hold its preeminent place in our way of life because it's the only possible base upon which a society of responsible human beings has ever found it practicable to build for the future and maintain the values they cherish in the present.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson The social science case for marriage and for families headed by a married man and woman is compelling. And so "we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." But our claims for the role of marriage and family rest not on social science but on the truth that they are God's creation."
Elder L. Tom Perry We also believe that strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy, and a stable culture of values-but that they are also the basic units of eternity and of the kingdom and government of God.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. . . . Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another.
President Russell M. Nelson Latter-day Saints proclaim that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."
Do you see the pattern?
We live in a season where the family is under attack. In these latter-days, families are increasingly not forming. Those that do form are dissolving at increasing rates. These decisions are leaving a growing number of children in homes without a mother and a father, creating dramatic consequences for society. Many of you listening today have come from homes where parents were not present or were not committed to your family. Even as you honor your parents in your love and concern for them personally, you will need to break that pattern in your own marriage and future parental roles. I hope you recognize the commitment we make at this university with the Eternal Marriage course that every student takes at BYU-Idaho. Sister Gilbert and I participate in that course each semester and feel like it is one of the more important investments we make at this university. I hope you also see the focus Sister Gilbert and I place on our own family. I want each student at this university to know that with all of my responsibilities, there are still non-negotiable times for our family.
I learned this lesson as a young missionary. Over 25 years ago, this amazing couple and their family swept into the lives of the Japan Kobe missionaries.
I learned many things from President and Sister Matsumori, but perhaps one of the most profound was the importance of family. I observed this poignantly one night walking up to the mission home only to find the curtains to their family room closed. As open and inviting as they were to all of us in the mission, this was a signal that, on that evening, family came first. One of their lasting legacies in my life will be the gift of teaching me how to prioritize family commitment, even in the presence of important Church and professional assignments. In the last days, not only will you need to stand for the societal and public needs of the family, you will need to make your own family a priority and form a lasting, personal commitment to the principles in the family proclamation.
Act and Not Be Acted Upon
The next characteristic of a disciple in the last days is tied to our use of agency. I can't imagine that when earlier prophets saw our day, they didn't see the challenges created by media. You live in a media-laden world where your values are being attacked and where marketers and entertainers will play on your insecurities and other weaknesses to help sell their products. The technique used by so many of these agencies is to find what the crowd thinks is "cool" and push young people toward those products. Several years ago, PBS Frontline did a documentary on this marketing approach.
Notice how these marketers deploy what they call "cool hunters" to find people who are "forward thinking," "leaders in their group," and "ahead of the pack." Here is the individual they identified to study in their focus groups.
The next time you feel the pull of the crowd, I hope you'll think back on this guy and be far less attracted to the call to be "cool." I hope that each of you will realize that entire industries have been built up to market to and play on your tendency to be pulled by the crowd. And it's not just in advertising. Some of the science of audience engagement and media addiction show up in the entertainment industry as well. They result in binge watching on Netflix, click-through rates on websites, and, of course, pornography addiction on the Internet. Remarkably, as powerful as these media companies are and for all of the money they invest, you are facing an additional media source that is unique to your generation. While social media offers opportunities to be a source of light to the world, it can also distract and even pull you down paths you should not go.
In the last days, disciples of Jesus Christ will need to act independently of all these powerful forces. Students, be agents unto yourselves. Act and do not be acted upon. The power is in you, and you must choose who you will become and not hand your brain and your heart over to Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat, or the Internet.
Show Kindness and Love
Sister Gilbert earlier shared a scripture in Matthew that described how love would wax cold in the last days. In this season where so many are focused on self and conspire against good, it will be critical that the Lord's disciples remain kind and show forth love. To paraphrase one of our Church leaders, no one is going to heaven who isn't nice. Well, I have news for all of you. Being nice to people who are not kind back, people who may even attack the very values you hold most dearly, is not easy. I reflect often on the story of Teancum in his battles with Ammoron. Now to be clear, Teancum is one of my heroes and is someone who stood for truth and battled against the armies of evil. And still, I can't help but wonder whether his growing anger clouded some of his attacks toward the end of his life. In Alma 62, we read that Teancum was "exceedingly angry with Ammoron." And in the following verse again we read, "And it came to pass that Teancum in his anger did go forth into the camp of the Lamanites." In the last days, we will continue to be called upon to battle for what is right. But even as we stand with conviction for what we believe, we are not absolved from the responsibility to show forth love and kindness to others.
Apply the Atonement
The last characteristic of those who stand as disciples in the last days is tied to repentance and the Atonement. In a world that fights so deliberately against good, you will not always emerge unscathed. You will then have to decide that it is better to repent than to stay in a pattern of sin. Now, the world will want you to feel justified in committing a little sin. In the last days,
...there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God - he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, ...there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
To the students of BYU-Idaho, please know that such doctrine is a lie; it is a justification for sin you will hear the rest of your lives. The consequences of sin are real, and we will be held accountable for our decisions, regardless of the rationalization and justifications of the world. The adversary will lie to us on our way to committing sin; he will lie to us on our way of getting out of sin. If he can't get us to rationalize our misdeeds, he will try to make us feel so lost that we lose hope in our path back. As disciples in the last days, you will need to believe in the power of the Atonement, repent when you make mistakes, and invite the forgiving power of Christ into your life.
I close with a statement from Elder Kim B. Clark:
In these perilous times, the Lord's prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, has called us to...stand for truth with courage... Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead.
I'd like to express my confidence in you as the hope and future of this great Church. These are perilous times, and the gap between the world and the Church will only increase. And yet, we can stand with confidence as disciples in the last days. To do this, we must follow the prophet, strengthen our families, act and not be acted upon, show kindness and love, and apply the Atonement. I want you to know that I have a testimony that God is watching over His people and His Church in these last days. Through the Savior we can change and become who God wants us to become. I invite each of you to stand as disciples in these last days. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Thomas S. Monson, "Be an Example and a Light," Ensign, November 2015, emphasis added.
 2 Timothy 3:1-3, emphasis added.
 2 Nephi 28:20, emphasis added.
 1 Nephi 8:26-27.
 Candid Camera, Inc., Allen Funt, "Face the Rear," 1962.
 Thomas S. Monson, "Choices," Ensign, May 2015.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, "To the Boys and to the Men," Ensign, November 1998.
 Thomas S. Monson, "To the Rescue," Ensign, April 2001.
 Thomas S. Monson, "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet," Ensign, October 2014.
 Thomas S. Monson, "The Holy Temple-A Beacon to the World," Ensign, April 2011; "Finding Peace," Ensign, March 2004.
 Thomas S. Monson, "Dedication Day," Ensign, October 2000.
 D. Todd Christofferson, "Why Marriage, Why Family," Ensign, April 2015.
 L. Tom Perry, "Why Marriage and Family Matter-Everywhere in the World," Ensign, April 2015.
 Dallin H. Oaks, "Protect the Children," Ensign, October 2012.
 Russell M. Nelson, "Decisions for Eternity," Ensign, October 2013.
 Nicolas Eberstadt, "The Global Flight from the Family," Wall Street Journal, February 2015.
 Frontline, Douglas Rushkoff, "The Merchants of Cool," PBS, February 2001.
 Chandra Johnson, "This is your brain online: How technology can affect the brain like drugs," Deseret News National, January 2015.
 Elder Bednar, "Things as They Really Are," BYU devotional, May 2009; "Sweep the Earth as a Flood," BYU devotional, August 2014.
 D&C 58:27-38.
 Matthew 24:12.
 Hartman Rector, Jr., "Endure to the End in Charity," Ensign, October 1994.
 Alma 62:35-36, emphasis added.
 2 Nephi 28:8.
 Kim B. Clark, "Eyes to See and Ears to Hear," Ensign, November 2015.