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Legendary Graduates

Inauguration of President Alvin F. Meredith III

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Thank you for that magnificent witness and prayer in music.

Elder and Sister Rasband, Elder and Sister Gilbert, President and Sister Meredith, students, faculty, administration and staff of Brigham Young University-Idaho, former presidents of the university and spouses, current presidents and administrators of the CES institutions, and distinguished guests, welcome. Each of you honor us with your presence here today. I wish also to extend a personal welcome to President Meredith’s parents, Al and Mary Meredith, who are good friends of many years.

I appreciate President Meredith’s thoughtful and eloquent response to the charge given him as he assumes the reins of leadership at BYU-Idaho. I enthusiastically endorse what he has said and committed. This university is unique in so many positive and consequential ways, and it has been blessed with remarkable leaders throughout its history. I know several of them personally, including those here today, and I admire each one. Trip Meredith will continue that tradition and make a uniquely excellent contribution of his own.

I first set foot on this campus in February 1974. I had just turned 29 and was in my second and final year of service as the law clerk to Chief Judge John J. Sirica of the US District Court in Washington, DC. Kathy was with me, pregnant with our third child, Peter, who is now 49 years old, and who was released just last year after his term of service as a stake president here on campus. In 1974, I had been invited to speak at Ricks College about the “Watergate” proceedings that were then underway in Washington, a significant part of which was happening in Judge Sirica’s courtroom. You may recall that President Richard M. Nixon resigned his office as president later that year. I was one of several speakers who had been invited by the Ricks student body officers to treat a variety of issues, including “Watergate.” They dubbed this series the “Week of Concern.” I recall that one of the other speakers—with a different subject that I can’t remember—was someone named Dallin H. Oaks, although I didn’t meet him at the time.

I had several impressions on this first experience here. One was that it was cold, really cold. Another impression was that the students seemed unusually mature and intent on learning all they could. Another was the kindness of the relatively new college president, Henry B. Eyring, who was so courteous as to invite me to his office for an extended conversation. I thought he was uncommonly gracious to me, a young, fledgling attorney with far less experience. I guess in that brief visit I was beginning to feel what I now recognize as the Spirit of Ricks. I congratulate each of you students on your decision to study here. You are probably just beginning to realize the impact this remarkable university will have on you, on who you become, and the future the Lord has in store for you.

In a personal vein, may I say a word about your new president. I’m a witness of the goodness of the man. I have known President Meredith since his teenage years. Besides his athletic abilities in those days, he was best known for his integrity and collegiality. He made friends easily because his peers respected and trusted him. They knew he was genuinely interested in them. But it was not just those in his own generation who felt that way. His family, his teachers, and his Church leaders all thought of him as having great promise in life and in any endeavor he might pursue. From his youth, he was committed to the Lord and the gospel path, and that commitment has only deepened in the intervening years.

The combination of President Meredith’s spiritual and intellectual talents has enabled him to serve as an effective leader in Church and business circles alike. His goodness, of course, extends to his marriage and family life. He was most definitely blessed to have found Jennifer; I’m sure the Lord had a hand in that. President Meredith is a better man, not only because of having Jennifer at his side, but because he listens to her. That is how you know he is wise.

I hate to admit this, but even with my feelings of admiration and respect for Trip Meredith—now Elder Alvin F. Meredith III—I was not the first to bring his name forward for consideration in the search for a new BYU-Idaho president. It’s not that I couldn’t imagine him in this role, rather it was that I was not the only one who could see him as president of this exceptional university. He has so many fans that somebody else beat me to the punch. Nevertheless, in the end, his talents and engaging personality are not why Elder Meredith was called to serve here at BYU-Idaho along with his wife, Jennifer. The Lord was in charge of their path to BYU-Idaho, and I testify to you, as a participant in the process, that it is the Lord who has put Elder Meredith where he is in this moment.

When he spoke about remaining a Christ-centered, prophetically directed university, President Meredith quoted a statement from President Henry B. Eyring in his September 2001 address here, “A Steady, Upward Course;” Actually, it was not just a statement—President Eyring called it a prophecy about BYU-Idaho graduates:

They will be natural leaders who know how to teach and how to learn. They will have the power to innovate and improve without requiring more of what money can buy. 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.[1]

Your new president naturally, reflexively seeks to add value in any assignment or undertaking. It is a hallmark of his, and I trust it will increasingly be, as President Eyring prophesied, a hallmark of the students that attend and graduate here. Remember, your learning, your teaching, your prayers, your discipleship are not simply ends in themselves. What you are learning and gaining here should qualify you to add value in every setting—to bring important knowledge, innovation, and spiritual and academic skill to the table. And when I say, “bring to the table,” I include the family dinner table. The best we have, the best we are, is most critically invested in our marriages and our homes.

With this understanding, Brigham Young University-Idaho must never become a place or institution where a diploma is seen only as a kind of a talisman that can open the door to good fortune in the future. This is not the place for one who is simply a “credential seeker.” Education has value as a refining, ennobling influence in the life of any learner, but for us, it does not end there. It is not just about the learner, not just about the teacher; it is about enhancing our capacity to serve and bless others.

Years ago, President Marion G. Romney, then a member of the First Presidency, gave a landmark talk titled, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance.” He quoted the Savior’s statement, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it,”[2] and then explained:

"We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing, we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the Celestial Kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the Celestial Kingdom is made."

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what Godhood is all about? Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.[3]

At this university, our efforts with respect to spiritual and intellectual enlargement, while worthy ends, are more importantly means and resources enabling us to lose our lives in the service of God and fellow men. President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “In the Church, obtaining an education and getting knowledge are a religious responsibility. We educate our minds so that one day we can render service of worth to somebody else.”[4]

Your time at BYU-Idaho should enhance your capacity to advance the kingdom of God on the earth, to “lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees,”[5] and to extend “charity, the pure love of Christ,”[6] throughout civil society as well as the Church. It is a season to “fill your purses” and “stock your shelves” with resources you can draw upon to help meet future needs—your own and others—to store up emotional and spiritual strength and resilience that will sustain you and others in time to come.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not suggesting that you should ignore the value of a BYU-Idaho diploma in opening doors of opportunity for you. If one of your goals is to obtain highly compensated employment, I hope you obtain it (assuming you accept the counsel found in Jacob 2:18–19). If you expect your time here to be an important step in qualifying for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2050, we’re with you! Yes, your degree is an important credential, but it is not the same thing as your identity or your purpose in life. A major part of a BYU-Idaho education is to focus you, by precept and example, on what is your identity and what is your purpose. When you are fully converted to those truths, you can strengthen your brothers and sisters. You can save your life by losing it in the Lord’s service. And at this university, you will have gained enhanced capacity to do so.

In short, as prophesied, “Graduates of BYU-Idaho will become legendary for their capacity to build the people around them and to add value wherever they serve.”[7]

May I repeat one additional statement President Meredith made in his response? He said, “Another important hallmark of BYU-Idaho is consecrated employees, staff, and administrators who also see themselves as teachers and mentors to students. Everyone at BYU-Idaho is a teacher.”[8] I thrill to that statement—everyone is a teacher. With that in mind, I pay special tribute today to the outstanding faculty and employees of this university. You are wonderfully committed to your commission to teach and mentor. Your devotion, your skill, and your intellect are remarkable. You know how to teach, you know how to learn, and you know how to teach others to learn. As quoted earlier, the Savior asks us to lose our lives[9] in His service and in the gospel cause, and that is precisely what you do in the course of your teaching. I applaud you, my brothers and sisters, who have dedicated your professional lives to the success of “the rising generation.”[10]

To you students, I say, I hope you will appreciate the choice your professors have made to put you first and their own professional recognition second. Your serious effort as a student is perhaps the best way you can express your gratitude.

My prayer for everyone associated with Brigham Young University-Idaho is that you may attain true and lasting conversion to Jesus Christ and His gospel. May He and His Heavenly Father—your Heavenly Father—be your first loyalty and their commandments your highest priority. May you model your life after the Master’s life. As President Nelson recently said, in all your decisions, “Think Celestial,”[11] so that in eternity, you may live in God’s celestial kingdom, with a celestial resurrected body, and with those you love most.

My witness to you is that Jesus Christ is a living, resurrected, celestial being with all power to redeem anyone who will come unto Him in the way He has appointed.

I pray that God, our Heavenly Father, may magnify President Meredith and his administration in their service, grant us joy in teaching and learning together, and grant us power to stay the course. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Sept. 18, 2001.
[2] Matthew 10:39.
[3] Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 93.
[4] Russell M. Nelson, “Focus on Values,” (message given in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 2011).
[5] Doctrine and Covenants 81:5.
[6] Moroni 7:47.
[7] Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course.”
[8] Alvin F. Meredith III, “Inaugural Response,” BYU-Idaho, Oct. 10, 2023.
[9] See Matthew 10:39.
[10] Ronald A. Rasband, “Our Rising Generation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006.
[11] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.