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From Birthright to the Steady Upward Course

Inaugural Response from President Alvin F. Meredith III

Audio of "Inaugural Response from President Alvin F. Meredith III"
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Elder Christofferson and Elder Rasband, thank you for your charge given to us today. We both appreciate and honor your leadership and guidance in the Church Educational System. Both Jennifer and I express our full alignment with the direction you have provided and give our full commitment to responding to the charge you have shared today.

From Birthright to the Steady, Upward Course

Preserving the Birthright

In June of 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of BYU-Idaho [1] with a charge to be a very different kind of university, a university with a distinctive, student-focused mission, with the primary purpose to develop deeply converted disciples of Jesus Christ. Save for that prophetic directive, BYU-Idaho would not be a four-year university. In other words, President Hinckley's announcement was our birthright and set the parameters and direction for the kind of university we would need to become. Our charge today is twofold: first, to preserve that birthright and everything it stands for; and second, to continue on the steady, upward course [2] that a prophet of God established for this university.

As we move forward, we must vigilantly preserve the timeless values and quest for discipleship that characterize BYU-Idaho. This is a unique place, and we must keep it that way.

Continuing on the Steady, Upward Course

And we must also press forward and upward with joyful optimism, coupled with a spirit of divine discontent. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that divine discontent comes when we compare “what we are [to] what we have the power to become.” [3] What we are, and what has been done in the past, is nothing short of miraculous.

We all have sincere gratitude for those who have come before us, for the foundation they have laid, and the trajectory on which they have placed us. We are particularly grateful for the past presidents, both of Ricks College and BYU-Idaho. I have spent time listening to and learning from past presidents of BYU-Idaho: Henry B. Eyring, David A. Bednar, Kim B. Clark, Clark G. Gilbert, and Henry J. Eyring. The hope expressed by each of them is that we will continue on the steady, upward course. Henry J. Eyring, my immediate predecessor, led this university with honor and compassion. He was a guardian of the Spirit of Ricks. Thank you, President Eyring. President Eyring recently encouraged me to: “Take BYU-Idaho to higher places.” His words were an echo of his father, President Henry B. Eyring, who promised, “We can follow a steady, upward course in a world of change without fear, welcoming the opportunities.” [4]

Today, I would like to share four ways I feel we can work together to preserve our sacred birthright and to continue on the steady, upward course that this university was set on with prophetic guidance.

Remain a Christ-Centered, Prophetically Directed University

First, we must, with great resolve and intentionality, remain a Christ-centered, prophetically directed university.

Our mission at BYU-Idaho, our primary purpose, our most important cause, is “to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church, and their communities.” [5] Elder David A. Bednar, referring to BYU-Idaho, said: “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.” [6]

We must remain resolutely focused on that primary purpose. All that we do, especially hiring, must be done with the intent to “ensure an alignment with the university’s spiritual mission.” [7] We must lean into our mission and recognize that it not only makes us different, but is also a source of differential strength.

Prophetic guidance is one of those “unparalleled spiritual resources” referred to by Elder Bednar. In Elder Rasband’s earlier remarks on BYU-Idaho’s governance and again in the charge from Elder Christofferson, it should be clear to all of us that prophets and apostles are active participants on the Board and the Executive Committee of BYU-Idaho. They set the direction and strategy for this university. They also have great love and concern for the rising generation. We must fortify our efforts to stay perfectly aligned with the teachings of living prophets and apostles. We must be purposeful and diligent about maintaining doctrinal purity in every nook and cranny of this university.

As we remain focused on Jesus Christ and aligned with prophetic direction, our graduates will go out into the workforce and world, as disciples of Christ. President Russell M. Nelson said: “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous.” [8] Those are characteristics of the natural leaders President Henry B. Eyring has talked about. He said this 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. [9]

Our alumni are already fulfilling that prophecy today.

We share the mission to develop disciple-leaders with our sister schools in the Church Educational System. We will continue to work as a committed contributor to this focal purpose that unifies the Church’s commitment to its educational system.

Continue to Strengthen BYU-Idaho’s Core Teaching Mission through Teaching-Focused Faculty

Continuing to strengthen BYU-Idaho’s core teaching mission through teaching-focused faculty is the second way we preserve our birthright and continue on our steady, upward course.

President Hinckley’s announcement included the following: “BYU-Idaho will continue to be teaching oriented. Effective teaching and advising will be the primary responsibilities of its faculty, who are committed to academic excellence.” [10] That vision is as relevant now as it was then. It is also one of the defining characteristics of our students’ experience here and of this university. Elder Clark G. Gilbert said, “One of the hallmarks of BYU-Idaho is the personal investment of faculty who unapologetically build their professional focus on teaching and advising students.” [11] Our student-centered approach “requires a teaching-focused faculty free of the obligations of research that are so common at other universities.” [12]

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. [13]

When I talk to alumni about their experience at BYU-Idaho, the common refrain I hear is, “BYU-Idaho was life-changing for me” followed immediately by something that sounds like: “Let me tell you about a professor I had,” or, “Let me tell you about a supervisor I worked for,” or, “Let me share what I learned from the advisor I served with in student leadership.”

We are immensely grateful for the faculty and other employees who have dedicated their time, talents, and experience toward teaching students. In these consecrated efforts, we must also continue to ensure that these individuals find joy and fulfillment in their work and service at BYU-Idaho.

Preserve BYU-Idaho’s Unique Culture and the Spirit of Ricks

The third focus as we press forward is to preserve BYU-Idaho’s unique culture and the Spirit of Ricks.

The culture and spirit of BYU-Idaho can be hard to define but are easy to feel. Many visitors walk this campus and express that they feel something different. It is not because of the buildings and facilities, which are impressive. It is not because of the grounds, which are beautifully manicured. And it is not even because of the people, who are famously friendly. It is because the Spirit of the Lord is here. And we must diligently preserve that.

Elder Bednar has repeated the following on this campus four different times: “If the day ever were to come that intellectual arrogance, a lack of appreciation, and a spirit of demanding entitlement [took] root on this campus—among the students, faculty, employees or the administration, or within the community—then in that day the Spirit of Ricks [would] be well on the way to being extinguished—and the heavenly influence and blessings that have prospered this institution and the people associated with it [would] be withdrawn.” He went on to say, and this is what I hope to emphasize, “Conversely, as long as intellectual modesty, humility, gratitude, obedience, and frugality continue to characterize those who learn and serve at BYU-Idaho, then this university [would] shine forth ever brighter as a beacon of righteousness and of inspired educational innovation.” [14]

Teach and Amplify BYU-Idaho’s Message

The fourth area is to teach and amplify BYU-Idaho’s message. We must tell our story in ways that “ensure [that] students, parents, and Church members understand BYU-Idaho’s value and impact on the students and the Church.” [15] The intention of telling our story is not to seek praise or even to recruit. [16] It is primarily to ensure that prospective students and employees are fully informed about the unique spiritual, educational, and professional opportunities found here at BYU-Idaho. We can do this in a modest, but clarion way that is in perfect alignment with the Spirit of Ricks. As we hold up our proverbial candles to shine, [17] we can find ways to help more students learn in a student-centered university enveloped in the Spirit.

Our imperative, articulated by President Kim B. Clark, “to make a BYU-Idaho education available to many more of the young people of the Church” [18] is more urgent now than it ever has been. We live in the times that Paul described as “perilous.” [19] He prophesied that people would be: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [20] I believe that was, in part, why Elder Christofferson promised us prophetic guidance in his charge when he said: “The Board, with the Prophet at its head, will safeguard you through an increasingly challenging landscape, and point the way to academic and spiritual success.” [21] At BYU-Idaho, we seek learning, but most importantly we seek for a “knowledge of the truth,” [22] eternal truth. And at BYU-Idaho, we have prophets to help guide us to those truths.


In conclusion, BYU-Idaho is a unique and sacred, set apart place with a prophetically inspired heritage. By remaining Christ-centered and prophetically directed, continuing to strengthen our teaching focus, preserving the Spirit of Ricks, and amplifying our message and extending our reach, we will preserve our birthright and continue on the steady, upward course that the Lord established for this university. I pledge my deepest commitment to that effort. I witness that Jesus is the Christ and directs His Church and this university through a living prophet. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] See Gordon B. Hinckley, “Announcement: Ricks College to Become BYU-Idaho,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, June 21, 2000.

[2] See Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Sept. 18, 2001.

[3] Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 18.

[4] Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course.”

[5] See BYU-Idaho Mission Statement.

[6] David A. Bednar, “BYU-Idaho: A Disciple Preparation Center,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Aug. 31, 2004.

[7] Memorandum to Officers of the Board of Trustees from CES Search Committee, “Brigham University-Idaho Leadership Appointment: Responsibilities,” April 22, 2023.

[8] Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Liahona or Ensign, April 2017.

[9] Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course.”

[10] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Announcement: Ricks College to Become BYU-Idaho.”

[11] Clark G. Gilbert, “Inaugural Response,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Sept. 15, 2015.

[12] Memorandum to Officers of the Board of Trustees from CES Search Committee, “Brigham University-Idaho Leadership Appointment: Responsibilities,” April 22, 2023.

[13] See David A. Bednar, “Inaugural Response,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Feb. 27, 1998.

[14] David A. Bednar, “The Spirit and Purposes of Gathering,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, Oct. 31, 2006.

[15] Memorandum to Officers of the Board of Trustees from CES Search Committee, “Brigham University-Idaho Leadership Appointment: Responsibilities,” April 22, 2023.

[16] See Henry B. Eyring, “A Steady, Upward Course.” He said: “That spirit will continue to draw people here as it has in the past. You will not have to recruit faculty or advertise for students if you continue to build and nurture the spirit of BYU-Idaho. If you build it, they will come. And, they will come because in their hearts they want to be part of this community.”

[17] See Matthew 5:15–16.

[18] Kim B. Clark, “Inaugural Response,” BYU-Idaho Foundational Addresses, Oct. 11, 2005.

[19] 2 Timothy 3:1.

[20] 2 Timothy 3:7.

[21] D. Todd Christofferson, “Inaugural Charge,” BYU-Idaho, Oct. 10, 2023.

[22] 1 Timothy 2:4.