The Future for Life Science Majors

Cecil O. Samuelson, BYU President

"The future is very bright—for individuals where there are more careers and more opportunities than ever before—and for BYU where we're involved with some very cutting edge research."


The College of Biology and Agriculture happens to be the college that's closest to my own profes­sional life experiences. I'm very impressed with your achievements as faculty, students, and alumni, but also with the goodness and the solidness of your intentions to do well.

Life science has always been an important part of what is happening in our country—particularly now with urgent needs and the advances that have been made toward those needs. BYU is on track to fulfilling proph­ecies about its future. Not all have been fulfilled—but when they were made, who would have thought we'd have both student and faculty scholars publishing in the very best scientific journals and involved in push­ing back the frontiers of knowledge? I believe we are on schedule and that progress has been very apprecia­ble. We have considerable distance to go to fully fulfill the prophetic vision of our leaders, but if they could see us now in the particular time frame that we're in, they'd be generally pleased with our progress.

Today, we are faced with some controversial scientific issues. I recall Brigham Young's instruction to Karl Maeser regarding teaching with the Spirit, that we also "be a people of profound learning pertaining to the things of the world." We need to be continually focused on the realities of science—both what is not known as well as what is known. In terms of some issues of the day, it's easy for some scientists to extrapolate beyond the facts—to treat their incompletely designed theories as proven fact.

For our students who are faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a responsibility to teach what the prophets have said, being careful not to theorize about what they have not said. A major responsibility of our students is being involved in good solid science, and applying time-proven methods in the context of our doctrinal under­standing. We cannot be passive about either our environment of faith or our commitment to academic excellence.

The challenge the College of Biology and Agriculture shares with the rest of the university is the unfortunate inability to accommodate all students who would like to study here. Much of what we do is very intensive in terms of faculty and laboratory time, and so the capac­ity to accommodate large groups of students might not be the same as it is in another discipline. But when you look at big challenges, you look at big opportunities. I don't think there's a college in this university that has a greater potential to make significant contributions to the well-being of man and to broaden the scope of understanding than the College of Biology and Agri­culture.

If we do our job well, we have the unspeakable privi­lege to be part of an enterprise that may cause inspired prophecy to be fulfilled. But this progress does not just happen—it requires continued blessings from heaven and our consistent and most effective efforts. We must always keep in mind our sacred mission: to seek the best scholastic achievement within the sustaining power of abiding faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, and in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is important for all of us at the university to keep our feet on the ground with respect to what our values are—in both science and in the special mission of BYU, and then turn our eyes toward the heavens for oppor­tunities that will be ours to increase our capacity and to increase our success.