Building a College

The College of Life Sciences is moving steadily toward being the best it can be. We are fortunate to have clear guidance in this effort. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors Brigham Young University. The Board of Trustees, consisting of the First Presidency and other Church leaders, pays close attention to what happens at BYU. Two documents, approved by the Board, guide our progress.
Digital render of the interior of the new Life Sciences Building
An artist's rendering of the interior of the new Life Sciences Building.

BYU Mission Statement

The BYU Mission Statement1 provides general guidance to the university and therefore to the College of Life Sciences. In a nutshell, the mission of BYU is to:
  • Assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.
  • Contribute to the balanced development of individuals capable of meeting personal challenges and strengthening others.
  • Provide an environment enlightened by living prophets and sustained by those moral virtues that characterize the life and teachings of the Son of God. In that environment these four major educational goals should prevail:
    1. All students at BYU should learn the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    2. Students at BYU should receive a broad university education.
    3. Students should receive instruction in the fields of their choice, making BYU graduates capable of competing with the best in their fields.
    4. Scholarly research and creative endeavor among both faculty and students are essential and will be encouraged.
In meeting these objectives BYU’s faculty, staff, students, and administrators should be anxious to make their service and scholarship available to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in furthering its work worldwide.

Aims of a BYU Education

“Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life.”2 —Brigham Young

The second document, called Aims of a BYU Education,3 builds on and reaffirms the BYU Mission Statement. The core of this document comes from the scriptures and from the counsel of modern prophets,4 whose teachings lay the foundation of the university’s mission.

• Spiritually Strengthening

“Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of god.”5 —Brigham Young

The founding charge of BYU is to teach every subject with the Spirit. It is not intended “that all of the faculty should be categorically teaching religion constantly in their classes, but . . . that every . . . teacher in this institution would keep his subject matter bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel.”6 A shared desire to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118) knits BYU into a unique educational community.

Joseph Smith’s words apply equally to faculty and students at BYU: “Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”7 Students need not ignore difficult and important questions. Rather, they should frame their questions in prayerful, faithful ways, leading them to answers that equip them to give “a reason of the hope that is in [them]” (1 Peter 3:15) and to articulate honestly and thoughtfully their commitments to Christ and to His Church.

• Intellectually Enlarging

“Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all science and art belong to the Saints, and they should avail themselves as expeditiously as possible of the wealth of knowledge the sciences offer to every diligent and persevering scholar.” —Brigham Young

The intellectual range of a BYU education is the result of an ambitious commitment to pursue truth. An eternal perspective shapes not only how students are taught, but what they are taught.

BYU undergraduates should acquire the ability to think soundly, to communicate effectively, and to reason proficiently in quantitative terms. The Lord has asked his children to “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people” (D&C 90:15); to understand “things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations . . . ; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (D&C 88:79). BYU undergraduate students should be educated in religion, historical perspective, science, arts and letters, and global awareness. They should develop competence in at least one area of concentration, preparing them to enter the world of work or to pursue further study.

BYU graduate programs, like undergraduate programs, should be spiritually strengthening as well as intellectually enlarging. They should prepare students to contribute to their disciplines through their own original insights, designs, applications, expressions, and discoveries.

• Character Building

“A firm, unchangeable course of righteousness through life is what secures to a person true intelligence.”9 —Brigham Young

BYU aspires to develop character traits that flow from the long-term application of gospel teachings to their lives. President David O. McKay taught that “true education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love.”10 BYU “has no justification for its existence unless it builds character, creates and develops faith, and makes men and women of strength and courage, fortitude, and service—men and women who will become stalwarts in the Kingdom and bear witness of the . . . divinity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not justified on an academic basis only.”11 Rather, it fulfills its promise when “the morality of the graduates of this University provide[s] the music of hope for the inhabitants of this planet.”12

• Lifelong Learning and Service

“We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it; never, never. . . . We shall never cease to learn, unless we apostatize from the religion of Jesus Christ.”13 —Brigham Young

“Our education should be such as to improve our minds and fit us for increased usefulness; to make us of greater service to the human family.”14 —Brigham Young

BYU should inspire students to keep alive their curiosity and prepare them to continue learning throughout their lives. A BYU degree should educate students in how to learn, teach them that there is much still to learn, and implant in them a love of learning “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

BYU should nurture in its students the desire to use their knowledge and skills not only to enrich their own lives but also to bless their families, their communities, the Church, and the larger society.

Conclusion

“Education is a good thing, and blessed is the man who has it, and can use it for the dissemination of the gospel without being puffed up with pride.”15 —Brigham Young

The aims of a BYU education aspire to promote an education that helps students integrate all parts of their university experience into a fundamentally sacred way of life—their faith and reasoning, their knowledge and conduct, their public lives and private convictions. Ultimately, complete wholeness comes only through the Atonement of Him who said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

BYU was founded on the principle that “to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29). The same prophets who saw the good that education can do knew also that “that happiness which is prepared for the saints” shall be hid forever from those “who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom” (see 2 Nephi 9:42–43).

BYU Foundation Documents16

For the College of Life Sciences to be the best it can be, it has to follow the guiding principles summarized here. Under the direction of, and with the support of, the BYU Board of Trustees, this process that was started a long time ago is moving forward faster than ever.

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1. “BYU Mission Statement,” http://aims.byu.edu/p/ mission statement.
2. Brigham Young, quoted by George H. Brimhall in “The Brigham Young University,” Improvement Era 23, no. 9 (July 1920): 831.
3. “Aims of a BYU Education,” http://aims.byu.edu/p/aims.
4. “Foundation Documents,”http://aims.byu.edu/p/foundationdocs.
5. Brigham Young, in Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1928), 79.
6. Spencer W. Kimball, “Education for Eternity,” Preschool Address to BYU Faculty and Staff, 12 September 1967, in BYU Speeches of the Year 1967–1968 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1968), 11.
7. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1972), 137.
8. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 10:224 (hereafter cited as JD).
9. Brigham Young, JD 8:32.
10. David O. McKay, “Why Education?” Improvement Era 70, no. 9 (September 1967): 3.
11. Spencer W. Kimball, “On My Honor,” in Speeches of the Year 1978 (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1979), 137.
12. Spencer W. Kimball, “Second Century Address and Dedication of Carillon Tower and Bells,” Brigham Young University, 10 Octo- ber 1975, 12
13. Brigham Young, JD 3:203.
14. Brigham Young, JD 14:83.
15. Brigham Young, JD 11:214.
16. “Foundation Documents,” http://aims.byu.edu/p/foundationdocs.