Elder Clark G. Gilbert explains how we can draw strength from our Savior and find Christ’s peace in perilous times.

This speech was given on February 8, 2022.

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It is impossible for me to express how much I love this university. Part of that love is tied to how I experienced BYU even before I arrived on campus. I was raised in a great community, but one in which I was often seen as a religious minority. By a show of hands, how many of you grew up where your beliefs were sometimes challenged by others around you? BYU can serve as a refuge and a source of strength for a season in what will certainly be a lifetime of standing up for your beliefs and values.

I had so much fun in high school participating in dances, student government, and athletics. But I sometimes found my beliefs belittled, even in environments that claimed to be inclusive.

At one student assembly, I was invited to participate in a dating game in front of the entire school. It soon became clear that every question I was asked was designed to make fun of me for my choices in media, beverages, and dating. I was being mocked for what I held most dear.

Now admittedly, when they asked for my favorite song, I thought, “Well, I can play along with this,” and I answered jokingly, “I Am a Child of God.”1

Everyone in the auditorium laughed, and I thought I was quite clever—right until they asked me to sing it. So, at age seventeen, I performed “I Am a Child of God” in front of my entire high school!

Long before I came to BYU, the idea of attending a university where people shared my values inspired a hope in me to hang on through high school. Arriving at BYU was so exciting. I met friends who became examples to me for the rest of my life. And while there was a fun spark to those early friendships, their lasting impact was tied to the gospel itself. No one was perfect, but most of us were trying to do our best to become something more in Christ, and we were grateful for BYU’s impact in that effort. Of course I also met my wife, Christine, at BYU. She won my heart with her kindness, her depth of character, her ability to nurture, and her love for the gospel. We were married during our last semester, and our wedding reception was held here on this campus.

At BYU, I also met faculty who understood the school’s unique spiritual mission. I sat in the Maeser Building auditorium riveted by John S. Tanner, a future BYU academic vice president and eventual BYU–Hawaii president. He taught us how great literature from Milton, Dante, Dostoevsky, and others could be illuminated by the gospel and, in turn, add insight to our own belief. I studied international theory in BYU’s Kennedy Center under a young Jeffrey F. Ringer, who is now an associate international vice president at BYU. I marveled as he articulately explained how the diversity of scholarship in higher education was strengthened by communities of faith such as BYU.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the president of BYU during my freshman year. One day as I was running toward the Jesse Knight Building, President Holland was walking down the steps from the Administration Building. As any exuberant freshman might, I yelled, “Hello, President Holland!” to which he replied, “Hello, Clark Gilbert from Phoenix, Arizona!”

I about fell over! He seemed to know all of us. As president, Elder Holland spoke with such spiritual clarity on the university’s destiny that you knew you were in a special place.2 Rex E. Lee was the BYU president after my mission. During his time as the U.S. solicitor general, President Lee had argued nearly sixty cases before the Supreme Court. His ability to craft a well-reasoned defense pushed me to deepen my own thinking and learning. He also inspired us to replenish what we had been given at BYU.3

All of these leaders—from university presidents to faculty and even to my peers—taught me that at BYU we can perform at the highest levels, engage with the world, and never compromise our values or beliefs. In fact, BYU taught me that we can do this not in spite of our faith but because of it.

A Unique University

These reflections are not meant to be overly nostalgic; they are meant to communicate what a sacred seat you sit in.

© Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. I went to Montana State University. Go Bobcats! I still love that university. I guess that's normal to love your alma mater. Funny enough, I've since been in the same stake with two then inactive guys in my student ward. One would later be my branch president and one would be in my stake presidency. I never would have imagined that at the time, but it's awesome to see.

  2. It was a thrill for me to come to BYU from the country in Idaho. It was also terrifying being a shy young woman. It was such a spiritual experience to hear and see the prophets and the great men and women of the church. The Lord blessed me truly to study where the spirit of the Lord abides.

  3. I was at BYU at the same time. As a convert from England, I viewed the university campus as I viewed the temple and felt that I was on holy ground. I dressed accordingly every day. Before I immigrated I remember a talk by President Benson who warned against taking government funding because as with all compromise and reliance on the public purse, restrictions and control ensue. Freedom comes from self reliance. As President Benson so prophetically observed “ The cost of something for nothing may be more than we can afford.”

  4. Thank you Elder Gilbert,
    I am a student from BYU Pathway and sometimes is so hard to continue on this education path but God gives us strength. Thank you for your uplifting words to continue in faith.

  5. His reasons are exactly why I went to BYU too. I wanted so badly to be taught by people I knew would be inspired and teach things truthfully. I was the only member in my high school and middle school. I needed to be with believers. I appreciated my time there. Shortly after attending BYU culture changed. It has been sad to see what has been going on. It should be a house of learning and a house of God. The world has no place there. Grateful for his words. ❤️

  6. Beautiful. Thank you so much for this much needed message. I can't express how much my soul needed this just now, this day. Sometimes a reminder in another's voice is required when a person is feeling weak. Your voice and words and testimony offered that to me today. Thank you for helping to bring peace into my life today.

  7. 1.) (Jesus) Christ will take us where we are.

    2.) He (Jesus Christ) will love us even when we don't love Him back.

    3.) He (Jesus Christ) will repair the breaches* of our lives.

    4.) (Jesus) Christ will succor us in our infirmities.

    * [In reference to Isaiah 58:12.]

  8. Thank you for sharing this message. I have felt like this brother who has made mistakes or as a person who wants to be better, but who falls short again and again.

    Thank you for the reminder that I can get up every day with a new start and that any small effort can be a good victory!

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