A BYU for Zion

Commencement address given to the graduates of Brigham Young University, 15 August 1975. Chauncey C. Riddle is Assistant Academic Vice-President — Graduate Studies and Curriculum, at Brigham Young University.

Chauncey C. Riddle

BYU for Zion - BYU Studies Volume 16-4 Summer 1976

BYU for Zion - Quoted from BYU Studies-Summer 1976-

President Tanner, brothers and sisters, friends of Brigham Young University: I wish first to extend special congratulations to all who graduate this day. I hope that you are educated in addition to being graduated. By educated I mean having the ability to think clearly, to make proper discriminations and judgments, to understand what you believe and remember. Education begins with memorization; but if that is also the end, true education has not been attained.

The story is told of the great physicist Michael Pupin that he once was engaged in lecturing about the country. His chauffeur would drive him to a location and listen to the lecture. At the last stand, he said to Pupin, “Dr. Pupin, I have heard your lecture at least fifteen times, and I believe I could give it myself. No one here is likely to know you personally, so why don’t you be the chauffeur and I’ll give the lecture?”

Being a bit of an adventurer himself, Pupin went along with the idea. The chauffeur turned out to be a good showman. He delivered the lecture word perfect, and with a flair. At the conclusion he said, “We have just enough time left for one question. Is there one?”

After a moment, a man arose and asked a rather pointed question about the lecture. The pretender was a showman yet. He thanked the questioner, then said, “The question is sufficiently elementary that I will call upon my chauffeur to answer it for you.” I guess the moral of the story is that if you are not educated, be sure you have a chauffeur who is.

Something very special about you who are graduating today is that you are centennial graduates, products of the one-hundredth year of this institution. The Centennial celebration is a great time to look back, to gain appreciation of the sacrifice, sweat, and tears which have enabled BYU to come to its hundredth year. It is also a time to look forward. With good reason, we can expect that the second century will be greater than the first.

The reason for the difference is the progress of the Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands is rolling forth to fill the whole earth. What a thrill it is to see the Church moving in majesty and power, yet with grace, as it fulfills the prophecies! The Church is preparing the world for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior.

As I understand the scriptures, two great works crown that preparation. The first is missionary work. The gospel must go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people with joyful greeting to invite every soul to the supper of the Lamb. I hope that each of us is supporting President Kimball in our prayers, asking that the doors of the nations will be opened and that we shall be ready when they do open. I hope that each of us is doing all he can to field the hundred thousand missionaries. Then we can lift our sights to the one hundred forty and four thousand high priests who will sweep the earth with righteousness, as with a flood.

Glorious and great as the missionary work is, there is another preparation for the Savior which is equally necessary. It is the establishment of Zion again on the earth, on this continent. How fortunate you and I are to be living in the days of its establishment! Many righteous men, prophets of old, longed to see Zion. Though they personally were worthy of being part of Zion, their contemporaries would not be persuaded to it. Our friend, the prophet Isaiah, saw it clearly in vision and rejoiced:

1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, [and] sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.

9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

For Zion is a people who are pure in heart. They have not only entered in at the strait gate but have pursued the narrow way to its end. Through their faith in Christ, they overcome all things, beginning with each individual self. The Lord crowns their faithful obedience to him by purifying them. They then have one heart and one mind. They dwell in righteousness, and there is no poor among them. Because they have made his path strait, the Lord himself comes to dwell with them.

“Blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (3 Nephi 12:8)

Zion is the pavilion of the Lord. It is his dwelling place. But he cannot come to it in the days of wrath and disobedience, except to burn. In his mercy he waits until the stakes are strong and the pavilion is fully erected and ready, worthy of its king. The great opportunity you and I have is to support the authorities of the Church, to carry out the programs, to magnify our callings so that the work of the holy priesthood will be complete. Then the earth will not be utterly wasted at his coming.

As I hope you can see, I rejoice with Isaiah and with you at the prospect of Zion’s again being established upon the earth. But that is background. My message today is really about Brigham Young University. The question I ponder is, What kind of an institution must BYU be to be fully acceptable to the Lord as part of Zion? Now I do not suppose that Zion needs BYU; it could be established without this institution. But BYU is part of the Church Education System. If it does not grow and increase in glory as the Church will, that would be a calamity. But a great and glorious BYU could well be a great contributor to the beauty of Zion.

What would this university need to be, to be part of Zion? I do not pretend to see the whole picture, but I believe I see some of it. May I share with you six factors which I personally believe should help qualify this university to be part of Zion. Each of them is noteworthy in at least two respects. Each factor is a reflection of what I understand every individual must do personally to qualify to be part of Zion, and each would make this institution quite unlike the model universities which the would esteems. I present these six points not that you should believe me, but that you might compare them with your own image of the BYU of the future.


I understand the law of the celestial kingdom to be faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Truly this is a counsel of perfection. We are commanded to become perfect, even as Christ is. He is perfectly obedient to his Father, and through his grace we may become perfectly obedient to him, if we so desire. I understand that the real importance of the fact that we have free agency is that we are free to become like our Lord and Master, with the full weight of his omnipotence and omniscience as the guarantee of that freedom. If we choose to be fully obedient to him, he will make it possible.

Faith in Christ is to hear the word of Christ, to believe, and to obey that word. Nephi of old counseled his people who had accepted the gospel as follows:

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

Moroni tells us in similar language how home teaching was done in those ancient days:

3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

In our own time the Savior has said it thusly:

43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.

44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.

45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.

As applied to Zion in the latter days, the Savior makes the same point in the following words:

14 That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world;

Faith in Christ enables us to become independent of the world because we labor solely under him and depend upon his merits.

As applied to BYU, this dependence would mean that the word of the Lord would be the most treasured possession we would have. Faith would find guidelines, and errors would be detected by revelations. The words of the living prophets would be esteemed above the words of any other living men.


Morality is another term for faithfulness. To be moral in the restored gospel is to obey the Savior in all things. Why obey him in all things? Because he is a God of righteousness. He does not command whim, but only that which is righteous according to a standard that is above him. I understand that righteousness is to bless others. Only in Christ do men know how to bless others sufficiently to meet the needs of mankind, for the Savior is the sole fountain of righteousness. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are his sheep. They hearken to his voice and come unto him that he might fill them with the Holy Ghost.

Those who obey his commandments are thus moral. Being moral, they can then be trusted with great knowledge, for they will not abuse it. They will use it only to further the cause of righteousness in the earth. The Savior makes this promise:

5 For thus saith the Lord–I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

6 Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.

7 And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.

8 Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations.

9 And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught.

10 For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will–yea, even those things which eye has not see, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man. (D&C 76:5-10)

Does this mean that faculty and students at BYU will cease to read books and journals? Will all scientific investigation cease? Will all creation become a waiting for God to reveal? Not at all. All efforts to learn will increase, but they will then all be fruitful. For reading shall be done with discernment, and the reading of error will often be an occasion for a revelation of truth. Experiments will be conceived in revelation to capture insights of truth which will flash in to well-disciplined, cultivated, and informed minds. Artistic creation will spring forth from the bosom that hungers to edify and will find physical embodiment through persons skillful in all useful endeavors. The glory of man will not then be the pretense to create or discover. The glory will be given to the Father of lights as men humbly seek to embody his will in material things of this earth, even as it is done in heaven. Morality will be the key to knowledge, to creation, to every success.

The world would say that this process should be reversed. It is said by them that it is knowledge which leads to morality. There is a strong and irrational tradition in the world that the learned man is more likely to be moral than the unlearned. It is true that we must first know the will of the Lord before we can be faithful to him. But the world says that worldly knowledge is that which creates faith. I call holding that idea irrational because it does not stand up when put to the test of experience. The Savior has shown how he feels about the idea by choosing fishermen and farm boys to be his prophets. Not that the learning of the world is bad of itself. It is just that as it is usually acquired, it tends to block faith in Christ, which is morality. Jacob carefully noted that in that familiar passage which rankles those who would like to make worldly knowledge the basis for being a good person. he says:

42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches–yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.

43 But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever–yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints. (2 Nephi 9:42-43)

I surmise that when all who are part of BYU become strong in obeying as well as in receiving the word of Christ, knowledge of all things in heaven and earth will flow unto them freely. Then indeed BYU will be the most proficient educational institution on the earth.

May I comment on what many persons see as an annoying provinciality of BYU: the dress and grooming standard. I see that standard as an invitation on the part of the living prophets to the children of light to please the Savior, that he might shower light and truth upon their heads. But if we do not search out the source–if we “hem and haw” over skirt and hair lengths–how can we be taught and trusted with the riches of eternity? Those who have the wit to make compliance with the standards-of-grooming part of faith in Christ, and who add to that small beginning of morality honesty, diligence, chastity, responsibility,–they are they who reap wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.


The crown of morality is charity, the pure love of Christ. Those who love Christ reflect his love to others who are less fortunate than they. Whereas people of the world concern themselves with those who have more wealth, talent, prestige, or athletic ability, true servants of Christ care about those who have less. When the covenant servants of the Lord do not care for the poor, the Lord punishes and chastises them as when he allowed the members of the Church to be driven out of Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833. One of the glories of Zion is that therein love has triumphed over natural differences. All who are Zion become equal in earthly things and then become one in the Savior because of their love for him.

We are told in the Doctrine of Covenants:

14 I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.

15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to agents unto themselves.

18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (D&C 104:14-18)

Hell is one of the names which can appropriately be applied to this natural world. It is a kingdom ruled over and tormented by Satan, where lies, immorality, and unfaithfulness abound. But this world can be improved upon if we will employ the Lord’s way. If we love, if we obey the Lord, and if we share, we need not lift our eyes in hell, either now or after death; a celestial kingdom can be established right in the midst of hell, a kingdom called Zion.

How will BYU care for the poor? Its primary mission is not to the physically or the spiritually or the emotionally poor. Its direct mission is to those who are poor in knowledge and ability. To make them rich answers the ends of its creation. To be clear about how this might be done, let us analyze the nature of a true helping relationship, which charity, or caring, must be.

Real help must have its source in superiority. This is not necessarily total superiority, but the one who helps must have more knowledge, more skill, more power, or more resource–more of something than the one helped. For the lesser to help the greater is not help but servitude. Then, the person who has the superiority must place himself in a position of inferiority; he must become the servant of the one being helped. This means that neither the agency nor the integrity of the person being helped is breached. With the graciousness of true nobility, the helper extends succor which is freely and gratefully received. Help given against the will of the receiver is not real help; it is domination. The test of true help is this; does it leave the person helped better able to meet his problems, other things being equal?

For BYU to help those who are poor in knowledge and ability, the faculty here must have a towering superiority in those things, which it can and will have through dependence upon the Savior and hardworking, diligent obedience to him. Then those who teach must become the servants of those whom they would instruct. They must not teach by domination, but rather in the pattern set by the Savior for righteous dominion:

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile. (D&C 121:41-42)

Not all the prerogatives of priesthood authority are appropriate to teaching, but the ones here mentioned certainly are.

Will a teacher who seeks to be a servant of both Christ and his students disdain to prepare? Will he be unconcerned about the personal problems of his students which keep them from learning? Will he cover up when an error or a lacuna in his material is pointed out? Will he grade on the curve as if his students were so many random manikins? Will he resist instruction from his superiors as to how he might better serve? No, he will rejoice in the opportunity he has to make his friends, his students, rich like unto himself in knowledge and ability.

What of students in this system? Will they not feel the gift of love and light and seek to absorb all the knowledge and attain all the ability they can? Will they not seek learning outside class requirements as well as in? Will they not share with fellow students, helping those who are poorer than themselves in ability to learn in order that their classmates might take full advantage of the instruction given? Yes, they will do all these good things and more, for they, too, love the Master.


One of the lamentable debilities the world has suffered from for millennia is the supposition that knowing is more important than doing, understanding than performance. Knowing is taken to be an end in itself.

This mistake is reflected theologically in the notion of the world that the end of all is to behold the face of God, the “beatific vision.” I understand that the reason for that goal, grand as it is, is for a further end. To be the kind of person who could have that blessing, then to have it would make a man a great blessing to his fellow beings. This is to say that such a one would then turn to the poor to lift them up, be they poor in any of the ways one can be poor. This difference between knowing is also reflected in the change, which I understand was requested by President Kimball, in the song I Am a Child of God, Instead of singing, “Teach me all that I must know,” we sing, “Teach me all that I must do to live with him some day.” For surely it is not knowing what to do, but doing what we know we should do which enables us to be saved.

Part of the problem is that the tendency of a natural man in this world is to shun work. Much of history has been a game to see who could enslave whom. More people have lived as slaves in this world than have lived free, and there are more slaves today than there ever have been before. In such a setting, occupations that do not dirty the hands or cause the brow to sweat have been sought and esteemed. The Chaldeans, astrologers, and soothsayers have always been court attendants, next to the king or the president himself. In religion, orthodoxy has often been deemed more important than repentance. In a world where true knowledge and true wisdom are usually in short supply, those professing knowledge and wisdom are accorded the high honors.

But, thanks be to God, knowledge and wisdom are not in short supply in the kingdom of Christ: there is no such problem. Often the problem is that some of us know more than we wish to know. But that brings us to our problem, which is to be doers of the word. The Savior furnishes his kingdom with prophets, seers, revelators, scriptures, presidents, home teachers, fathers, mothers–and enables all of us to be accompanied by the Holy Ghost. Faith does not exist in the mere hearing of the word; it lives only in the doing. The Savior reminds us of this as follows:

5 But behold, verily I say unto you that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen.

6 They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noonday. (D&C 95:5-6)

How would BYU differ from the world if it emphasized doing rather than knowing? Could not writing and speaking be more emphasized relative to reading? Internships an laboratory work would be more important than classroom lecture. Grading would be based more on performance than on memory. The whole of the educational practice would veer towards the application of knowledge. Graduation would be based on skill rather than on grade-point and seat-time. One of the reasons we enjoy sports so much is that we can tell who the doers are. What would it do to the university if at least once a week every professor had to compare his students with those of other universities? Men who decry competition do so out of fear; they know that they cannot compete in the real world. Only when tenured in an ivory tower before helpless students dare they puff up like men. But an emphasis on doing tends to change all that. And the doers turn out to be the real knowers.

What will people at BYU be doing? They will be reaching out to solve the problems of the world’s intellectual poverty. Our educational transmission systems are woefully inadequate; they must be rather completely redesigned. Our teaching of scientific research puts on blinders as well as helping. Our society downgrades technical skill, for which folly we are paying dearly. Millions over the earth who now have little hope for education could receive basic instruction at low cost. Spiritually guided pure research could provide the basis for elimination our energy crisis. The list extends to every intellectual and educational problem in the world. It is like genealogy. There is no danger of any one person’s doing all the work.


As we do the works of righteousness, the Lord can bless us more abundantly. He can shower upon our heads that intelligence which will enable us to become a great blessing to our fellow beings. But we must not be confused as to what this intelligence is, and we must distinguish is from its companion– intellectuality.

Intelligence is light and truth. Truth is knowledge of things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come. A study of human ability to know shows us that human beings as natural men–that is to say without divine revelation — are somewhat equipped to know physical things around them as they are; they are poorly equipped to know many things around them, such as other people; and they are very poorly equipped to know things distant. They are scarcely able to grasp the truth of things as they were. And they can only make guesses as to the truth of things to come. Small wonder that truth is a stranger in a world of fallen men whose god is the father of lies.

Light, the other part of intelligence, is wisdom. It is guidance, direction. It is knowing what to do to solve our problems. The natural man is at least as poorly equipped to be wise as he is to know the truth. In fact it is so bad that no human being or collection of human beings, acting on their own as natural men, can be sure that anything they propose to do is the best thing to do. And this applies to any discriminative standard of “best.” All human wisdom is thus a guess. No wonder the Savior inveighs against priestcraft. He just does not like one man’s guessing what is good for another, then taking praise and gain for it.

But the Savior does not leave it there. He gives us an alternative. He himself is the Spirit of truth. He himself is the Light of the world. His mission is to bring light and truth to mankind. To everyone he gives a little. But only those who receive the light and do what is right receive more light. To him who is faithful, the Lord can and does give light and truth, increasing him line upon line, precept upon precept, until that person either has all he wants or has received all the Lord has. Those persons who love the works of righteousness and who have found the Savior are magnified through and in light and truth until they become like the Savior himself. They are then indeed intelligent beings. To be intelligent is to receive and understand the things of God.

To be intellectual, on the other hand, is to receive and to understand the things of man. An intellectual is a person who had mastered a goodly portion of the language and learning of men. Every intellectual person has great command of and can use precisely at least one language. This linguistic skill makes it possible for him to think more clearly and more powerfully than those less learned. Language is a tool, and the intellectual person must also know some subject matter well, to have applied the tool of language with considerable force and precision in some area of learning. Learning can take many forms, but the usual minimum mastery of a subject is to know what the principal accepted ideas in the field are, what the principal problems, of the field are, and who the principal contributors to the field are. An additional echelon of eminence is attained if one himself is a contributor to the solution of problems in the field. To signify knowledgeability in a field is what is intended by the bestowal of the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. To signify a contribution to the solution of problems in the field is what is intended in the granting of a doctoral degree. Unfortunately, time and practice have blurred these distinctions and sometimes degraded them, but they originally were intended as meaningful ways of identifying a genuine intellectual.

I do not suppose that these two categories–the intelligent person and the intellectual person–can be fully mutually exclusive. I suppose that to understand the things of God one must have some language skill, be a good thinker, and acquire great understanding. I suppose that there is no person of great intellect whose mind is not quickened to some degree by the divine light and truth that emanate from the Savior. I judge that the learning of the world has a good deal of truth in it, and that when the Lord reveals a subject to the mind of a man, that revelation might include some truths already known to intellectual people. One problem lies in the fact that the learning of men, besides having a good deal of truth, is also shot through with error. Another problem lies in the fact that the tools of intellect are very clumsy in separating truth from error in the minds of intellectuals. Witness how difficult a time even simple truths like the heliocentricity of the solar system have had in gaining widespread acceptance.

A prime example of a person of great intellect but little intelligence was Saul of Tarsus. A man well schooled in the learning of the Jews, a Pharisee of the strictest sect, Saul was nevertheless a zealous destroyer of the work of the Savior, the more devastating because of his intellectual prowess. What little intelligence that had come to him Saul had vigorously resisted, as the Lord reminded him in saying, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). But Saul was finally willing to receive intelligence. He submitted himself to Ananias, who was the Savior’s appointed keeper in Damascus. He received the ordinances of salvation and accepted the light and truth that had burst upon him. As a new person, Paul diligently sought the Lord that he might remedy the gap in his education. Being called to the ministry, he bore a witness ground in both intelligence and intellect that made him a powerful servant of the Lord, and apostle whose testimony and teaching have blessed every generation of the world since his calling.

A contrary example, one of a man of great intelligence but little intellectual attainment is the case of the boy prophet Joseph Smith, Junior. Blessed by the Savior to receive more light and truth than any of his contemporary human beings, he became a giant in intelligence, so far surpassing even those who accepted the restored gospel that he could not share much of what he knew. Because of his faithfulness, revelation continued to pour out upon him throughout the short span of his life. But lo, what did this man of superlative intelligence do? He, too, felt a gap in his education. With great diligence and persistence the prophet of the Most High sought to become an intellectual. He studied languages, law, and apparently every subject to which he could find access. And was he a greater and better prophet for his intellectual attainments? No more correct, no more moral, but surely more effective in communicating the God-given intelligence which crowned his soul. And communication is a large part of what being a prophet is all about.

Now I would guess that you can think of examples of people who tend to be intellectual without intelligence or intelligent without intellect. I dare say you will be able to think of more who are in the former category. One of the casualties of every dispensation is the person who tries to let intellect do for intelligence. Such learned ones suppose they can judge both the truth and the morality of the word of the Lord and of his prophets. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, concisely expressed their plight:

When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not to the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. (2 Nephi 9:29)

Though there be many, in and out of the Church, who are intellectual with little intelligence, you probably will have difficulty thinking of many who are intelligent but with little intellect. This is so because a man on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests to quicken him with intelligence must be faithful to the light he receives, or it will withdraw from him. One of the things pertinent to the faithfulness of every servant of God is that he must learn to do well in the temporal matters in his stewardship. He must learn to understand, to control, to succeed. The Lord may instruct him in these things spiritually, or, if he has not sufficient faith, the Lord may send him to the world to learn to do well. The Lord says:

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88:118)

In a BYU for Zion, people will gain knowledge and skill both by study and by faith and will not confuse the two.


At a BYU for Zion, instruction would be difference from that of other universities in that it will have been cleansed of the lies, the false notions of the world which are riveted upon the hearts of the children by their fathers, these being the chains of hell. It will also be different in that it will be strictly informational: it will limit itself to truth. It will not pretend to be a source of light, which is to say wisdom, to the world.

Now I am sure you are aware that being a source of supposed wisdom is what universities are traditionally all about. Aristotle’s prescription for the ideal society was for men to find the path of wisdom, which leads to happiness, by reason. Persons not educated enough to reason were to go to a wise man, a philosopher, to have him reason out the path of wisdom for them. Universities were established originally as theological training schools, to teach the philosophies of men, appropriately mingled with scripture, so that society would amply furnished with wise men who could lead the people correctly. The “general education” which each university graduate receives is the residue of the wisdom training of the medieval priest. Though you are graduating in the robes of the medieval priest and are receiving similar recognition, hopefully you and I will avoid pretending that we are now, because of our degrees, adequate sources of wisdom to anybody. The scriptural term for lack of such avoidance is priestcraft.

To engage in priestcraft is to make a business out of being a wise man. It is to take reward for giving advice to others. Nephi says it this way:

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:29)

Indeed, one of the special reasons the Lord gave for restoring the gospel was to do away with priestcrafts. He says in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets–

19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and bread down the mighty and strong ones, that man would not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh–

20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

21 That faith also might increase in the earth. (D&C 1:17-21)

Let us be plain: The Lord Jesus Christ is the true Light of this world. No man knows enough to tell any other man what to do, how to be wise, except he receives that light from Christ. The Savior reveals light and truth only through the channels of his true priesthood, and to individuals. For any man to preside as a source of light, that man must hold priesthood authority. To have a testimony of the Church is to recognize the true authority of Christ in this Church. But there are also signs that follow. True servants of Christ giving true light have these marks: They do not attempt to force their light upon anyone, and they do not take pay for administering it.

Money always clouds the helping relationship. We are free to go to the Lord to receive wisdom, and he gives liberally and upbraids not. Freely we receive, and freely we should give. Is it not monstrous that a man should receive something freely from God, then turn and sell it to his fellowman? And is it not even more monstrous to substitute the wisdom of men for the wisdom of God and then to sell that paltry substitute?

BYU cannot save the world and will admit it. That will indeed make it different. BYU will be a haven of truth, a citadel of virtue, but it will eschew priestcraft. Its professors will give information and will teach technique but will not usurp the prerogative of the true priesthood to give personal advice.

In conclusion, let me extend two caveats. First, I am not supposing in my description of a BYU for Zion that BYU is presently doing none of these things. I deem that it is firmly on the path to such greatness at present. My purpose has been to celebrate what I take to be the goal of this institution. Second, perhaps what I have said may seem idealistic, even unrealistic. May I point out that part of the present reality of anything is what it can become. Not to see the potential in something is to miss the import of its reality as surely as does idle daydreaming. With man, many things I have said about BYU are not possible. But in Christ all good things are possible. Thank you.

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  1. Pingback: A BYU for Zion – 1993 | Chauncey Riddle

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