BYU-Pathway Worldwide Inauguration
President Ashton, you already know that BYU-Pathway Worldwide is an application of and an extension of the glorious, visionary doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This inspiring and exalting church that sponsors your work has as part of its founding revelations this kind of language, and I quote:“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”
From these and many, many other revelatory beginnings laid down as the gospel was being restored, we now have a Church Educational System serving nearly one million students; with over 60,000 instructors; several major campuses for primary, secondary and higher education; plus what is now a worldwide footprint through BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
President Ashton, one of the thrilling elements of your new assignment is your opportunity to witness history as measured against these early revelations but also to lead out in a new era to make history as a result of contemporary revelation. I consider the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide to be the most important and most far-reaching development in the Church Educational System since the creation of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion over a century ago. Your program is different and exciting in kind as well as degree from anything we have ever done, with all the marks of individuality and excitement that characterize an idea whose time has come. The instant success of this educational service is evidence enough of the reception it will continue to get around the world, holding aloft for all to see the hope that it instills and the good that it does for one generation after another, after another.
Part of your charge, President, in undertaking this exciting new program is to help your students of whatever age become self-reliant and independent, as you have just said, able to improve their lot in life and pass those advantages on to their children and their children’s children. This has obvious temporal day-to-day application, but it is important as a spiritual blessing even more than a temporal one. Certainly, your educational program will add to the quality of your students’ lives by increasing their ability to make a living for themselves and for their families. But spiritually speaking, it will fortify that divine reach — that spiritual impulse within all of us — that helps us grow into the full measure of divinity that God intends for us to achieve. That is why love for and loyalty to the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His gospel must be the ultimate end product of your educational efforts and the ultimate mark of your success.In this inspired program, Brian, about which you already know so much and to which you have already given an immense amount of time and energy, you will be associating not only with our exceptional professional colleagues here in Salt Lake City, Provo, Rexburg, and Laie, but also with legions spread out across the earth. You will be out in the vanguard of this movement where individual lives are being molded and shaped on location, where hope is coming to many who had so little to be hopeful about, where the Church is often in its first generation. You are our multi-skilled specialist who goes into the fray first, meets immediate needs where you can, and boosts many of your students on to further education, productive professional lives, participatory citizenship, and strong family lives. And the need has never been more evident. President Dallin H. Oaks said to your students just a month ago, “We live in challenging times…. More important [than the wars and earthquakes and tsunamis is the fact that] values and standards honored for thousands of years are now being denied or cast aside. Selfishness is replacing service. Evil is being called good, and good is being called evil.”
President Ashton, you, your faculty, and staff will, as noted, be serving in real time with real lives that are being molded and shaped before your very eyes. Yours is the privilege to “connect” with them first and quickly — “connect” being a key word in the BYU-Pathway vocabulary — and to start them out (or in some cases, restart them) on their life-changing journey. This forms a very sweet bond of sisterhood and brotherhood along this “pathway” you and they now walk together.Even as we say that, we are saddened by the conflicts that continue to unfold around the globe. If, in the course of working together there exists some disagreement, whether that be among individuals or nations, the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to bringing peace and harmony into those lives. Violence, greed and avarice, a lack of a sense of history or a lack of a sense of respect when considering the rights of others — whatever the problem — an education, especially an education in discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ, should be a central, majestic part of any solution. We hold firmly to the Savior’s declaration that we should know the truth, and the truth would make us free.
So, President Ashton, enjoy this brotherhood and sisterhood (Melinda too) of all those learners around the world. Be ready for growth when it comes because the need and the appetite are immense. We smile to keep from crying when we hear of entire stake presidencies, high councils, bishoprics, Relief Society presidencies, and elders quorum presidencies in which all or part are enrolled in BYU-Pathway, even as they were initially being charged to provide it to others. It is as if those manuals, workbooks, and English grammar texts are now placed on the table as the way to gain access to the standard works of the Church and its handbooks. So, President, do what you do well. Serve and strengthen the students you have, and legions will come to join you. When you have done the best you can by them, we will grow the operation to serve more nations, more cultures, and more languages. The possibilities in the future are staggering, quite frankly. But as the marvelous hymn by Cardinal Newman says:
“I do not ask to see
the distant scene —one step enough for me.”
That sounds to me like excellent advice, the kind of thing we would want to hear from the president and principal teacher of an educational endeavor. So when you are having a hard day and the hurdles seem almost too much to overcome, get out your talk and read your advice. Always know that you go forward with our love and complete support. May God bless you with every needful thing, especially His guiding Spirit always. Without that you cannot hope to succeed, but with it you cannot possibly fail. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.