Church Board of Education execs convene at BYUH
Mike Foley | University Advancement | 26 February 2008
The Executive Committee of the Board of Education of the Church Educational System — including Elders Russell M. Nelson, chairman, and M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve [pictured at top left], and Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President — held day-long meetings at BYU-Hawaii on February 25. That afternoon they addressed the university ohana or faculty and staff "family." Some of them also addressed the students and Saints in special fireside meetings on the previous Sunday evening.
Other Executive Committee members and visiting participants included Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy; CES Commissioner W. Rolfe Kerr, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy; BYU President and First Quorum of the Seventy member Elder Cecil O. Samuelson; BYU-Idaho President Kim B. Clark; LDS Business College President Stephen K. Woodhouse; Garry K. Moore, CES Administrator of Religious Education and Elementary and Secondary Education; Roger G. Christensen, Secretary to the Church Board of Education and Board of Trustees; and James E. Tidwell, Director of Finance and Budget in the CES Commissioner's office.
In his remarks, Elder Nelson recalled when he was BYU-Hawaii President Steven C. Wheelwright's stake president 42 years ago, neither of them had an inkling of what they would now be doing. "One thing you can never be sure of, you should never underestimate the worth of those students you are teaching," he told the university ohana.
"We have no inkling of where they're going, but we do know for sure that it will be a great and marvelous experience for them, that the training they get here will stand them in good stead for whatever the Lord will use them for."
Referring to Paul's counsel to the Ephesians to be not strangers but fellow citizens, and his explanation that apostles, prophets and other officers are given for the perfecting of the Saints...till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, Elder Nelson said, "We are grateful for the support we feel from you. As you become united with us in support of President Thomas S. Monson as the new president of the Church, as you sustain and support President Steven C. Wheelwright as the one called by prophecy and revelation to lead this institution, that you'll be good citizens in the Kingdom of God and in the household of BYU-Hawaii."
"I bear my testimony to you that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God. Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church restored in these latter days," he continued. "I'm pleased to bear that testimony to you, with our combined expression of deep gratitude to the service you render here."
Elder Ballard first spoke of the remarkable growth of the Church. "We're now in 176 different nations, we're preaching the gospel in how many different languages, we have missionaries — some 53,000 of them — scattered all over the world bearing testimony of the message of the restoration of the gospel."
"We have to be wide awake, as the leaders of the Church, to the need for change. There will need to be changes that we have to make in many different disciplines of the Church," he continued, citing the example of the implementation of Preach My Gospel in missionary work. "Some of the mission presidents resisted the change, and then their missionaries resisted the change."
"Those that embraced Preach My Gospel and really became part of it, and started to teach their missionaries how to use it, how to teach it, how to be effective in it, how to call down the blessings of heaven so they could teach in their own words," Elder Ballard said, "their work started to accelerate."
"You're in the process of some changes that are occurring here at the university. You have a new administration, with a new president and a new charge from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve," he continued. "My counsel to you is try to understand it and embrace it, and make it work; because as you do that, this university is going to take some significant steps forward in accomplishing the purposes that our Heavenly Father has in mind for it."
"I pray the Lord will bless us that we will capture the big vision, and know that we're going to another plateau, that we're going to step higher and step faster," Elder Ballard added. "We've got a great responsibility to reach out and touch the lives of more and more and more of our Heavenly Father's children. You happen to be in a very unique place where you have a chance every day as faculty and the administration of this university to change lives...preparing this wonderful student body to go back into the world and do things in a greater and more powerful way than ever before."
During the meeting, Elders Nelson and Ballard presented President Wheelwright with a sculpted bust of Joseph F. Smith [pictured at right], who first served as a missionary in Hawaii in 1854. Elder Ballard is a direct descendant of President Smith, who as a General Authority in the 1880s encouraged the Saints to remain in Laie, and as president of the Church in 1915 dedicated the site of the Laie Hawaii Temple. The two board members delivered the gift President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, mentioned during President Wheelwright's inauguration but wasn't ready at that point.
Earlier in the day, the Executive Committee and party held meetings with the BYUH President's Council, university deans and others to learn more about design team progress, new student employment standards, distance learning and faculty teaching initiatives, the new 2009 academic calendar as well as potential classroom, housing and Church building projects in the future.
The committee also heard a panel of six students during a luncheon tell how BYU-Hawaii has helped them get through school, develop their leadership skills and strengthen their testimonies.
Of the former, 'Onita Fineanganofo from Tonga said, "I don't think I have a financial debt, but I have a debt to go home and make the best for our country"; and of the latter, Benson Massey from India said he's impressed that his teachers attend the temple with him.
"I live in a place that's a five-minute walk from the [Laie Hawaii] temple. It's been a wonderful experience for me. Whatever time I have here is precious."
— Top photo: Elders Russell M. Nelson (left) and M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, by Ian Nitta; middle photo: Elders Ballard (left) and Nelson (right) present President Wheelwright with a sculpted bust of Joseph F. Smith, by Monique Saenz; and bottom photo: the student panel at lunch, by Nitta