Throughout recorded history, the world has been a place of beauty and wonders through the creative power of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Paradoxically, though, it is also one of natural disaster and human brutality, along with other woes. That is because we are here to be educated, tested, and proven in ways that were not possible in the preexistence.
The challenge began in the Garden of Eden where Eve and Adam were presented with a fateful choice, which they made to the betterment of all who chose our Savior’s plan. As they were driven out of the garden, the sojourn of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve began. We don’t know how long Adam and Eve lived in the garden, but we are sure that the children of Israel served 400 years of bondage in Egypt under the pharaohs. They made bricks from clay and straw, only hoping to stay alive and raise posterity. The sojourns of the Saints under Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young were a match for the exodus from Egypt and Nephi’s crossing from the ancient world to the new one. From the time Joseph shared his First Vision with a minister, he was persecuted and driven from one gathering place to another, until the Saints were expelled from Nauvoo following the martyrdom. But the exodus across the plains was well managed, initially by wagon Preparing for the Promised Land train, then handcart, and subsequently the transcontinental railroad. The pioneers began construction on the Salt Lake Temple in 1853, using oxen to haul mammoth blocks of granite 15 miles down steep, narrow Little Cottonwood Canyon and across the valley to the building site.
Sojourning in the COVID Wilderness
For the past two years, we members of the BYU-Idaho family, along with the citizens of surrounding communities, have been on a sojourn triggered by a pandemic. There is reason to hope that the danger has passed— for now. But, while keeping an eye on the pandemic, we have a valuable opportunity to learn and benefit from the events of the last two years. Even at the beginning of that period, when classrooms temporarily closed, faculty members and information technology specialists pitched in around the clock in mostly self-managed shifts. Their innovations, in the form of new remote courses and enhanced hybrids, were the equivalent of educational manna. In addition, we were able to draw upon more than 300 second- and third-generation, high-quality online courses, an initiative launched in the early 2000s with leadership from Presidents David A. Bednar and Kim B. Clark and continuing guidance by CES Commissioner and former BYU-Idaho President Clark G. Gilbert. The learning processes were different but mostly effective. Some of them were surprisingly good. We learned much in the educational wilderness.
Preparing for the Promised Land
I am grateful to be a fellow pioneer with you, preparing to qualify for the promised land. This qualification begins with learning all that we can, particularly by following President Russell M. Nelson, who has said: “How you deal with life’s trials is part of the development of your faith. Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth” (“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign, May 2011). With that foundation of understanding, we can seek the Spirit’s guidance in leading our colleagues and other loved ones. Then, together, we can approach and ultimately qualify for the promised land.
This message was adapted from a devotional address given by BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring on April 19, 2022.