Dr. Bonnie Brinton, a BYU professor who specializes in communication disorders, spoke on Wednesday, Nov. 18 about her journey as a “disciple-scholar.” Brinton discussed how the gospel has provided her with inspiration in her studies and has helped her to become a better researcher in her discipline.
Brinton focused her lecture around her work in the speech pathology field and three gospel principles that allowed her to become a better researcher: trust the Lord, focus the work and let insight flow both ways.
Brinton said one of the greatest struggles she and her husband have faced has been finding balance between their commitment to their discipline and their commitment to their faith. Brinton said trusting in the Lord has allowed them to making meaningful contributions to both aspects of their lives.
“We are not and we have never been as capable and smart as other researchers in our field, but we don’t have to be,” Brinton said. “All we have had to do is to do our best and trust the Lord. He has filled in the gaps sufficiently to allow us to make a contribution to our discipline.”
Brinton specializes in the social and emotional competence of children with language impairment. Children with language difficulties often suffer from isolation and loneliness because they are unable to understand emotional cues.
She and her husband received the inspiration they needed to focus their study on this particular subject while worshipping in the temple.
Brinton also said her personal beliefs have heavily influenced her work as a researcher.
“We should let our academic learning inform our spiritual learning and our spiritual learning inform our academic learning, and we think about this as letting insight flow both ways simultaneously,” Brinton said. “This principle works particularly well in a field like speech-language pathology, where we interface in the lives of individuals with disabilities. For all speech-language pathologists, the work that we do is filtered through the value system that we embrace, and we teach our students there’s no such thing as a clinical Switzerland.”
Stacey Christianson, a BYU graduate student in communication disorders, is one of Brinton’s students and was an attendee of the event. Christianson said she decided to attend the event because she likes to learn about how the gospel and the field of speech pathology intertwine.
“One thing that really stuck out to me was when she was talking about how she and husband received the inspiration that they needed to look at emotion in children with language impairment and how they got the answer at the temple and just how small things like that had huge impact on the way that their research went, what their focus is,” Christianson said. “It has made a huge impact on the field.”
The event was hosted by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, which aims to promote the relationship between religion and education. The institute hosts one of these lectures every year. Past speakers include former BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson and Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy.
“Each year we look for someone who has not only contributed important work to their field of study, but one whose Latter-day Saint values have informed their work,” said Blair Hodges, the communications specialist for the institute. “Faith and scholarship flow both ways, more obviously in some fields than others. Dr. Brinton is a great example of what Elder Maxwell called the ‘disciple-scholar,’ and we were thrilled to invite her to speak.”