Keith Wilson tells BYU students they ‘matter to the Lord’

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Ari Davis
Ancient scripture professor Keith Wilson tells students they matter to the Lord in his devotional address. (Ari Davis)

Ancient scripture professor Keith Wilson told students they matter individually to the Lord in the May 23 devotional.

In his talk, which he titled “BY-YOU Matter to Him,” Wilson used scripture accounts and student experiences to demonstrate how the Lord is aware of each student.

A recent student recounted her feelings to Wilson of first attending BYU. She had feelings of “ultimate vulnerability” which Wilson said many students experience while attending BYU.

“I suspect that many of you here today can also recall the daunting memories of when you first arrived on this campus,” Wilson said. “Perhaps some of you find yourself in the throes of similar feelings of trepidation or being lost as I address you today.”

He listed off ratings BYU has received such as being ranked in the top 25 percent of national universities and how 60 percent of BYU’s students are returned missionaries. Wilson said these attributes and several others attributes would make students sing “I’ve got a golden ticket!” when they receive their BYU acceptance letters.

However, Wilson said, these feelings of excitement can fade fast. BYU’s student body size, bureaucracy and high level of academics can be intimidating and help contribute to the “deflation syndrome,” according to Wilson.

“There is one concern that seems to show up often in my students,” Wilson said. “That is, ‘Do I really matter to BYU?’ or should this university more appropriately be called ‘B-Y-Many?'”

Wilson said this question is connected to the question, “Am I, as an individual, important to God?” He explained these questions arise because students see God’s hands in directing them to BYU, but they don’t understand why they feel discouraged if God wanted them at BYU.

Wilson turned to the scriptures to find the doctrinal answer. He quoted Psalms 8:4-5 as well as Moses 1:39 to explain God’s personal interest in individuals.

He then told the story of the Widow of Nain from Luke 7, adding personal insight from his time teaching at the BYU Jerusalem Center.

The miracle included Jesus intercepting a burial procession and bringing the widow’s dead son back to life. Wilson said scholars believed the widow’s son was her only offspring, this implication would mean financial ruin for the widow in addition to emotional pain.

Wilson described Nain as a poor town 30 miles away from Capernaum, where the Savior was previously. The distance and change in elevation, over 1300 feet, meant the walk from Capernaum would have taken one to two days. Jesus would have walked through the night to reach Nain in time to intercept the burial procession, according to Wilson.

“He clearly planned to be there in her moment of need,” Wilson said. “This miracle was not just about impressing a community. It was all about rescuing one desperate soul.”

Wilson used this scriptural example to tell students that Jesus will hurry to them like he hurried to the widow.

He next told the story of a student named Mary Ann who became discouraged during her freshman year. On one particularly discouraging day, Mary Ann’s professor came up to her before the start of class and said, “I don’t know why, but I feel impressed to tell you that the Lord loves you deeply and He knows you.”

“It was the only time that semester that they interacted personally, but it was a game changer for this discouraged young lady from Wisconsin,” Wilson said. “The Lord was aware of her. She knew that he knew about her.”

Wilson told students to become aware of others and try to lift them. A recent survey Wilson conducted with his student researcher, Julia, found that fewer than 30 percent of students on BYU’s pathways looked up as they walked past them.

He told the students to not let cell phones, earbuds and sunglasses prevent them from engaging with one another. Wilson echoed Jacob’s admonition in Jacob 2:17 to “be familiar with all.”

In a final plea to the students, Wilson told them they matter to the Lord and to not let aspects of BYU convince them otherwise.

He said one of his joys is getting to know over 20,000 students on a first name basis over the course of his 47 years at BYU. He said he felt compelled to know his student’s names because the Lord knows their name.

“I leave you my witness that you here at BYU matter to Him,” Wilson said. “Don’t ever, ever doubt that.”

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