Professor encourages seeking God’s will to navigate future

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Madeline Mortensen
BYU professor Chris Crowe speaks at a devotional on Tuesday, July 2. (Madeline Mortensen)

BYU English professor Chris Crowe spoke to students about navigating “undiscover’d country” at a devotional on Tuesday, July 2. 

Crowe opened his address by quoting a line from one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “Hamlet,” during which Hamlet refers to death as “The undiscover’d country from whose bourn/No traveller returns.”

Crowe then said ‘undiscover’d country’ can also be related to the future. 

“If you’re anything like I was as a student, the short- and long-term future often weighs heavily on your mind, and to one degree or another all of these future events and experiences are as yet ‘undiscover’d country’ for you, even if you’re a meticulous and experienced planner,” he said, then added, “You may think you know exactly where you’re headed, exactly how you’ll get there and exactly what it will be like when you get there, but I’m here to tell you that, in the long run, you’ve got a lot to learn.”

Crowe said some of the anxiety related to one’s ‘undiscover’d country’ can come from unrealistic expectations, from living in an achievement culture and even from perfectionism.

“It’s wonderful and wise — and absolutely essential — to have dreams and goals, but it’s also wonderful and wise to be flexible enough to allow yourself to adapt to the situations you encounter as you progress through life,” he said. 

Crowe said change will come whether it’s wanted or not, and the only way to endure those “inevitable curve balls life will throw at you” is to be firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“Of course, personal, academic and professional preparation will be invaluable as you chart your way through ‘undiscover’d country,’ but the light of the gospel and the guidance of the Holy Ghost are the constants you can rely on to help you make the right decisions when you reach life’s inevitable crossroads — that spiritual guidance is the only sure way to know whether to stop and camp a while or to forge ahead on the path to the left or to the right,” he said. 

Crowe shared his conversion story, from first hearing the word “Mormon” in eighth grade to wondering why his high school girlfriend and now wife, Elizabeth Foley’s religion was so important to her. Foley’s religious beliefs led to Crowe meeting with the missionaries during his senior year after BYU had recruited him to play football.

“I prayed and I fasted for the first time, and I had my own wrestle with the Spirit trying to distill God’s will from my own thoughts and desires — and I can tell you that it was the hardest thing I had ever done,” he said.

Crowe said he was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on July 2, 1972 — exactly 47 years ago.

“It would be a monumental understatement to say that that decision altered the path of my life, and it is impossible to understate the role prayer and the Holy Ghost played in making that decision,” he said.

Crowe said he’s learned through the decades since then that taking the time to ponder and pray about important decisions has helped him decide which path to take.

After graduating from BYU, Crowe said he and his wife Elizabeth were unsure of what the future held. After much pondering and prayer, a job suddenly opened up at a high school in Ogden. Crowe took the job, expecting to live in Ogden for decades. Instead they lived there for just six months, then moved to Arizona for a job at Crowe’s old high school.

This pattern continued, Crowe said, as his life took unexpected turns, including moving from Arizona to Japan to Hawaii and then back to Provo, but every decision required an amount of pondering and prayer.

“It’s now obvious from my current perspective how each of the decisions Elizabeth and I have made in the last few decades led us to where we currently are,” he said. “From where we stand now, the destination was inevitable, but on the front end, when we were just getting started, we faced the great void of undiscover’d country with little or no idea of what would come next.”

Addressing current students in the audience, Crowe said the undiscover’d country related to graduating from college is the “looming unknown.”

“College life has plenty of uncertainties, but one thing is always certain: next semester, you’ll have a schedule of classes and a routine that will be somewhat familiar. When you’re through with college, that scheduled certainty evaporates, and you’re dumped from a cozy river into the ocean of life with a distant and seemingly endless horizon. Facing that transition from a stable student life to the broad vicissitudes of adult life can be terrifying.”

In order to prepare for this “undiscover’d country” of leaving BYU, Crowe encouraged students to have faith and take the time to ponder and pray to understand God’s will.

“Life has taught Elizabeth and me that Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and I know that He also has a plan for each of you. I know that if you’ll ponder, pray and listen, He will lead you to where He wants you to be.”

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