President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church invited students at BYU to embrace uniqueness during his devotional address on Sept. 13.
President Oaks invited students at BYU to “dare to be different,” using their knowledge and light as disciples of Christ to stand out from the world, in both secular and spiritual settings.
President Oaks shared the story of a young boy who was bullied and a friend who stepped in to clean up a mess the bully created. Many years later, the two friends encountered each other as adults on an airplane. The boy who was bullied thanked his friend for standing up for him. “Thanks, Holbrook. Thanks for being a friend,” President Oaks quoted.
President Oaks warned that the world may consider our differences as weird or unwelcome. “Our personal choices between the extremes of the Lord’s way and the world’s way are made in the context of love and are found in the teachings of Jesus Christ,” President Oaks said.
“Our uniqueness will always be rooted in our following the inspiration we prayerfully seek in our personal work and we receive from the university administration and our prophetic leaders,” Oaks said.
President Oaks named three ways BYU can secure and magnify that uniqueness. “First, BYU will be unique in that it won’t desert or dilute existing truth,” President Oaks said. He encouraged students and professors to stand up to potential opposition from educators or even government regulators who may be opposed to BYU’s goal of education for eternity.
Second, President Oaks said BYU will continue to focus on undergraduate education. He echoed President Kimball’s call for a primary emphasis on quality teaching at BYU and strong relationships between faculty and students.
A “third and vital source of uniqueness is our personal and institutional relationship with God,” President Oaks said.
He reminded students of BYU’s goal of “education for eternity as well as education for our mortal experience.” To this end, President Oaks noted the importance of engaging fully in the restored gospel and keeping covenants to achieve this eternal education.
“More important than what you do as a student are the choices you are making in your personal life—the priorities you are adopting consciously or subconsciously,” President Oaks said. “Are you going forward against the world’s opposition?”
President Oaks reiterated that differences because of the decision to keep gospel standards and follow the Savior’s teachings do not condemn us to obscurity, but “that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear,” he said.