Joining the ranks of historic BYU Presidents, President C. Shane Reese issued a warm welcome to BYU in his first campus devotional as president of BYU on Sept. 12.
President Reese, 14th President of BYU, was joined by his wife Sister Wendy Wood Reese to speak at the semester’s opening devotional where she shared a message of finding comfort in Christ.
“There will be times in life when you will feel uncomfortable, but that does not mean you cannot be comforted,” Sister Reese said.
Sister Reese said she frequently felt uncomfortable during her first year at BYU, including times when she felt lonely, took difficult classes and was still learning how to live with roommates.
To help cope when she felt uncomfortable, Sister Reese encouraged listeners to do three things; the first being to pray.
“As we pray and counsel with the Lord daily, our relationship with Him will be strengthened. We will feel his love and He will guide and direct our paths,” Sister Reese said.
She also encouraged listeners to follow the second great commandment, look outward and serve.
“As you go throughout this semester, think of someone you could serve. … Serving others will draw you closer to the Savior,” Sister Reese said.
Lastly, Sister Reese encouraged temple attendance as a source of comfort.
“I hope you will take time to visit the temple regularly during the semester. It will help you find answers to your prayers, learn more about the Savior and strengthen your testimony of Him.”
President Reese began his address with love and gratitude to both Sister Reese and former President of BYU President Kevin J Worthen, and then iterated God’s love for the entire BYU community.
“My message today is that God loves you and that He will direct your paths to places where you can serve, to people whom you can love and to situations in which you can bless others and they can bless you,” Reese said. “It is about these divinely designed interactions that I speak today.”
Reese took inspiration from his academic career in statistics for the devotional and included messages about connection and coincidences.
“Our lives are not disconnected from one another,” Reese said. “They are intertwined in intricate ways. Just like a social network that forms as people make connections to others, the sequence of relationships that link you to others is a finite set.”
He said what connects individuals is not a random coincidence, but God working in the details. God cares about the details of His children’s lives because of His unending love.
“The things we might call ‘coincidences’ can more accurately be attributed to the Lord’s will and the Lord’s timing,” Reese said.
He encouraged students and all others listening to reach out and minister. By reaching out and checking in, students help fight an “epidemic of loneliness.”
“Another non-coincidence is you being on the BYU campus at this time of our history,” he said. “You are not here by accident. You belong here.”
President Reese invited students to more fully embrace God’s influence in their lives by standing in holy places and ensuring that BYU remains a holy place.
“As Sister Reese pointed out, the holiest place in which we can stand — the place where we can find peace — is the temple. I add my witness to hers,” he said.
Reese emphasized the importance of the Honor Code, bringing up recent changes which help BYU more fully represent the Church and Jesus Christ.
“As your president, I commit to uphold these principles (of the Honor Code). I am now asking you to commit to uphold these principles. It is a privilege to represent the Savior, His Church, and its educational system.”
With emotion rising in his voice, President Reese closed his remarks expressing love and gratitude for the entire BYU community.
“Wendy and I love that you are at BYU and we want you to flourish!” President Reese said.
As he closed his remarks, he echoed a sentiment expressed by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland when Elder Holland was president of BYU.
“I, too, am ‘cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever,’” President Reese said.