President and Sister Reese invite BYU community to be ‘doers of the word,’ develop ‘eyes to see’

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President and Sister Reese addressed hundreds of BYU students and faculty and welcomed them to a new semester on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Sister Reese spoke about the importance of action-based faith, saying that Jesus Christ will magnify whatever righteous efforts one makes. BYU students must be “doers of the word” not just “hearers,” she said, citing the book of James. 

Sister Reese said her husband has been a doer by intentionally being kinder and friendlier to others, no matter their response.

“‘Doing,’ regardless of the outcome, will strengthen our resolve to be more like the Savior,” she said. 

Sister Reese said some of the most inspirational doers she has known are BYU students. She highlighted some students’ efforts to make the world a better place through their educational experience at BYU. 

“One of the things I’ve loved the most about the first few months that President Reese and I have been serving together is the time we’ve been able to spend with you, our amazing students. So often we recognize that you are so much better than you think you are,” Sister Reese said. 

She spoke of BYU’s unique “double heritage” as a religious university. It is part of BYU’s unique mission to develop temporal knowledge as well as spiritual conviction, she said.

President Reese smiles at his wife, Sister Wendy Reese. The Reeses spoke to BYU faculty and staff in a university devotional. (Emma Butler Price)

She quoted President Spencer W. Kimball: “The uniqueness of Brigham Young University lies in its special role – education for eternity … This means concern … for not only the ‘whole man’ but for the ‘eternal man’ … This faculty has a double heritage — the preserving of the knowledge of men and the revealed truths sent from heaven.”

Sister Reese emphasized the truth of President Kimball’s words and said BYU students must not only be hearers of the words of prophets, seers and apostles but doers of those words. 

In taking these righteous actions, BYU students and faculty can be a force for good and make a difference in the world, she said.

“We are grateful that so many of you are doing more than just accumulating knowledge, you are doing good,” she said. 

She promised the audience that the Lord would magnify their efforts to do good. 

Sister Reese speaks to students and faculty at a BYU devotional. She is the wife of university president C. Shane Reese. (Emma Butler Price)

President Reese began his remarks by expressing the love he and Sister Reese have for those at BYU, and the love that God has.

“He wants you to be happy and to find the joy for which you were created.  He wants you to achieve your dreams and all that He has in store for you – here and into the eternities,” President Reese said.

He spoke about the amazing opportunity that God gives to His children to change.

“God loves comeback stories, where we become something better and someone more,” he said. 

President Reese outlined his vision for fulfilling the university’s mission and divine potential, which he called Becoming BYU:

  1. Strengthening the Student Experience
  2. Retaining and Strengthening a Focus on Undergraduate Teaching
  3. Reinforcing our Dual Heritage
  4. Developing the Courage to Be Different
  5. Building a Covenant Community of Belonging
  6. Investing in Mission-Inspired Scholarship
  7. Focusing on Mission-Aligned Hiring

Fulfilling this mission will require an eternal perspective, he said. 

“Doing all of this will require us to see our studies and our work through a gospel lens, rather than merely seeing the gospel through a societal lens or a disciplinary lens or any other lens that limits our vision and perspective,” he said. 

President Reese speaks to BYU students and faculty in a devotional. Reese was inaugurated as president of BYU in the fall of 2023. (Emma Butler Price)

President Reese reiterated President Nelson’s recent invitation to “think celestial.” As students and faculty develop the eyes to see through a celestial lens, their lives will be filled with light, he said.

He said those at BYU should be as committed to learning the language of the Spirit as they are to learning their field of study. This, he said, includes understanding one’s divine identity, and the identity of those around them. 

President Reese said developing eyes to see will help those at BYU see others how God sees them – as His literal sons and daughters. 

President Reese promised blessings and joy to those who bind themselves to Christ through covenants. As they strive to emulate the example of Jesus Christ, they will become His disciples, he said.

“By virtue of His infinite and atoning sacrifice, He will make more of our lives than we could ever make without Him,” he said. 

President Reese closed by bearing testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, promising that it does apply to the lives of all of God’s children. He testified that Jesus Christ lives and is the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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