BYU life sciences professor encourages students to forge their own paths with God’s help

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Mary and her husband both teach at BYU. They are the parents of four daughters. (BYU)

BYU microbiology and molecular biology professor Mary Davis counseled students to keep moving forward on their own personal paths in her devotional address at the Marriott Center on April 9.

During her address, Davis said she worried pursuing her educational passion was a selfish pursuit, but as she kept pushing ahead on her path and focused on Jesus Christ, her trials became strengths.

“I believe in His love for each of you, individually, right where you are,” Davis said. 

Davis likened her life’s challenges, such as her decision to pursue multiple degrees and her experience with postpartum depression, to the experiences of the brother of Jared recorded in the Book of Mormon. Davis said she had to “get creative” trying to solve her problems, just like the brother of Jared did when he asked the Lord to make stones glow with the touch of His finger.

“Make an offering to the Lord of your rocks. Trust Him to touch them and turn your offering into a miracle,” Davis said. 

Charlotte Rolfs, a student from Maple Grove, Minnesota studying international relations, said she related to what Davis said about pursuing educational goals.

“I just found out I got into law school and so I felt like it was just very encouraging to know that, especially as women, God wants us to get an education and that’s not necessarily a selfish endeavor,” Rolfs said.

Davis also explained how her view of the “straight and narrow path” has shifted over time. Instead of envisioning a long skinny path leading to a far-off place, she now imagines a mountain.

“In this scenario, ‘straight and narrow’ refers not to a single path that everyone needs to find and fit on, it refers to the different angles of each person’s trajectory that allows them to reach the summit and Jesus Christ,” she said.

This way, it’s easier to imagine how roadblocks along the path, instead of hindering progress, are actually the way forward, Davis said. She also said we shouldn’t compare our personal paths to others. 

“It is not the measure of each person’s angle, but who and what we face that matters,” Davis said.

Rachel Araki, a human development student from Woodbridge, Virginia said she wanted to focus on turning her weaknesses into strengths. 

“Something I want to do differently is really taking time to enjoy personal development as not something that’s selfish, but as the reason why we’re here,” Araki said.

Davis earned her PhD and masters degrees from Vanderbilt University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science from BYU and is a certified medical technologist. 

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