BYU at 150: The university prophets have foretold

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The “enter to learn, go forth to serve” sign at the entrance of BYU welcomes visitors to the campus. BYU is nearing its 150-year anniversary. (BYU Photo)

The first song I ever knew all the words to was the BYU Fight Song. I would ask my mom to sing it to me before I went to bed at night. My earliest memories were of watching football games, walking campus, and planning my future as a BYU cougar.

Imagine the devastation when, one fateful day in 2018, I got an email that read: “We are honored that you chose to apply to Brigham Young University. After a thorough review of your application, we regret that we are unable to offer you admission.”

This left me to battle a question I never thought I would need to: What do you do when the one thing you have worked toward your entire life is taken away from you in two sentences of an email?

Becoming Lost

After my rejection, I spiraled. I began attending Utah Valley University and lost myself. I hated being at church because it reminded me of everything I didn’t have, and I hated being at home because the people I chose to surround myself with did not bring out the best in me.

I chose to become lost; I wanted to throw away the person I was because, clearly, she was not good enough. I stopped reading my scriptures, praying and trying to understand what was happening at church. Everyone in my life noticed this change in me, and to this day my family refers to this time in my life as my “Dark Days.”

In all the darkness I became a part of at that time, God was watching over me. Somehow, in all the gloom, He led me to a session of General Conference, where He had inspired M. Joseph Brough to speak on facing trials in the Lord’s way.

In this talk, Brough relays the story of his daughter being called on a mission. Previously, she had lived with her family in Guatemala during Brough’s time serving as a mission president. His daughter struggled throughout the three years, and at the conclusion of her family’s service, she told her father she had already served a mission and would not be going on another.

“About six months later, the Spirit awoke me in the night with this thought: ‘I have called your daughter to serve a mission,’” Brough said.

As soon as I heard those words, I knew that I, too, was called to serve. I did not have a testimony, I had never read the Book of Mormon and I was content to fade into inactivity. God had other plans for me.

Becoming a Disciple

I did not want to serve a mission. I began making excuses to delay turning in the life-altering paperwork. In my journal from that time, I wrote: “I told God today that I couldn’t go on a mission because I cannot not wear pants for that long. Today, I got an email saying sister missionaries can now wear pants in the field.”

I also told God that I could not possibly serve a mission because I could not go that long without talking to my family on the phone. The next day, it was announced that missionaries could call home each week. Out of excuses, I turned in my paperwork and was called to serve the people of Las Vegas, Nevada. No part of me was excited.

During my mission, I came to know God again. I came to love Him, trust His plan for me and accept that my life had a different trajectory that I originally planned. Although I did not want to, I knew I needed to reapply to BYU while I was on my mission. Writing the application essays from a Bluetooth keyboard on my phone, I prepared for another rejection letter to arrive in my inbox. It never came. I was accepted to BYU and prepared to attend, begrudgingly.

Becoming BYU

President C. Shane Reese spoke in his September 2023 inaugural address about the idea of “Becoming BYU.” When I first heard this address as a junior at BYU, I thought President Reese was thinking of making big changes to the school. I imagined him changing the things I saw that were “wrong” at BYU, making the school more easily stomached by the mainstream world. I realized later that I completely missed the point.

“Our task is to become the university that prophets have foretold — to become the world’s ‘greatest institution of learning’ and ‘the fully anointed university of the Lord about which so much has been spoken in the past,’” Reese said.

Becoming BYU, to me, is not about becoming something new; it is about looking to past prophecies and becoming what it was always intended to be. Throughout my time at BYU, I have tried to change who I am. I wanted to fit the perfect Provo mold, be the perfect returned missionary I thought God wanted me to be.

President Reese has taught me I am intended to be something much different than any mold. I need to become the person God has always intended me to be, much like BYU needs to become the beacon of spiritual and intellectual knowledge God has always intended it to be.

“Becoming BYU requires individual reflection and spiritual growth from all of us,” Reese said.

I submit that each of us are on a path to become our own version of BYU. Each of us that walks past the Wilkinson Student Center or cheers at LaVell Edwards Stadium has been called to Become BYU, personally and collectively. This transformation looks radically different for each of us, but if there is one thing I have learned on my pursuit to Become BYU, it is that God is individually preparing, cheering and shaping us.

He took a lost, confused and hurt young girl and transformed her into a missionary. He took that same missionary and transformed her into the woman I am today. I know that, with a lot of time and hard work, he can take me, and this university, and shape us into the fulfilment of centuries-old prophecies.

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