Michelle Bennett delivers devotional on intersection of secular, spiritual growth

Assistant Vice President of the BYU Office of Information Technology Michelle Bennett delivers a devotional on May 14. Bennett talked about her role as a woman working in technology and figuring out how to belong at BYU. (Photo courtesy of BYUtv)

Michelle Bennett, the assistant vice president at the BYU Office of Information Technology, gave a devotional on Tuesday, May 14 in the Marriott Center. She spoke on developing both secular and spiritual knowledge while at BYU.

Bennett explained there have been several aspects of her identity that have set her apart from others. She was the first in her family to pursue higher education. After receiving support from her family, she decided to attend college with an athletic scholarship for basketball.

Growing up loving technology and computers gave Bennett a unique experience as a young woman, where she was often the only girl in her classes of male peers.

Additionally, coming to BYU to work in the OIT, Bennett was faced with a different kind of business than she was used to, where religion was combined with the secular.

Because of these isolating experiences, Bennett said she often found herself wondering if she belonged.

“Life is full of ups and downs. We make mistakes. We are lonely and at times can feel like we don’t belong,” Bennett said. “We may ask the question, ‘Do I belong in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?’ Let’s change that question and ponder, ‘Why would I not belong?'”

Bennett encouraged students to remember they are children of their Heavenly Father and always belong, regardless of their secular achievements.

After Bennett came to this realization in her own life, she shared that each year has brought her more spiritual growth and she has felt her testimony grow. She emphasized that secular and spiritual learning amplify one another to create deeper understanding.

“Within the Church Education System, you are blessed with opportunities that enhance not only your academic knowledge, skills and experience, but with opportunities to spiritually be nourished to prepare, serve, lead or influence others in the world,” Bennett said.

Bennett shared an experience she had recently where employees at the BYU OIT were challenged to find a scripture that related to their work. She found that it was an incredibly spiritually strengthening opportunity getting to see how ancient scripture relates to everyday, technology-centric work.

Belonging, Bennett taught, comes from relying on the Holy Spirit.

“I hope as you think about where you are in your life that you listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and when doubt arises I hope that you combat it with a leap of faith and knowledge that you do belong,” Bennett said. “That knowledge will be your precious gift in life that can sustain you through all kinds of trials as the world changes around you.”

Bennett shared the importance of devoting time to learn about Jesus Christ and His ministry with frequent worship and service to increase a foundation of gospel understanding.

On a work trip to Sweden with her husband, Bennett attended the Stockholm Sweden Temple, which is the only nearby temple for many surrounding countries. She discussed how members would travel for weeks at a time to visit and serve in the temple and felt impressed by their sacrifice and devotion to the gospel.

Bennett also opened up about her struggles to feel forgiveness for her past mistakes. Through the infinite atonement, she said she felt liberated by relying on the Savior to achieve that self-forgiveness and gain spiritual strength. She shared that keeping a celestial perspective, like President Nelson has counseled, helped give her guidance.

“Think about where you are in life’s story — where you belong, what you want to improve on and what you want in the end,” Bennett said. “It’s crucial to have a plan that guides your journey through life. Without true intention, time slips away and life unfolds without direction.”

After suffering a head injury playing basketball with family and friends when she was younger, Bennett realized something was not wrong. After trying to brush off the pain and worry, she soon discovered she had a severe concussion. She quickly became highly dependent and had to accept support from others — especially her Heavenly Father.

Bennett found that sincere prayer completely changed her experience with healing.

“Despite our natural inclination to hide our struggle, we should remember that Jesus Christ is always there for us and has taken on additional suffering so he could more perfectly help us in our personal trials,” Bennett said.

Bennett reminded students they are not meant to go through trials alone and they can rely on Christ to help carry burdens.

“As we strive to improve, find how we belong and overcome the trials and tribulations, remembering to keep Jesus Christ at the center of our lives helps us find joy,” Bennett said.

Bennett concluded by telling students to put in equal effort in both secular accomplishments and study, as well as spiritual endeavors. In doing so, she taught, students can find blessings and experience joy.

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