BYU professor shares similarities between temples, BYU learning spaces

Professor Rick Jellen gives the forum address on May 21, 2024. Jellen was awarded the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award in 2023. (Ethan Pack)

Plant and wildlife science professor Rick Jellen shared insights from his research and how he views the connection between temples and BYU campus learning spaces in a forum given on May 21 in the Marriott Center.

“Nearly 150 years ago, BYU’s first president, Karl G. Maeser, had a remarkable vision that convinced him of this institution’s divine mission. (President Maeser) stated, ‘I have seen Temple Hill filled with buildings — great temples of learning, and I have decided to remain and do my part,’” Jellen said. “Just like the Orem Temple, there is a light that emanates from the BYU campus atop what was known to Brother Maeser as ‘Temple Hill.’”

Jellen echoed President Maeser’s words when comparing BYU campus buildings to temples and said they are “sacred precincts where the BYU community engages in the discovery and transmission of light and knowledge.”

“All of us on this campus are teachers — faculty, staff, administrators, as well as students — who approach our subjects ‘bathed in the light of the restored gospel’ of Jesus Christ,” Jellen said.

Students, faculty and staff on BYU campus receive endowments of light and knowledge that enable them to magnify their talents and personal missions, he said. Jellen noted this is similar to the blessings received when serving in the temple.

“If we recognize and retain in remembrance the sacred nature of this university, I believe it will impact the way we view our work here at BYU,” he said. 

Jellen also spoke of his research, for which he was awarded the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award in 2023. He focused his research on uncovering the genetic behavior of quinoa and oats and then using genetic strategies to improve crops.

Through his research, Jellen discovered certain genes in oats that make it easier for them to grow, as well as where they come from. Jellen’s research on quinoa began in the early 2000s and has grown significantly since then, he said. Very little research on quinoa genetics had been done before Jellen began work with other BYU plant genetics faculty.

Jellen also spoke of truth, both temporal and spiritual. 

Truth from one discipline will never contradict truths from another, and when it seems to do so, it is often a matter of gaining faith and continuing the search for more information, he said.

“Sometimes there may appear to be conflicts between spiritual and secular truths. When these arise, we can have faith that we are missing critical information,” he said.

Jellen closed with his testimony. The diligent pursuit of knowledge with the Lord’s help “will enrich our lives, enhance our happiness, glorify God and magnify our talents and abilities to provide consecrated service to the blessing of His children and the edification of His Kingdom,” he said.

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