BYU professor teaches students how to reach the ‘celestial finish line’

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BYU Marriott School of Business professor Brad Owens discussed how students can remain on their desired covenant paths by cleaving to Jesus Christ during his devotional address on Tuesday, June 11.

Owens said that in his position as a professor of business ethics, he has met with students individually to help them make significant life decisions. He discussed the “decade of decision,” as described by Elder Robert D. Hales, in which the choices one makes as a young adult can have a major impact on the following decades of their lives.

“I’ve learned that some students feel life isn’t turning out quite like they anticipated, that life has been a lot harder than they thought it would be,” he said. “Some feel that the pace of life is way too fast and they can’t keep up, some have questions they can’t currently answer, others feel frustrated because they have waited a lot longer than anticipated for righteous desires to be fulfilled.”

Owens then told the story of Cliff Young and related it to principles taught throughout his devotional address.

Young was a 61-year-old farmer who registered to run a 544-mile ultra-marathon, competing against well-known ultrarunners, Owens said. He not only won the race, but he also beat the existing ultra-marathon record by two days.

Young struggled through the first day of the race, but instead of giving up, he continued to move forward, Owens said.

“In a very real way, our lives are like an ultra-marathon that tests the limits of our spiritual endurance,” Owens said. “This mortal experience, which has been carefully designed as part of our loving Heavenly Father’s plan, is meant to help us develop as disciples of His Son and reach our fullest potential.”

Owens said students may have doubters within their lives that may lead them to believe that they cannot make it through life, such as other individuals, the adversary and themselves. He reminded students that they are children of God and have made positive choices that led them to where they are today.

“Regardless of current challenges or what disadvantages you may think you have, you can silence sources of doubt and do and become more than you can imagine,” Owens said. “The key for all of us is to fully yoke ourselves to the Savior.”

Owens organized the main ideas of the rest of his address into the acronym RACE: “repent and realign regularly,” “anticipate and accept adversity,” “cleave unto Christ and covenants” and “endure to the end.”

BYU business professor Brad Owens gives a devotional address at the Marriott Center on Tuesday, June 11. He compared staying on the covenant path to running in a race throughout his address. (Emily May)

Repent and realign regularly

Owens discussed how students may sometimes veer off of the covenant path just like runners in a race. He said students need to ensure the direction they are going aligns with their desired destination.

“Frequent course corrections are needed because life can be a distracting, misdirecting and detour-enticing experience,” Owens said.

Owens quoted President Nelson who emphasized daily repentance, stating that it can be liberating and offer peace of mind.

“Embracing the role of joyful repentance and constant realignment to the covenant path will help us run with patience this race that is set before us,” Owens said.

Anticipate and accept adversity

Owens discussed how he visited a prison and asked inmates, “If I could take you with me to my ethics classes and had you share the most important lesson you’ve learned from your life’s journey, what would it be?”

Owens said the unifying factor among these inmates’ stories was these inmates were not properly prepared for the adversity they faced.

Owens recounted an assignment in a human development class he took as a BYU undergraduate student that opened his eyes to how he could face adversity in his life.

“The instructor emphasized that while we can’t know in advance the specific challenges we will face, we know that each of us will experience significant forms of adversity in life,” Owens said. “We can prepare now by accepting this reality, working to build positive coping mechanisms and resilience and setting our hearts upon eternal things that do not change.”

Owens then recommended one way to “think celestial” is to replace expectations one has for the future with hopes.

“It’s been said that ‘expectations are premeditated resentments,’ but hopes entail a future-oriented sense of gratitude,” Owens said. “While hopes are centered in God and eternal promises, expectations are based on people and circumstances. While hopes are tied to an eternal identity, expectations are tied to mortal roles or identities.”

Cleave unto Christ and covenants

Owens said Christ has succeeded in leading people throughout mortality.

“In a way that we don’t fully understand, through the process of the Atonement, the Savior generated an infinite supply of spiritual power,” Owens said. “The covenant path is lined with this power in a degree and intensity that is not found anywhere else.”

Owens recounted the overwhelming feeling he had when he began his PhD program two decades ago. He felt an impression to spend more time with the Lord, thus he decided to more frequently attend the temple. He noticed feeling more peace and experiencing more blessings in his life.

“Despite my slow start in the program, I finished one year ahead of the rest of my class, and I know I could not have done this without the added strength that comes through Christ and temple covenants,” Owens said. “Cleaving to Christ and covenants, especially through seeking Him in His holy house, will help us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Endure to the end

Owens urged students to choose to never give up. Constant spiritual progression throughout mortality derives from simple steps, including prayer, scripture study, repentance, service and living the covenants one has made.

“When we combine all these steps together, our strength and momentum really begin to build, and we begin to love the race,” Owens said. “We gain growing clarity and even certainty that because of Christ, we can successfully reach the Celestial finish line.”

Owens concluded his address by reminding students that no matter what trials or hardships they have in life, they can endure to the end through Jesus Christ.

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