One of the hardest things about living through the current pandemic is not knowing when it will end. We yearn to know how long the crisis will last. We want to know when and if life will return to normal, meaning the way it was before the coronavirus swept the earth. Hence we find ourselves echoing the cry of prophets through the ages: “How long, O Lord, how long?”
“Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!"
During the 2008 recession, the Church imposed a hiring freeze on BYU. As Academic Vice President, I had to enforce the freeze. It was tough, but we came out better for the experience. I encouraged the campus to embrace a personal formula that I had evolved over the years: Crisis + Wit = Opportunity. I encourage all of us to do the same here, whether faculty, staff, admin. But I would modify the motto: Crisis + Inspiration = Opportunity. Use wisdom, wit, creativity, and inspiration to turn the current crisis into opportunities to not only survive the crisis but to learn from it.
President Nelson has reminded us that we are not “Mormons” but members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want to call attention to a word in his counsel that has received too little attention: member. This simple term has become so familiar that we forget that it began as, and still is, a metaphor—a metaphor that bears deep and rich doctrinal significance.
“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest . . . extraction of that living intellect that bred them. . . . as good almost kill a man as kill a good book.” (John Milton, Areopagitica)
In one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, A Man For All Seasons, Sir Thomas More explains what it means to take an oath. Imprisoned by Henry VIII for refusing to take an oath swearing to the Act of Succession, More is visited by his daughter, Meg, who urges him to say the words of the oath but think otherwise in his heart. After all, she argues, “God more regards the thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth.” More counters: