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.
The pandemic is real and will likely get worse before it gets better. So things have to change, certainly in the short term and maybe in the long term as well. But with wit, wisdom, and the inspiration of Heaven, we can we come out of the present distress better for it. It can become what theologians call a fortunate fall.
I was inspired this weekend to watch a video about when the government in Ghana shut down the Church. I was living in London at the time and remember one of our sisters from Ghana begging for us to pray for her country. Yet the shut-down lasted a year and a half. But it did not destroy the Church. The Ghanese members seized the crisis as an opportunity and Ghana became a pillar of strength for the Church in Africa. Watch the video that tells this inspiring story.
Rahm Emmanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, said, “You never want a serious crisis go to waste.” This contains a truth, albeit within a potentially cynical ploy for consolidating power and enacting personal agendas. We should not waste this crisis but seize it as an opportunity to get better.
I think the pandemic will make me a better teacher. It will force Susan and me to finally learn how to use technology for virtual gatherings of the class we are teaching together. This will probably help us teach even face-to-face classes better. It may also help us to gather and teach our techno-savvy children and grandchildren better.
Similarly, the pandemic may help us adopt better hygienic practices both as individuals and an institution. I expect that our hands and public surfaces will be cleaner for years to come.
The pandemic may allow us as a campus to get to projects that have needed to be done but for which we have had neither the time nor workforce to complete. You need to seek inspiration to accomplish tasks you have long wanted and needed to at work.
The pandemic will require us to experiment with teleworking. This may prove to make us more flexible and effective after the current crisis is past.
And the pandemic will help the whole Church to embrace the prophetic emphasis on home-centered, Church supported worship. Susan and I were blessed with a special, sacred Sabbath yesterday as our home became a sanctuary for the sacrament. I hope this happened for you as well.
The Lord has promised: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). The Lord fulfilled this promise for Susan and me on Sunday as we worshipped together. It was an instance where crisis + inspiration of a prophet = opportunity for growth.
A friend and former student of mine, sent me a poem on Sunday morning entitled “Home Worship.” Let me share it in closing. It concludes with the image of an “angel host” attending families, friends, and even solitary individuals. I pray that a host of angels will attend us as we seek for inspiration to turn crisis into opportunity.
In temples made with mortal hands
We gather not today;
Yet all the saints in all the lands
Still worship, sing, and pray.
The fellowship that makes us one
Is not confined by space,
But emanates from God’s own Son,
From His unbounded grace.
The Lord of mountains, vales, and trees
Said: “I shall dwell with you:
Where you shall meet by twos and threes,
There I will gather too.”
And so we gather in our homes,
As families or as friends,
Whilst on the saint who prays alone
An angel-host attends.