For the First Time in the School's 129 Years, BYU-I Has Member of Another Faith Give Devotional Address

Last month Arizona State University President Michael Crow became the first non-Mormon to give a devotional address in Brigham Young University-Idaho’s 129-year history.

The purpose was to inspire, but also to announce a new partnership with BYU-Pathway Worldwide that guarantees admission for students interested in transferring to ASU to earn a bachelor’s degree.

The program is the latest example of how collaboration across the Church and the larger community improves both, even when such opportunities may not seem immediately evident.

President Crow lauds the Latter-day Saints’ engagement in civic duty and ability to see all people as children of God – traits similar to those he envisions when describing Arizona State as a university responsible for the health of its community and committed to providing access to higher education for all qualified students, regardless of family or social background.

The two organizations have natural alignment, but their strong relationship wasn’t automatic: when the president arrived at ASU in 2002; the Church’s Institute of Religion was questioning if it had a home on the university’s campus. It verged on relocating its aging facility elsewhere.

Then, President Crow approached its director and deployed his characteristic drive for inclusion. He preferred to find a way to rebuild the Institute to keep high-achieving LDS undergraduates on campus and contributing to the university’s academic and social climate. He also sought to work with the Institute to attract new students, to provide resources for them to attend the university at low cost and to help the community thrive – while allowing flexibility for them to complete their missions, grow in their faith and not lose sight of their degrees.

A few years later, that first step led President Crow to help dedicate a new, 44,000-square-foot Institute of Religion on ASU’s Tempe campus; in 2015, he joined Elder Neil L. Andersen to open a second institute, this time at the university’s Polytechnic location in Mesa, AZ.

As the relationship developed, so did opportunities to serve.

When the Church wanted to open a free clinic to serve the growing immigrant population in Phoenix, ASU Law quickly identified an appropriate space and agreed to host volunteers. Now, students work with advocates to provide legal advice and represent neglected children during proceedings.

As our community witnessed ASU work with Church leaders and young people, we came to appreciate how the university supports students – our students – by recognizing that one’s learning is not separate from his or her faith.

We’ve come to cherish that connection, to support it and to find new ways to work together for mutual benefit – despite that, like many local LDS members, I did not attend ASU and it might be more natural to focus interest solely on my alma maters.

Yet, that would fail to acknowledge the fantastic opportunities we have in our backyard to better the education and lives of young LDS students.

Recently, we’ve been growing ASU’s dedicated scholarships for LDS students. For active members of the church, the university offers the Pioneer Heritage Scholarship, which is available to freshmen or transfer students, and the Beus Family New American University Scholarship, which my family is proud to support, for those high performers who focus their studies on science, technology, engineering, math or music.

“Because of the scholarships I received, my experience at ASU has been more than I could have ever expected,” said rising sophomore Abbey Ames. “I have been attending Institute classes, participating at LDS Student Association activities, going to devotionals and attending the University Ward. However, I think what has been my biggest influence in the faith is simply the conversations I have with the people around me.”

It gives me joy to celebrate these programs, like Pathway, that give students access to learning without sacrificing their involvement in the Church.

There are countless other examples of members enacting our values in partnership with institutions and people throughout greater society, but there is more we can do.

During President Crow’s address to BYU-Idaho students, he encouraged the audience to realize their God-given potential and to use it to improve communities, families, nature and our understanding of each of them.

“What is your unique improvement?” he asked. “What are you going to do to improve what you’ve been given?”

In that spirit, I encourage you to assess your unique situation and to seek opportunities for improvement where you live. The pathways are there. It is up to us to look up and to build relationships with the forces for good that operate in what President Crow and the Arizona State University have provided for us.

Lead image courtesy of BYU-Idaho

Leo Beus is co-founder of Beus Gilbert PLLC, a leading boutique law firm concentrating on high stakes litigation, real estate and zoning law. He is a graduate of BYU and the University of Michigan Law School. Along with his wife, Annette, Leo serves as co-chair of the President’s Club of Arizona State University, where he is a Campaign ASU 2020 principal.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com