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Rexburg founded through pioneer faith

President Clark G. Gilbert referenced the pioneers in his inaugural address at the beginning of Fall Semester 2015.

“It was a pioneer’s heart that enabled the Lord to gather his saints at the opening of this dispensation,” President Gilbert said. “Those early pioneers brought a spirit of frugality, a faith and optimism for the unknown, a longing for prophetic direction and a spirit of personal sacrifice to their trek west. It was those same attributes that allowed the Lord to reveal the ideas and innovations needed to gather his people.”

Thomas E. Ricks, one of the pioneers who established the City of Rexburg, was 20 years old when he crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Along the way, his wagon train was attacked by Native Americans. He was shot three times, and his friends left him believing he was dead.

Ricks recalled lying on his back, dying, when he heard the Spirit speak clearly in his mind, according to Preserving the Memory of Thomas E. Ricks, a memoir written by Rick’s third great-grand-daughter, Rachel Ludlow.

“You will not die; you will go to the valley of the mountains, and there you will do a great work in your day and generation,” the voice said, according to the memoir.

President Gilbert said the spirit the pioneers brought is alive on the BYU-Idaho campus as the Spirit of Ricks.

“At BYU-Idaho, we draw on that same pioneer’s heart, a gift of the early settlers who came to this valley and eventually founded this college,” President Gilbert said.

Early pioneers like Ricks built BYU-I. It was established in 1888 as Bannock State Academy and dedicated by Ricks, who was the President of the Bannock Stake Academy, according to the book The Spirit of Ricks written by David L. Crowder.

“The pioneer’s heart has been preserved by the Lord in the very location of this campus. Regardless of its origin, the pioneer’s heart was held in this valley for such a time as this when the Lord would significantly expand His educational gathering across the Church.”

At the dedicatory service, Principal Jacob Spori addressed the crowd, prophesying the future of the academy, according to The Spirit of Ricks.

“The seeds we are planting today will grow and become mighty oaks, and their branches will run all over the earth,” Spori said, according to The Spirit of Ricks.

This attitude of Jacob Spori, as well as others, throughout the beginnings of the academy set the atmosphere and the spirit of the university, according to The Spirit of Ricks.

President Gilbert said the pioneering faculty during the transition from Ricks College to BYU-I launched multiple programs, including the Pathway Program and the Learning Model, to open educational opportunities throughout the Church and the world.

“We will not be a recognized and highly regarded research institution in the traditional sense of that term,” said Elder David A. Bednar when he was president of BYU-I. “We will, however, emphasize a wide range of scholarly endeavors and excel in and play a pioneering role in understanding learning and teaching processes with faith and hard work, and in the process of time.”

He said the overarching theme for scholarly work at BYU-I should be inspired inquiry and innovation.

“We are not like other institutions of higher education,” Elder Bednar said. “We have access to the gifts of the Spirit, which cannot be quantified nor counted.”

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