During devotional on April 19, President Clark G. Gilbert urged students to prepare themselves to stand for the values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a sentiment he has felt and alluded to since his presidency began.
“It’s been a feeling and an impression I’ve had, almost since I’ve arrived at the university,” President Gilbert said.
In an aim to stress the importance of standing for the Church’s values in the last days, President Gilbert asked students to raise their hand if they grew up in an area where religiously, they were in the minority. Many hands rose.
“I think that was a really poignant moment for everyone,” President Gilbert said. “I think that it was a reminder to everyone, students, faculty and the university community, that we’re preparing people to leave this campus in another environment where they will have to stand up to people who disagree with, and maybe even make fun of or put down, our values.”
President Gilbert said sometimes students forget that many of them will live in the religious majority only for a short time.
“There’s a short season now where we’re gathering with the strength of the Church,” he said. “We’re preparing people who will leave here and have to stand on their own their entire lives.”
President Gilbert urged students to use their time at BYU-I to fortify their convictions to defend their values.
“Will they use this time to build the strength of the Church?” he said. “When someone challenges them, will they remember the strength they felt while they were at BYU-Idaho and draw on that in a future time when not everyone in the room shares their values?”
President Gilbert’s recent address mirrored that of the ending of his fall 2015 inaugural address.
“To build disciple leaders in the last days, we must help our students have the conviction to stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ,” President Gilbert said in his inaugural address.
Many of the suggestions he made to students to help them prepare for opposition echoed previous statements during his inaugural address.
For example, he mentioned the need to emphasize the importance of marriage and family in principle as well as application.
“Our students must understand the principle of moral agency and learn how to act and not be acted upon,” he said in his inaugural address. “Finally, disciple leaders will need to understand and apply the Atonement in their lives.”
President Gilbert said he hopes his address will cause two changes in students’ lives.
First, that students will recognize the world’s changing moral values and feel prepared for these changes.
“The second is that they’ll have the conviction, then, to stand up for and to be strong in the defense of people challenging our values and our beliefs,” he said.
During his talk, he shared a picture of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life in the Book of Mormon. He said he sees Lehi’s dream as a metaphor for our day.
“Hold to the rod,” he said. “Follow the path, and make sure you’re listening to the right people and not to those who are mocking you from the great and spacious building.”
President Gilbert said he could relate to circumstances where the Church’s standards were taunted and mocked by relating a personal story where he was ridiculed for his beliefs in front of his entire high school.
He said he expects students may have similar experiences as the world’s values veer further away from those held by Church members.
It is a true test to defend one’s personal beliefs “with conviction and strength while still treating others with compassion and respect,” especially when their views may be different, he said. Students will need to avoid the temptation to become confrontational or to recoil from the situation, he said.
President Gilbert said learning to defend the Church tactfully may prove to be a difficult response for many to develop — himself included — but that it will be necessary.
“That’s hard for me; that’s hard for anyone,” he said. “But it’s going to be required of us in the last days.”
As President Gilbert concluded his talk, he reassured the student body.
“I’d like to express my confidence in you as the hope and future of this great church,” he said.