As the clock ticks down on the last week of school, Ezra Gwilliam, religion faculty professor, sympathizes with the BYU-Idaho students furiously studying in the library and classrooms in preparation for their finals.
There is a way through these stressful times. Gwilliam, no stranger to stress, shares a personal experience of dealing with stress from trials in his life in order to help students deal with finals week.
The Gwilliam family life drastically changed when their daughter was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome a few years ago. Rett Syndrome is a postnatal neurological disorder caused by mutations on the X chromosome. It effects the brain, creating problems with cognitive, sensory, emotional, motor and autonomic function, according to RettSyndrome.org.
“It was really hard when we first found out about it,” Gwilliam said. “She was diagnosed on a Friday, Sunday I was made a bishop, on Wednesday we had a baby, and I had two months to finish my dissertation; I slept for about 3 or 4 hours for about 3-4 months.”
Despite this difficult time of his life, Gwilliam found strength in turning to the Lord.
“Through that experience, I gained a stronger testimony of what grace really is,” Gwilliam said. “There is no way that I could have done that on my own; Grace is real (and) we get help when we need help.”
Gwilliam found comfort in the scriptures. He was able to use and understand grace with the definition found in the scriptures.
In the bible dictionary on grace, it says, “a divine means of help or strength … that otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.”
This definition goes along with what Gwilliam described of his experience. His students get to learn from his testimony and adapt it to their own personal lives as they face stresses with school, work and finals.
“I think his example and his personal stories I relate to the most,” said Carys Bratt, a sophomore studying psychology. “Almost every single class he shares a story about his personal family and the trials he has gone through; they are relatable and really helpful.”
From the classroom to the rest of their lives, Gwilliam hopes his students leave with two things in mind.
“First, a stronger testimony,” Gwilliam said. “Secondly, a greater desire to be a disciple.”
Finals may be on many student’s minds as they navigate the last week of the school year. However, from Brother Gwilliam, students can learn to find strength and hope in the power of grace that the Savior offers.