Robert Chambers, a religious education faculty member, was hired to teach at BYU-Idaho eight years ago and after two years of teaching, accepted the call to serve as a mission president before resuming his role as a religion professor.
Chambers discovered he wanted to be a teacher after feeling like the other options weren’t right. His professional life led him to Idaho State University, where he completed most of his schooling.
Chambers has a bachelor’s in political science, a master’s in public administration and a doctorate in political science with an emphasis in public administration.
After spending time “careering,” he finally decided he wanted to be a full-time teacher and chose to apply for a position in the Religious Education Department at BYU-I.
He teaches foundation religion classes, and students might recognize him for teaching The Eternal Family, Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel or Foundations of the Restoration.
As a mission president, he and his wife, Robin Chambers — both high school sweethearts — served in the Salt Lake City South Mission.
“We had a wonderful experience, and it’s interesting how when you have a call like that, how the Lord blesses you in ways you don’t even realize,” Robert said.
As a new mission president, he described feeling like he knew more than he actually did. Robert had an idea that he would take all of his missionaries and raise them to his ideal level.
This attitude changed as he worked with missionaries that struggled. He learned from an experience with one missionary in particular.
“I can’t even remember the nature of their disobedience,” Robert said. “In my mind, it was serious enough that it called into question their capacity to continue.”
He called the missionary into his office and told him that things couldn’t continue the way that they were going. The interview ended with the missionary leaving the office with the invitation to change or return home.
After this interview, Robert was left to think about this experience and felt the spirit prompting him to think about the missionary in a different way.
“I had this impression, almost a chastisement, and in fact, it was,” Robert said. “It was that finger in your chest that said, ‘you know when you were made a mission president, I took you as you were with the hope and promise that I could make you a little better and you need to do the same thing with that missionary; take them where they are at.'”
This experience helped him learn to view people where they are at rather than where he wants them to be.
Robert called the missionary back into his office and apologized for the way the first interview had gone. He told them that while the missionary chose to remain in the mission, they would be in this together.
His only request to the missionary was that every day they would become a little better. Robert reported the missionary worked on it, and they went home a lot better than they came out.
Robert was glad to have this experience and felt that it helps him shape his experiences with students in the classroom now. He recognizes each of his students is at different levels and this allows him to take each of them where they are at and invite them to be a little better.
From the experiences in the mission field, as a young adult in Milan, Italy and as a mission president in Utah, he chooses to leave a spiritual impact on the students he teaches.
“I think its both intentional and unintentional on my part because I want them to know that they’re loved, not just by me, but especially by Heavenly Father,” Robert said. “I want them to walk away with an understanding and a capacity to express who they are in terms of their eternal identity and why that even matters, and then try and give them an idea of just what they might better do to walk the covenant path.”
Robert Chambers faculty member page is listed on the BYU-I website.