Elder Henry B. Eyring

Dedicatory Talk and Prayer


Story Highlights

  • There is something in this experiment here that will turn out to be of tremendous importance in the future of the church for the education and our religious reach across the earth.
  • The very purpose of our mortal life is true education.
  • We dedicate this structure, every part from the footings to the roof to thee, our Heavenly Father, and to the work of thy beloved Son in behalf of thy children.

Brothers and Sisters, I’m grateful to be here. I’d like to begin by saying that I’ve had a spiritual experience, and I will describe it to you briefly. I got on a plane in Mexico City this morning at seven o’clock. To do that in Mexico City, you’re up earlier than that. And so I had the experience of spending a few hours between Mexico City and Fort Worth expecting that I would be resting–heaven knows that I’d had a couple of heavy days in Mexico City. But I had an unusual experience.

Even though I had agreed with President Bateman and Elder Neuenschwander that I would just briefly respond to whatever they said, and that I would dedicate the building rather than prepare remarks, I got this interesting sort of charge of energy, so I wrote–which is not my style as you can tell by the way I’m just rambling now–I wrote out these brief remarks and could not stop. I’ll tell you, this is hazardous because who knows what they’re going to say. I had absolutely no hint at what they would do, so I thought why in the world would I write out something which is not what I’m going to do anyway (I was very tired), and take the chance of just being completely out of sync with whatever they did.

Now, you know that my faith-promoting story is… there’s something in the scriptures that says the Holy Ghost is supposed to run meetings. I’ve had an interesting experience listening to these two men–I don’t know if they collaborated at all, but to have perfectly… took me back both in memory and then forward to these brief remarks that I will make now to you.

President Bateman, as you will see from these little remarks–you will think he and I have collaborated there has got to be some kind of… It’s unusual that he would describe this building beyond simply an interesting project, but that has some portent for the future of the church. As I walked through it with him and with President Covey and Elder Neuenschwander and Van Gessel, I had a remarkable experience to know that my remarks were better than I thought they would be on the mark. But there is something in this experiment here that will turn out to be of tremendous importance in the future of the church for the education and our religious reach across the earth. That we will learn something from this. And I knew, however, that this was treated with his, I think, prophetic statements, which I will talk a little bit about too. His remarks reminded me of a caution. Then Elder Neuenschwander’s reminded me of a caution.

And I will give you the stories that they triggered in my memory. When I first was the president of Ricks College, the commissioner of education–one of the positions that I hold now–was Neal A. Maxwell (and you’ve got to know that Ricks College is a little junior college up in Idaho) and he wanted to form a task committee to write a position paper on the future of higher education in the church. He made me the chairman. And so I had a group of people, most of them professors from Brigham Young University–really distinguished people–and others. And we met at the University of Utah and other places–we met and met and met and met, trying to see the future of church education. It was just awful. I couldn’t see that we were getting anywhere, in fact if you read the report now you will see that I was right in saying that we didn’t get anywhere. It has not changed the world, but it did change me. In the midst of it, I, in desperation, asked Elder Maxwell if I could get some coaching from somebody who might know something about the future of higher education in the church. He said, yes, he could arrange that. He could arrange an interview with President Spencer W. Kimball. One has to be discreet about these private tutorials, but I went to his office eager to be taught. But I thought I had better at least tell him where I was, so we talked about the history, the fact of the academies. Some of you know the very interesting patterns in the history of the church. Some of you know that at one stage President Wilkinson bought properties in Oakland and… I don’t know where they were around… I think there was a plan of a network of junior colleges that would feed Brigham Young University–that was roughly the plan, as I recall. And to show President Kimball that I’d done some of my homework. I said, "We don’t know much. It’s very difficult to see, but we know this, that since we’ve sold those properties, that we know that will never occur." I thought that was safe. He said, "Hal, I don’t know that. Do you know that?" I said, "N-n-no I don’t know that." So, first lesson is humility. And then, I forget, somewhere in the conversation we got to talking about the future, and I said, "Well, one thing I guess we know is whatever we do in higher education when the millennium comes, it will be completely replaced," or something like that. I was using as reference an earlier experience I’d had with Eldon Dyer. Some of you know that Elder Dyer was given the assignment of Independence and he’d had plans drawn, which he showed me once in his office, of the City of Zion and it had–I forget how many it had, I’d better be careful because some of you will remember this–a certain number of temples. And I said, "What are those?" And he said, "Oh, those will be education institutions." They had some kind of incredible–this was before the internet–some sort of description of this incredible technology where the education will go out across the world from these buildings. So I tried that one on President Kimball. I said, "I assume that we know that whatever we do it will be completely replaced." He said, "Oh, I don’t know, Hal. We’ve been at this education business for thousands of years. My guess is the process won’t change." It was a humbling thing. And I thought of that today because I want to suggest very modestly what I think the future may hold and why this building may, in fact, be very important across the earth.

Now, President Bateman has already mentioned the interesting notion of high utilization, but also the notion of getting that utilization by sharing it with quite distinct functions. Ecclesiastical with President Covey and then Van and the others who are working on what you think of as more traditional education. But that then took me to Elder Neuenschwander’s story. He did mention, I noticed that I was in the Presiding Bishopric. What you don’t know is that when I was in the Presiding Bishopric I was in charge of all of the physical facilities in the world, and so when he talked about how we care about our buildings–I have to be very careful now, because some of you are from very small towns in Idaho and Utah and so you may recognize. I’ll have to make this story very vague. But more than once as we’ve looked at old buildings in two neighboring Utah or Idaho towns, it became obvious that you shouldn’t have a chapel in both towns. Have you ever tried to design a joint-use building between two small towns in the Intermountain West? We are Latter-day Saints. This is Zion, but, oh boy… So when he said we care about our buildings, oh, do we care about our buildings. Of course that highlights the thing here. But clearly… I can’t clear remember my story, I mean, what’s clear? I think clearly… one of my major assignments, you see, is to try to sense in some way where in the world the church educational system will need to go in this rapidly changing world. But somehow this idea of sharing space with its challenges–like two chapels, or one chapel between two small towns in the Intermountain West–and what we’re doing here is somehow the idea that the Lord is going to teach us something about I think not just the sharing of buildings. I’d raise it to a little higher notion, and you saw President Bateman do it and he and I didn’t cook that up together.

My guess is–back to President Kimball’s comment, you see. He was trying to get me to not think about education as buildings or structures or even technologies. He was trying to say go deeper. What is it? What is education? I don’t think he was promising me that the future would be revealed to me, but at least that if I was going to into it, I had to go deeper and not look at the obvious notions of buildings and technology and exactly how we do it, but rather how does education work?

Now, what happened on that airplane out of Mexico City I will now read to you, and it will seem to you much as what President Bateman spoke of. And it will deal with the problem that was treated in my mind in memory as I listened to Elder Neuenschwander, so I’ll read this. By the way, I wrote this out to be merciful. I knew that if you had no text, I ramble. And I knew that it would be late in the day, and you’d want this crisp. So I will now read, which I rarely do.

The very purpose of our mortal life is true education. It is not divided into the familiar steps of registration, course selection, lectures, labs, trips to the testing center, and checking the net to learn our numeric standing against a published standard. Life is far more subtle and a far more powerful educational design. It must be to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of our Father in Heaven’s children. He takes away our memory at the registration process with only a scripture or two to reassure us that we were the more promising of his children. He makes most of the choices about the experiences that will be our curriculum–each designed uniquely, one per student. And not announced till advanced except the patriarch may be allowed to reveal the barest outline.

Most of the carefully designed instruction and testing occurs in the everyday moments of life, easily mistaken for chance events. In a world with countless teachers and institutions claiming the right to certify our learning only one offers covenants accredited by God to allow eternal life. For many. For most of God’s children the one church in which God places those authorized servants has been hard to find and harder to recognize except with the eyes of faith and a contrite heart.

In the Ukraine today the place will be an unheated apartment, a different one each week, and in Mexico, that authorized administrator may be a four-foot tall man apparently without any education, supporting his children with a tiny farm, who has never worn shoes in his life except on Sunday.

At least to mortal eyes, there seem to be great inequities in the assignment of our opportunities to learn in this life. All who will ever enter into this building will have perhaps the greatest advantages available in life. Just that they are able to come here will be because they will have had freedom of choice, and economic wealth beyond all but a tiny fraction of the children of our Heavenly Father who have ever lived. But the will have a greater, a priceless advantage. You see, the test of life is to find truth, recognize it, covenant and then keep our covenants to conform our lives to it at any hazard.

In a few minutes, this will be a sacred building, dedicated to God. Because God will accept our dedication he will pour out the influence of the Holy Ghost in these rooms and even the hallways and the stairways. The Holy Ghost is the spirit of truth. Those who will sit quietly, contemplating the sacramental ordinances they receive here will have truth and the prompting to follow that truth pressed upon their minds and hearts. A day later, perhaps in this very space, others will sit trying to remember the meanings of English words now gone from memory. Then suddenly they will remember. Some may dismiss those experiences as the physical products of their minds, but others will know the truth and they will give silent thanks that God has honored our dedication and his promises. And because they will then give thanks, the blessings will come again and again. Such blessings will require more than the words of a dedicatory prayer. All blessings come from our choice out of faith to obey God. And he is clear about the requirements for the continued, constant attendance of the Holy Ghost.

Two of those requirements will need careful attention here because of the unique nature of this building one stems from the fact that the sacrament will be administered in the same space that others will use for learning, which can seem more temporal.

We’re used to reverence in the sacrament, but less so in learning a language. But even a few hours in the Missionary Training Center, or just going with some of you through few days of your life gives me assurance that some people have learned to carry reverence with them whatever place they may be in. We that are here will learn and practice, and it will bring down powers of heaven upon us. Reverence, springing from gratitude for the kindness of God, invites the spirit of truth wherever we are, and whatever we may be trying to learn.

The other requirement to have that gift is that we love one another. Conflict, which so often springs from people sharing space, offends the spirit. The challenge here will be the same you’ve met when you’ve shared a bathroom with a sibling or a roommate, or even a spouse. There will be times when rooms are left unprepared for those who will use them next. There will sometimes be evidence that someone searched what you consider your closet, or even your desk drawer. You will at that moment have a choice to make. You can assume that the person who left clutter, or who was searching in your space was selfish, or even malevolent, or you can start with this thought, I hope they had a fine experience, and that they found what they were looking for and what they needed. All of us have lived, for at least a moment, with someone who loved that much in that way, and remembered the spirit that was there. You can dedicate yourself to see others in a way that will invite that spirit. And you can be assured that the great giver wants that gift for you and for all that will come here.

I cannot see all that the Lord is doing here, but there will, someday, across the earth, as we let every nation, kindred, tongue and people, we will need to reach people in numbers and with a breath of education, they will not allow single-focus buildings or spaces or programs. And we will somehow learn to walk across what we thought were dividing lines, having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, and we will learn to invite thy spirit with reverence wherever we are. And we will learn to avoid conflict and the suspicions, which so offend the spirit, and therefore retard the Lord’s truth.

Now would you join with me as we dedicate the University Parkway Center?

Our Beloved Heavenly Father, on this day of dedication, we express to thee our gratitude, we thank thee for life. We thank thee for the bounties poured out upon us as a people and as thy individual children. We are grateful for the thankful people across the earth, whose tithes have made the construction and the maintenance of this building possible. We ask that thou would shower blessings upon them according to their needs and commensurate with their sacrifice. We dedicate this structure, every part from the footings to the roof to thee, our Heaven Father, and to the work of thy beloved Son in behalf of thy children. We plead with thee in faith that thou would protect and bless this University Parkway Center. Protect it from the elements, protect it from any unhallowed hand, which would impose or impede thy purposes here. We pray that thou would bless this house with the constant attendance of thy spirit. By that influence, we ask that thou would sanctify it. Bless those who come here that they may have faith unto repentance, that the atonement of thy son may work to cleanse them. Please bless those who worship and study and teach her, that they may qualify through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel for thy promised gift of pure love, the love we feel from thee and from thy Son, and the love that we would feel from all. Father, bless visitors who come to this building that they may know that this is a place set apart by thee for learning truth. And bless all that go out from this place that they may be recognized wherever they go as lovers and followers of unchanging, eternal truth. And Father, bless all who serve and study here that from that experience they will grow in power and resolve to bear glad tidings to the ends of the earth and serve thee and thy children with might and strength as long as they live. We dedicate this building and ourselves to thee, by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and in the name of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.