BYU professor sits atop national rankings

Published: Thursday, Dec. 11 2008 10:34 a.m. MST

One story took seven minutes of his 100-minute Monday evening class, but his digital-age students remained riveted to the real-world missionary problem: Church members who'd been offended by one pair of missionaries. Bott still doesn't know what went wrong, but his class loved hearing the hilarious, kindhearted and ultimately successful efforts of the new missionaries he sent to the area to resolve the situation.

One missionary went into the bathroom of a church member who had them over for dinner and left a thank-you note rolled up in the toilet paper.

The lesson? Be optimistic, determined and creative.

Those lessons stick, said Ken Alford, who joined BYU's religion faculty this fall after nearly 30 years as an Army officer. "I have a son on a mission in Fiji who took a class from Brother Bott," he said. "He raved about him then, and he's raved about him even from the mission field."

Bott's ministry extends beyond the classroom. He spends four to six hours a day responding to e-mails from students and former students who ask him for help with life problems.

The issues range from the silly — an Armenian woman was told by missionaries he could help her prepare a Relief Society lesson — to the heartbreaking, like handling the divorce of parents and moral trouble.

"You get known for that type of stuff," Bott said. "Now I get e-mails from parents and friends of students, too."

His basic life message boils down to a positive faith in Jesus Christ. Satan is a destroyer and Christ a builder, he said. Negative thoughts about self-worth are darts from the devil.

"He sees you on this collision course with greatness, and he begins to tell you you're not worthy of it," Bott said.

Getting an "A" from Bott is easy, according to the ratings on RateMyProfessors.com. Lawyer said tests are open-note, open-book.

"It doesn't have to be a hard class to be a good class," she said. "Missionaries all over the world will tell you they are using things he taught them."

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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