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In Our Lovely Deseret: Karl Maeser: Let the wise man within you be your ideal

Published: Monday, Jan. 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

In 1875 when Brigham Young sent Karl Maeser to Provo to head the newly-named and restructured Brigham Young Academy, he had little else to go by but the famous adage of the prophet: “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.”

In this setting, despite the long struggle, the challenges and setbacks, the unique beauty, integrity and strength of this remarkable man began to mold the young men and women who were sent into his care. He never lost faith in any individual, but he never gave quarter, either, challenging the weakest until they found their own strengths and discovered the way to use them.

“No man shall be more exacting of me or my conduct than I am of myself,” he taught, urging his students: “Be yourself, but always your better self.”

Maeser changed lives, strengthened testimonies and built men and women of sterling character and dauntless faith.

Brigham Young’s daughter Susa attended the academy following a disastrous marriage and divorce. According to "The 1870’s: a Decade of Collective and Personal Achievement” on GospeLink, she wrote in a letter to her mother: “I am only 23, so there is plenty of time for me yet. Let your heart be at rest for me; as long as I am in the academy I am safe. That is, as long as I am a partaker of the spirit that rules in these walls, I am all right.”

Shipp went on to complete medical school and become the second woman doctor in Utah. She practiced medicine and, at the same time, taught nursing for more than 60 years. She helped to establish the Deseret Hospital, raised her own family, and delivered more than 6,000 babies.

She loved and served, with little thought for self, despite the severe trials that continued throughout her life. Thus her daughter was able to say of her at her death, as quoted in "Not in Vain": “Is there an end to the marvels you can tell about Mother? Love — endurance — sacrifice. She had absolutely conquered herself. Her thought was for humanity — for you.”

Shipp learned well the great example set before her. George Brimhall said of Maeser, “Love was his bow and truth was his arrow.”

Have we in our day forgotten how much power there is in ideals? How tragically great is our loss, if that is the case.

Shipp wrote, as quoted in "Not in Vain": “Under (Maeser’s) superior tutelage I realized a truly great blessing in sharing the immensity of his knowledge, his power to impart the wealth of his intelligence and superior wisdom to the world about him. He helped me to higher ideals in so many ways. I knew he was often tried, and his heroic efforts at self-control were an object lesson never to be forgotten. His personal suggestions and wise direction have proven beacon lights — shining ever brighter as years go on.”

"Make the wise man within you your living ideal." So Karl G. Maeser taught — and so he lived.

Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: susasays@broadweave.net

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