All students and faculty of Brigham Young University - including members and nonmembers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - have a sacred responsibility to help the school achieve its mission, BYU President Merrill J. Bateman told students Tuesday.
Bateman, BYU's 11th president and a member of the LDS Church's First Quorum of the Seventy, called BYU students and faculty "children of the covenant" whose promise is to help build God's kingdom."The bond that creates the special BYU community is not just the contractual relationship each person has with the university but the covenantal relationship that exists between us and the Lord," Bateman said during a devotional address at the Marriott Center.
Bateman's wife, Marilyn, also addressed students Tuesday. She encouraged them not only to study while at college but also to develop values such as integrity.
"It is my belief that the great land of America and its citizens also have claim on each person to be honest and true - to be people of integrity," Marilyn Bateman said.
President Bateman said that remarks made by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a former BYU president and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, two weeks ago at the university's annual conference of faculty and staff caused him to give "considerable thought to the status of non-LDS persons associated with BYU."
His conclusion, Bateman said, is that even nonmembers of the church have more than just a contractual relationship with the school. As an example, Bateman cited a letter written by BYU law professor Thomas D. Morgan, who is not a member of the LDS Church.
In addressing former colleagues at George Washington University School of Law, Morgan wrote: "Brigham Young University is one of the rare remaining examples of what all religiously affiliated universities once aspired to be - an institution that sees its students as persons of infinite worth and believes that their education for faithful lives represents the world's best hope for a humane and productive future."
Morgan, former dean of the Emory University School of Law, is the first occupant of BYU's recently created Rex E. Lee Chair at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Like many other non-LDS faculty at BYU, Morgan "is committed to working in a covenant environment," Bateman said.
Bateman, president of BYU since Jan. 1, 1996, told students that the school's purpose "is to help you become useful in the Kingdom of God."
As evidence that BYU is achieving its mission, Bateman cited a recent ranking by the Princeton Review showing BYU students are the least likely to drink alcohol - and the most likely to pray - among college students across the nation.
Bateman also cited the "College Student Experiences Questionnaire," which showed BYU students spend more time per week doing school work and working at a job than do their counterparts at schools like Duke, UCLA and North Carolina. He called such research "highly complimentary" of BYU's student body, and said the data show that students at the Provo school take their covenantal responsibilities seriously.
Bateman also told students that when he became the first LDS Church general authority to be named president of BYU nearly three years ago, he perceived that the school was "in the process of becoming a Zion university."
But recently, the president said, he has felt the impression that BYU already is a Zion university. "None of us believes that we have reached our potential - either as scholars or as saints," he said. "On the other hand, perhaps (BYU professor) Tessa Meyer Santiago was right when she implied that Zion is not a destination but a covenant people with a knowledge of the gospel and the resurrected Christ in (their) hearts, journeying to the promised land."