Speaking during the centenary of Brigham Young University’s founding in 1975, Church President Spencer W. Kimball shared a prophetic vision that the university would become an “educational Everest” in its second century.
BYU President Kevin J Worthen told faculty and staff gathered at the university’s annual conference on Monday, August 23, that President Kimball envisioned BYU becoming “a place where things are done in a and on a level unlike anywhere else in the world.”
President Kimball emphasized that a higher vision would require BYU to deviate from established norms or standards in some respects. “Your call was not to flee the world, but to engage it on our own terms, with the goal of improving the world,” said President Worthen.
President Kimball declared: “Gospel methodology, concepts, and insights can help us do what the world cannot do with what it has as a reference. In a way, the Church Educational System, to be unique in the years to come, may have to break with certain standards of educational institutions. When the world loses its way over matters of principle, we have an obligation to point the way.”
This advice is particularly relevant to the challenges facing the university today, said President Worthen. An example is racism and other forms of intolerance. In June 2020, BYU created the Committee on Race, Equality and Inclusion to respond to the joint call by President Russell M. Nelson and NAACP leaders for “educational leaders … to review processes … and organizational attitudes toward racism, and eradicate it.” them once and for all.”
The university released key results in February 2021 from its national campus diversity and equality survey, which included data from nearly 20,000 respondents. The committee outlined recommendations to increase inclusion at BYU.
As the president’s board carefully considered the committee’s report and recommendations, “we determined that a necessary first step would be to establish a framework within which—and by which—we would evaluate the various recommendations,” said President Worthen. The resulting statement on inclusion will provide “the constitution, shall we say, for our efforts” and will also be “the guide to meeting the needs of all marginalized individuals on campus.”
The statement on inclusion says:
“We are united by our common primary identity as children of God (Acts 17:29; Psalm 82:6) and our commitment to the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ (BYU Mission Statement). We strive to create an inclusive community made up of students, faculty, and staff whose hearts are united in love (Mosiah 18:21), where:
“All relationships reflect devoted love for God and a genuine, loving concern for the well-being of others (BYU Mission Statement); We value and embrace the variety of individual characteristics, life experiences and circumstances, perspectives, talents and gifts of each member of the community and the wealth and strength they bring to our community (1 Corinthians 12:12-27);Our interactions create and support an environment of inclusion (Ephesians 2:19); and
The full realization of each student’s divine potential is our central focus (BYU Mission Statement).”President Worthen announced the formation of a new Office of Inclusion at BYU, led by a vice president-level staff member who will serve on the president’s board.
“The office will not only be the center of our efforts to eradicate racism, it will also help us to combat prejudice of any kind, including that based on race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, belief religious and sexual orientation,” he said.
The statement on inclusion “is a product of counseling with counsel,” said President Worthen, then quoting the teachings of President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency; President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon in a recent Church News series on councils.