February 9, 2018
“The theme for this inaugural response is the temple under construction.”
The spiritual prompting came like a “bright light.” Despite being nearly midnight, and despite having a different theme previously selected, Clark Gilbert put everything else out of his mind and spent the next two hours crafting a new introduction to his inaugural response, which was already in its ninth revision. The late night flurry was followed by another round of edits and revisions the following morning.
“At BYU-Pathway Worldwide, we are constructing temples of learning — both in the lives of our students and in the organization that serves those students.” Clark Gilbert, Inaugural Response
As he added the new introduction to his previous draft, it was as though the entire talk had been written for this theme — “as if the Lord knew this is where it was going, and I just had to get there.”
Temples Under Construction
Temples have long been a symbol of faithful Church members and a metaphor for the growth and development of the Church over time. When the Kirtland temple was first built in 1833, it was the first of this dispensation and its pioneer construction represented the consecrated sacrifice of the saints in their extremity. And yet, even as many glorious visions and revelations were received at that time, only a small portion of the temple ordinances were revealed in Kirtland. The temple was being restored, but it was still a work in progress.
“[T]he initiatives of the Lord ‘move in their times and their seasons,’ and … [Pathway] would take advantage of an emerging online capability at BYU-Idaho. It would also leverage the infrastructure of the institute program to enable local gathering and religious instruction across the world. Each of these pre-conditions were known to the Lord long before the creation of Pathway and were called upon in their needed time and season.” Clark Gilbert, Inaugural Response
As the saints worked to complete the Nauvoo temple in 1846, they knew they would soon be called to leave behind their beautiful city and the temple on which they had labored so joyfully. But they would not be asked to leave empty handed. Having been called by Brigham Young to serve in the Nauvoo temple, Sarah Rich expressed the feelings of the recently endowed Saints when she wrote, “If it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark.”1
“Without prior notice, nearly 50 families were informed not only that they would be part of this new organization, but also that they would be asked to relocate their families to support its growth.… It is not by accident that BYU-Pathway Worldwide would grow out of BYU-Idaho, with its student focus and modest beginnings.” Clark Gilbert, Inaugural Response
The lessons learned in Kirtland and again in Nauvoo proved to be a great blessing as the saints moved west across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley where they built up many more temples to the Lord.
It was there in Utah where the bulk of the modern temple ceremony would be revealed to the apostle Wilford Woodruff while serving as the St. George temple president. There he watched firsthand as members participated in the temple ordinances, and as he did, received revelation upon revelation for what the Lord would have in the presentation of His endowment.2
“Constructing a temple of the Lord requires that we keep Christ at the center and build according to His plans. We must preserve that vision, so we don’t get lost or give up when things get difficult. We can grow in confidence as our temple structure begins to take form. But even then, we remember it is not our temple alone, but a temple of the Lord. We must stay close to the plans He has given and seek direction from those He has asked to watch over its construction.” Clark Gilbert, Inaugural Response
Temples of Learning
Just as the saints and the Church received expanded instruction for the temple in their needed time and season, so too is BYU-Pathway Worldwide embarking on a journey of revelation, line upon line, in seeking how to provide access to higher education for students to build up their own temples of learning. As the new temple begins to emerge, students and employees at BYU-Pathway can recognize the progress as they align their growth with the plans the Lord has created.
President Nelson’s Charge
Just as the gospel and temple ordinances transform us, so too do our temples of learning as we center our lives and education with His will. In highlighting this transformative power, President Russell M. Nelson shared the experiences of three individual students whose lives were transformed through PathwayConnect while emphasizing the importance of gathering and daily scripture study.
“This very act of gathering in institutes and Church buildings dedicated to the Lord … allows the Holy Ghost to testify of all truth more easily.… As students prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day, ‘they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual.’ It is no wonder so many PathwayConnect students have seen such transformative changes in their lives.” Russell M. Nelson, Inaugural Remarks
In a call to undertake this deep transformation for themselves, President Nelson also encouraged members of the Church around the world to seek learning in their lives.
“I encourage each person, regardless of age, to continue to learn. Pursue whatever path will be most valuable to you and your family. You will be blessed as you do this. You will grow academically, professionally, and spiritually as you seek to enhance your education.” Russell M. Nelson, Inaugural Remarks
Responses to the Inauguration:
This conversion and drive to learn was evident as students from around the world welcomed Clark Gilbert as the first president of BYU-Pathway in a video presented during the inauguration. In a simple and heartfelt way, the students reflected on the principles and lessons learned, which they had built into their own temples of learning. In the video, Merry McGuire, a BYU-Idaho online student from Mesa, Arizona, shared her initial surprise at the prevalence of the Spirit in her coursework: “I never knew that the Spirit could be so present in learning, and that’s what I appreciate about BYU-Pathway the most is that the Spirit is there in every subject that I’ve learned.”
As he watched the video of students sharing their experiences in welcoming President Gilbert, PathwayConnect curriculum director, Bryan Pope, reflected back over all that the Lord has done to make education available to Church members locally: “When the students gave their welcome to President Gilbert, I felt how PathwayConnect had affected their lives, and I could not restrain the tears. I left the inauguration in awe having witnessed God doing his work and in complete joy that I get to be part of it.”
In an effort for even more individuals to be part of the inauguration, the event was streamed live to hundreds of PathwayConnect gathering locations for students across the world. Terry Barclay, a PathwayConnect student from Hartford, Connecticut, found strength and reassurance in President Gilbert’s inaugural response: “When President Gilbert spoke about building disciples of Jesus Christ, I thought of how we learn the gospel in our meetinghouses, but in PathwayConnect we learn how to really study the scriptures. My Heavenly Father has brought me here to get the teaching and education I need to be more self-reliant, to learn to teach, lead, and become the disciple that our Heavenly Father wants me to be.”
Tracey Prescott, a PathwayConnect student from Tongatapu, Tonga, shared her gratitude for BYU-Pathway as she reflected on President Nelson’s charge to pursue an education. “The call to action from President Nelson inspires me. I know that as we turn to Heavenly Father and trust Him fully, we will be able to accomplish our goals in life — even the ultimate goal of returning back to Heavenly Father with our families.”
Both the temple and education work in concert to build students’ confidence and lead to the path of salvation. While BYU-Pathway Worldwide may not share a physical campus and a temple on a hill, the temples of learning it establishes throughout the world in the hearts and homes of its students will build on the legacy of the early saints and the heritage of BYU-Idaho as it seeks the Lord’s will in moving this work forward.
“I promise you that as you lean unto the Lord and seek the Holy Ghost in your life, you will be blessed in ways you can’t imagine.… We will seek ongoing guidance and counsel as this new temple of learning continues to take shape.… May we realize we are building temples of learning in our own lives and in the kingdom. I share my testimony and my love for the Savior Jesus Christ. I know this is His work. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” Clark Gilbert, Inaugural Response
Learn more about BYU-Pathway Worldwide at byupathway.lds.org.
^ Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, “Autobiography, 1814–93,” Church History Library, 66; quoted by Richard G. Scott, Conference Report, Apr. 2009, 42.
^ Jennifer Ann Mackley, Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine, May 2014.