Brigham Young University
A House of Faith
by Gary James Bergera and Ronald Priddis
The title for this book, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith, was suggested by BYU president Dallin H. Oaks’s 1977 pre-school faculty workshop address, “A House of Faith.” Oaks took the title of his speech from the church’s third canon of scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, verse 119, which reads: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” In Oaks’s address, he explained that the first Mormon temple was intended as a place of classroom instruction for priesthood holders preparing for the ministry, not just as a place of ritual. Although the School of the Prophets, which met in the Kirtland Temple during the 1830s, lasted only a few years, it represented the church’s first attempt to provide leaders with elementary instruction in theology, history, geography, English grammar, penmanship, arithmetic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
While the idea of providing secular instruction in temples has since been abandoned and the need for studying languages before assuming leadership of a Mormon congregation is no longer apparent, Mormons, perhaps today more than ever, remain generally impressed by the theoretical juxtaposition of faith and learning. Although secular education tends to be deemphasized in contemporary Mormon worship services, the promotion of faith is actively encouraged in Mormon-operated schools, particularly at Brigham Young University, which one ranking church leader termed a “showcase for Mormonism.” For Oaks and other school officials, Brigham Young University will “achieve [its] prophetic destiny as ‘the fully anointed university of the Lord'” only by “understand[ing] its role in the Kingdom of God” and by encouraging students and faculty to be “worthy in our individual lives,” “fearless in proclaiming the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” “exemplary in efforts understandable to the world,” and in “seek[ing] and heed[ing] the inspiration of God in the performance of our individual responsibilities.”
Gary James Bergera graduated from Brigham Young University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and again in 1982 with a master’s degree in public administration. He is the author of several articles appearing in the Utah Historical Quarterly, Dialogue, and Sunstone magazine and received a Best Article award from the Mormon History Association in 1980.