February, 8, 2017

BYU: A Unique Education

By Annilyn Spjut

In the gallery, we tell the story of Principal Maeser’s inspiration in laying out a vision for BYU. When Maeser was asked to start Brigham Young Academy, he wrote to Brigham Young asking for instructions. President Young responded, “I have only these. You should not teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God. That is all. God bless you. Good-bye.”[1] Wishing to expand upon those rather brief instructions, Principal Maeser sat down at his desk to brainstorm a vision for the school. After many fruitless hours, Maeser knelt in desperation and pleaded with the Lord for guidence. When he finished his prayer, he began to write; inspiration flowed through him as he penned a sort of charter for the Academy.

On a recent tour, after sharing Maeser’s experience, I said, “Maeser’s inspired notes established a unique vision of what a BYU education should be.” Then I asked, “What is it that makes a BYU education unique to you?” The members of the tour gave various answers–the ability to talk about spiritual matters in secular classes, the fabulous faculty, the privilege to live in a community with so many talented, righteous students, etc. Finally, one student said that as he had tried to decide where to attend college, he had visited many different colleges, and he had been particularly struck by the unique spirit he felt on BYU campus.

This answer resonated with me. I spent my growing up years arguing with my father about where I would attend college. When we would visit my grandparents in Utah, we would often visit BYU, and my dad would loudly proclaim that one day I would attend this university. I protested. Growing up around the gorgeous collegiate architecture out East, I was convinced that BYU was the ugliest college I’d ever been to and that nothing could induce me to attend this university.

But as the time for decision drew near, I toured various campuses. Each time I felt that despite the incredible architecture, something wasn’t quite right. Finally, I agreed to go on what my dad referred to as “the brainwashing trip” out to BYU. I found that, while the architecture still paled in comparison to many of the campuses that I had visited, there was a special spirit at BYU. I was impressed by the students I met and interacted with. I loved the classes I visited. Before I left to fly home, I knelt in prayer and received a confirmation that I should apply to BYU.

That decision changed the course of my life. BYU offers a truly unique educational experience. Just as President Young counselled Principal Maeser, BYU seeks to educate not only the mind, but also the spirit. Principal Maeser’s direction in still felt as students at this university have the opportunity to grown not only in their respective fields of endeavor, but to strengthen their character as well. As I begin my last semester at BYU, I look back on the many blessings my BYU education has brought into my life–wonderful friends, tremendous classes, testimony building experiences, fabulous internships, opportunities to serve, and caring mentors. I am eternally grateful for the unique privilege of attending this fine institution.

I hope all those who have been blessed by this incredible university will consider,”What has made your experience at BYU unique? And how can you use the unique spirit and blessings of a BYU education to bless the lives of those around you?”