BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

BYU creates Office of Belonging, gets message from Apostle

Aug 24, 2021, 9:00 AM | Updated: 9:02 am
FILE --  Grad student creates 3D campus for master's project. 
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News...
FILE -- Grad student creates 3D campus for master's project. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO, Utah — BYU President Kevin J Worthen announced on Monday that the school would be creating a new Office of Belonging that will be led by a new vice-president level administrator.

This new office comes six months after a recommendation from the BYU Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging  (CoREB) listed it as one of their suggestions to root out racism and address the needs of marginalized groups on campus.

BYU Office of Belonging

The new administrator that will head the Office of Belonging will join Worthen’s President’s Council, which he said “carefully and thoroughly” considered the report from CoREB. 

“We determined that a necessary first step was to establish a framework within which — and by which — we would evaluate the various recommendations,” Worthen said. “The framework would not only provide guiding principles for evaluating the recommendations and measuring our progress, but also set forth a vision of our end goal — what we hoped our campus community would become.”

That vision was shared in a statement of belonging he said would play a part in the efforts BYU will make to root out racism and combat “prejudice of any kind, including that based on race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religious belief and sexual orientation.”

THE STATEMENT ON BELONGING

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 a community of belonging composed of students, faculty, and staff whose hearts are knit together in love (Mosiah 18:21) where:

  • All relationships reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor (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 richness and strength they bring to our community (1 Corinthians 12:12–27);
  • Our interactions create and support an environment of belonging (Ephesians 2:19); and
  • The full realization of each student’s divine potential is our central focus (BYU Mission Statement).

A message from Elder Holland on belonging at BYU

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to BYU faculty and staff at the BYU Annual University Conference in Provo on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Following President Worthen’s remarks announcing the Office of Belonging, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints’ Quorum of Twelve Apostles and former BYU president, spoke of the school’s unique mission and responsibility as an institution sponsored by the church.

Elder Holland repeated words he shared 41 years ago as the university’s president. 

“I said then and I say now that if we are an extension of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taking a significant amount of sacred tithes and other precious human resources, all of which might well be expended in other worthy causes, surely our integrity demands that our lives be absolutely consistent with and characteristic of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“I will go to my grave pleading that this institution not only stands but stands unquestionably committed to its unique academic mission and to the church that sponsors it,” he continued later in his talk. “We hope it isn’t a surprise to you that your trustees are not deaf or blind to the feelings that swirl around marriage and the whole same-sex topic on campus. I and many of my brethren have spent more time and shed more tears on this subject than we could ever adequately convey to you this morning or any morning.

“We have spent hours discussing what the doctrine of the church can and cannot provide the individuals and families struggling over this difficult issue. So, it is with a little scar tissue of our own that we are trying to avoid — and hope all will try to avoid — language, symbols and situations that are more divisive than unifying at the time we want to show love for all of God’s children.” 

“Let me go no farther before declaring unequivocally my love and that of my Brethren for those who live with this same-sex challenge and so much complexity that goes with it,” he said.

“Too often the world has been unkind, in many instances crushingly cruel, to these our brothers and sisters. Like many of you, we have spent hours with them, and wept and prayed and wept again in an effort to offer love and hope while keeping the gospel strong and the obedience to commandments evident in every individual life.

“But it will assist everyone in providing such help if things can be kept in some proportion and balance in the process. For example, we have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people.

“As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, “Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.” We are tasked with trying to strike that same sensitive, demanding balance in our lives.”

He finished with a plea to all: “Please. From one who owes so much to this school and has loved her so deeply for so long, keep her not only standing but standing for what she uniquely and prophetically was meant to be.”

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BYU creates Office of Belonging, gets message from Apostle