Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
September 11, 2001
I have a special keepsake I often carry with me. It's a white handkerchief with a beautiful crocheted edge that was hand made by my Grandmother. This handkerchief not only stirs fond memories about my Grandma but also brings to mind the sweet associations I had with her in her house and the lessons I learned as she passed on a legacy of faith and commitment to gospel principles, as well as a love for Ricks College.
Let me tell you about my Grandma's house. Visualize in your mind a little, old, white house with a screened-in porch, green shutters, and a white picket fence that greets guests as they enter the front yard. Picture hollyhocks climbing up the side of the house and huge bushes loaded with yellow roses blooming in gardens that accent a lush, green lawn. I can still smell the fragrance of lilac trees that delineated her property from the neighbors. My stomach even aches when I think of eating sour green apples from the field near her home. This was my Grandma's house. Maybe you have memories of your Grandma's house too.
I loved going to visit my Grandma. The inside of this special house was modest. The living room was papered with old-timey wallpaper, set off by a flower-patterned carpet. Right off the living room was the "middle bedroom" where I loved to sleep. My Grandma had the softest bed in the world. The mattress would envelop you on both sides and coax you into a peaceful slumber. I remember the sound of her cuckoo clock as it ticked off the minutes and hours, the smell of homemade bread coming from her kitchen, and her loving touch as I would sit by her on the couch.
Grandma always had treats for us when we came to visit. Her freezer was full of orange sherbet "Dixie Cups" that we would eat with a flat wooden spoon, savoring every bite.
Her fridge was stocked with our favorite flavors of bottled soda pop. I even remember a pewter bowl that was filled with white candy mints with soft green spearmint centers. They were so yummy.
I'm sure many of you have similar memories of your Grandmother.
I learned lots of lessons from my Grandmother. She was always cheerful, even though she was a widow and lived by herself all of the time I knew her. She loved serving and helping others. Her house was always tidy inside and out. She didn't even get mad at me when I told her I had accidentally broken her bedroom window with a softball while I was playing "Annie I Over" with my cousins.
Grandma always encouraged me to practice the piano. In fact, one time she promised to give me ten dollars if I would practice my piano every day all summer. I must have been crazy to agree to that much practicing for that little pay, but I did it for Grandma. I remember how thrilled I was the day she gave me the ten dollar bill.
Grandma always spoke her mind. When I was about 15 years old I had gone shopping for a bathing suit in the city near where she lived. When I brought the suit to her home and put it on to model it for her, she looked at me and said with a scorn, "I never thought a granddaughter of mine would wear a two-piece bathing suit." Well, that was the first and last time I wore the suit. I returned the swimming suit to the store the next day.
My Grandmother passed away in 1972 while I was a student at BYU. The night of her funeral I remember lying in bed, reminiscing about Grandma with my cousin who was the same age. We had spent many hours together at Grandma's house and felt so blessed by the precious memories we had of her.
The last day I saw my Grandma's house was the day of her funeral. The house was sold after her death, and I didn't return to see her home until 25 years later. I had shared with our sons many memories about my Grandmother and her house--some of the things I have shared with you. You can imagine my disappointment when I drove past her home to show our boys this cute old house, only to find that the home wasn't anything like I had described to them. Time and lack of care and attention had taken their toll. Drab, brown paint was peeling from the exterior of the house; and it seemed to beg for repairs. Instead of a white picket fence, there was netted wire. Huge, tall weeds had replaced the beautiful rose bushes and flower gardens. The lush, green, well-manicured lawn had died; and the parched earth surrounding her home was strewn with trash, junk, and litter. What I had imagined would be there had vanished. All I had were the memories. With a pit in my stomach I remember wanting to pound on the door and say, "Don't you know that this is my Grandma's house?"
My Grandma's house has come to mind many times over the past 15 months as Ricks College has transitioned to Brigham Young University-Idaho and as we take on a new name and offer baccalaureate degrees. New employees and faculty have been hired, thousands of new and returning students have arrived, and I think we are all excited to be the new tenants of this house. But as we take occupancy, we must remember that to more than a hundred thousand alumni this institution has always been known as Ricks College. Students from the past have walked the halls of the buildings on this campus, have made eternal friendships, and, like at my Grandmother's house, have created lasting memories here. This is the place where Thomas E. Ricks dedicated a new academy in 1888 which was the forerunner to Ricks College. At the dedication he said the academy "was to give spirituality precedence over worldliness; the principles of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ were to be taught side by side with arithmetic, geography, [and] reading . . ." (The Spirit of Ricks, David L. Crowder, p. 3). This is the place where the first principal of the academy, Jacob Spori, gave money from his own pocket to pay the salaries of teachers when the school fell on hard times. This is the place where dedicated faculty and employees have given one-by-one attention to students and friendly smiles and "Hellos" have been exchanged. Here, on these grounds, tens of thousands of students have felt the Holy Ghost and learned important lessons about life. The memories of this institution are indelibly etched in the hearts of those who have attended and loved Ricks College. They have felt the "Spirit of Ricks" on this campus.
As the new guardians of this institution, will we have a sense of whose house this is? Will we come to know, understand, and perpetuate the legacy that is held so dear by so many? Will we recognize and let blossom our God-given potential and assume the obligation we have to succeed as we use the sacred tithes of the Church to further our education? Will the picket fence of friendly smiles and words of encouragement continue to greet students as they enter this campus, or will it be replaced with the uninviting wire netting of silent lips and cold stares? Will our hands reach out in service and sacrifice for others? Will we have enough personal integrity to obey the honor and dress codes that are so vital to preserving the spirit that is felt here, or will we carelessly allow the paint of these precious hallmark principles to slowly fade and peel off as time and lack of regard for the guidelines take their toll? Will we carefully maintain the righteous sociality that is so unique to this institution; or will we allow the trash of pornography and sleazy entertainment, the junk of immodesty, and the litter of self-absorption to clutter the vision of our mission? Will we continue to cultivate our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and qualify by our obedience for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, or will we trade the garden of spirituality for weeds of worldliness? Will we do our part to preserve and enhance the "Spirit of Ricks"; or when alumni come back to visit with their children and grandchildren will they disappointedly want to pound on the door and ask, "What have you done to Ricks College?"
I brought my Grandma's handkerchief with me today because it reminds me of an experience I had in her home the summer I turned seventeen and was deciding where to attend college. I still remember sitting in her living room as she asked me if I would consider living with her and attending Ricks College. She had always loved this institution since being a student here in 1910. And as an added incentive, Grandma said she would let me have her car. Well, if you had seen her car you wouldn't have considered that proposition to be any more of a drawing card than I did, and I chose to go elsewhere to school.
During the past four years as Elder Bednar has served as president of this institution, I've thought many times how pleased my Grandma is that I've had a Ricks College experience--though it has certainly come later in my life than she would have anticipated. I know that she would expect me to do what I can to help preserve and enhance the spirit on this campus.
As we celebrate the future, it is my prayer that we will be faithful and true to the legacy of the past. May we honor the testimony and sacrifice of those who have gone before by being our best self, by giving freely of our talents and service, and by living so the "Spirit of Ricks" will always be present on this campus. May those who return to BYU–Idaho in the years to come be pleased with how we have cared for this special house, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.