I have been given an expiration date—a “best if enjoyed by” date. So I want to talk about a few things I have learned throughout the years, given as thirteen principles.
Principle 1: The search for truth versus simply its defense
The film director Luis Buñuel used to say, “I would give my life for a man who is looking for the truth, but I would gladly kill a man who thinks he has found the truth.” This statement is quoted in Imaginary Homelands, a book by Salman Rushdie.
A valued belief of our university is that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). Also within the Mormon tradition it is said that “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). Too often, however, I feel our students interpret the spiritual dimension of their natures as a rubber-stamp defense of truth. They come to BYU to reaffirm what they already know to be true and fail to see that education, especially graduate education, is about what one does not know. We must be careful not to create cohorts of naïve braggarts who have simply reaffirmed for themselves that “yes, I already knew that.”
Research by Stan Albrecht, published in BYU Studies in the mid-1980s, showed that Mormons and Hassidic Jews are the only major religions in which increased education is accompanied by an increase in religiosity. We need our students to realize that they do not have all of the answers and that they therefore need to actively engage in the search for truth as a cornerstone of their education. They also need not fear the personal changes that may be required of them in their own lives, attitudes, perceptions, and so on once they discover some of these truths. Education is fundamentally about change.