ASU President Challenges BYU–Idaho Students to “Improve What You’ve Been Given”

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 31 May 2017

President Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, became the first non-LDS speaker at a BYU–Idaho devotional on May 23. Photo by Michael Lewis.

Article Highlights

  • We are all born with divine potential.
  • Our capacity to learn is a priceless gift.
  • By improving what we’ve been given, we can make the world more beautiful.

“Your brain is in fact absolutely, unequivocally, in every possible way unique. There never has been a brain like yours before, [and] there never will be a brain like yours again.” —Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University

“Every person is divine in origin, nature, and—most importantly this last word—potential,” Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow told Brigham Young University–Idaho students during a campus devotional on May 23.

“Let me say … that it’s an honor to be here at BYU–Idaho to have an opportunity to be with so many Latter-day Saints in one room,” President Crow said. “In the last 15 years of living in Arizona, I have come to admire the LDS community immensely for their strength of faith, their projection of goodness, their engagement in civic duty and civic responsibility, their building up of the community, and also for the fact that this faith sees all people as children of God.”

Reaching our divine potential

President Crow became the first non-Mormon to give a devotional address in the school’s history. Prior to the campus devotional, he met with BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring and BYU–Pathway Worldwide President Clark G. Gilbert to solidify a new partnership in education (see related story).

His message to students drew upon two questions: first, “What is the most complex object in the universe?” and second, “What are you going to do with it, since it lives with you?”

“The reason for focusing on the most complex object … builds around this idea that each of you … have unlimited potential by the gift that you have been given,” he said.

Drawing from the words of past LDS prophets and apostles, President Crow invited listeners to recognize their God-given potential and to use that knowledge to improve.

“This principle of improvement is something that has been … a driving force for me in all my life as a teacher, as a professor, as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, as a leader in Boy Scouts, in different things I did along the way,” he said. “This notion of potential … has just been this unbelievable, unbelievably important thing for me.”

Recognizing impediments that get in the way of a person living up to their divine potential, President Crow warned listeners of constantly underestimating themselves, seeing themselves as someone inferior, or comparing themselves with others. He also warned against “purposefully being ignorant” by being unwilling to take everything a person has been given and say a person “can’t learn something.”

“I never understood how people would argue that they couldn’t learn something. … It turns out that because of the gift that you have been given, … the most complicated object in the known universe, it turns out … a human being, in the right circumstance, can learn anything,” he said.

Limitless capability for improvement

President Crow spoke of the “ultimate quantum information processing machine” that has no limits, that every single person has—a brain.

“Your brain is in fact absolutely, unequivocally, in every possible way unique,” he said. “There never has been a brain like yours before, there never will be a brain like yours again, and your brain is in fact the most complex object in the known universe; it is more complex than the universe itself.”

President Crow encouraged listeners to use their brain to learn, achieve, and discover.

“You have got to believe that you have it, that it is yours and you are responsible for what you do,” he said. “You are responsible for the engagement of your mind.”

He also encouraged listeners to engage in learning their entire lives—“learning about your faith, learning about God, learning about God’s creation, learning about who you are,” he said.

Learning sets a person on a path of uniqueness, a path that moves forward in a way that causes a person to go and be part of something, he said. President Crow encouraged listeners to continually improve their mind—their gift—to improve communities, families, nature, science, and understanding of all things.

“What are you going to do to improve what you’ve been given?” the ASU president asked.

It is through taking what a person has been given and improving upon it that individuals will be able to make the world more beautiful.

At the end of the devotional President Gilbert gave President Crow a gift—a framed copy of the ASU president’s family history.

BYU–Pathway Worldwide President Clark G. Gilbert, center, and BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring present ASU President Michael M. Crow with a framed family history chart after President Crow offered the campus devotional at BYU–Idaho. Photo by Michael Lewis.

From left, BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring, ASU President Michael M. Crow, and BYU–Pathway Worldwide President Clark G. Gilbert in the BYU–Idaho Center on May 23. Photo by Michael Lewis.