One month before Elder David Allan Bednar received his life-changing call, he addressed thousands of students on the campus of Brigham Young University–Idaho as president of the university. He suggested that BYU–Idaho is much like an MTC (Missionary Training Center), calling the school a “DPC”—a Disciple Preparation Center.
“In this special and sacred and set-apart place, you and I have access to unparalleled spiritual resources that can assist us in developing and deepening our devotion as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said (address delivered at BYU–Idaho devotional, 31 Aug. 2004).
Little did he know that in his past seven years of service as president of BYU–Idaho (formerly Ricks College) he was not only helping to prepare disciples but was being prepared to become one of twelve disciples called to serve as Apostles of the Lord.
Now Elder Bednar recognizes that he was being prepared and equipped to help build the kingdom of God. When he became the head of what was then Ricks College, he humbly said he didn’t know how to be a president of a college, but he did know how to teach—he had been a professor for 21 years. At the first devotional of the year he turned an auditorium filled with students into a huge classroom, asking the students to open their scriptures and to take notes.
Before coming to BYU–Idaho, Elder Bednar was a professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. There he served as director of the Management Decision-Making Lab from 1992 to 1997, associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Business Administration from 1987 to 1992, and assistant professor of management from 1980 to 1984. He also was an assistant professor at Texas Tech University from 1984 to 1986.
Elder Bednar distinguished himself as a talented teacher, winning the 1994 Burlington Northern Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching. He has authored articles that have appeared in scholarly journals and magazines and coauthored two books on organizational behavior, his field of study. In 1980 he received a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Purdue University. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1976 with a B.A. in communication and a year later with an M.A. in organizational communication.
When Elder Bednar moved away from Provo, he left with more than a degree. It was there that he met his future wife, Susan K. Robinson. She was at BYU studying to receive a degree in education, and they were in the same student ward. One Monday night their family home evening groups got together to play a game of flag football. Susan was on the receiving end of a long pass by Elder Bednar, who had been a quarterback for his high school team. He was very impressed by her catch, but he didn’t know that the pass reception was the only one she can remember ever catching (see “I’m a Teacher Who Is Now a College President,” Summit, 1997, 10). Still, there was a connection made, and the couple was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1975. They now have three sons and three grandchildren.
It was after the couple’s marriage, in the late 1970s, that Elder Bednar received a long-hoped-for phone call. It was his father asking him to come home to California to perform a baptism—his own.
Elder Bednar was born on 15 June 1952, in San Leandro, California, to Anthony George and Lavina Whitney Bednar. He is the youngest of three children by 15 years.
“I honestly believe that’s why I was born. Not to teach [my father], but to assist him in learning about the restored gospel,” Elder Bednar says.
His father was an honest, straightforward man. He attended church with young David all his life, coached the softball team, and took Scouts on trips. He supported Elder Bednar’s decision to serve a mission to Germany. He told his young son, “I’ll join this Church when I know it’s the right thing to do” (see Summit, 1997, 9–10).
The years since then have held many unforgettable moments, many from his experiences with Church callings. At age 30, Elder Bednar was called as a member of a stake presidency in Arkansas. He then served as a bishop, twice as a stake president, and later as a regional representative, Area Authority, and Area Authority Seventy.
On 1 October, President Gordon B. Hinckley extended an apostolic call to Elder Bednar, less than 24 hours before he was sustained by Church members throughout the world.
“I think I know better than anyone that within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there are literally hundreds and thousands of men better qualified, more able than I,” he says, “but I do know from whence the call has come. And so I’m honored to respond. I look forward to serving, and I’m anxious for the opportunity to be able to learn.”