President Kim B. Clark
President of BYU-Idaho
Kim B. Clark became the 15th president of Brigham Young University-Idaho in August 2005. From April 2007 through April 2014, he served as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Clark was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised in Spokane, Washington. After serving as a missionary for the Church in Germany, he married his wife, Sue, in 1971. President Clark earned bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in economics from Harvard University.
In 1978 Kim Clark became a member of the faculty at the Harvard Business School, and in 1995 he became dean of the school. He served in that capacity until his departure to become the president of BYU-Idaho.
President and Sister Clark are the parents of 7 children and the grandparents of 22 grandchildren.
I am grateful to be with you on another great day at BYU-Idaho. It is always a privilege and a blessing to speak to you.
When I was a little boy, my mother sent me off to school with words I will never forget. She looked me in the eye and with love and firmness said to me: "You remember who you are." My mother's words carried two messages for me. The first was about my identity. When I walked out that door, she wanted me to remember my heritage as a child of God and that I represented our family and the hopes and dreams of generations of faithful grandparents who had sacrificed so much to give me the great blessings I enjoyed.
The second was about my purpose. She wanted me to remember that I had important work to do here on earth, and I needed to prepare to do it. My mother let me know in no uncertain terms that she expected me to be a good boy and do my very best.
I want to talk to you today about your identity and your purpose in God's eternal plan. Each of you has a special place in Heavenly Father's plan of salvation. He knows you perfectly. He knows your past, and He knows your future. He knows everything about your experiences in the pre-mortal realm, in your mortal life thus far, and in what lies ahead of you in mortality and in the eternities. And He loves you. He has prepared for you a divine plan that confers upon you an eternal identity and purpose that truly qualify as supernal.
I will speak first about identity and then about purpose. I will then close with some thoughts on the way your eternal identity and purpose may give you perspective, strength, guidance, and hope as you face the critical decisions you must make and the actions you must take in your lives right now, even this very day.
The effects of identity on what we do and how we relate to others are important and powerful. When we think of identity, we usually think about things like personal and family background, activities, interests, talents, occupations, and roles in organizations we belong to.
These aspects of identity help other people locate us in their experience and establish connections and relationships with us. Identity also influences how we see ourselves, and it affects our feelings of connection and community and the duties and obligations we embrace.
As important as these dimensions of identity are, however, they are not who we really are.
As Elder David A. Bednar has taught:
You may enjoy music, athletics, or be mechanically inclined, and someday you may work in a trade or a profession or in the arts. As important as such activities and occupations can be, they do not define who we are. First and foremost, we are spiritual beings. We are sons [and daughters] of God and the seed of Abraham.1
Our true, eternal identity begins with our heritage as spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents. That divine origin gives to God's sons and daughters a divine nature and destiny. He endows us with the capacity to become like Him and to enjoy eternal life, the life that He enjoys. This is the most fundamental dimension of one's true, eternal identity. It has profound consequences for every one of us and for every aspect of our lives. Additional dimensions of eternal identity flow from the Father's great plan of salvation for His children and the redeeming work of Christ in that plan.
In the Father's plan, His spirit children are born into a mortal family with lineage and ancestors, receive a physical body, learn of the gospel of Jesus Christ, act with faith in Christ through the trials of mortal life to repent of their sins, and receive the ordinances and covenants of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. They "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ"2 and endure to the end, which includes making and keeping the sacred covenants of the temple. That is the plan.
The sacred ordinances of the temple confer upon God's spirit children new dimensions of eternal identity. Though subject to temptation and the weakness of the natural man, God's faithful sons and daughters choose to become holy men and women through the power of the Atonement and the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. They are spiritually born of Christ and become new creatures, His sons and daughters. As Paul taught, they become identified with Christ--they take on themselves His name, become His true followers and trusted servants. They become His.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.3
True followers of Christ are called the seed or the children of Abraham. This identification reflects the special place of Abraham in the plan of salvation. Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught:
The covenant God made with Abraham and later reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance. It contained several promises, including:
- Abraham's posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase, and also entitled to bear the priesthood.
- All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.4
Abraham is linked to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord reaffirmed the Abrahamic covenant in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the temple we receive our ultimate blessings, as the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.5
Our spiritual heritage and the ordinances of salvation confer upon us at least three dimensions of eternal identity. 1) Children of God: we are spirit sons and daughters of God, born into mortal families with a divine nature and destiny. 2) Seed of Abraham: we are heirs to the promises of Abraham, true followers of Christ, His trusted servants with His name upon us. 3) Fathers and mothers in an eternal family: we are husbands and wives, sealed forever in celestial marriage with all the promised blessings of exaltation, eternal life, and an eternal family that God promised to Abraham.
Each of these dimensions of identity carries with it eternal purpose. Let's consider each one in turn.
Dimension #1: Children of God
This is the most fundamental of the dimensions of eternal identity. It carries with it an overarching purpose: to become like our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ and to qualify for exaltation and eternal life with Them. Our experience here is a test, a trial of our faith in Jesus Christ "to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]"6 amidst the temptations, trials, and challenges of mortal life. Through the redeeming and strengthening power of the Atonement of Christ, we may overcome the natural man, grow in knowledge and understanding, serve and obey, experience joy and happiness, and become more and more like the Savior. In the words of King Benjamin, we seek to:
. . . be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal [us] his, that [we] may be brought to heaven, that [we] may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.7
This is our eternal purpose: to become holy men and women in Christ.
Dimension #2: Seed of Abraham
God promised Abraham that his seed would take the gospel of Jesus Christ and the holy priesthood, including the ordinances of salvation, unto all nations to bless all the families of the earth.
. . . thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
. . . and in thy seed . . . shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.8
The Lord has scattered the children of Abraham "upon all the face of the earth among all nations,"9 and He has promised that "all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in . . . from the four quarters of the earth."10 The scattering of branches or remnants of the house of Israel has already blessed the nations of the earth. Think, for example, of the impact of Lehi's family and their records as well as the many branches like them whose records are yet to come forth. But the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant and the gathering of scattered Israel is a latter-day work. It is in our days that "the remnants of the house of Israel, should . . . come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer."11
The gathering of scattered Israel is a gathering unto Christ, to His holy temple, and to the stakes of Zion to build up the kingdom of God and establish Zion. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ launched this great latter-day work. It is done by the authorized servants of Christ all across the earth in homes, in neighborhoods, in cities, in nations, in holy temples, and on the other side of the veil.
This is our eternal purpose: to do the Lord's work as His trusted servants.
Dimension #3: Fathers and Mothers in an Eternal Family
When a man and a woman enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in the holy temple, the sealing power of God creates the bonds of a celestial marriage and the basis for an eternal family. The new couple promises to cleave unto one another and none else and to become one in Christ with their hearts knit together in unity and love.
A husband and wife who make and keep the covenant of celestial marriage are prepared to bring children into the world in accordance with God's eternal plan. Their children will be born in the covenant and reared in light and truth. They will grow up in an eternal family founded on the teachings of Christ. They will be guided, protected, and nurtured by a mother and a father who bring the blessings, power, and authority of the holy priesthood into their home and family. The children will feel the Savior's love for them. They will see His light and His power because His love, His light, and His power are in their parents.
Moreover, the hearts of the children raised in such a family will turn to their fathers and mothers. They and their parents will seek out the stories of their departed ancestors and will make sure that the ordinances of salvation are done for them. The Spirit of Elijah will be in that family. Thus, the mortal family into which the children will be born becomes an extended eternal family sealed forever across the generations.
This is our eternal purpose: to create a celestial marriage and an eternal family.
Impressions about Identity and Purpose
We have discussed identity and purpose in God's eternal plan. His plan is truly glorious and powerful. I have reflected on our Father's plan often in the last few months, and I have thought much and prayed much about you. I want to share with you some impressions I have had about you and your eternal identity and purpose.
The dimensions of eternal identity we have discussed apply to all of God's faithful sons and daughters. You might think that means you are all destined to become the very same. But that is not true. God infuses your personality and the special gifts and talents He has given you into your eternal identity. You are all the seed of Abraham, for example, but with the Lord's help you become uniquely qualified to carry out the very specific work of salvation He will give you to do. You truly are a unique, special instrument in His hands.
Your eternal identity has been a part of you for a long, long time. As a spirit son or daughter of God, you learned all about the Father's plan and its implications for you in the pre-mortal realm. You accepted the plan and participated in the great War in Heaven. Because of your faith in Christ and your valiance in the testimony of Christ, you were foreordained to be the seed of Abraham in mortality and receive the blessings, power, and authority of the priesthood in your life. You were prepared in the pre-mortal realm to be a trusted servant of the Lord and a mother or father in an eternal family in the earth's latter days.
However, in mortality you have to choose your eternal identity. You have to act with faith in Jesus Christ to become holy men and women with your whole soul. You made that choice in the pre-mortal realm in the spirit, but now you have to make that choice with your eternal spirit clothed in a mortal body. You have to choose to be a faithful, trusted servant of the Lord. You have to choose to be sealed in the holy temple, and you have to choose to keep those sacred covenants. You have to become your eternal identity. It is not like a checklist that you work through. Your true, eternal identity is something you choose to become through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.
You may wonder if God has an identity and purpose like this for you. You may feel that being a holy and trusted servant or being sealed to a beloved companion and having children may be out of your reach. When you look in the mirror, you may not see what I have described today. If that is the way you feel, I want you to take another look. Look into the mirror with the eye of faith and see in the mirror not only your face but also the face of the Lord Jesus Christ standing beside you with power and glory and never-ending, perfect love. He did not come to leave you out of His blessings. You are who you are because of who He is. You have eternal identity and purpose because Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer.
Even if these blessings of identity and purpose seem distant, they are not any less real. In God's eternal plan, there is an eternal companion for every one of you, if you are faithful. You may not know yet who that person is. It may be some time before you meet that person, but your beloved companion is a real person who will one day be sealed to you forever. And every one of you has children that will bless your life. You may not yet know who they all are, but they are real people living in the pre-mortal realm preparing to come into your family. You are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers in God's eternal plan. That is who you really are.
The Power of Identity and Purpose
A knowledge and testimony of your eternal identity and purpose can be a source of great power and guidance in your life. Let me give you a little example of that power from an experience that I had with Sue not long ago. We were driving together, and I saw ahead a little red sports car with the top down. Immediately my mind was drawn back to days long, long ago when a high school friend of mine and I drove the twisting, turning back roads between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Lake. I said to Sue, "Don't you think it would be really fun to have a little red sports car like that?" She looked at me in shock and said, "That is not who you are!" (Sue knows me really well. Her reaction had nothing to do with the car, but everything to do with my heart.)
Now, you may not have a Sue sitting next to you all the time; but you do have the Holy Ghost, and you can have a sure witness of your eternal identity and purpose. Each of us carries around with us an image of who we are and who we want to be. That image has a powerful influence on our attitudes and our actions. Your eternal identity can be that image.
I am going to share with you the experience of a young man I will call Luke whose eternal identity and purpose helped him overcome one of the most difficult and pernicious challenges we face.12 I speak of the deadly threat of pornography. For many years the prophets have warned us about the terrible consequences that follow the use of pornography: marriages and families destroyed, loved ones wounded, the soul chained by addiction, the power of the priesthood lost, and spiritual death.
Luke foolishly ignored the teachings of the prophets and got involved with pornography. Pornography became like a drug he took to satisfy his appetites and relieve his pain.
Through sheer grit and determination and with the support of his bishop, Luke served a mission. But after his return he slipped back into using pornography. One day a young woman he had been dating asked him, "How do you deal with pornography?" In that moment he made a decision to be honest with her. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done. He told her about his past, about how he had overcome pornography, and about his mission. He told her about what had happened to him since his mission and confessed to her that he needed help. She encouraged him to see the bishop and told him that if he did she would support him.
Luke met with the bishop. The bishop helped Luke see that sheer grit was not a permanent solution. Luke faced a ruthless and relentless adversary, and he needed the redeeming and strengthening power of Christ to be completely free of the trap he was in. The bishop encouraged him, but Luke continued to struggle. He would do fine for a while, but would then fall back into his old pattern.
One evening the bishop was meeting with Luke when he received an impression to ask Luke a question. He said: "Luke, what is it about the gospel that you don't understand? What principle or doctrine are you missing? I want you to go home and find that doctrine. Study the scriptures, pray about it, and come and see me."
Luke followed through on the assignment for a few weeks without any success. In fact, he grew even more discouraged. But the bishop asked him to keep searching. One Sunday afternoon Luke walked into the bishop's office smiling. The bishop thought he looked like a new person. Where there had been pain and discouragement, the bishop saw light and hope.
This is what Luke said: "Bishop, I found the doctrine. Wednesday night I was praying for help. As I prayed, a stream of thoughts came into my mind: Your children are preparing to come to earth; you are their father, and you need to be worthy to take their mother to the holy temple and create their eternal family. Bishop, it was almost as if I saw them watching me, hoping I would win this battle. As soon as I had those feelings, the thought of using pornography became abhorrent to me."
Luke still had hard things to overcome. But that understanding of his identity and his purpose gave him a powerful bulwark against the wiles of the devil. He realized that Satan had been trying to steal his identity and get him to think that the guy who used pornography was the real Luke. But through the blessings of the Lord, Luke saw through Satan's lies. He said to the bishop, "That is not who I am."
Luke turned more powerfully and completely to the Savior. He became far more aware of the subtle ways Satan tried to lure him into the path of pornography. Over time the Lord healed Luke and he escaped completely from the trap of addiction. He experienced this marvelous promise of the Lord given through the prophet Isaiah:
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.13
If you seek to understand and live up to your eternal identity, it will grow in your mind and in your heart. When you face decisions or are tempted to do something that is wrong, when you face adversity and challenges, or when you are blessed with prosperity, the Holy Spirit will remind you who you are and will help you see your true identity and purpose with an eternal perspective. If you are tempted to walk down a wrong path, you, too, will hear that sweet angel voice say to you: "That is not who you are!"
I close with this promise: a spiritual understanding and witness of your eternal identity and purpose will encourage you and give you hope. It will help you see the powerful connection between your identity and the Savior Jesus Christ. It will help you feel the never failing love of the Father and His Son and the blessings of light, power, and joy that your Father in Heaven has prepared for you. With that identity and purpose firmly in your heart and mind, you will see yourself and your life the way the Lord does. You will see others, especially your children and your eternal companion, the way the Lord sees them.
Brothers and sisters, I pray that you will have spiritual vision; that you will make every decision, face every challenge, and take every action with faith in Jesus Christ fully conscious that you are on His errand, serving in His holy work, following the Father's glorious plan every day of your life.
I bear witness of Jesus Christ, of His love and mercy and grace. He died and suffered so that each of us could realize in its fullness our true, eternal identity and purpose now and forever. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 David A. Bednar, "Becoming a Missionary," Ensign, November 20052 2 Nephi 31:203 Galatians 3:264 Russell M. Nelson, "Covenants," Ensign, November 20115 Russell M. Nelson, "The Gathering of Scattered Israel," Ensign, October 20066 Abraham 3:257 Mosiah 5:158 Abraham 2:9, 11. See also: Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:189 1Nephi 22:3; see also Deuteronomy 28:6410 1 Nephi 19:1611 1 Nephi 10:1412 This account is based on a true story but names and certain aspects of the situation have been changed.13 Isaiah 35:4