On one of the biggest sports days of the year, students stream through the Marriott Center doors and cascade down the stairs to their seats. An energetic crowd of more than 10,000 fills the arena with a friendly hum. Two time zones away the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears fight for football’s biggest title in Superbowl XLI, but in BYU’s athletic arena, the student audience listens intently to an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Standing at a podium on the Marriott Center playing floor, Elder David A. Bednar (BA ’76) speaks to BYU students about seeking living water.
It’s fast Sunday at BYU, and the Marriott Center has been transformed from basketball court (on which the BYU men’s team defeated No. 25 UNLV less than 24 hours earlier) into fireside venue. Other buildings across campus have undergone a similar metamorphosis. Science lecture halls, displaying giant periodic tables, have hosted sacrament meetings. Professors’ offices have sheltered ecclesiastical interviews. The Skyroom Restaurant has become a Sunday School classroom.
On a day when most colleges enjoy a welcome rest, BYU’s campus becomes one of the busiest and largest centers of worship in the world. About 160 wards meet at BYU (plus scores more in local meetinghouses), accommodating church services for some 24,000 people. Hymnals, sacrament trays, and pianos come out of closets. Professors, deans, and community leaders become bishops, stake presidents, and high councilors. Surrounded by reminders of their academic work, BYU students study the gospel instead of economics, they lead quorums instead of study groups, they share testimonies instead of opposing views.
But the endeavor is not all that different, really. As they do five days a week in these buildings, students become educated. They seek learning, and they do it by study and by faith, by instruction and practice. The surroundings are the same, the effort is consistent, the people are familiar. Day in and day out, Sundays as well as Mondays, BYU’s purpose to educate minds as well as spirits remains unchanged.