A visiting scholar of religion shares what he has learned on his journey with the Saints.
One sunny fall day, in the wonderful house where I live opposite the Marriott Center, I was praying and reading Doctrine and Covenants 136. The words made me weep with joy. At Winter Quarters, President Brigham Young wrote: “The Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West: Let all the people of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those who journey with them, be organized into companies (verses 1–2; emphasis added).
Those six short words—and those who journey with them—were like a fountain of truth and trust, and I sat knowing that this scripture was another testimony of Jesus Christ in this new world.
For me, traveling alongside this restored church has meant being a part of a fluid, happy, and repentant community. I am constantly delighted by the wonder of the invitation, not only to know ourselves as loved (“I am a child of God,” as you sing—that’s a dignity that nothing temporal can ever take away) but to continue becoming and building up one another in love, not being afraid to keep on growing.
In that growth, can we look at each other as the Lord looks upon us? He longs for us in love, but He does not leave us where we first begin. True friendship asks all sorts of questions—questions we do not yet know the answers to. My friends, I trust and love you, and I want to ask a lifetime of questions as I travel alongside you, bringing others—beautiful people from my own and other religious communities—along with me so that they can find and share something of the richness, the kindness, and the truthfulness that have overwhelmed me at BYU and in this church.
There is a real possibility of greater unity between our churches and between Pembroke College, Oxford, and BYU. This is the time, this is the place, because this is His time, this is His place. This is not just a series of theological, legal, humanitarian, and practical conferences and events—as good as those are—or regular visiting scholars. I am not proposing another piecemeal reformation but traveling together.
The problem with reformations is that they are human ideas. The shocking power of the revelation to Joseph Smith Jr. is that here was no great academic but an ordinary man who dared to ask God and who had the ears to listen to the answer of the Father and the Son, the boldness to invite others on that journey, and the courage to face even death for the glory of God and his brothers’ and sisters’ eternal welfare.
This is the time. This is the place. Journeying together helps our beautiful universities to build each other up in truth and love, not saying, in brittle tones, “This is all I am. Don’t ask me to change,” but saying, “Whoever I am, whoever you are, we are the Lord’s. Together let’s grow into the full stature of Christ.”
Oxford University chaplain, fellow, and theology lecturer Reverend Dr. Andrew Teal came to BYU as a visiting scholar in 2021 at the invitation of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (BS ’65, MA ’66).
This essay is excerpted and adapted from a BYU forum address given on Oct. 26, 2021. Access the entire address at speeches.byu.edu.