BYU professor teaches students how to reach ‘heavenly finish line’

BYU Marriott School of Business professor Brad Owens discussed how students can remain on desirable covenant paths by clinging to Jesus Christ during his talk on Tuesday, June 11 at the Marriott Center.

Owens said that as a business ethics professor, he met individually with students to help them make important life decisions. He discussed the “decade of decisions” described by Elder Robert D. Hales, during which the choices a person makes as a young adult can have a profound impact on the subsequent decades of his or her life.

“I’ve learned that some students feel like life isn’t going the way they expected, that it was a lot harder than they expected,” he said. “Some feel that the pace of life is much too fast and they can’t keep up, some have questions they can’t answer right now, others feel frustrated because they have waited much longer than they expected for their righteous desires to be fulfilled.”

Owens then told the story of Cliff Young and related it to the principles taught in his speech.

Owens said Young was a 61-year-old farmer who had registered to run an 500-mile ultramarathon, competing against well-known ultramarathon runners. Not only did he win the race, but he also broke the previous ultramarathon record by two days.

Young struggled on the first day of the race, but instead of giving up, he continued to push forward, Owens said.

“In a very real way, our lives are like an ultramarathon that tests the limits of our spiritual endurance,” Owens said. “This mortal experience, which has been carefully designed as part of the plan of our loving Heavenly Father, is designed to help us grow as disciples of His Son and reach our full potential.”

Owens said students may have doubters in their lives who can lead them to believe they can’t make it in life like other people, the enemy and themselves. He reminded the students that they are children of God and have made positive choices that have led them to where they are today.

“No matter what current challenges or flaws you may imagine, you can silence the sources of doubt, do something, and become more than you can imagine,” Owens said. “The key for all of us is total submission to the Savior.”

Owens summarized the main ideas of the rest of his speech into the acronym RACE: “repent and adjust regularly,” “anticipate and accept adversity,” “hold fast to Christ and the covenants,” and “endure to the end.”

On Tuesday, June 11, BYU business professor Brad Owens will deliver the keynote address at the Marriott Center. Throughout his speech, he compared staying on the covenant path to entering a race. (Emily May)

Repent and improve yourself regularly

Owens discussed that students can sometimes stray from the covenant path, much like runners in a race. He said students need to make sure the direction they are taking is consistent with their desired goal.

“Frequent course corrections are necessary because life can be a distracting, confusing and off-track experience,” Owens said.

Owens quoted President Nelson who emphasized daily repentance, stating that it can be liberating and provide peace of mind.

“Adopting a role of joyful repentance and constant alignment with the covenant path will help us run patiently the race set before us,” Owens said.

Anticipate and accept adversity

Owens told how he visited a prison and asked inmates, “If I could take you with me to an ethics class and if I shared with you the most important lesson you’ve learned on your life’s journey, what would it be?”

Owens said the unifying factor in these prisoners’ stories was that they were not adequately prepared for the adversity they faced.

Owens talked about an assignment in a social development class he took as an undergraduate student at BYU that opened his eyes to how he could face adversity in his life.

“The instructor emphasized that while we cannot know in advance the specific challenges we will face, we know that each of us will experience significant forms of adversity in our lives,” Owens said. “We can prepare now by accepting this reality, working to build positive coping mechanisms and resilience, and focusing our hearts on the eternal things that do not change.”

Owens then recommended that one way to “think about heaven” is to replace expectations about the future with hopes.

“They say ‘expectations are planned resentment,’ but hopes bring with them a sense of future-oriented gratitude,” Owens said. “While hopes focus on God and eternal promises, expectations are based on people and circumstances. While hopes are tied to eternal identity, expectations are tied to mortal roles or identities.”

Cling to Christ and the covenants

Owens said that Christ managed to lead people throughout mortality.

“In ways we don’t fully understand, through the Atonement process the Savior generated an infinite supply of spiritual power,” Owens said. “The covenant path is filled with this power to a degree and intensity found nowhere else.”

Owens shared how he felt when he began his doctoral studies two decades ago. He felt the need to spend more time with the Lord, so he decided to attend the temple more often. He noticed that he felt more peace and experienced more blessings in his life.

“Despite my slow start in the program, I completed it one year ahead of the rest of my class, and I know I could not have done it without the additional strength that comes from Christ and the temple covenants,” Owens said. “Clinging to Christ and the covenants, especially by seeking Him in His holy house, will help us run patiently the race set before us.”

Persevere until the end

Owens urged students to never give up. Continued spiritual progress throughout mortality comes from simple steps, including prayer, scripture study, repentance, service, and living out covenants.

“When we put all these stages together, our strength and momentum will really start to grow and we will start to love the race,” Owens said. “We are gaining more and more clarity and even certainty that, thanks to Christ, we will be able to reach the heavenly goal.”

Owens concluded his talk by reminding the students that no matter what trials or difficulties they face in life, they can endure to the end because of Jesus Christ.