By 1913, a new wave of financial problems was threatening the university’s future. BYU faced mounting debt. Faculty salaries were so low the teachers ran farms to survive, returning home to irrigate between classes. Its cornerstone laid in 1907, the Maeser Memorial Building sat silent and unfinished for years. Finally, it seemed, the only way to finance its completion was to divide the land on Temple Hill into housing lots and sell them. A student named Alfred Kelly was selected to promote this idea during a commencement speech, but the assignment troubled him. Early one morning he walked to the top of Temple Hill to pray. What he saw that morning as he looked out across the valley left an unforgettable impression upon all who heard him relate it the day of his address, because what Kelly saw was you.
“Gradually the morning light advanced across the valley floor toward the spot where I stood. I closed my eyes partially to the advancing light and was startled by the strange vision that seemed to appear before me. The advancing sunlight took on the appearance of people, thousands of young people who approached me, their arms laden with books. I turned around to find the area behind me illuminated as well. In that light I saw hundreds of buildings, large and beautiful temples of learning. Those young people passed by me and entered in. Then, with cheerfulness and confidence, they turned toward the east and lifted their eyes heavenward, where, again becoming part of the sunlight, they gradually disappeared from my view.”
Kelly sat down to a stunned silence. Suddenly Jesse Knight leaped to his feet, pledging several thousand dollars to BYU. Others followed suit. Eventually, under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, the Church assumed the school’s remaining debt. Finally, the future of the university had become secure.
The Lord evidently had a plan for the ground the campus now occupies—as He always had for BYU. He would not let even its leaders prevent its divine destiny. Such divine intervention on the things that matter most to the Lord is a comfort to me, knowing He can intervene to correct my lapses in judgment or vision. - (A House of Dreams - John S. Tanner)
What young Alfred Kelly experienced that morning was nothing short of prophecy. It gave the people something to hold on to, to believe in when everything in the moment seemed hopelessly lost.
In this devotional Brother Tanner also tells of a vision Karl G. Maeser had that too was prophetic. It came just after his darkest moment when he was ready to quit the cause:
Maeser said, “I am worn out and sick in spirit, . . . and with all my love for this Academy, I feel that I owe it to my very life, which is needlessly wearing itself out here in an apparently hopeless task, to accept any change that will promise me opportunities for permanent usefulness.” He contemplated moving his family and taking a job at the University of Deseret (which is now University of Utah). His daughter one day asked when the move would take place and he responded, “I have changed my mind. I have had a dream—I have seen Temple Hill filled with buildings—great temples of learning, and I have decided to remain and do my part.”**
Maybe I'm a dreamer... but when the clouds of gloom hang drearily over our heads and it feels as if the end of struggle is nowhere in sight, when we are worn and beaten down from the tasks that surround us, we can learn from these stories of the past and remember that it's always darkest just before the dawn. God sees the bigger picture of our lives.... and I promise it is full of glory, purpose, and Divine mission.
With that... here's my song for the day. Keep Believing by, Ryan Shupe
**Excerpt from DVD Passport to Destiny; taken from Wilkinson and Skousen, School of Destiny, 84–85; emphasis in original.