Phillip J. Bryson shares thoughts on competition within the context of the gospel. We compete against our past selves with the Savior’s help.
This speech was given on July 11, 2000.
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“It is a delight to greet you this beautiful morning from the Joseph Smith Building, a wonderful structure bearing the name of the greatest person to live on the earth in the past 1,900 years or so. It is a privilege to bear witness in this place that Joseph was a prophet of God, that he was chosen to reestablish the original church founded by the Savior of the world and to reestablish among men a sound understanding of the Atonement and how it can exalt women and men.
I am grateful for the privilege of discussing with you this morning some principles that I believe young men and women about to enter the professions need to understand. Much of what we learn from gospel teachings encountered earliest in life inculcates in us an appreciation for the functions of nurturing, supporting, and serving those who are near to us. On the other hand, when we encounter the teachings of social science or enter into the daily business of life, we encounter processes that seem strictly opportunistic, that seem to render us impervious to the well-being of those with whom we are forced to interact, often on a competitive basis.
Frequently heard voices teach that the former processes of cooperation and brotherhood are gospel processes, whereas the latter processes, those that are competitive, are selfish and worldly and should be avoided by honorable people. This response finds resonance with many, but its specious appeal often proves unsatisfying to us when we stop to realize that most of us must almost always function in environments that demand competitive performance of one sort or another.
What, then, should BYU students—future leaders not only in the Church but also in society and in the professions—think about competition? Does the gospel teach us that competition is morally reprehensible?
In a broad sense, competition is life, and competition is about how we live. President Hugh B. Brown said that young people such as BYU students “are entering the greatest competition of all, the serious pursuit of life itself, the abundant life, eternal life. In this competition you must cultivate a sensitivity to the things of mind and spirit” (The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965], 341). This might be thought of as gospel competition…”