Saturday, February 2, 2008
Stephen E. Robinson & "Believing Christ"
Stephen E. Robinson was a very influential mentor to me. He wouldn’t remember me, but I can never forget him.
While on my mission in Ecuador (1999-2001) I was able to borrow my mission presidents’ copies of “Believing Christ” and “Following Christ”, and I’ve never been the same since. I had always had a testimony, but after reading those books my understanding of the gospel just “clicked”, and everything in the scriptures suddenly made so much more sense. My faith in and relationship to our Savior was deepened, and it was also a liberating and enlightening experience to understand my covenant relationship to Him. I became not only a better missionary, but also a better person. It has made me a better disciple, friend, husband, father—you name it. I have since given away many more copies of those books. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to read or re-read “Believing Christ” and the sequel “Following Christ.” Or if you want to read or listen to the talk that led to the book, it’s on the BYU speeches website. Here’s the link to the text version: “Believing Christ: A Practical Approach to the Atonement.” You can also download and listen to it as an mp3 file. To not just believe in Christ, but to believe Christ, turns on the power that faith in Christ can have on one's life. This concept is explained much more eloquently by him in the book "Believing Christ".
I feel great satisfaction in knowing that I was able to come back from my mission and take classes from him at BYU. That was an added bonus and more enjoyable than I would have ever expected. I was never one to miss classes, but I especially made sure never to miss one of his. I still have the class notes. I took New Testament and then The Doctrine and Covenants from him. Those were my favorite days as a student at BYU.
He was always very kind to let me visit with him one on one in his office and never made me feel rushed as I thirsted for more and asked questions and received insightful answers. His personality is one of a kind. I miss that time and hope life is treating him well.
When I took those classes, it was shortly after he was coming out of his own personal experience with depression, and the sun was just beginning to rise back up over the horizon of what was a very dark experience. He was so open and personal with us about that awful experience that chemical depression must be. He told us that they struggled to find the right meds to get his chemical balance right, and he had to go into drug detox to get off the meds he’d become addicted to. He found humor in the fact that he was probably the only BYU religious professor to have been a drug addict. He said that was the most humbling/humiliating experience of his life. I have been so much more understanding and sensitive with friends and family affected by depression ever since.
His gift, talent, skill, knowledge, frankness, and humor as a teacher has meant so much to me and always will. And his teaching opened up the scriptures to me in a way no other has—in a way that has made me think back so very often to the things I learned from him when I study the scriptures, teach, or participate in any gospel discussion. I can’t say that about any other religion class I ever took at BYU, or any other teacher. Then again, he wasn't our typical BYU professor. I remember him bringing in his 32 ounce soda pop to class (obviously from some mini-mart off campus). One day some student finally asked him what he was drinking. (Remember, BYU doesn't sell caffeinated drinks on campus.) He looked up with a sly look and said "Root Beer, and unless you taste it you wouldn't know any different." He taught without any pretense—he was the only BYU professor that would occasionally swear in class (mildly), and I even loved him more for it. He was a breath of fresh air. He got us to think about the gospel in a way very few can. Whether it was “stomping like an elephant” or “walking as if on egg shells”, the doctrines he taught have sunk deep into my soul and enriched my personal testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ-- the greatest source of peace, hope, comfort, assurance, and joy.