As we learn to truly respect and love others for their cultural differences, we will see miracles in their lives and ours.
This speech was given on November 8, 2011.
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"Good morning. As was noted in the introduction, I come from Australia, so that’s why I think you talk funny. As was also mentioned, I’m a linguist. Linguistics is the scientific study of language.
In 1978 Pam and I were living a pretty comfortable life in Brisbane, Australia. We had a nice house close to Pam’s parents and three wonderful children, ages five, four, and two. I had a good job. But I also had a dream. I wanted to know more about how language works, especially for people acquiring a second language. At that time one of the best graduate linguistics programs in the world was at the University of Southern California, located just south of downtown Los Angeles. So we left this good life and went off to Los Angeles.
The second day in LA we bundled the kids into a borrowed car and visited the USC campus to keep an appointment with a linguistics professor. I was excited to be finally going to the temple of my academic dreams. We arrived on campus and acquired a campus map, but there was no Linguistics Department listed on the map. We found a traffic station and asked a security guard where the Linguistics Department was.
“The what?” he asked.
“The Linguistics Department,” I answered.
He picked up a phone and asked, “Hey, Joe, do you know where the ling . . . ling . . .” Turning to me, he asked, “The what?”
“The Linguistics Department.”
“Do you know where the Linguistics Department is?”
We eventually found the department in a rickety old building. It wasn’t a good start. I’ll never forget the bemused smile on Pam’s face as we began this adventure. Thank you, Pam.
Most days I leave my BYU office in the early evening and wander around campus trying to remember where I parked the car that morning. I look at the beautiful mountains, this incredible campus, and the miracle that each of you represents. I can’t help but think of G. K. Chesterton’s poem titled “Evening”:
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
This is what I’d like to talk to you about today—some aspects of this great world around us and how we interact with the world using our eyes, ears, and hands. Perhaps I can also provide one answer to why we are allowed so many days beyond the one.
What is our relationship to the great world around us? We are told to be “in the world but not of the world.” We are instructed to “go . . . into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), which of course we take to mean preaching the gospel to all of God’s children. In so doing we follow the example of Christ, who also went “into the world” (John 3:17). Based upon how Christ went into the world, let me suggest that going into the world means righteously interacting closely and lovingly with all of God’s children. In so doing we fulfill the mission assigned to us, because we are “children of the prophets; and [we] are of the house of Israel; and [we] are of the covenant which the Father made with [our] fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:25). This is our responsibility to all the kindreds of the earth. Note that this responsibility extends not just to people who are like us, or to people who want to become like us, but to all the kindreds of the earth.
Let me now talk about some aspects of this great world around us and all the kindreds of the earth who live here from a linguistics perspective. We are living in times that some describe in terms of two “ages”: the information age and the age of proximity. Much has been said about the information age, during which incredible growth in technology has allowed each of us to have access to vast troves of information. A huge portion of the world’s current scientific, technological, or cultural information is stored and retrieved in the English language. In many respects, Anglo-American cultural values, carried by the English language, dominate global behavior either in terms of adopting these values or reacting to them..."