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Baptist prof is sole non-Mormon in BYU’s college of education

PROVO, Utah (BP)–Eula Monroe didn’t have to leave the academic world to learn this lesson, but she did move across the country to find out God could use her to make a difference.
For 23 years, Monroe was a mathematics education professor at Western Kentucky University. Then a powerful, unexpected pull drew her to leave the security of Bowling Green, Ky., to move to Provo, Utah.
In the fall of 1992, she became the only non-Mormon staff member of Brigham Young University’s college of education.
Facing the “big 5-0” led to the new assignment, Monroe recounted.
As she approached her 50th birthday, she asked herself the same question she had at each 10-year milestone: “What’s this decade supposed to count for?”
In previous years, the question had led her to detailed planning. “I wanted to be in control,” she said.
At 30, she pursued a doctorate in mathematics education. She focused on being a good wife and mother.
At 40, she mapped out plans to publish her academic writings and advance through the ranks at Western Kentucky University.
And although she had been an active member of Bowling Green’s First Baptist Church for many years, she said she’d always planned her church activities around her life in academia.
But while facing 50, Monroe said, she “felt life slipping away and began to wonder if at the end of the journey, the Lord would say, ‘Well done.'”
This time as she faced her future, Monroe began questioning whether the epitaph she had hoped would be written about her life was satisfactory.
“I had always thought I wanted, ‘She made a difference,’ said about me.” But after much prayer and reflection, she believed it should be reframed to say, “God made a difference.”
She also felt she didn’t have to know the big picture anymore. Instead, “I was supposed to plan one day at a time,” she said. “I wasn’t to be in control.”
During the next years, those two principles would guide her as God prepared her “way and heart” to leave the known of a secure position at WKU and enter the unknown of BYU.
In 1990, while attending a national conference for mathematics educators, Monroe visited a friend who was a professor at BYU. Almost in jest, she told him to call her if a teaching position opened up in the next five years.
Much to her surprise, a few days after returning home to Bowling Green, BYU’s faculty search committee asked her to return to Provo, Utah, for an interview. She had no idea she was being considered for a position for which she had not even applied.
She interviewed, but, believing the timing not right, declined. BYU didn’t take no for an answer. Instead, school leaders gave Monroe the option to wait a year to decide and held the position open for that year.
When she returned to BYU for more interviews in the fall of 1991, the time was right, she said.
She said she sensed God had prepared her path when during an interview with a BYU vice president she was invited to be the advisor to the BYU Baptist Student Union.
“I felt the Lord tugging at me to consider this opportunity,” she said. Each semester, there are usually about 20 Baptists among the 30,000 BYU students. One percent of BYU students are non-Mormon, she said.
Then, during the required interview with a Mormon elder in Salt Lake City, she again felt a strong spiritual pull.
She didn’t have to be told again.
“I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit so powerfully that when I called my husband back in Bowling Green, I told him that I had the confirmation of the Holy Spirit that this is where I should be,” she said.
“I did not have a decision to make; the Lord made it for me.”
Her years at BYU have been instructive, she said.
Being the only non-Mormon in her department has not been a problem, she said. “I have been treated absolutely wonderfully.” She is now a tenured professor.
Being in a religious minority has not been a threat to her faith in God; instead, it has helped her sort out which things are really central to her faith, she said. “My belief about what it means to be a born-again believer has been strengthened.”
Being BSU advisor has given her a new appreciation of the importance of student ministries, she said.
“I did not realize the circumstances religious minorities might be going to school under,” she said. “I was not familiar with the campus or with the intensity of the LDS faith as it prevails here.”
In a culture dominated by Mormonism, Baptist students need love and support, she said. In addition to providing social activities, the group meets on campus and at First Baptist Church in Provo for regular Bible studies. This fall, the BSU will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a concert on the BYU campus.
And moving to Utah has put her life in perspective.
“Had I stayed in Kentucky I don’t think the focus of my spiritual life would have been as clear. I learned I didn’t have to leave academia for God to use me to minister to others,” she said, “but I did need to learn to rely on God daily.”
Now as Monroe edges toward her 58th birthday, she said her 50s have been full of “tremendous Christian growth.”
Best of all, she said, “I’ve had the wonderful feeling that the Lord is right here with me; he has walked beside me.”

    About the Author

  • Joyce Sweeney Martin