Daniel Vineyard photo of Academy Square
Brigham Young Academy Building, 2000s

The Dream of a Prophet

"I had a dream, which was not all a dream. One night shortly after the death of President Brigham Young, I found myself entering a spacious hallway with open doors leading into many rooms; I saw President Young and a stranger ascending the stairs and beckoning me to follow them. They led me into the upper story containing similar rooms and a large assembly hall, where I lost sight of my guides and awoke.

"Deeply impressed with this dream, I drew up the plan of the location shown to me and stored it away without any apparent purpose for its keeping nor any definite interpretation of its meaning, and it lay there almost forgotten for almost six years, when, January 1884, the old Academy building was destroyed by fire.
"The want of a new location caused by that calamity, brought into remembrance that paper, which, on being submitted suggestively to the board was at once approved of, and our architect, a son of Brigham Young, was instructed to put it into proper architectonic shape.

"Another period of eight years, however, had to pass, and the same month of January, consecrated in our hearts by the memory of that conflagration, had to come around eight times again, ere we were privileged to witness the materialization of that dream, the fulfillment of that prophecy.

"When in future years people shall ask for the name of the wise designer of this edifice, let the answer be: Brigham Young..."
~~Principal Karl G. Maeser, speaking January 4, 1892, at the dedication of the new Brigham Young Academy Education Building on Academy Avenue and Fifth North, Provo, Utah.

Brigham Young in 1874

Brigham Young Academy Building - Christensen

The Dream of a Prophet
& The Last Football Game

In that strange summer of 1968, evenings sometimes,
I found myself drifting over to the Lower Campus,
Where I watched from across the Avenue.

The dark hulk of the building stood over there,
Waiting for me as usual, but now I could not go in;
I found myself in exile, an outcast, a stranger.
All friends and familiar faces, I knew,
Had now been expelled.

Through the shadowy forest of familiar trees
I could see sunset reflections on window panes,
Showering stray sparks of alpenglow
Through leaves and blossoms and piņon needles
As daylight faded and warm darkness settled in.

Now and then I thought I could see
Small groups of students carrying books in their arms
Walking across thick damp grass together,
Moving around the granite beehive to the sidewalk,
Disappearing into the shadows between buildings.

All would now be bereft, I thought sadly,
Of many future pleasant sights we might have seen
On this now shunned, disowned, deserted,
Flagrantly forsaken square of Utah Valley green.

Inside in the cellar darkness I imagined some old rat
Slipping along the floor of the "lower locker dungeon"
Stopping to investigate a note crumpled in front of locker 192,
Ever alert for jolting doors and running feet,
Not yet understanding that the Academy's doors
Were now bolted shut.

Out on the Avenue, I could hear music;
It thundered from cars pausing at traffic signals.
Yet inside, I thought of sounds of piping,
And student voices singing scales,
Floating on the still unvitiated air, along with
Ghostly echoes of Fredrick Webb's long-graduated choirs.
But I was sure it was now entirely too quiet in there --
A forced and uncomfortable silence.

With nothing more to see I turned to leave,
But, high up on the sharp-spired roof,
I heard a wind rush laughing through the trees,
Leaving them roaring in anger.

It delighted me to think
Perhaps this was a mischievous descendant
Of the curious valley wind that first curled
Around that dark bell tower in 1891,
On the first night that it towered over the small community,
Built from the promptings of a prophet in a dream.

The Academy's heavy frame was the deep-ribbed hull
Of a landlocked sailing ship,
Rising two stories high, then three, then four,
Somehow growing stronger and more formidable
As it faced down each new frost-buckling winter,
Kept somehow workways with the winds and snows.

The building face was as if carved
By an exacting wind from an Aswan cliffside;
Sheltering high-windowed light-filled rooms
Crafted by skilled calloused hands,
Peopled with dedicated, learnčd teachers,
All together creating a future so improbable,
Only a few could have envisioned its rise from ashes.

The majestic mountains lifted their towering guard,
Their peaks refreshed with pristine snow,
They returned faint echoes of the class-change bells
To the patchwork of farm fields below,
And kept peaceful watch over these new temples of learning.

The Academy's unfinishable mission
Began with dreams, which were not all dreams,
Held deep in a master teacher's patient soul,
Then passed on to countless classrooms in diverse places,
To homes, families, commerce, athletics, art, music, sciences,
And to an eternal future.

Soon it flooded the world with electric dreams
Which were not all dreams,
And scattered us across the face of the earth,
Sending us through many lifetimes,
Through countless doors of day and night,
To gather intelligences in our arms
Until one day we become too weak to lift them up,
Too blind, too willing to see the pleasant sights
That yet await us.

One time in the sweet hereafter we may gather and, like Twain,
Pleasantly recall sometimes forgotten stories
Of what we once were ourselves,
And of how we felt and thought and talked,
During our young times together on a lower campus.

Yet as historic days and years and decades passed,
Young generations continued to arrive and contend
That the aging Academy had become shaky,
That only the thick ivy supported its walls.
Until they, as their years progressed, became convinced,
It was rock solid as a symbol of character.

Peopled with people.

The Prophet Joseph's word: Futurity.

But, after the future wears itself out,
Bind it all together with a big rope,
Find new homes for the birds somewhere,
And move the whole thing
To the back of a warehouse to moulder.

Hopelessly old and unprofitable, they declared.

They were wrong, of course.

Today it still lies fully in the course of Brigham Young's dreams.

And as each new autumn season passes through,
There, beneath high windows left open to catch the breeze,
Fragrant colored leaves will still fall sadly to the grass,
Fully expecting to be torn to pieces
In the last football game
Before it snows.

In that autumn and winter, evenings sometimes,
I watched helplessly from across the Avenue,
From seven thousand earthly miles away,
Dreaming and disoriented
On the beautiful island of Taiwan.

-- Larry Christensen, Class of 1966

An imagined visit to the Lower Campus -- written on June 23, 1968 in Yung He, Taiwan, while in the Southern Far East Mission -- after learning that Brigham Young High School had been closed forever in that month of June. Occasionally edited -- last updated on October 1, 2016.

Brigham Young High School by Autumn Moonlight 1967

Brigham Young High School by Autumn Moonlight