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"God is Involved": Faith and Science Seminar 2023

I felt the Spirit tell me that every effort to do good is worth it and even the smallest kindness is worth our time.
Dr. Ryan Corder

The auditorium seats were filled with students eager to hear the words of Dr. Ryan Cordner, microbiology and molecular biology associate professor, and Dr. Tim Jenkins, cell biology and physiology associate professor. Recipients of the College of Life Sciences Spiritually Strengthening Award, both professors spoke on how their faith guided their career and life paths.

Cordner opened the Faith and Science seminar sharing how the Spirit led him to clinical science. He went through the undergraduate program at BYU and got his PhD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

When he entered graduate school, Cordner learned that God would guide his life for good. When making the mile walk from the bus stop to Cedars-Sinai, he passed a homeless family who were having a tense conversation over what to eat that morning. Cordner usually carried about 20 granola bars in his backpack to get him through his grueling days of grad school, so after taking a few paces past the family, he turned around and offered them the big pile of granola bars. “I thought, ‘What good are those granola bars going to accomplish? They’ll be hungry again in a couple of hours’,” Cordner said. “But I felt the Spirit tell me that every effort to do good is worth it and even the smallest kindness is worth our time.”

Professor Cordner, wearing a light blue button down shirt with a red tie, is smiling at Professor Jenkins, who is wearing a light blue button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. The Dean is standing next to them wearing a light gray pantsuit and smiling at the audience.
Photo by Spencer Hall

Cordner’s experiences, both in his education and professional life, have taught him how God serves through the hands of others. He has learned that no effort to help another person is wasted.

Jenkins also understands the significance of allowing God to guide his educational and professional pursuits. When he entered his freshman year at Utah Valley University in 2000, Jenkins was ecstatic to finally have a taste of real freedom. No parent supervision meant he could fly fish whenever he wanted to, and that’s exactly what he did. At the time, Jenkins wasn’t sure about his future and whether it included serving a mission or not.

During one of his institute classes, Jenkins realized he wasn’t happy with where his life was going. He left the class knowing he needed to serve a mission. While serving in Florida, he and his companion taught a single mother of two children in desperate need of money. Jenkins recommended she talk to a man in the ward who was the manager of a Firehouse Subs. Jenkins and his companion stopped by the woman’s house on the day of her interview to hear her how things went. She told them she couldn’t go through with the interview. Jenkins was confused. She explained how she felt that going out to get the job would disappoint God since He should be the sole source of help in her life. Jenkins explained that God often works through the people around us. After hearing his explanation, the woman went out, interviewed, and got the job.

Students are sitting in the folding seats in one of the Life Science Building's auditoriums. They are all looking towards the front of the room where the professors are presenting.
Photo by Spencer Hall

In his presentation, Jenkins explained that many describe a miracle as a “surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws.” From his perspective, Jenkins believes miracles can be explicable because God is involved in the world around us. He told the audience their default should be, “God is involved,” not, “God is involved unless...” He wants students to understand that God shouldn’t be a surprising mystery who only shows up in our times of dire need; He wants to be present in our lives all the time.

Both Cordner and Jenkins believe God guided them in ways to fulfill the personal missions He’s given each of them. Neither man expected to end up at BYU, but both feel God’s will had led them here. “Oftentimes, trying to look forward and ask, ‘What is my mission in life?’ is like looking out into the dark, having no clue what’s in front of me,” Cordner said. “If we use the Spirit as our guide, He will guide us to where we need to be.”