Read Time: 5 minutes
Po Nien (Felipe) Chou’s life and career has taught him that he needs to devote himself to whatever work he is given, plant roots, and, when needed, be able to uproot again. As a graduate from BYU McKay School of Education and his work as a religious educator and researcher for Seminaries and Institutes (S&I) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has impacted millions of people worldwide.
Born in Taiwan and raised in Brazil, Chou didn’t immigrate to the United States until he was in junior high school. He lived in Virginia, where he joined the Church at age 18. Chou then served a mission in California, speaking Spanish. After his mission, he earned his bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in emergency management.
In 1996, Chou enrolled at Brigham Young University with three goals in mind: to get married, to get into the seminary program, and to earn his master’s degree in health science. By the end of his time here, he accomplished all those goals in that order.
Chou taught released-time seminary in Utah before he and his family picked up and moved to Taiwan. As an institute director and coordinator, Chou collaborated with various church departments, taught institute courses, and supervised new early-morning seminary programs in Taiwan. He also traveled and provided training in other Asian countries. During this time, Chou was able to triple institute enrollment as he moved from one city to another in Taiwan. “My wife and I felt like pioneers as we moved around,” Chou said.
After five years in Taiwan, Chou and his family returned to Utah. He earned his PhD from BYU McKay School’s Educational Leadership and Foundations department while continuing to work for the Church and was assigned to Church headquarters. “I thought that after I finished my degree, I would just go back in the classroom and teach,” Chou said. “Instead, I was asked to serve at Church headquarters.” He used the skills acquired while studying at the McKay School to help him conduct over 170 qualitative and quantitative worldwide research studies and projects for S&I and the Church.
Chou managed several projects and studies and organized a research committee composed of 16 sisters from 14 countries to expand worldwide research in over 20 languages. He also served in the Church Curriculum Research Committee, which allowed Chou the opportunity to work with others to help create the first Come Follow Me curriculum.
Chou described his PhD as a “blessing” in helping him with research and teaching. His BYU experience helped him see the reason the university was founded: “To serve the Lord and all of God’s children throughout the world.”
Chou has had opportunities to work with incredible people on impactful projects. However, his experiences also have blessed him to become a better husband and father and enriched his individual gospel study. Echoing the teachings of the prophet Harold B. Lee, Chou said, “The most important work you will do is in the walls of your home.”
Though his secular PhD has brought him much success, he said it would be useless without what he calls his “spiritual PhD:” the p is for parent, the h is for helpmate, and the d is for disciple of Jesus Christ. His spiritual and secular education has helped Chou excel in each of his roles and responsibilities.
As Chou continues his work as a religious educator at Brigham Young University–Hawai‘i, he will continue to teach his students the importance of the Book of Mormon in their lives. As an ardent reader of the scriptures, he knows that he can always gain new insights from prophets of old.
Chou also strives to embody Christ’s humility. Much of his work takes place with the help of team and committee members, and he is keenly aware that his contributions are one part of a larger whole. As he furthers his work in the Church and excels in assignments he is given, Chou continues to be what he called “one drop of honey to the whole jar.”
Written by Emily Pearson
Contact: Cynthia Glad