Sister Julie B. Beck


Julie B. Beck didn’t graduate from the McKay School of Education; she earned a Bachelor’s degree in family science. However, she said while delivering the 2024 Mary Lou Fulton lecture that the school’s mission resonates deep in her soul.

“I’ve had a great love for this place,” she said of the McKay School, noting that she loves the school’s mission statement: “We strive to model the attributes of Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, as we prepare professionals who educate with an eternal perspective.”

“I was not a professional educator, but I certainly have spent a lot of my adult life in the world of education, first through schools our kids attended and then through our church service and appointments and assignments with the state of Utah,” Beck said. “This is a field where you make a difference and change lives in a lot of important ways.”

A native of Granger, Utah, Beck started her college career at Dixie College, now Utah Tech University, before attending BYU. She and her husband, Ramon Beck, have three children and eighteen grandchildren.

Besides her service as Relief Society General President, Beck was a counselor in the Young Women’s general presidency and also served on the executive board of the BYU Alumni Association and the Utah Board of Higher Education.

She noted that the emphasis on eternal perspective in the McKay School mission statement is similar to President Russell M. Nelson’s recent exhortation to “think celestial”—but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

“Sometimes life gets in the way,” Beck said. “In fact, life always gets in the way! There’s never a convenient time for a struggle. What we need to figure out is how to do the things we know we should do and we’ve been trained to do.”

Beck told students she has been repeatedly inspired by J. Reuben Clark’s landmark address to LDS educators, “The Charted Course of Education in the Church.” In that 1938 talk, Clark laid out the “latitude and longitude of the actual position of the Church, both in this world and in eternity.”

Sister Beck speaking

The latitude, he said, is the truth of Jesus Christ’s identity, purpose, and Atonement, and what all of that means for the rest of Heavenly Father’s children. The longitude, which Sister Beck said can be “harder to find” and “harder to locate” for navigators, is the truth of Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the restoration to the earth of the gospel, the priesthood, and continuing revelation through living prophets.

“Jesus Christ . . . is and was everything He said He was,” Beck said. “He is our Savior, our Redeemer, the Creator. He fulfilled his life mission perfectly; He is still our advocate with the Father. He is the keeper of the gate, and everything the scriptures teach about Him is true.”

As for Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel, she said, it’s essential to have a longitude once you have a latitude so correct navigation is possible.

“Joseph Smith is our longitude,” Beck said. “He’s the east-west. He’s the one who restored the covenants. All the scriptures [from this dispensation] that teach and testify of Jesus Christ . . . began with the calling of Joseph Smith to be the prophet of God.

“If we ever in our lives begin to get off course in the least little way, those are the two coordinates that will help us know where we are and how to get to the Father.”

This “latitude and longitude” focus appears across the gospel, she noted, including a few years ago when President Nelson asked church members and others to begin to use the full name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “The first part of that name tells us our latitude; the second part tells us we are prophet-led,” Beck explained.

Future educators, clinicians, counselors, and school leaders at the McKay School can use that focus to navigate an increasingly complex world filled with complex people, she said.

“As much or more than any other profession, you deal with people: people with every kind of personality, background, need, struggle,” Beck said. “I’ve often said as I’ve worked with people, ‘This would be so much easier if it weren’t for people! If we weren’t having to deal with people right now, I could solve all this!’ But that’s not life. Life is full of people.”

In fact, she said, life is people: their cultures, languages, traditions, social norms, habits, needs, and challenges.

“Think of your own personal struggles,” Beck said. “Your life is happening to you while you’re dealing with people whose life is happening to them.”

In addition, she said, McKay School students are working towards professions that deal directly with every aspect of people and their triumphs and struggles.

“If you wanted to be isolated from people and their difficulties, you’ve chosen the wrong job,” she said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be dealing with life: not just your life, but the lives of other people, and those lives are in your hands, which is the scary part.”

Beck said several people have been examples to her of navigating these tricky waters with grace and faith. One is Barbara Thompson, who served as Beck’s second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and who had a distinguished career in social work, focusing primarily on serving abused and neglected children.

“I would say, ‘Barbara how do you stand it? You’ve spent 30 years in the world of abuse,’” Beck said. “Think of that, of the personal impact on yourself. I asked her, ‘What was the number-one thing you’ve learned?’ And she said, ‘I’ve learned about the resilience of the human soul. Heavenly Father made us to be resilient.’

“I love that beautiful learning that encapsulated 30 years of service and seeing really hard things. If you know Barbara, you know she’s never lost her good cheer, she’s never lost her eternal perspective, her focus on being able to make a difference. And I love her for that. . . . She chose early on to be that force for good.”

Another “force for good” in Beck’s life has been her oldest sister, Lee Ann, who lost most of her hearing at age two due to an illness. Lee Ann, who accompanied her sister to the Fulton lecture and stood with Beck as she told her story, started school at a time when teachers had little guidance on how to effectively educate students with disabilities, neurological differences, and the like.

Sister Beck and sister

“Lee Ann learned about resilience when she was young,” Beck said. At school, Lee Ann was seated in the back of the classroom and left to her own devices. In that classroom, she found a full-length cardboard mockup of a piano keyboard, so she quietly entertained herself by teaching herself—silently—to play the piano.

That focus on learning what she could, however she could, has served Lee Ann well her entire life, Beck said: she became a classical pianist, taught herself to read, became fluent in Portuguese when her parents were called to lead a mission in Brazil, became an award-winning teacher of developmentally disabled students, married, and raised a family of six children and many grandchildren.

“She has used her gifts in magnificent ways,” Beck said.

Lee Ann embodies the idea that “this life is for learning,” Beck added. “There’s a lot to learn, and we’re not going to learn everything there is to know in this life. We’re looking far out to how Heavenly Father sees us and that we have infinite worth to Him, and we should have that for ourselves and for each other.

Seeing others through an eternal perspective helps teachers change lives for the better, Beck said, building what she called “the real power”: influence.

“That’s how Jesus Christ works; that’s how the Holy Ghost works. They work through influence to help people become their best selves,” she said. “But the Lord will not force us to Heaven.”

She recalled a time that President Henry B. Eyring, while training mission presidents, spoke about leaders’ responsibility “to create a climate where the Spirit can be.”

“Now think of yourselves as educators,” she said. “What greater challenge do you have than creating a climate? You have in your hands the ‘temperature control’ to create a climate for growth. It’s a climate of faith, hope, and charity so they can grow. . . . That’s your position of influence. I can’t think of anything more powerful than to have that in your hands.”

One of the greatest challenges McKay School students will find in their future lives and careers, Beck said, is maintaining that faithful, hopeful, charitable approach “when life is pressing on you”—when challenges, setbacks, and sorrows happen.

“That’s where faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Atonement comes in,” she said. “You can bring in what you know about your latitude and your longitude to your classroom, so you don’t get blown off course by the storms of life.

“I don’t know how I can express strongly enough the power you have to create the climate for growth, to see the value in a human soul despite the challenges of real life.”

That focus is maintained, she said, not only by professional practice and experience, but also by spending time in the scriptures and in prayer every day, and by approaching tasks with “a prayer in your heart.”

Those simple, faithful practices will unlock the power described in 1 Nephi 14:14, a current favorite scripture of Beck’s: “I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

That’s the key to “see the value in a human soul despite the challenges of real life,” Beck said: do what you must to access God’s power, glory, and love, and use that love to bless the lives of those around you. She said she knows that those who take advantage of the multifaceted opportunities of a BYU education will be armed with power in ways that will bless many lives.

“Whatever battle you have in your personal life and professional life, I love this teaching we get from Nephi that says we’re armed with the power of God in great glory,” she said. “If you have that, you have influence—the Lord’s powerful influence in what you have to do.”


Writer: Stacy Kratz
Contact: Andrew Devey