Advancing the Cause

A Conversation with Mathew O. Richardson

Thomas A. Wayment

Matthew A. Richardson ( is a professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU who became advancement vice president in May 2014.

Thomas A. Wayment ( is publications director of the RSC.

Q: So how does one become the advancement vice president? What do you feel might be the highlights of the process of becoming the new advancement vice president? Did you feel you were the right person for the job?

A: I still wonder every day if I’m the right person for the job. The position was completely unsolicited and unexpected. It wasn’t anywhere close to my radar. I was released from the Sunday School general presidency in April, and I thought, “OK, this will be a time to get back and focus on why I came to BYU in the first place,” which was to be part of Religious Education and all that that entails. So I was just starting to do that. I was teaching spring term, and I was preparing for my classes when I got a call from President Worthen’s secretary. She said that the president wanted to meet with me. When she said that, I thought it would be a follow-up to a speech I delivered at a meeting earlier in the year. I thought she was saying, “The president wanted to ask you a few questions about your keynote address.”

Q: Interesting. I’ve heard that you had the interview and that literally within a half hour you walked into your class and taught. How did that go?

A: That is true. I sat down with President Worthen, and we talked about students and about the mission of the university. I am a firm believer in the divine destiny and mission of Brigham Young University, I always have been. In fact, at the beginning of every fall semester, before I start classes, I read the mission statement, the aims, and other Hall of Fame talks—“The Second Century of Brigham Young University” by President Spencer W. Kimball and “A School in Zion” by President Jeffrey R. Holland. I like to set my orientation and be reminded just what my duty is here.

We talked for about a half hour or so when he said, “I was just wondering if I could ask you for your help.” And I said, “I would love to help if I can.” It was then that he asked if I would assume the position of advancement vice president. I was stunned. I didn’t quite know how to wrap my head around it or quite what to say. I responded with, “In thirty-one years of marriage, I’ve never made a decision of this magnitude without my wife. So, President, I need to talk to her about it.” He said, “Of course, I’d expect that.” We talked a little longer and I remembered that I needed to be in class. I literally ran to back to class. I walked into the classroom a little winded and quite flustered. I had so many things running through my mind and powerful emotions coming over me that I don’t know if much of what I said in class that night made any sense. Of course, I didn’t tell a soul until I could talk with my wife.

Q: You haven’t had a long time to think about this, but do you have a sense what this job entails? I guess what I am really asking is what makes you the person for the job? What does this job mean for someone?

A: That’s a very good question. I’ve wondered about this from the very beginning. My title is the advancement vice president. When I first heard the title, I thought, “What in the world does that really mean?” I found that the scope of this position is rather unique when compared with other universities.

If asked to write a job description, I might say that the advancement vice president oversees athletics, BYU broadcasting, alumni, external relations (publications and graphics, special events, licensing and trademarks, etc.), philanthropies, and university communications. When considering all those areas, I thought the title was very appropriate. I have a deep love for the term advancement. This is what my position is really about—to advance the mission and the cause of Brigham Young University in those areas and any other way I can.

If you ask me if this was a spiritual experience, the spiritual side came as I pondered, I prayed, I sought counsel and guidance of what it is that I was supposed to do. And so that’s when it kept coming back, and impressed upon me over and over again was that simple word advancement—to advance the cause and the mission of not necessarily athletics or BYU broadcasting but the mission of the university, through those means. I take that quite literally and as a result, I’m constantly thinking, “How can I help move the cause of this university and the Church forward?” It’s been a really wonderful experience in many ways to be able to watch that unfold and see opportunities come up.

So what qualifies me to be in this position? I think my experience at the university over the past eighteen years has helped. I have the perspective of a professor and an administrator having served as associate dean for many years. Serving in the Sunday School general presidency was invaluable in providing learning opportunities dealing with administrative duties and responsibilities, complex organizational layers, making decisions, and working within councils. It was an amazing learning experience. Even with all of that, I honestly believe there are many more people that are more qualified for this than I am. To be sure, there are people who are brighter than I am and wiser than I am. But I feel aren’t many who believe in the mission of the university more than I do, who love the ideals of this university more than I do, or who will work harder at fulfilling this job than I will. While that doesn’t necessarily make me the “person for the job,” it does accurately describe the person in the job. I am devoted, passionate, and dedicated to advance the cause, mission, and aims of this university and will seek the help of anyone who is likeminded or willing to join in the adventure. I am thrilled to be part of something so exciting.