Larry Eastland, Honored Alum, on Deciding, Leading, and Living Joyfully

Dr. Larry Eastland, an alum of our political science department and this year’s college Honored Alumni, believes in young adults, particularly those at BYU, because they have the opportunities and resources to change the world. Though he’s had a storied and impactful life since his graduation, he credits the decisions he made between the ages of 18 and 30 with the most importance in his life because they were ones that have allowed him to impact and change the world. Last week, he spoke to a group of current students about the five major decisions that he has made, and that all individuals within these years usually have to make, and how best to make them:

The Top Five Decisions of a Lifetime

  • the-climate-reality-project-349094Education. Each individual must choose to continue their learning in some form or another even after organized education. People must ask themselves what is worthwhile for them to spend their time on.
  • Develop and nurture your testimony. When life is easy, you have to decide if you will stick with the gospel when things get tough. When Dr. Eastland was going through Marine Corps. training and was ridiculed and punished for being a Mormon, he stayed firm in his testimony and succeeded in difficult situations because he had already decided to be true to his testimony. “Testimony is an everyday thing,” he said, “and you must make the daily decision to strengthen, believe, and live it or not.”
  • brooke-cagle-170053Protect your marriage. First, make the decision to marry and then to marry someone who will challenge you to do your best every day. The blessings and happiness from this decision will bless your family for generations to come. Then, protect your marriage at all costs.
  • Live worthy of your family. Be worthy of your spouse, your children, and what and how they are doing—protect them at all costs.
  • Profession. Be prepared with the knowledge and skills to get the job you want and make your knowledge and skills transferable. Most individuals will have numerous occupations throughout the career so make sure that what you choose to study and the skills you choose to develop can be applicable and helpful in multiple fields.

Decisions are Not Necessarily About Their End Results

Decisions need to be made so that we can continue progressing in our lives, but as Dr. Eastland shared, we make certain decisions in life not because of their end results, but because those decisions will give us the experiences we need to to find joy in this life and to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s goals. When Dr. Eastland worked in Washington D.C., he didn’t realize until later in his career that he had been placed there so that one day he could stand as a witness of the church and make sure that the Missouri Extermination Order was not expunged from national history but that it was preserved and brought to light. Likewise, when Dr. Eastland was impressed to move his family from Washington to Idaho to pursue an experience that did not succeed, he learned that experiences often lead us to more experiences that allow us to gain the necessary perspective to make the world a better place.

Adobe Spark (10)Eleven Rules for Great Leadership Decisions

The path we follow in life is always of our own choosing. The decisions we make when we are between the ages of 18-30 will dramatically determine this path and the joy we experience. If we make them well, chances are that we will be chosen to lead others at some point in our lives. Dr. Eastland shared 11 rules that will help us become great leaders through the decisions we make:

  • Officers eat last. Know that the privilege of command and leadership is that you take care of your people first.
  • Never expect of those around you that which you are not willing to do yourself. 
  • If you don’t set concrete, measurable, achievable goals, you will never achieve them. Know your goals so that when you have to change your plans you know why you did so.
  • You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself with. Remember that first class people will always find ways to make an idea first class, so work with first class people.
  • If your people have no part in the process, they will have no stake in the outcome. Involve others in what you are doing so that they feel ownership and responsibility for what is being done.
  • Praise in public, punish in private.
  • To get people to work with you, you need to be able to say three things and mean them: I need your help. I won’t forget. Thank you very much.
  • Trust– but verify. 
  • Never take “title” to someone else’s problem or assignment.
  • When someone brings you a good idea, ask them to put a plan together to implement it. Allow others to be a part of what you are doing.
  • Email is for information. Personal contact is for inspiration. Create a relationship, serve, and people will listen to you.

To view the whole lecture, click here.

What decisions do you need to make in your life to gain  experiences you need to continue progressing? Are your decisions helping you to serve and lead others?









New Faculty Spotlight: Rebekka Matheson

Matheson RebekkaFor Rebekka Matheson, one of the College of Family, Home, and Social Science’s newest faculty members, teaching is about helping students expand their world. As an assistant professor of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience in the psychology department, Matheson is able to witness students’ worlds expanding to embrace more truth and knowledge every time she teaches. “There’s a very specific facial micro-expression when a student makes a connection, gets excited about new material, sees old material in a new way, or is able to see the beauty in something,” shares Matheson. “It’s like their eyes widen and fill with light for a moment. I love that moment.”

A graduate of BYU herself, Professor Matheson notes that “there was a very powerful feeling of being among some really remarkable people every day [during my undergraduate education at BYU]. Now, as I interact with my students, I get that same feeling. BYU Neuroscience students really are the best and brightest the world has to offer, and even better than that, they are focused on applying their education in Christ-like ways.” From her impactful BYU education, Professor Matheson learned that “truth is never irrelevant,” regardless of the field it comes from. When you find how truth and knowledge relate to your field, you “will have an enriched understanding and deeper appreciation for the truth [you] already had.” As Professor Matheson says, “ I rarely ‘know‘ anything.… I just have a scaffolding to keep building on. I chose neuroscience and medicine as my scaffolding.”

CaptureProfessor Matheson currently teaches neurobiology, behavioral neuroscience, and sensation and perception. To those both in the neuroscience department and in different majors, Matheson offers this advice: “Brains learn what they find beautiful. If you’re struggling with material, don’t automatically go deeper in the trenches of its minutiae. Ask for help finding its beauty. Your professors will love helping with that, and your brain will thank you.”

Within the field of neuroscience, Matheson is interested in the neuroanatomy of reward and its implications in psychiatric illness and addiction. More specifically, she is interested in anatomy-focused, deep brain stimulation treatment of psychiatric and behavioral illness.

Welcome back to BYU, Professor Matheson!

Moms Monitoring Media: Does it Help?

Parents naturally want to protect their children from harm. When that harm comes in the form of cell phones, computers, video games, or any form of media, however, due to media’s ubiquitous nature, protecting your children may become a full time job.  BYU School of Family Life professors Dr. Sarah Coyne and Laura M. Padilla-Walker delved into the role and effect of protective maternal media monitoring in a recent study. In particular, the study looked to see if mothers’ media monitoring styles either helped to reduce media use or increased the association between aggressive media use and adolescents’ prosocial behavior, aggression, [or] delinquency.” Media monitoring strategies that consisted of active monitoring, engaging, and conversing about media to connect with one’s children was associated with less media use, although it did not completely deter adolescents from aggressive media.

Two players playing video games on TV at home

The Study

At two different point of time, roughly at the ages of 13 and 15, 681 adolescents and their mothers, all participants of BYU’s Flourishing Families Project, reported their media monitoring and media use. Parental media monitoring in this case was defined as “parental efforts directed toward supervising and discussing their child’s media use.” Monitoring styles were generally categorized into:

  1. Active monitoring which entails promoting “education and critical thinking” about media.
  2. Restrictive monitoring or setting restrictions and rules on time spent on media and media content.
  3. Co-Use, when parents and children “experience the media together”.

When these monitoring styles merged together, a “family climate” was created that related to the effectiveness of parenting practices and the way media was seen in the home. After modeling and analysis of participant responses, results showed that mothers generally used four media monitoring strategies, all of which yielded different results in regards to adolescent media usage.

High Active Connection (18% of mothers)

High active connection monitoring consisted of very high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use. These mothers were slightly more involved in the monitoring of their children’s media in comparison with other mothers. Adolescents who were monitored in this way still reported moderate use of aggressive media, but had the lowest overall media time and had equally low levels of media use in the bedroom as adolescents moderated by moderate active connection.

Moderate Active Connection (30% of mothers)

This monitoring style included high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use. Like high active connection monitoring, there was still a moderate use of aggressive media among adolescents and had the lowest levels of media use in the bedroom.

Restrictive Co-Use (11% of mothers)

Restrictive co-use was primarily characterized by restrictive monitoring of adolescent media.

Restrictive Connections (36% of mothers)

Restrictive connections showed an equal level of restrictive monitoring and connective co-use in media monitoring styles.

While connective co-use was the most commonly used across the four monitoring styles, no singular style was comprised of only one parenting strategy; all parenting strategies were used by every monitoring style group to some degree. But there were certain adolescent media use and behavioral outcomes that related to more specific parenting strategies within maternal media monitoring styles. Media monitoring strategies that consisted of active monitoring and connective co-use (i.e., when parents engaged and conversed about media to connect with their children) were associated with less media use. Discussing media with children

Concerning restrictive media monitoring, reports show that restrictive approaches are generally less effective during adolescence due to teens’ “increased desires for autonomy as they approach mid adolescence.” In fact, this also extends to the promotion of pro-social behavior (voluntary behavior that benefits others), suggesting that protecting children from negative behaviors requires different forms of monitoring than promoting pro-social behaviors.

Even after maternal media monitoring, aggressive media still took its toll, the study showed. Aggressive media content and time were positively related to aggression and delinquency. It also negatively affected pro-social behavior.


There have already been a number of studies of the effects of monitoring on teen media use. This study was different in that it tested the direct effects of media moderation considering dynamic, personal media monitoring styles. More than half of all media exposure occurs in the home and parents should be aware of how their monitoring of that media influences their children and family. There are real differences between media time and media content and there are real differences in the way a parent monitors their children and the positive and negative effect it can have on their behaviors and relationships.

Why Does this Matter?

Parents need to be aware of the effects their media monitoring has on their children and home. Moderating an adolescent’s media time and usage can be frustrating and tiring, but when done right, can benefit people and relationships. “We encourage parents to especially try to create a media monitoring climate that includes high levels of active monitoring and connective co-use, with relatively lower levels of restrictive monitoring,” says Padilla-Walker et al. Adolescents are in school learning new knowledge and skills, and parents likewise need to be learning more skills in regards to monitoring so that they can be prepared and confident to parent in the “increasingly digital world.” Future parents also should heed this information so that they can be ready to teach and protect their children when their time to monitor media and protect their children arrives.


What kind of media monitoring styles do you engage in in your home? Could you be doing it better?

Looking Back and Moving Forward: How Gorsuch Will Influence the Supreme Court

People may have forgotten about the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch that occurred only months ago, but they will probably not be able to forget his influence on the Court years from now, according to experts at a Constitution Day Panel discussion in September. Gorsuch, one of the youngest appointed Supreme Court justices at the age of 49, was the primary focus of the event, which was hosted by BYU’s Law School as part of events around the country held to commemorate the signing of the Constitution of the United States in 1787. At the panel, undergraduates, law students, and experienced lawyers and attorneys alike came together to hear BYU professors discuss Justice Gorsuch’s past influences and opinions and how they might affect his decisions as a Supreme Court Justice.

Courtesy of Senator Claire McCaskill.

With the change of a Supreme Court Justice comes changes in the cases seen, the written product, and the discussions had within the court. Previous Justice Antonin Scalia was a strong voice within the court, often writing his opinions separately and influencing an entire generation of lawyers, including Justice Gorsuch. In his new position, Justice Gorsuch’s stand as a textualist, originalist, and believer in natural law will all influence his voice concerning these court actions. Specifically, as discussed in the panel, Gorsuch and his past experience will influence his actions on the following topics:

Property Rights

In the panel, Professor John Fee stated that he would expect Justice Gorsuch to act similarly to Justice Scalia in regards to property rights. Based at Gorsuch’s comments in an email concerning the Kilo v. New London case in 2005, in which the Court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use,” the Justice is a strong defendant of property rights and holds true to his value of the plain, textual meaning of the Constitution.

Administrative Law and Division of Powers

Professor Aaron Nielson noted that looking back on Chief Justice Roger’s strong dissension in Arlington v. FCC, future Supreme Court action will likely occur regarding administrative law.

Federal Indian Law and Public Lands

As a Westerner and a past judge in the US Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, Gorsuch has a very diverse cultural perspective and familiarity with Indian law. While he has not participated in all aspects of Indian law, the 10th Circuit oversees a region with a large number of tribes and Gorsuch has written ten opinions on cases regarding these matters. These opinions include a mix of winning and losing opinions, but the National Congress of American Indians openly supported Gorsuch’s nomination. Gorsuch has a clear understanding of the legal status of tribes and the need to define Indian country, an understanding that will shape his court decisions.

Religious law

While Professor Elizabeth Clark emphasized that religious law is a very case-by-case field, we have a general understanding for Justice Gorsuch’s approach to religious law through his experience and case judgments in the 10th Circuit. Gorsuch tends to look to history for interpretations regarding religious law. In the past, he has also tended to be more comfortable with public religious expression. In concerns to statutory protections of religious freedom, he tends to look at both the spirit and the letter of the law, a value he’s shown through his review of prisoner cases and allowing prisoners to keep their religious rights. Gorsuch also recognizes sincere religious beliefs and strives to be a consensus builder within the court.


Justice Gorsuch has the potential for a very long Supreme Court record. While BYU professors have given their best predictions on his Supreme Court action, only time will tell the impact Neil Gorsuch will have on the Supreme Court and national law. The good thing is that while Gorsuch may not write with Justice Scalia’s humor, he explains situations and writes his opinions in a very understandable and accessible way, facilitating the process of understanding Constitutional rights for all United States citizens.




How Texting Affects Adolescent Behavior: A New Study By Sarah Coyne

For many of us, we knew we were officially teenagers when we got our first cell phones. Instead of a license to drive, it was a license to social life, friendship, different forms of entertainment, and privacy from parents. But is this necessarily a good thing? Over the past decade, professors, researchers, and parents alike have asked how this new connection to and “need” for technology, or cell phones in particular, is impacting the younger generation.

A 2012 study done by Professors Sarah Coyne and Laura Padilla-Walker in our School of Family Life  showed, among other things, that greater amounts of family cell phone use was associated with higher levels of family connection. A May 2017 study done by the same team with co-author Hailey G. Holmgren, focused on cell phone usage rates during adolescence, and the effects of that usage, as opposed to the effects of other media use, over time on adolescent relationships.

The Study: Who and What?

The texting and media habits of 425 Washington state youth were monitored throughout a six-year period from the ages of 13-18. While patterns of social networking, watching television, playing video games, and texting were all reported, researchers focused primarily on the frequency that youth texted throughout the six years. This data was then analyzed and correlated with reported depression, aggression, anxiety rates, as well as self-reported measurements of relationship health between the child and their father to find insightful correlations.


At the end of the six years, researchers found that both texting and social media use among teenagers tended to exist at “moderate levels during early adolescence, increased [levels] during mid-adolescence, peak around age 16-17, and then decrease slightly as individuals grew into adulthood.” These two forms of media most likely better serve the needs of youth to enhance their social activities and monitor social interactions. Coyne et al. found that, concerning texting, teenagers could be grouped into four distinct categories according to their texting trajectories throughout the six years: Moderates, Perpetuals, Increasers, and Decreasers.


The majority of adolescents (67%) showed moderate levels of texting throughout their youth that increased slightly over the course of their adolescence. These individuals had fewer reportings of negative behavioral outcomes. From this, we learn that the early development of self-regulation could be important in predicting stable, moderate patterns of texting among youth.


A smaller group of adolescents (14%) showed  high levels of texting during their early adolescence that slightly decreased over time. Individuals in this group tended to be depressed, male, and coming from single-parent homes. Of the four groups,”perpetuals” experienced the most negative outcomes with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and aggression. Coyne and her colleagues concluded that sustained high levels of texting “may interfere with the formation of face-to-face relationships” resulting in negative behaviors and an adolescent’s poor relationship with his or her father. On a more positive note, “perpetuals” tended to have the strongest relationships with their best friends, suggesting that texting can strengthen particular relationships.

texting 2


Seven percent of adolescents in the study had high levels of texting during early adolescence and a sharp decrease in texting throughout their adolescent years. These individuals were able to control their texting habits and ultimately showed the lowest levels of depression and the highest relationship quality with their fathers.


“Increasers” showed low levels of texting during their early adolescents, rapidly increased their texting during mid-adolescence and then slowed down during their transition to adulthood. This group appeared to be relatively healthy in terms of behavior and relationship outcomes despite their increase in texting during their mid-adolescence.

Why is This Study Important?

Teenagers and young adults should be aware that this research shows a strong correlation between high patterns of texting over the adolescent years and impaired relationships. Parents of teenagers should be aware that “it is likely that both of these forms of media (texting and social media) represent a particularly salient way of communicating and connecting with others that is unique from other forms of media,” say Coyne et al. “This may be especially salient during adolescence, which is characterized by numerous emotional and social transitions (Steinberg, 2010). Both texting and social media have the potential to enhance a number of social transitions that are important during this age, including having more friends of the opposite sex and entering into romantic and sexual relationships. Additionally, social status is very important, and adolescents may use both texting and social media as ways to participate in and monitor their social world.”

What are its Implications?

“Overall,” continued Coyne, “this study revealed a pattern of texting across adolescence that is similar to some media types (i.e., social media) but not others (television and video games).  The majority of adolescents were able to utilize texting in a moderate fashion that did not appear to impede or hinder their relationships with others. However, high and fairly stable texting early in adolescence appeared to be related to a host of negative behavioral and relationship outcomes 6 years later. I hope this helps families recognize that early and sustained high level of texting might be problematic for adolescents. I hope families can have conversations about healthy media use through childhood and adolescence.”



FamilySearch CEO to Discuss Family History Innovations and Future

Family history is not a stagnant field, as we discussed in last year’s Connections. Research and technology over the years have transformed the field into an interactive activity that anyone can do from almost anywhere in the world- and it’s still moving forward. Steven T. Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO and guest speaker at BYU’s 2017 Family History Week,  is one of the individuals heading these innovations.

Rockwood, who previously worked at creating unique service opportunities for MasterCard International, AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, and Citibank international customers, has applied his knowledge and ingenuity to family history and genealogy. As the President and CEO of FamilySearch, which owns the largest collection of genealogical and historical records in the world, and managing director of the family history department for the LDS church, Rockwood has seen both organizations through major changes. Recent additions and transformations to FamilySearch include, but are not limited to:

  • the creation of family trees that are more user-friendly, with interactive online pedigree charts and fan chartsfhweek2017
  • an increase in the ability of users to search millions of historical records and catalogs
  • the creation of an indexing system to make historical records and documents searchable online
  • the move to mobile-friendly versions of FamilySearch and various associated family history resources
  • the ability for users to share photograph, stories, recipes, and other information about ancestors


The ability to share recipes is something that Rockwood is passionate about, in particular. At a 2017 rootstech speech, Rockwood shared his own personal memories of his mother’s fudge at Christmas and of drinking rootbeer with his grandparents. Because family history is more than putting names and dates on a page; many say that it is the ability to link memories and experiences with certain ancestors that has increased the popularity of genealogy exponentially in the last several years.

Steven Rockwood will address the importance of family history and its development and future at BYU Family History Week’s guest speaker event Thursday, September 28 at 11 am in JKB room 1102. Learn about new ways to do your family history and find the motivation to do it.




Honored Alumni Larry Eastland to Give Lecture Titled “My Decade of Decisions Began at BYU”

Larry Eastland is a bit of a renaissance man to say the least. He plays multiple instruments at a professional level, is a combat-decorated US Marine Corps officer, BYU graduate, USC political science masters and doctorate graduate, has served four US Presidents in a number of national and international positions, has held numerous church callings, leads an international business advisory group, and is a loving husband, father, and now grandfather to 16 grandchildren.

While individuals may think that Eastland’s greatest decisions might have occurred while working in the White House or developing his business, he personally feels that “the decade from 18 to 28 is when the great decisions of life are made.” Between mission, marriage, family, career, education, and testimony, when individuals are in their 20’s they are determining the rest of their lives with the decisions they make, big and small, every day. 

The  impactful experiences that arose in Larry Eastland’s life were all possible because of the decisions he made in that very important decade, he says. In that important decade, he was a BYU student involved in campus organizations, served a mission in Berlin, Germany, served in the United States Marine Corps, fulfilled numerous callings in the church, worked in the U.S. Senate, married his wife, and began his further education in Political Science at U.S.C.

Eastland’s determination to stay close to the spirit and his love for service guided him to make the decisions that blessed his own life and allowed him to further bless his country and those around him. The choices made in Eastland’s youth led to experiences and blessings that affected not only him and his family, but everyone and everything he has been involved with.

“For most people, the rest [of life] is fulfilling what was laid as a foundation during this decade, ” Eastland shared. Larry Eastland laid his foundation well and has had incredible opportunities as a result.

What kind of a foundation have we and are we laying with the decisions we make? Share your thoughts below and continue pondering how your own decade from the ages of 18-28 have and will impact your life at Dr, Eastland’s Alumni Achievement Lecture, “My Decade of Decisions Began at BYU.” The lecture will take place Thursday, October 5 in room 250 in the Spencer W. Kimball Tower at 11 am. All are welcome to attend.


Family History: Are You Doing it? Get Involved at BYU Family History Week 2017

No matter how many miles separate us and the personalities of the individuals involved, we all have family, and those families help define who we are. Our family helps explain who we look or act like, who we spend time with, what languages we speak, and where we call home. But “family” isn’t just the people we take selfies with at reunions; they include our ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago. At BYU’s annual Family History Week, discover new family members and ancestors, learn new ideas and genealogical guidance, and find inspiration and motivation to do your own family history work.

Here’s what’s happening during family History Week to help you do just these things:

Tuesday September 26- Cousin Reunion

phone searchFor those individuals with less than 15 first cousins, you may feel a little left out when talking to friends about their most recent family gathering. On Tuesday, however, discover cousins that you’ve had all along! Using your cell phone, explore your family line to find family members through Join this new kind of family reunion at the Brigham Square Quad at 12 noon to find your cousins and win prizes.

Wednesday September 27- Lightning Round Question Corner

Wanting to become involved in family history, but feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, or stumped? For some “guilt-free family history guidance,” head to the WSC terrace for a Q and A from 5-7pm to learn more about new family history ideas and information on family history courses. Expand your knowledge and desire for family history as you enjoy free refreshments. If you are interested in family history careers, a Family History Fall Reception/ Mini Job fair will be held from 7-8pm at the terrace.

Thursday September 28- Guest Speaker FamilySearch CEO, Steven T. Rockwood

Finish the week inspired by hearing a guest lecture by FamilySearch CEO and BYU graduate, Steven T. Rockwood at 11 am in room 1102 JKB. Learn about the opportunities available to family historians and the passion behind the growing field.

“Family History Week events are open to all who want to experience the excitement of family history” says Amy Harris of the BYU History Department. “Activities are designed to appeal to people with various family history backgrounds. Beginners will enjoy the great Cousin Reunion on Tuesday. Those who want help taking the next step to learn more about their deceased ancestors will benefit from Wednesday’s open house question corner. And everyone will enjoy Thursday’s talk by FamilySearch CEO, Steve Rockwood.”

Regardless of your current family history interest or experience, see what the family history buzz is all about at BYU at Family History Week.