Following are the personal reflections of Katie on the subject of education. At the time Katie wrote this, she was living in St. George, Utah.
When we were growing up my mom always sent us off by saying, “Be good. Learn all you can. Have fun.” It is evident by this statement and the way she lives her life, that she values education and learning. My mother went back to college when I was in elementary school to become a registered nurse. She received a Bachelor of Science in nursing the same semester I graduated from high school. A couple years ago, she received dual Masters Degrees. She was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, during her freshman year of college. She is the only member of the Mormon Church in her family, and it is no coincidence that she is also the only member of her immediate family who has earned advanced college degrees. She is truly converted, and her testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and eternal perspective have increased her drive for learning.
At the end of my freshman year of college, I attended a Mormon broadcast wherein President Henry B. Eyring, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a bit of a famous Mormon, as the speaker. He gave a talk that has influenced my learning process. It has brought to my remembrance some great things as I have reread it recently.
The title of his talk was “Education for Real Life.” He spoke from the campus of the University of Idaho, which is where the first Mormon Institute of Religion was started. With the passing of approximately 80 years since this institute opened its doors, the institute program has grown exponentially. As of the time his talk was given, there were nearly 2,000 institutes spanning 150 countries with 316,000 young adults enrolled. What has caused this remarkable growth? The drive to learn comes from true conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It starts when someone experiments upon the word. After time, one becomes humble. This humility allows “the person to make a place in [her life and heart] for something better.”
This drive to learn springing from true conversion is evident in our Mormon history. When the early Saints were driven by mobs to Missouri, they established the city of Nauvoo. One of the priorities there was to establish an institute of learning. A university opened in 1841 in Nauvoo. After the Saints arrived in Utah, they continued this drive for learning. Even as they struggled to produce enough food to eat, they were actively engaged in starting schools. This was far more than a cultural tradition. This desire for learning is a natural fruit of living the gospel.
President Eyring reminded us in his talk, “The purpose of God’s creations and of His giving us life is to allow us to have the learning experience necessary for us to come back to Him, to live with Him, in eternal life. That is only possible if we have our nature changed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, and making and keeping the covenants He offers all of His Father’s children through His church.”
Attending institute was an important part of my education. There are institute classes every other day. My freshman year I signed up for Book of Mormon on Monday and Wednesday. It only took a week before I realized how much better my Mondays and Wednesdays became than the other days of the week, so I quickly added another class so I could attend institute Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I have taken so many institute classes that I’ve had to repeat courses because I’ve run out of options. As Elder Eyring promised, my spiritual education in the institute shaped the purpose and sped the process of my secular learning. The Lord issues a call for learning and establishes the purpose and process of our learning in Doctrine and Covenants 88:76-80. (The Doctrine and Covenants are a book of revelations compiled and given to the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.) It reads,
“Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth. And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been , things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land, and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”
As President Eyring explained, the purpose of education as drawn from this passage is “to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever our talents, He has service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once or for a limited time, but continually.”
He continues, “In that scripture the Master is clear about the process. By prayer, fasting, and hard work, with a motive to serve Him, we can expect His grace to attend us. We will learn more rapidly and grow in skill beyond what we could do only with our unaided abilities.”
During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I was in school from 8 am to 3 pm. I also worked in addition to my classes. I attended all my church meetings and fulfilled all my church responsibilities. I had a very active social life as well. Reflecting back, I don’t know how I fit so much into one day. I credit my success to having my priorities in order.
God encourages our education in spiritual things, but as mentioned, also in the things of the world. When we see life as it really is with an eternal perspective, we will put our spiritual learning first, but that will not decrease our desire or time for secular learning. Elder Eyring explained that we would work even harder at our secular learning than we would without that spiritual vision. Our education is not just for this life but also for eternal life. President Eyring admonished us not to let our secular learning lapse even as we put our spiritual learning first. He reminds us that our spiritual learning gives our secular learning purpose and motivates us to work harder at it. We seek out this education to increase our ability to serve Him and His children. President Eyring promised, “You can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give.” We may not understand the opportunities we are given, but always take heed and make the most of them. President Eyring mentioned in his talk that although his father grew up in Mexico and spoke fluent Spanish, President Eyring never once asked his father to teach him Spanish. President Eyring was later called to preside as the first contact in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. He noted it was no accident he was born into a home with a Spanish-speaking father. Imagine how far better prepared he could have been for this calling. Our education will enhance our capacity to serve.
Balancing our spiritual learning with a full academic load or with our full-time job can be difficult. President Eyring presented a new view of the problem of crowded time. He advised us to “see it as an opportunity to test your faith. The Lord loves you and watches over you. He is all-powerful, and He has promised you this: ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added upon you.’ (Matthew 6:33).”
President Eyring continues, “That is a true promise. When we put God’s purposes first, He will give us miracles. If we pray to know what He would have us do next, He will multiply the effects of what we can do in such a way that time seems to be expanded. He may do it in different ways for each individual, but I know from long experience that He is faithful to His word.”
Our education must never stop. We engage ourselves in learning not just for our life on earth. Rather, as President Eyring reminds, “We learn both spiritual and secular things so that we may one day create worlds and people and govern them. All we can learn that is true while we are in this life will rise with us in the resurrection.”
After a lapse in my education, I enrolled again in college. I just finished my junior year of the Elementary Education program. I love being back in school. I have a drive to learn, and seeking out opportunities of learning has brought (and always will bring) me great happiness.
I am grateful for our living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and his divinely called apostles. I am grateful for modern day revelation so we may hear the words of God regularly to remind us what we should do. Be good. Learn all you can. Have fun.