Emmeline B. Wells, who was the Church’s fifth General Relief Society President, said this: “I believe in women, especially thinking women” (“Why, Ah! Why” Woman’s Exponent, vol. 3, Oct. 1, 1874, p. 67).
We are members of a Church that values education — the training of the spirit, mind, heart, and hands to be prepared for life and to make a meaningful contribution to our families, the Church, and our communities. Education opens the door to opportunity, can provide much fulfillment and personal growth that can be an important part of our eternal journey, and can enable us to serve others and help God in His work.
We believe that the most important kind of learning comes through the Spirit. Sister Elaine Jack (twelfth General Relief Society President of the Church), in a talk entitled “Seek and Ye Shall Find” said the following:
The Lord has counseled us directly in this dispensation to seek the Spirit—to learn much—that we might “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10). I feel strongly that this is a clarion call for the women of this church…. For us to stand firm and faithful, we must be clearly focused on seeking the Lord.
Seeking implies so much more than merely looking. Seek means energy, direction, passion, purpose. To seek requires all our “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). We sisters are good at using our hearts and our hands in the Lord’s work. But we must also use our minds.
How do we seek with our minds? With our intellect we can ponder, we can analyze our circumstances, we can sort and sift information, weigh our options; we can store ideas, we can draw conclusions from our experiences, find answers to our problems; we can treasure thoughts and receive revelation. Isn’t that what the Lord meant when he said, “You must study it out in your mind” and then ask me if these things are not true? (D&C 9:8.)
This statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith inspires me: “Thy mind … if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens” (History of the Church, 3:295). We must stretch our minds if we are to reach that lofty goal so familiar to us all: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36).
As we earnestly seek light and truth, we develop clarity in our lives that reflects spiritual understanding and commitment. This clarity results as we learn from our daily experiences, our thoughtful study, and as we receive personal inspiration from the Holy Spirit. We have been promised:
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain … in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
“And if a person gains more knowledge … in this life through his diligence … , he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).
Learning—converting light and truth to everyday action in living the laws of God—is what we seek.
(What a fantastic definition of learning!)
But, of course, there is more to education and learning than just the spiritual. President Gordon B. Hinckley was known for his emphasis on getting as much secular education as we can. This was a focus of his particularly as he spoke to the youth. For example, in his famous “Six Bs” talk, he said the following:
You belong to a church that teaches the importance of education. You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … 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” (D&C 88:78–80).
Mind you, these are not my words. These are the words of the Lord who loves you. He wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives. And as you do so and as you perform honorably and with excellence, you will bring honor to the Church, for you will be regarded as a man or woman of integrity and ability and conscientious workmanship.
Many other church leaders have also reminded us of the importance of getting an education. President Monson recently reminded us as women of the Church to prepare ourselves for the uncertainties in life, to pursue an education so that we are able to provide for our families (or ourselves, for that matter) if the need were to arise (for many women, this need already exists!). He mentioned other benefits of getting an education as wel:
Your talents will expand as you study and learn. You will be able to better assist your families in their learning, and you will have peace of mind in knowing that you have prepared yourself for the eventualities that you may encounter in life.
There is no question, however, that we are regularly reminded of the need to keep our goals regarding education in their proper place in our lives. For example, Sister Julie B. Beck reminded us of this fact when she spoke to mothers. She said: “Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth.” This counsel can be applied to any of us in the sense that knowledge or education alone is not of primary importance in our spiritual journey. We must fulfill our spiritual responsibilities and always remember to put the things of God first in our lives.
Another important reminder comes from President Hinckley (then first counselor in the First Presidency) when he said the following:
Each day we are made increasingly aware of the fact that life is more than science and mathematics, more than history and literature. There is need for another education, without which the substance of secular learning may lead only to destruction. I refer to the education of the heart, of the conscience, of the character, of the spirit—these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another.
It is clear that education and learning play a critical role in our lives as Mormon women. We seek earnestly to educate our spirits, characters, consciences, hearts, minds, and hands to do our best to fulfill God’s purposes on this earth, to serve others, to fulfill our roles and responsibilities, and to progress (and help others progress) toward the goal of eternal life.
For more on this topic, please see the following links:Hugh W. Pinnock: Ten Characteristics of an Educated Person Katherine Padilla, My Stay-at-Home Education (one woman’s perspective on how “choosing to stay home with your children doesn’t mean stopping your own progress””Spirituality and Learning” “Educating the Family” “Education for Adults” — links to several articles on these topicsElder Dallin H. Oaks: Good, Better, BestThe Church has resources to help people find jobs and other opportunities