Lynn E. Henrichsen
The Desirability of an LDS Philosophy of Higher Education
“Having a philosophy of education is quite similar to having a philosophy of life, and being philosophical in this sense is being deeply concerned and thoughtfully reflective about fundamental aspects of educating” (Soltis x). In the last few years, the world has witnessed a wave of concern for “excellence” and purpose in education (see Gardner et al; Butts). Our philosophy of higher education can “shew. . . unto [us] a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12: 31).
In the scriptures, one finds a number of admonitions to gain wisdom, and “love of wisdom” is the original meaning of the word philosophy. In the same sense, a philosopher is “one who devotes himself to the search of fundamental truth” (Oxford). By that definition, all true Latter-day Saints should be philosophers (Prov. 3: 23, 4: 7; D&C 6: 7).
This philosophical spirit is nowhere more evident than in the words of Elder John Taylor who proclaimed, “I want truth, intelligence, and something that will bear investigation. I want to probe things to the bottom and to find out the truth if there is any way to find it out” (JD 11: 317). And, of course, Elder Taylor was not alone in this quest. Early in this century, Elder B. H. Roberts proclaimed that Mormonism “calls for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development” (“Book” 713).
The definition of “excellence” which I find most appropriate for LDS education comes from classic Aristotelian philosophy. In Aristotle’s teachings, a key to the achievement of man’s happiness and fulfillment was the performance of his highest function, the thing that man alone could do best. Excellence (or virtue, as the Greek term is often translated) resulted from performing this unique function well. To use Aristotle’s example: “If we take a flautist or a sculptor or any craftsman–in fact any class of men at all who have some special job or profession–we find that his special talent and excellence comes out in that job, and this is his function” (37-38). Apart from this example, Aristotle reasoned that the highest function of man generally (as distinguished from the members of the plant and “brute animal” kingdoms) is “the exercise of his non-corporeal faculties” (38). In other words, “the peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought” (Durant 86).
But Aristotle did not limit his discussions to man alone. He also discussed the excellence of things such as the eye (whose excellence is seeing well) and the horse (whose virtue is found in being good at running and carrying its rider) (64). In these discussions the subjects are different, but the principle remains the same: performing its particular function well is a thing’s “excellence.” The same principle can be applied to an institution. The achievement of its “excellence,” depends on the recognition and performance of its unique, highest function.
Education for Eternity
In his “Second Century” address President Kimball spoke of “‘education for eternity'” (244). He proclaimed that “education for eternity” is first among unique features [of LDS education]. Therefore, reasoning in the Aristotelian way, education for eternity is the key to our excellence. But what, exactly, does education for eternity consist of?
How many of us have pondered what those words mean and considered what implications they have for our university activities? It is important that we do so. Although we may study more and more advanced subject matter specialties, until we understand and practice “education for eternity,” we will not be involved in true “higher” education. On the other hand, when we do understand the meaning of “education for eternity” and base our daily practices on its principles, we will begin learning on a higher level or plane.
A good step in that direction would be to carefully define “education for eternity” and specify the means by which it is to be accomplished. To borrow (and slightly modify) the words of John Dewey, “We shall make surer and faster progress when we devote ourselves to finding out just what education [for eternity] is and what conditions have to be satisfied in order that education [for eternity] may be a reality and not a name or a slogan” (116).
Considering the scriptures and the words of the prophets in reference to education for eternity, I have found that it goes far beyond the typical Sunday School admonitions of “Love your students” and “Teach with the Spirit.” This LDS philosophy of higher education is heavy on work and low on apologetics and sentimentality. In fact, it sets “a much more demanding standard than that provided by secular universities” (England 15).
Education: Process and Product
The term education means different things to different people. Some despair that “education is” nothing more than “a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” (Durant qtd. in Peter 173). For the materialistically motivated, “getting an education” means earning a diploma, the prerequisite to landing a job. Many other definitions of education exist, but in the interest of time I will simply share with you the one which I find most appropriate for our present purposes. Harry S. Broudy, a well known educational philosopher, defines education as “the process or product of a deliberate attempt to fashion experience by the direction and control of learning” (9).
Please note that in this definition education has two aspects–process and product. In discussing the meaning of education for eternity, I find it useful to consider each of these aspects separately–first the product and then the process. Before going into that, however, let’s consider the meaning of eternal as it applies to education.
Generally speaking, eternal means of “infinite duration. . . everlasting” (Webster’s). In this sense, eternal education would mean education of infinite duration. As Latter-day Saints we believe that “the learning process begun in this life carries on into the next” (Nibley “Educating” 243), but I would argue that in the case of “education for eternity” eternal has more of a qualitative than a quantitative meaning. Such thinking should not be new to those of us who have read the Doctrine and Covenants and learned that “eternal punishment” and even “endless punishment” are not punishment without end, but rather “God’s punishment” for, as the Eternal Father states, “Endless is my name” (D&C 19:1 0-11). That being so, it is certainly possible that eternal education is God’s education–education after his manner. In this view, the product of “education for eternity” is a Godlike being, and the process of eternal education consists of learning in a celestial way.
As England points out, this is “the most intellectually exciting goal a university could have–the full development of the individual, in terms of all our godlike possibilities, both for our mortal lives and forever” (6-7). Its purpose is not just to prepare people for a profession but to “assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” (“Mission” ). Brigham Young himself hinted at this when he outlined what it meant for Latter-day Saints to be “scholars of the first class”:
If we will not lay to heart the rules of education which our [greatest heavenly] Teacher gives us to study, and continue to advance from one branch of learning to another, we never can be scholars of the first class and become endowed with the science, power, excellency, brightness, and glory of the heavenly hosts; and unless we are educated as they are, we cannot associate with them. (JD 10: 266).
“Educated as they [the heavenly hosts] are” implies that not only must we attain the degree of knowledge that exalted beings have, but we must do so by the same process. That brings us to the product and process of “education for eternity.”
The Product of “Education for Eternity”
In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the philosopher Immanuel Kant indicated that the whole interest of reason centers on three questions (236). Later, lecturing on logic, he wrote that these three questions could be unified into one underlying query: “What is man?” (qtd. in Collins 315). Likewise, to understand the proper product of “education for eternity,” we must consider the LDS view of the nature and purpose of man, for properly educated men and women will be that product.
According to LDS doctrine, man is not just another of God’s creations but his actual spirit offspring, created in his image. Man “is of the race of Gods and in one stage of progress toward the mastery of the universe” (Carver 52). The end goal of this process is to become like our Heavenly Father. Naturally then, an important product of our “mortal schooling process” should be the acquisition of godly characteristics (Maxwell “Thanks” 53)..
One of the important messages of the restored Gospel is that at least some of the things we gain in mortality will not be lost when we leave this life. “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life. . . he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130: 18-19). This doctrine provides a key to understanding the proper product of “education for eternity,” for only those things which will rise with us are eternal. This definition obviously excludes many of the things which are so often sought after at universities: grade point averages, exam scores, diplomas. It also leads us to consider what things actually will “rise with us,” for they are of the greatest importance. In the scripture just quoted, knowledge and intelligence are mentioned–and spoken of as separate entities. I find it useful to maintain that distinction. These two educational outcomes, as well as three secondary ones–worthy stewardship, service, and joy–are the major products of “education for eternity.”
I will begin with knowledge, or subject matter. The scriptures, our educational history, and the words of our modern-day prophets all attest that the acquisition of knowledge is important. For instance, when Gordon B. Hinckley outlined “a triad of purposes underlying the establishment and operation of this school,” the first mentioned was “to impart knowledge” (1)
This knowledge is to be of all types. In fact, it is not even correct to speak of secular and religious knowledge as if they were distinct, for “LDS education embraces secular learning as a constituent part of universal truth, which emanates from a divine source” (Bennion 123).
Speaking on this subject, Brigham Young gave unmistakable advice:
‘Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?’ says one. ‘Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to know everything upon the face of the earth in addition to reading those books.’ (JD 2: 93-94)
On another occasion, President Young proclaimed, “It is our privilege and our duty to search all things upon the face of the earth” (JD 9: 243) [and] “What a boundless field of truth and power is open for us to explore” (JD 9: 167).
Thus he states both the scope and the paradox of our educational duty regarding knowledge. We are to “search all things” and “understand every principle,” yet he acknowledges that this field of truth is “boundless.” Although education will continue in the hereafter, in this life we are surrounded by finite bounds. Therefore, our knowledge of things must be incomplete. How, then, can we fulfill our duty?
Another, related challenge arising from our limited time on earth is choosing which types of knowledge to pursue. All knowledge is not equally valuable. Elder Neal Maxwell reminds us that “something can be both true and unimportant. . . . [T]here is an aristocracy among truths; some truths are simply and everlastingly more significant than others” (Smallest 4). This is in keeping with the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Yet the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things” (6). In response to this challenge, Elder Maxwell emphasizes schooling in such things as love, submissiveness, and sacrifice as part of a “cosmic” curriculum (Smallest 6). This line of thinking, however, inevitably leads to the questions, “Why do we attend universities at all?” and “Why do we spend so much time studying such ‘lesser’ and continually changing things as computer science, economics, political science, or electronics?”
One response is that although obsolescence overtakes many of the facts we dispense, it is also true that there are “eternal threads” to be found in virtually any subject matter. These are generally on the level of principle. One of the challenges of “education for eternity” then is to emphasize these principles.
Another response is that our educational duty is in searching, not necessarily in finding. Searching for knowledge teaches us more than just the subject matter itself. It instructs us in the learning process, and it develops our intellectual powers. This perspective also helps resolve another paradoxical subject-matter question: “Why bother with subject matter at all?”
Brigham Young explained that when we arrive in the spirit world after this life we “shall there learn with greater facility,” and after the resurrection we “shall learn a thousand times more in a thousand times less time” (JD 8: 10). One might naturally ask, “If learning then and there will be so much faster and better than it is here and how, why worry about it in this life?” Even if a man were to devote his entire mortal life to acquiring knowledge, his erudition would still be minuscule compared to what the worthy will learn in the hereafter.
The resolution to this paradox is found not only in stressing the “earthly” products of education (stewardship, service, and joy), but also in the higher principle that subject matter itself is not as important as learning is. Latter-day scriptures teach us that after death and resurrection we will be “restored” unto the states which we desired and pursued during our earthly probation (Alma 41:3-10). As Brigham Young put it: “We merge into immortality. We do not become another kind of beings in passing through the resurrection” (JD 10: 30). Therefore, if in this life we do not learn how to learn and do not develop our ability to acquire and use knowledge, we may find ourselves in a less favorable position to enjoy an acceleration of learning in the next life.
This is not to say that subject matter knowledge is unimportant. On the contrary, it is fundamental. The other products of education for eternity depend on subject matter. Without something to study we would not be able to practice learning and develop the powers of our intellect. Subject matter knowledge helps us be more worthy stewards and render greater service to others. To use the metaphor of a swimming class, subject matter is the water we learn to swim in. It is necessary, for without it we could not learn to swim. But we must also remember that swimming (not watching the water) is the most important thing. It is swimming, not the water, which gives us exercise and development, pleasure and recreation, and which allows us to rescue a drowning friend.
The implications for teaching and learning are clear. In “education for eternity,” our ultimate objective must be more than just subject matter knowledge. If, as teachers, we are merely teaching subject matter, we need to change our perspective and begin encouraging students to do things that will move them toward their divine destiny of becoming Godlike individuals. The advice for students is similar. If you are concerned only about learning the “facts and figures” of knowledge, you may become an unbalanced product of the school system and miss out entirely on education for eternity.
Developing intelligence is not the same as acquiring knowledge, just as true education does not consist of merely stuffing information into the brain. The ancestral form of educate, educere, means “to lead forth, to develop the powers” (Oxford). That meaning fits education for eternity well. As God’s offspring, we have been endowed with at least some of his attributes, and true higher education requires developing these Godlike qualities. BYU’s motto, “The glory of God is intelligence,” should remind us that developing intelligence is perhaps the most important aspect of “education for eternity” (D&C 93: 36).
Compared to the development of the human mind, knowledge in a particular subject area is relatively unimportant. In keeping with the teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith that “God has created man with a mind capable of instruction and a faculty that may be enlarged” (51), Brigham Young explained, “It matters not what the subject be, if it tends to improve the mind, exalt the feelings, and enlarge the capacity” (JD 1: 335).
Speaking on our campus just a few years ago, President Hinckley expressed this same idea when he said, “Train those who come here to think with intellectual integrity” (4). Boyd K. Packer echoed it when he told the faculty, “You have a good beginning when they [the students] can think for themselves” (Transcription of Tape 1, Side B: 3). But, as usual, Brigham Young said it most plainly and unmistakably: “We are trying to teach this people to use their brains” (JD 11: 328)
As we go about our educational pursuits at this university which bears Brigham Young’s name, we would do well to keep in mind his counsel concerning “the necessity of the mind being kept active and having the opportunity of indulging in every exercise it can enjoy in order to attain to a full development of its powers” (JD 13: 61). As teachers, this principle can guide us in counseling individuals, composing examinations, and making assignments. For instance, when students write a paper or conduct a research project, we can emphasize to them that–although the actual content must be correct–studying the subject thoroughly, organizing their thoughts, and expressing them clearly (all exercises in intelligence) are most important. In our courses, we should aim at academic activities which not only teach subject matter but at the same time require concentration, perseverance, the proper management and allocation of resources, wise decision-making, and self-discipline. And in our concern for developing skills, let us not forget the Lord’s words: “come. . . let us reason together, that ye may understand” (D&C 50: 10). Reasoning is one of the Lord’s teaching devices. It should be one of ours.
For students, when the subject matter seems irrelevant to your future job, when the homework load is heavy and the assignments are especially challenging, keep in mind the idea that the most important product of the process you are going through will be a well developed, eternal intelligence.
Other products of “education for eternity” are secondary since gaining them depends on knowledge and intelligence, but they are still important. One of the most important is worthy stewardship. We have all been given stewardships: our homes, families, physical bodies, talents, time, natural resources, etc. In sum, the earth and all in it have been entrusted to us, and the way we care for and develop these things is part of the mortal probationary process. Here again, education plays an important role. The effective management and development of resources cannot be done in ignorance. “Education for eternity” aims at providing knowledge and developing intelligence, so that we can be worthy stewards.
Another important product of eternal education is service, and increased intelligence and subject-matter knowledge can help us render greater service. President Hinckley noted that BYU graduates are to “serve the needs of the communities to which they will return” (2), and “stand as examples of men and women possessed of a great sense of service to their fellowmen” (4). As when we go to the Lord’s temple to perform work for others, at the Lord’s university we should not labor just for ourselves. Having been privileged with unusual opportunities for developing our intelligence, we need to devote ourselves to the work Brigham Young deeded to us along with the University: “The improvement of the condition of the human family” (JD 19: 46).
Unfortunately, some seek learning only for purposes of prestige and personal gain, not service. They act as if the sign at the entrance to the Provo campus ought to be changed to read “Enter to learn, go forth to earn.” Brown and Icke caution us against such an attitude:
If one is seeking knowledge or scholarly excellence for the purpose of gaining power, wealth or recognition, that work will fail. The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion. If he labors for money he shall perish. And laboring for scholarly recognition is no more noble. (12)
They then quote the words of Brigham Young: “keep [your] riches, and with them I promise you leanness of soul, darkness of mind, narrow and contracted hearts” (JD 12: 127). Those are not the products of “education for eternity.”
Another product of “education for eternity” is joy. “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:2 5). Joy–in this life and the next–comes from many sources, such as righteous living and rendering service to others. Education, in and of itself, can also be an additional source of joy. Elder Maxwell has explained: “Part of the pursuit of learning is for the sheer enjoyment, the sense of discovery, the sense of seeing relationships between bodies of knowledge” (“Common” 7). Orson Pratt expressed a similar sentiment: “There is a joy and a satisfaction, existing in the mind of the righteous man, in the discovery of every additional truth” (JD 3: 98).
The Process of “Eternal Education”
With the proper products of “education for eternity” in mind, we can now concern ourselves with the process by which these are to be achieved. It is a process in which both students and teachers alike should be engaged, for it merges learning, teaching, and research into a common process of discovery. Notably, this process also resolves a major paradox–the apparent conflict between the intellectual and the spiritual.
Intellectual vs. Spiritual
Jesus taught that “no man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6: 24), yet at first glance this is what appears to be expected, when we are constantly challenged to pursue both academic and spiritual ends. President Kimball gave us the following charge:
As scholars you must speak with authority and excellence. . . in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things. We must be more bilingual, in that sense, to fulfill our promise” (“Second” 245)
Perhaps the challenge is to make BYU a “mix of Plato’s Republic intellectually and Enoch’s City spiritually.”
Why is this dual preparation necessary? It is not, as some may think, to fulfill two distinct functions. As long as the spiritual and the scholarly are perceived as being separate, they will compete with each other. Rather, it is because spiritual and academic preparation go together in our process of “higher” learning. When our perspective rises to the level of “education for eternity,” the conflict disappears. In the 1832 revelation on education, the Lord instructed us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88: 118), and a modern-day prophet has reiterated that “knowledge comes both by reason and by revelation” (Smith, Joseph Fielding 2). In ideal learning, we are to “search for truth through secular and spiritual means at the same time” (Wilkinson and Skousen 8). Intellect and faith actually play mutually supportive roles in the process of celestial, Godlike education.
This “higher” learning process consists of four elements. They are not necessarily stages although I will discuss them sequentially in this lecture today. If you notice parallels between this process and the scriptural pattern for seeking divine revelation, you are not mistaken. It is meant as a model “for understanding in all fields” (Rasband 10).
Although the process of “education for eternity” includes revelation, divine assistance is not automatic. The Holy Ghost “doesn’t serve everyone. He serves only those who prepare themselves” (Flinders 15). The first requirement in this preparation process is desire. A learner must have a sincere, fervent, righteous desire to gain knowledge, develop his potential, and be of service.
The beginning of the “even by study and also by faith” scripture just quoted, reads “seek ye diligently” (D&C 88: 118), and the word “seek” is repeated two more times in the same verse. Seeking is more than just casually looking or happening to be in the right place at the right time. It implies a strong desire to find.
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi reports that his understanding of his father’s dream “came to pass after I had desired to know” (1 Ne. 11: 1). Likewise, “a majority of the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith were in response to a desire for knowledge on his part” (Rasband 10).
The parallels in “intellectual learning” are readily apparent. As Gardner states, the first characteristic of “an intellect that is ‘alive'” is “hunger,” hunger for knowledge (21). Other types of academic “hunger”–to get a good grade or a scholarship, to receive a promotion, or to become famous–do not belong to the same category. Only the legitimate kind of desire will do. Some of us may need to re-orient our thinking, for although scholarships, good grades, promotions, and even fame may follow a hunger for knowledge, they cannot take its place.
When Brigham Young University has “faculty who have a burning need to understand truth, and likewise students with the same desire or the potential therefor” it will be well on its way to becoming a truly great university (Rasband 10). When our desire for knowledge and intelligence is greater than our desire for socializing, finding a mate, getting an ‘A,’ or impressing our peers, we will be on the path to real excellence.
Encouraging are the reports that at least some students are overcoming the typical “obsession with grades and the superficial success that they represent” (King 8). Gardner, for instance, tells of a course in “Learning How to Learn” in which the “challenge became, rather than to get the better grade, to capture ideas and insights” (21).
Desire alone, however, is not sufficient. Additional requirements must be met. One of these is worthiness–living in accordance with God’s will. “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93: 28).
One important aspect of worthiness is humility, the recognition that we depend on God for our support. In the university environment, where the knowledge and abilities of individuals are often exalted and prominently displayed, it is especially important for us to guard against a feeling of false pride. As President Holland has counseled, “God loves a humble heart. It will be a prerequisite to our receiving much needed revelation” (Address).
Faith is another critical prerequisite. As President Kimball explained, from the beginning, Church leaders have intended us “to learn all that the world has to teach, but to do so in a setting infused with faith” (Address 1). We all know that, but I’m not certain we have understood the full implication of the charge. This responsibility to build and maintain faith is more than just our part in the reciprocal, mutually supportive relationship between Church and university. Building faith is important–not just as an obligation to our sponsoring Church but as an essential part of the process of celestial learning. If we are to receive divine assistance in our quest for knowledge, we need to have faith “in the capacity and willingness of the Lord to speak to us today” (Kimball Address 1). In today’s world, it may be “more difficult to foster faith than reason, but it is crucial to the success of “education for eternity” (Fox 4).
Integrity, or living in harmony with the laws of the Gospel, is another part of worthiness. Those who are violating the covenants they have made with God are seldom receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, when a man acts unrighteously, “the heavens withdraw themselves” and “he is left unto himself” (D&C 121: 37-38). This perspective gives the BYU code of honor new meaning. We are to be honest, moral, and modest–not only for the sake of avoiding punishment or giving a good impression to the world, but also to prepare us for ideal learning. We live the Gospel–not just to get a temple recommend, but to obtain knowledge from on high.
Important as desire and worthiness might be, they are still not sufficient. Intellectual struggle is also necessary. Intelligence is not developed without effort; knowledge is not free. We must pay the price. The great scientist Henry Eyring is reported to have said, “To find truth you have to try, and you have to persist in trying. Sometimes its fun. Sometimes it’s boring. But it’s always worth it” (qtd. in Brown and Icke 18).
Struggle will be one of the keys to the achievement of excellence. Using a historical example, President Kimball counseled us:
As the pursuit of excellence continues. . . we must remember the great lesson taught to Oliver Cowdery, who desired a special outcome–just as we desire a remarkable blessing and outcome for education. Oliver Cowdery wished to be able to translate with ease and without real effort. He was reminded that he erred, in that he ‘took no thought save it was to ask’ (D&C 9: 7). We must do more than ask the Lord for excellence. . . [T]here must be effort before there is excellence. ((“Second” 253)
Another example comes from the story of the Brother of Jared, who, when faced with the problem of darkness inside the boats in which his people were to travel, went to the Lord for help and got an answer which amounted to “You work out a solution. Then, I will help you implement it” (Ether 2: 23-25).
Some of you may perceive a paradox in this stress on learner struggle and effort. You may feel there is a conflict between Christian, brotherly kindness and allowing (even encouraging) learners to struggle. If so, I invite you to rise to the higher level of principle that resolves the paradox.
From an eternal perspective, giving away freely what ought to be earned is not really kind. Providing “education” without effort denies learners valuable opportunities for intellectual growth, and, as previously noted, the development of such attributes is the primary product of “education for eternity.”
President McKay understood that education consists of much more than dispensing information liberally and gratuitously. He once commented that “the university is not a dictionary, a dispensary, nor is it a department store” (qtd. in Kimball “Second” 250). In other words, the process of gaining knowledge and developing intelligence is not analogous to simply looking something up, swallowing a pill, or asking a clerk.
As teachers, our attitudes may need to change to the point where “Figure it out on your own” is considered more Christ-like than “Let me tell you.” Perhaps we ought to more frequently employ President Young’s words: “Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves!” (JD 11: 27).
Of course, “struggle” cannot be imposed. It must come from within. We all need to urge ourselves to greater efforts in this regard.
Struggle is important for another reason. Besides allowing us to discover knowledge and develop our Godlike attributes, it also puts us in position to receive revelation. The rule of struggle before excellence applies to all scholars who would advance in knowledge and discover new truths with God’s help. To receive such inspiration or revelation, we must have “paid the price, however high, so that the revelatory leaps to new truth and understanding are possible” (Rasband 13). This “price” includes study and research so that we are “in position,” at the “frontier” of knowledge.
As scholars, we should not expect God to reveal new knowledge to us until we have already learned what we can through experimentation, observation, books, professional periodicals, and contacts with our colleagues. In accordance with this principle, President Harold B. Lee explained that faculty members at BYU are expected “to keep pace with scientists and scholars and the development of modern knowledge” (qtd. in Oaks 6). The reason for this is based on two of God’s characteristics. He operates efficiently and does not reveal the same information repeatedly. Neither does he do for men what they can do for themselves.
These principles are not new to LDS education. Captain John W. Gunnison, a non-Mormon government explorer of Utah and observer of the Mormons in the 1800s, described the ideals and purposes actuating the founders of the University of Deseret as follows:
Their philosophers already aspire to something more than has yet been accomplished, and they state that they shall revolutionize the kingdom of science and surpass the most learned in mathematics, philosophy and the sciences of observation–for having sought first the kingdom of God and its righteousness; they look for the promise of having all other things and knowledge added; but they sensibly add, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and their minds will only quicken to perceive by the most intense industry. (qtd. in Bennion 97)
More recently, a Latter-day Saint scholar has noted, “Before the flash of inspiration comes, “one must have done the requisite study and technical preparation. . . which may require decades, perhaps a lifetime” (Rasband 12).
That brings us to revelation. President Kimball explained, “We expect the natural unfolding of knowledge to occur as a result of scholarship, but there will always be that added dimension which the Lord can provide when we are qualified to receive and he chooses to speak” (“Second” 252). After we have done all we can do to prepare ourselves, we will still need help from on high to fill in the gaps in our understanding and to reach new heights (see 2 Ne. 25: 23).
President Kimball also noted, “there are yet ‘many great and important things’ to be given to mankind which will have an intellectual and spiritual impact far beyond what mere men can imagine” (“Installation” 3). If we have the proper desire, and struggle to make ourselves sufficiently worthy–both spiritually and academically–we may be the means through which that promise (and the many others that have been made about our destiny) may be fulfilled.
President Kimball once stated, “There are many ways in which we can tower above other universities–not simply because of the size of its student body or its beautiful campus. . . but by the unique light BYU can send forth into the educational world” (“Installation” 2).
To generate that light, it will take more than requiring religion classes as part of general education, more than just balancing secular and religious pursuits. It will even take more than one hundred million dollars, for no amount of money alone will be sufficient. Funds can provide laboratories, research time, library holdings, scholarships, etc., but these are only resources that can help us as students and teachers in our struggle to arrive at the “frontier” of knowledge, and that is only one aspect of the process of “education for eternity.”
To generate the light President Kimball spoke of, we must work toward understanding and practicing “education for eternity” in its totality. Achieving that goal will require an integration of the spiritual and intellectual, leading to a transformation of both the process and product of education. Accomplishing that will not be easy, but it is the key to our excellence.
I agree with England that for the present “the most serious challenge we face is. . . our own failure to understand completely and measure up to our founder’s radical vision” (1). I am also optimistic that some day, sooner or later, we will adopt and achieve that visionary goal. As Hugh Nibley has said, “Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to return to Brigham Young’s ideals of education; we may fight it all the way, but in the end God will keep us after school until we learn our lesson” (“Educating” 253).
In conclusion, I would like to quote T.S. Eliot one more time: “What we call the beginning is often the end/ And to make an end is to make a beginning./ The end is where we start from” (ll. 216-218). As I bring this lecture to an end, I earnestly hope that we may all make a new beginning in the direction indicated by this LDS philosophy of higher education. I, for one, am going to try, and I invite you to join me. Perhaps if we all do our part we will soon truly be “taught more perfectly.”