From the inception of Brigham Young Academy (BYA) through its continual growth into a large university today, the Lord has guided and protected this great institution. The school’s leaders often relied upon inspiration and service to build the academy into a full-blown university, whose reach has influenced the course of Church education.
The vision of Brigham Young Academy becoming a large and respected university must have been hard to maintain, at times, for its founding principal, Karl G. Maeser, as he and his students attended school on the top floor of the ZCMI warehouse. For Brother Maeser, it was not only a humble beginning, but a difficult one as well. By day, he was a principal and a teacher of math, science, history, geography, English, and much more. By night, he took on the role of the janitor as the school had no means to pay for one. For weeks at a time he would go without pay so the academy could continue to function and grow.
Maeser’s desk stands as a symbol of both hard work and revelation. When confounded by the issue of how to run the academy, he knelt in prayer and received the direction that the school would soon take. Simply put, Maeser’s inspired plan was to provide “a complete education, morally, religiously, and intellectually.”
Maeser’s educational model shaped not merely Brigham Young Academy, but all the Church’s academies. The leaders and teachers of these schools were largely trained at BYA, and Maeser himself, as Church superintendent of schools, supervised their work. Maeser also traveled throughout the West, instructing local Church leaders on how weekday religion classes, which were then sponsored by the various wards, should be managed and taught. And in the course of time, the academies and religion classes trained the leaders and teachers who eventually created the seminaries and institutes, who in turn built up the Church’s college-level schools.
The inspired plan Maeser wrote while sitting as his desk on a spring evening in 1876 launched and shaped the now worldwide educational program of the Church.