The Education in Zion Blog
The Education in Zion Gallery, with its stunning two-story windows, has one of the most beautiful views on BYU campus. I love how you can see a large portion of campus (most notably the library), but mostly I love how you can see the mountains framing campus. This view is just one of the many symbols in the gallery.
In the scriptures, mountains are commonly referred to as temples, or places to commune with God. Isaiah teaches, “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways” (Isaiah 2:3). Nephi also describes his experience in the mountains: “As I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain” (1 Nephi 11:1). Finally, we learn that Jesus Christ himself “went up into a mountain apart to pray” (Matthew 14:23).
I see a close relationship with the natural view of the mountains and the mural in the gallery, “The Temple: A Holy School.” Seeing these mountains framing our college campus reminds me that the Lord values not only “spiritual” studies, but “secular”studies as well. All truth testifies of Christ, and we should be actively seeking truth in any form: a textbook, scriptures, uplifting music, or hiking. As the thirteenth Article of Faith teaches, “anything lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I am grateful for these majestic mountains that are constant reminders of my Heavenly Father’s love for me.
The spirit of the Education in Zion Gallery is one of eternal reflection. The stories of Saints long gone—and yet ever-present by their works of dedication—are a source of reflection; pictures of their solemn, smiling, or firmly determined expressions tell their stories.
What did it matter that there were no papers, pencils, maps, or other teaching supplies? Their ingenuity provided the basics to learn: quill pens were created from chicken feathers, ink from crushed bearberries, and pencils from the charcoal ends of blackened sticks pulled from the fire. And what did they write on? They wrote on their hands, arms, and old rags until Church President Brigham Young brought the first paper mill to Salt Lake Valley in 1857. These early Mormon settlers of the Great Basin had not wasted the first decade in the Salt Lake Valley. The Saints had been very busy establishing farms, houses, and a few businesses, and they were also laboring to construct temples and schools.
The statement, “Man cannot be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6) rang through their very beings, and so they labored. The Saints labored to learn the gospel through diligent scripture study and they built temples where they would administer sacred ordinances while also gaining an education of the spirit. They constructed schools where they could “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people”, (D&C 90:15) an education of the secular mind.
To stroll through the gallery is to feel of their unseen and yet ever-zealous desire to be educated and to educate. This spirit implores us to waste no time on worldly pursuits of no eternal value, but to cherish that which is unseen, our accomplishments yet to be realized in our pursuit to be “taught from on high” (D&C 43:16).
This week I gave a tour of the gallery to a friend of mine who goes to massage therapy school and has been working very hard to get an education. We talked about the sacrifices that some of the early Saints had to make in order to help their children get an education.
I then asked her, “What are some of the sacrifices that you have made in order to get an education?” Her response was very enlightening. She had family members telling her to give up because an education just wasn’t for her, that she had spent all of her money on tuition and didn’t even have her own place to live for a while. However, she felt this sacrifice was worth it in order to get an education. She feels accomplished knowing that, despite her critics, she was able to stick with a task and accomplish it. All she has left to do now is study and pass her test to complete massage therapy school to get her certificate.
I love asking people what sacrifices they have made for education in their lives. An education is very important, and I believe it should require some kind of sacrifice from us. As the hymn “Praise to the Man,” says, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” When I ask visitors what sacrifices they’ve made for their education, it helps them to see how their sacrifice is worth every bit of it because of the joy they have received and the potential joy they will receive in the future from receiving an education.
The first time I had a tour from one of the gallery educators, I was blown away. I knew education was important, but I didn’t realize how much Church leaders have always focused on education and the progression toward a Zion-like community. After a forty-minute tour, I came away with a lot of new knowledge and felt an abundance of peace.
Now I work at the gallery and am blessed to see the lessons I learned months earlier being passed on to others. This in itself is one of the greatest blessings to me because I now have the chance to help uplif others. For these reasons, I love the Education in Zion Gallery.
With lights, poinsettias and carols beginning to appear all over campus, it is so thrilling that the Christmas season is here! While I love that this is the most socially acceptable time to spontaneously burst into song, I think the best part is the atmosphere of good will and charity that abides wherever you go. Christmastime unites us in a unique way.
The Christmas season is more than sales and presents, it is a season of service and hope. The season begins with Thanksgiving, a holiday devoted to gratitude. Thanksgiving is the perfect springboard into Christmastime as it directs our thoughts to be happy and to give thanks for all we have.
We had a sign in our home while I was growing up that said, “Christmas is not about the presents, but His presence.” I love that sign because it reminds me that Christmas is not a once-a-year celebration; it is a spirit that can continue into the spring, summer, and fall. It is a mindset of looking outside yourself and finding others to uplift. Christ truly is the “reason for the season,” but not just the winter season. As we keep a Christ-centered life, the “Christmas spirit” can always stay with us.
One of the things I love about the Education in Zion Gallery is that it teaches us how to keep Christ at the center of our learning and our lives.
The gallery is a place where students and friends can come to feel the influence of the Spirit of God. It features stories and images of our pioneer heritage that have touched my life and caused deep reflection. The lengths our forefathers went through to ensure their children could receive educations speaks volumes of the importance of learning and increasing in knowledge. Many of these were educated people; they were people who read books, attended the theater, and studied at school. Then, due to devastating persecution, they were stripped from their books, theaters, and schools. They missed it, and they wanted their progeny to be edified as they had been before all the tumult of harassment overwhelmed their lives.
They came west and settled here in Utah. They scratched a meager living from a barren desert until they were able to make it blossom, and—all the while—they made the time to teach and learn. They opened schools, they started programs, and they worked incredibly hard to make sure they stayed educated when it would have been so easy to justify not doing so. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to benefit from the conventional Latter-day Saint view that education matters. I am thankful to be attending Brigham Young University, the center of the Church Education System. And I am thankful for the Education in Zion Gallery, which reminds me what my education has cost.
The Education in Zion Gallery stimulates introspection about the quality of one’s testimony. As you read the stories and see the pictures of these “beginner saints,” you come to realize that the word “quit” was not in their vocabularies. The Saints were intimately acquainted with the words they sang: “No toil, nor labor fear,”and “should we die before our journey’s through.”1 In those days, toil, labor, and early death were familiar to many who were trying to live the gospel with integrity; quitting never was familiar to them. They suffered grinding poverty, violent ejections from homes, and destruction of property vital to sustain life. I sometimes wonder if I would remain unflagging in my search for divine truth. If so, would I uphold my right and responsibility to live and share that truth? I hope so; I hope I would be able to say, with boldness, “yes!”
As a convert seeking deeper conversion, I admit that these thoughts “[let] the solemnities of eternity rest upon my mind.”2 My Church membership and calling have in no way taxed or endangered my livelihood as they did my forebears. That time may come, but so far my only trials have been those of belittlement from family, strangers, and even other Church members. The comments made by those who are also in the, “household of God.”3 have been the hardest to bear, but no matter; the truth is what it is despite belittlement and insult. Perhaps that recognition kept the early Saints going too. Once we are blessed and enlightened by truth, there is no going back. I have never even wanted to, and, come what may, I never will.
1. William Clayton, 1814-1879, Come, Come, Ye Saints, LDS Hymnal
2. Doctrine and Covenants 43:34
3. Ephesians 2:19, KJV
The south wall of the Education in Zion Gallery bears an amazing 10 x18 foot mural of the Kirtland Temple. In the forefront of the mural is verdant farmland with a gently flowing river; behind the temple is a gigantic mid-western storm, which overwhelms the horizon. The overall feeling of the mural is one of perfect peace in the midst of an approaching tempest. The final light in the sky, shining on the temple, is symbolic of our Heavenly Father’s never-ending love and attentive concern for each of us. It also symbolizes that we may prepare ourselves to enter the temple to receive even more exact instruction for our particular circumstances—no matter how ominous those circumstances may be.
But there is more symbolism at work here that I only recently realized. Unlike the temples we build today, the Kirtland Temple had no baptismal font, nor alters for the sealing of husband and wife for eternity. The Kirtland Temple was built primarily for the restoration of Priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith. There could be no furthering of the work of the Kingdom of God on the earth until these keys were restored in their fullness. Moses, Elias, and Elijah all returned to this temple to restore their particular keys to Joseph. Even in temple work, the beginning of this last dispensation was taught to the Saints line upon line.
Church President Brigham Young saw the growth of secularism in public education during the 1860s and 1870s as a threat to the youth of the Church and the future of Zion. Early in that period, he began mentoring individuals and setting aside resources that the Church would need, including property for schools. Early during this period, President Young quietly and providentially began transferring Church property to family members and trusted Church leaders, including Provo Stake President Abraham O. Smoot.
Later, the federal government passed the Morrill Act of 1862, which called for the confiscation of property owned by churches that practiced polygamy. Fortunately, President Young’s transferal of property to individuals preserved resources that those members were able to return to Church education, including Brigham Young Academy.
In order to continue teaching their religion, the Church and other religious groups were forced to consider founding schools of their own, so as state legislatures nationwide were bringing community schools under public control, President Young was putting Church schools in place. In 1888, Wilford Woodruff launched a system of stake academies patterned after Brigham Young Academy. The educational program needed for a Church wide school system had been developed and tested by the time the Church needed it.
Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (Chicago; University of Illinois Press, 2005), 257-58.
Joseph J. Cannon, “George Q. Cannon: Relations with Brigham Young,” Juvenile Instructor 80, no. 6 (June 1945); 259-260.
Throughout our lives we face trials and complications. These trials define who we are and what we will become. Many of us fear affliction and shy away from the hardships of life, but we need these experiences to show that we have faith and trust in our Heavenly Father. B.H. Roberts said:
“Some of the lowliest walks in life, the paths which lead into the deepest valleys of sorrow and up to the most rugged steeps of adversity, are the ones which, if a man travel in, will best accomplish the object of his existence in this world. . . . The conditions which place men where they may always walk on the unbroken plain of prosperity and seek for nothing but their own pleasure, are not the best within the gift of God. For in such circumstances men soon drop into a position analogous to the stagnant pool; while those who have to contend with difficulties, brave dangers, endure disappointments, struggle with sorrows, eat the bread of adversity and drink the water of affliction, develop a moral and spiritual strength, together with a purity of life and character, unknown to the heirs of ease and wealth and pleasure. With the English bard, therefore, I believe: Sweet are the uses of adversity!” (B.H Roberts, Man’s Relationship to Deity, 289-290.)
To me, these words embody the Education in Zion Gallery. It tells the story of the injured Saints, who—against all odds—overcame their afflictions and established Zion. For this reason I cherish the time I spend in the gallery. It teaches me to push on and work hard to fully grasp what I have been placed on this earth to accomplish.