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.
The Salt Lake Academy was the legacy of William B. Dougall. In the mid-1880s, Dougall was inspired by the success and growth of Brigham Young Academy and sought aid from Karl G. Maesar (BYA’s principal) to begin an academy in Salt Lake City that could offer similar services to the youth in that area.
On November 15, 1886, the Salt Lake Academy was opened and filled to capacity. Some applicants were even turned away because the school could not house them all. Over the next few years, many changes were made, including the newly founded Salt Lake Stake Board of Education’s decision to change the name to Salt Lake Stake Academy.
For decades following the school’s opening, the school was quite successful, and even had the potential to become a full-service university. But, along with many of the stake academies at the time, the school suffered great financial turmoil and was under threat of closure by the late 1920s. Finally, the school was closed in 1931 due to the Great Depression. Despite the closing, two departments continued on independently: The McCune School of Music and LDS Business College. While the McCune School of Music was closed in the 1950s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began sponsoring the LDS Business College.
The LDS Business College now services over 2,000 students from all over the United States and the world. The Church continues to sponsor the school and it is truly fulfilling Karl G. Maesar’s prophecy that “its future will be more glorious than its past!”
*Information from Gallery Text and The LDS Business College website:
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.
As I walk through the rooms of the Education in Zion Gallery, one simple phrase seems to echo through them all: “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” The gallery walls are full of Saints that were willing to sacrifice everything for the seemingly small privilege of being in a classroom. They were seeking Christ not only through faith but also though academics. The early Saints were pioneers geographically and intellectually.
As I ponder over the early Saints’ great examples, I wonder how I can do a similar work in my time. Why must I give seemingly needless things more attention than my own education? If I truly want to be an agent of change in the world, must I not first prepare myself with such useful tools?
Just like the efforts of the early Saints have transcended their eras to bless our lives today, I hope that my own actions will do the same for others. The student I am today will determine my capacity to serve in the future. Therefore, I must not succumb to the indifferent attitude that is often seen in society, but instead be actively involved in my education. I must learn today what I want to teach tomorrow. Then—and only then—will I be able to “go forth to serve.”
The Education in Zion gallery is filled with quotes from church leaders and other historical characters that help us recognize the kind of attributes the Lord wants His disciples to possess. One of my favorite quotes in the gallery is from President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“My plea is that … we look for strength and goodness rather than weakness and foibles in those who did so great a work in their time. We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes … But the mistakes were minor when compared with the marvelous work they accomplished … The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them have occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they have accomplished so much.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency, 1986)
This can help us understand many things about life. Not only does it help us understand that our leaders—despite their imperfections—were great, but it also teaches us how to view our peers and ourselves.
What if we were to only focus on our strengths and goodness rather than our weaknesses and foibles? What if we were to focus on the talents and good of those surrounding us instead of their shortcomings? President Hinckley taught us not only a way to approach the study of church history, but also a way for us to live our day-to-day lives.
Brother Brown was promised in his patriarchal blessing, “Thou wilt be blessed with wisdom and many will seek thee for counsel.” Throughout his career at BYU, which involved close associations with many student employees under his supervision, this blessing was realized.
A student custodian once brought Delbert a lost billfold that contained a risqué picture torn from a magazine. When the owner, a fifteen-year-old boy, came to the office to claim it, Delbert took out his own wallet and showed him photographs of his own family, saying, “They are pictures any man or boy would be glad to show to anybody.” Reminding the boy of how it would hurt his mother to learn what he had been carrying, Delbert counseled, “I want you to do away with those pictures and get your mother’s and sister’s pictures and put them in your billfold.” The boy promptly tore up the page and said tearfully, “Thanks, Mr. Brown. Nobody has ever talked to me like that before. I don’t think I’ll get into trouble now.”
Brother Brown’s love for the students of BYU was legendary. Perhaps the faculty and staff today are as motivated as he was by the Spirit of the Lord. Brother Brown said, “The sacrifice some of the students make to come to BYU sometimes makes me wonder if the spirit of those who founded doesn’t still remain with it.”