November, 18, 2014

Celebrating the Arts

Melinda Blog Image Brigham Young

This year BYU is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center. Our pioneer ancestors loved the arts. Their communities in the East and later in the Western frontier were filled with great musicians, actors, artists, and authors.

Did you know that Brigham Young was an actor, famous for his role as the Incan High Priest in the play Pizarro? “The stage,” Brigham Young said, “can be made to aid the pulpit” if directors “select . . . plays that will improve the public mind and exalt the literary taste.” [1]

There are countless examples of the early Saints’ love for dancing. One of my favorites is a story of the Saints laboring in the unfinished Nauvoo Temple. Brigham Young stated, “it was thought proper to have a little season of recreation . . . accordingly Brother Hanson . . . played several lively airs [on his violin,] accompanied by Elisha Averett on his flute. . . . This was too much for the gravity of Brother Joseph Young, who indulged in dancing a hornpipe, and was soon joined by several others, and before the dance was over, several French fours were indulged in. The first was opened by myself with Sister Whitney and Elder Heber C. Kimball and partner. The spirit of dancing increased until the whole floor was covered with dancers, and . . . we danced before the Lord.” [2]

Happy 50th to the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center! Thanks for not only entertaining but for also uplifting and involving the Spirit in your various performances.  And thanks to the students who used to be stamped with “those people that hang out in the HFAC” stereotype, I hope that next time you pass Brigham Young’s statue on campus, you realize you’re making BYU’s namesake proud.

[1] Jane Choate, “Eliza R. Snow,” October 1, 1986,

[2] Education in Zion Text. Zion-Text.pdf

October, 16, 2014

The Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance Do Good. Better

Since everyone will contribute to philanthropy in some form over their lifetime, the Ballard Center provides students the tools necessary to ensure they make the largest impact possible in those endeavors. The interactive Do Good Better exhibition illustrates concepts such as:

  • The importance of organizations that promote self-reliance, and
  • How to recognize high-impact organizations

Individuals seek to do good all over the world, but without appropriate knowledge and skills, zeal can do more harm than good.  Through courses and field experience, Ballard Center students gain valuable education, enabling them to make significant, lasting, and positive impact.

When I donate my time or resources, am I giving in a way that fosters dependency or encourages self-reliance?

Through ventures, internships, and courses that promote economic self-reliance, the Ballard Center looks to the example of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, the center’s namesake and the founding chair of the Church Welfare Program, in seeking to help others break the cycle of hopelessness. They do so by providing individuals the skills or resources they need to stand on their own rather than depending on outside assistance to survive.

“The Lord’s way consists of helping people help themselves.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

The programs the students develop are rated by innovation, impact, scale, sustainability, and self-reliance. Because not all programs fit this model, there are failures as well as successes, but even failures can be used to redesign a program for success.

October, 6, 2014

Service and Sacrifice

As students we are often caught up in the hustle and bustle of our own work and fail to take the time to stop and thank or assist others. As we rush off to classes, many of us forget the thankless tasks that are performed each day to make our lives a little bit easier. We often pass by those mopping up spills or trimming bushes, and only stop to notice when the job is left undone.

There is much to learn from those who persist through their own trials and push forward to help others. One such example is Brigham Thomas Higgs.1 Mr. Higgs was the director of physical facilities and custodial work at the University and much of his works probably went unnoticed. Despite Mr. Higgs’s dire need for higher wages with his growing family, he continued to bring change to the school. The changes that took place helped students, whom he felt experienced greater challenges than his own. Mr. Higgs was the first to suggest student employment at BYU; his idea has wrought improvements in the lives of students for generations. Campus jobs relieve the stress of finding manageable work while in school.

Mr. Higgs is a great example of the counsel to “first observe and then serve,”2 as quoted from Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton., As he interacted with his student staff members, Mr. Higgs did not merely smile and send them on their way to fix their own problems, he went to them with solutions. In some cases, Mr. Higgs even brought groceries to the dormitories for needy students.

As we struggle through our classes we can learn from Mr. Higgs’s example. Despite ever increasing challenges, we can always find time to assist those seeking help.


1: Education in Zion Gallery text (

2: “First Observe, then Serve,” Linda K. Burton.

September, 25, 2014

The Key of Knowledge

As college students, we stress over every detail offered in our hundreds of hours of lectures, and we try to pull every morsel of information out of the words within a textbook. Finally receiving a diploma tells the world that we hold a key of knowledge that will open the doors to success. This key, although thought to be given to you after years of gaining a college education, was actually given to you at birth. In the beginning the key was standard, unmolded, and untouched, but through years of educating yourself through difficult classes and lessons, each crevasse was carved into your personal key. This is the key of true knowledge.

Many think to themselves that once the difficult years of college are over we will never have to open another textbook, sign up for another class, or take another test. This idea is wrong. Everyday life is filled with new lessons that take us to greater places. Our key is never fully carved away. We will always have more metal to strike upon, more potential in the world of knowledge. Brigham Young said, “The object of this existence is to learn, which we can only do a little at a time” (1).” College is important and well worth its time, but don’t limit yourself. We need to learn every day because we do learn in little blocks, and it’s those little blocks that build up Zion. D&C 130:18-19 states, “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 through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” One day we will have the knowledge to unlock those worlds we were promised but we first need to focus on the key.


April, 4, 2014

Education in the Eyes of the Church

In the gallery we see the word “Zion” displayed on many of the walls. Zion is defined in D&C 97:21 as “the pure in heart.” This also represents progression. As we emulate our Heavenly Father, our hearts are purified and we become a more Zion-like people. One of the ways we can emulate our Heavenly Father is through education, and we obtain an education through hard work and the culmination of secular and spiritual knowledge. Such an education is available at institutions like BYU, BYU Hawaii, BYU Idaho, and even the LDS Seminary and Institute programs around the world. The seminary program icurrently operates in 143 countries, teaching over 375,000 students with 38,000 volunteer and full-time teachers. (1)

Go Forth to Serve

The prophet Brigham Young taught,  “Gather up all education and treasure it.” (2) This is because the glory of God is intelligence and encourages education at all levels.  When entering the BYU campus you pass the schools motto “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” This represents what education is about and why it is important for the building up of Zion. Our Savior Jesus Christ taught that we need to learn so that we can bless the lives of others. This is how we progress and become closer to our Heavenly Father.

Education is at the heart of our existence. We need to learn as much as we can during this time to progress toward an education for the eternities, but this can only happen if we seek learning by study and by faith.





April, 4, 2014

Mountains: Temples of Learning

Learning in the LightThe 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.

March, 28, 2014

An Instrument of the Lord: The Conversion of Karl G. Maeser

pic 2While teaching at a school in Germany, Karl G. Maeser came across an incendiary text about Mormonism that, ironically, sparked his initial interest in the religion.[1]  In 1853, Maeser wrote the mission president of the Scandinavian mission requesting missionaries to teach him in Saxony.  This president then informed the president of the Swiss-German Mission, Elder Daniel Tyler, about the letter.

Because of the circumstances in Germany, Elder Tyler feared the letter might be a trick to bait missionaries into Saxony and then arrest and imprison them for preaching the gospel. Consequently, Elder Tyler did not respond to Maeser, but rather sent his letter back, having faith that if Maeser’s interest was genuine, he would write again.

Maeser did not disappoint them. He wrote again, and this time his new letter was sent to President Franklin D. Richards, the President of the whole European Mission who felt strongly that Maeser’s desire to learn was sincere.

Sending a missionary to Saxony would still be a risky task, so President Richards met with Elder William Budge and offered him the opportunity, which he was happy to accept.[2] Once in Germany, the young Scotch Elder was careful to avoid problems with the police and posed as a student of German who was seeking the instruction of the talented teacher, Karl G. Maeser. Within two weeks Maeser and his family were converted. On October 14, 1855, at midnight they were baptized in the Elbe River.2

[1] Wilkinson, Ernest L. and W. Cleon Skousen, Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny 1 (Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1976): 84-87.

[2] Wilkinson, Ernest L., Brigham Young University: The First 100 Years, (Utah, Brigham Young University Press, 1975): 56-58.

March, 28, 2014

To Cherish the Unseen

BYA GraduatesThe 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).


March, 10, 2014

Alma O. Taylor


At the young age of 19, Alma O. Taylor was called to serve a nine-year mission to Japan for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was one of the first LDS missionaries to serve in Japan because the country had previously been closed off to countries from the Western hemisphere. As any missionary past or present can attest, learning a new language brings its fair share of frustration. Alma was no exception, and he struggled to master the Japanese language.

In 1902, Elder Heber J. Grant—who also struggled with the Japanese language—prophesied that Alma “would be the main instrument in the hands of the Lord in translating the Book of Mormon into the Japanese language.” Despite his shortcomings, Alma accepted the assignment. After years of hard work, the first Japanese Book of Mormon was finally printed in 1909.[1]

The translation of the Book of Mormon into Japanese helped fulfill the prophecy in Doctrine and Covenants 90:11: “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

And the translation work continues to progress into the twenty-first century. As of 2011 “the Book of Mormon has been published in its entirety in 82 languages, with selections of the book available in an additional 25 languages.”[2] Alma O Taylor played a critical role in fulfilling the promise made in Doctrine and Covenants. As a result of his faith and diligence in the early part of the twentieth century, the people of Japan had the opportunity to hear the fullness of the gospel in their native language.


[1] Larry Richards, “Translations of the Book of Mormon,” LDS Media Talk (forum), July 30, 2010,

[2] “Book of Mormon Reaches 150 Million Copies,” LDS Church News, April 20, 2011,

*For further reading, see Reid L. Neilson, “The Japanese Missionary Journals of Elder Alma O. Taylor, 1901-10” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2001).

March, 10, 2014

Sacrifice Brings Forth Blessings

Maeser building litThis 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.