February, 3, 2015

Communal Learning

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Education is an incredible thing because it can be both individual and communal.  One of my favorite things about working in the Education in Zion Gallery is the opportunity it gives me to engage in communal learning as I meet and talk with new people every day.  I love learning from the people who come into the gallery to look around, and I believe that we can and should learn something from every person we come in contact with.  Many have experienced the uplifting blessings that come from this type of collaborative learning.

The early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also knew the importance of gathering together to learn from one another. One of their leaders, Sidney Rigdon, emphasized that “one of the principal objects of our coming together is to obtain the advantages of education.”[1] Working in the gallery has reminded me that education in its many forms has always played an important role in the Church.  But why would communal education play such an important role in building Zion?

Joseph Smith answered this question as he guided the Saints towards becoming a Zion people. He commented, “In nothing did they show their enthusiasm for the cause of Zion more than in education, for it was by education—religious, intellectual, cultural, and practical—that they could all come to enjoy an equal privilege and progress together.”[2] As we gain education, knowledge, and skills, we are in a better position to serve God’s children. Thus, learning, doing, and serving are all crucial steps toward building a Zion-like community.


1. Sidney Rigdon, “To the Saints Abroad,” Elders’ Journal 1, no. 4 (August 1838): 53.

2. Education in Zion Gallery text.

December, 3, 2014

The Fruit


It is easy to see how spiritual instruction is invaluable to us. Without it, we would be unable to understand our purpose in mortality. So why are we also counseled by the prophets and apostles to pursue temporal knowledge? Why is that of concern to them, or more importantly, to the Lord?

I have discovered there are many reasons we are commanded to seek knowledge, but one stands out to me as quintessential.   My discovery came through the words of the Lord as recorded in a scripture in John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.”

When I thought about this scripture in terms of education, I finally had a realization about why our temporal educations are so important. As we strive to become one with Christ, we learn to live as he lived.

Christ taught and served others during his ministry on Earth, and he wants us to do the same. The more education we receive, both spiritual and temporal, the more effective we will be as teachers and servants. These are the fruits the Lord spoke of.  If we take advantage of opportunities to learn, our fruits will be sweeter.

December, 3, 2014

Bodies Filled with Light: A New Exhibition

Education in Zion’s new anatomy exhibition, Bodies Filled with Light opened on November 5, 2014. This exhibit highlights the magnificence of the human body through anatomical illustrations paired with scriptures. As gallery educators researched the topic of the body, they discovered 9,123 verses in the LDS standard works that pertained to human anatomy. The exhibition utilizes some of these verses to convey the message that our bodies work in conjunction with our spirits.

The exhibition features original drawings from the 30th. American edition of Gray’s Anatomy to help visitors understand the magnificence of their own body. Our body performs marvelous feats each day without us taking a second thought. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains: “Spirit and body, when joined together, become a living soul of supernal worth. Indeed, we are children of God—physically and spiritually,” (Oct 1998).

Our bodies are an essential part of the plan of salvation, in fact it is one of the principal reasons for coming to this earth, so we could each gain our own body. As part of the plan of salvation we learn to improve ourselves and overcome carnal natural human to become men and women of God. Sister Susan W. Tanner explained “The Lord wants us to be made over—but in His image, not in the image of the world, by receiving His image in our countenances,” (Oct 2005). As children of God, Elder Nelson reminds us that “Our potential is unlimited,” (Oct 1998).

We encourage patrons to come and learn about their own bodies so they too can gain a greater appreciation of God’s marvelous creation.


We are Children of God (Oct 1998 General Conference)

Susan W. Tanner, “The Sanctity of the Body”

December, 3, 2014

Education in Zion: A Hidden Gem


During the semester there are definitely times when I feel as though I am slogging through mental and emotional trials that can be likened to the Saints’ difficult experiences in Missouri. Some of the class material makes absolutely no sense on my first study of it! Am I really supposed to be doing this for how many more semesters? I am a person who loves learning and school, but I certainly feel bogged down and overwhelmed at times.

There is a hidden place on campus that feels like Nauvoo, where the Saints found peace and rest, not just mentally and emotionally, but spiritually as well. The Education in Zion Gallery is this hidden gem. Here you can sense a quiet devotion to education for the whole soul. It is a wonderful space that helps to restore the balance that we can so easily lose between research papers, group projects, and exams. The Saints were devoted to education, because of their knowledge of the gospel. Their struggles through mud, mobs, and misery puts perspective on the work to which we as Saints now are committed.

This work of obtaining knowledge is just that, work. This is our career for now. It will not always be so, though life-long learning is essential not just for our temporal needs, but for our insatiable desire as children of God to know what there is to know! Peace and rest from temporal concerns is absolutely essential for the eternal man. I invite you to come to the Education in Zion Gallery in the JFSB to feel restored once more to our eternal nature.



November, 25, 2014

Education Increases Vision


While taking a tour with a family last week, a father pointed out a wall in the Pioneer Schools room, “Brigham Young was born into a poor family. . . . He had only eleven days of formal education. Meeting Joseph Smith changed Brigham’s aspirations. As he learned from Joseph about eternal progression, it quickly became a major theme and aim of his life.”

Although Brigham Young was not formally trained or educated, the gospel broadened his perspective of not only his goals, but also the vision he had for himself. This father noted that although sometimes we may not be given all of the resources in this world, we can still improve ourselves.  Our potential is unlimited with the assistance of the Holy Ghost. As we learn with the help of the Spirit, our minds can be prepared and opened for additional knowledge beyond our own capacity to comprehend the material presented.

Not only was Brigham Young ambitious about his learning in this life, but the gospel provided him the perspective that he would continue to progress in the next life. He said, “I shall not cease learning while I live, nor when I arrive in the spirit-world[,]… and when I again receive my body, I shall … still continue my researches.”[1]

As the semester comes to a close, let us remember why we are here. We are here to grow and to use our knowledge to serve those around us in both this life and the next. Although we are not yet perfect, may we be inspired to know that one day this knowledge will help us in our eternal progression.


[1] Quoted in Susa Young Gates, The Life Story of Brigham Young(New York: Macmillan, 1930), 283.

November, 25, 2014

Bodies Filled with Light Scriptural Reference Statistics

Bodies Filled with Light Exhibition

On November 5th, 2014, the Education in Zion Gallery opened a new exhibition titled Bodies Filled with Light. This exhibition includes professional drawings of the human body paired with scripture references to those anatomical parts. This exhibition is spiritually enlightening for everyone who connects to the exhibition and its life lessons. As I have worked on this exhibition, I have gained insight into the importance of my body and life as a whole.

My favorite portion of this exhibition outlines Christ’s life and his body throughout his days on earth, and how he used his body to minister to the world in different ways. I was fortunate to be able to help my supervisor run the statistical analysis for the scriptural corpus of all 9,123 references.

This analysis strengthened my own testimony. In configuring the data for the exhibition I focused on the references from the LDS standard works as well as those exclusively in the King James Version of the Bible.  Without the LDS scriptures, nearly a third of the references of the body were removed, but miraculously the ratios of references to each anatomical part stayed in close proximity to the original file with the LDS scripture references included. This increased my belief that the LDS works must be from our loving Heavenly Father, and not made up  in our corrupt world.

This project broadened my testimony that the scriptures were revealed to the world through God to Joseph Smith. Without those revelations, Joseph would not have been able to create such vast articles of truth. This exhibition means so much to those who spent time researching it. We can see how the work we have done will profoundly impact the lives of people who come visit the new exhibition.


November, 25, 2014

Building Another Zion

Go Forth to Serve

In the Book of Mormon we learn about groups of people who were able to trust in the Lord and share their God-given resources.  Joseph Smith and the early Saints learned many wonderful examples from the Book of Mormon to aid them in establishing a Zion community.

As time passed, Joseph received more revelations and translated more scripture.  In the inspired translation of the book of Genesis, the Saints learned about the City of Enoch, a group of people who had worked together to establish Zion.  The City of Enoch had no poor among them.

This story, like those in the Book of Mormon, inspired the Saints to strive to become a Zion-like community.  In nothing was this zeal seen more than in their desire to become educated.  On the south side of the gallery we learn about the different programs established by the Church from the beginning to help all the Saints get an education.  It is clear that Church leaders and Saints realized the importance of education.  They emphasized learning for all ages.  The leaders of the Church have maintained this same focus into the twenty-first century, and it is an integral part in our helping to build Zion today.

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.