Weber Academy, established 1888
In 1888, Wilford Woodruff sent out a commission to all stakes in the Church. They were to build their own academies of learning, construct school houses, appoint teachers, and develop curriculum. However, the timing of the commission was not opportune. The Saints were already struggling to make ends meet. They were also in the midst of persecution, and many families feared for their own safety. Nevertheless, regardless of the looming deterrents, the Saints answered the prophet’s call.
Stakes answered the call with faith. Within four months, academies were up and running, and within a year, twenty of the twenty-one stakes in Utah had established academies. Two or three years after the call, every stake but one in the entire Church had established an academy.
With looming difficulty and widespread persecution, the faith of the Saints proved true. They did not shirk, nor did they delay the responsibility given to them by their loving prophet. The haste with which they completed their task is noteworthy and should inspire all of us. Even without persecution, nearly impoverished circumstance, and very limited knowledge or resources, how many of us delay or shirk what we are called to do? We should have faith in the importance and in the significance of our callings as students, as children, as employees, as Church members, and as children of God. We cannot know the extent of the effect our faithfully fulfilling our duties can have in the future.
As I give tours of the mentor room in the gallery, I love to touch on the advice given to young James E. Talmage by his mentors. They told him to get an education, not with the intent of obtaining a degree, but to help build Zion. Nobody exemplifies this advice better than Joseph Kelly Nicholes.
As Nicholes started work on his Ph.D. in chemistry at Stanford University, he was called back home to be the St. George Stake President and president of Dixie College. Talk about a difficult church assignment! Yet he did not hesitate to give up his personal aspirations and put his education on hold in order to serve the Lord.
After 6 years of hard work and success in helping the Church develop in St. George, Nicholes joined the BYU faculty in 1933. He worked at BYU until his retirement and considered his greatest regret not earning his Ph.D. Perhaps his calling in life didn’t involve earning a degree. The Lord had another work planned forhim. Nicholes himself stated, “A teacher is more than the ordinary laborer or business man. In the life of a student he may be a prophet.” All the students he taught felt the influence of Nicholes. It was so strong in fact, that even after he retired, the chemistry department wanted him to stay close so that he would have “maximum opportunity to contact and inspire our new students” (Armin J. Hill, Dean).
Joseph Kelly Nicholes dedicated his life to building Zion, and he found the best way he could do this was through inspiring his students and lifting them up. His influence was so great that three years before he died, BYU honored his life-long goal of obtaining a doctorate by awarding him with an honorary doctor of science degree. His sacrifices should be remembered for generations to come.
Theodore M. Burton, former member of the Quorum of the Seventy, once spoke of an experience he had inspecting a mine with his father. The tunnel was deeper than expected, and eventually his father’s flashlight began to dim. Elder Burton said, “Before long [my father’s] flashlight gave out completely, and I can still remember—until I again turned on my [flash]light—the panic I felt to be in such cold and utter blackness. Although my own batteries gave out before we reached the mine entrance, we were by then guided by the dim light coming from the mouth of the tunnel. How good it felt to see the light increase as we made our way back to the entrance and found ourselves in warm, brilliant sunlight.” 
The Joseph F. Smith Building was built with the intention of including the Education in Zion Gallery. Because of this, there is a lot of symbolism in the gallery’s architecture. One of the symbols the gallery emphasizes is light. Natural light floods the gallery from almost every direction.
Light symbolizes several things in the scriptures, and one of them is truth. Some of the ways we can seek for the light of truth are going to the temple, partaking of the sacrament, attending church meetings, reading the scriptures, and praying. At first, those things do not seem like they belong on a college campus. But here at BYU and in the Education in Zion Gallery, we know that without those things an education cannot be complete.
With the guidance of the Holy Ghost, our education will be fruitful and our progression eternal. Just as Elder Burton felt the warmth of daylight dispel the cold darkness in the mine, we can feel the warmth of the light of truth in our lives. As we do, we will increase in understanding, for “a body which is filled with God’s light will be able to comprehend all things.” 
- Burton, Theodore. “Light and Truth.” www.lds.org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1 Apr. 1981. Web.
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.” 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.” 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.
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.
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”
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.
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.”
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.
 Quoted in Susa Young Gates, The Life Story of Brigham Young(New York: Macmillan, 1930), 283.
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.
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.