Exhibition Highlights

The Relief Society’s Role in Bonding the LDS Community

In his October 2009 general conference address, President Henry B. Eyring spoke of the legacy of the Relief Society saying, “They were from many lands and peoples, as you are today. But they were of one heart, one mind, and with one intention.”[1] The organization of the Relief Society in 1842 by Joseph Smith brought many diverse women together and strengthened community bonds. In the early days of the Church, this sense of community and belonging was especially important given that most families or individuals had left the places of their birth and their extended  relatives to gather with the Saints. Sometimes this included people who also had immigrated from other countries, who came to Nauvoo to be part of a new community, often enduring tremendous trials to do so.

In Nauvoo, the women worked together to serve their tight-knit community, offering instruction and compassionate service to others. The women also combined their efforts in building the temple, which offered an even greater sense of community.[2] When the Saints left Nauvoo, the Relief Society was no longer meeting, except in “prayer meetings” to “strengthen each other spiritually”[3] along the long, tedious journey to the West.

In the Salt Lake Valley, the women were called by Brigham Young to work in the community—this time among the Native Americans who were in need. Later, the women turned their attention to poor immigrants and refugees left from Johnston’s Army.

Women’s ability to strengthen community bonds is still important. The organization of Relief Society helps bridge the gap between those of different lands and traditions, creating Zion-like communities all over the world.

[2] Education in Zion gallery text, “The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo”, http://educationinzion.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Education-in-Zion-Text.pdf.

[3] Education in Zion gallery text, “Relief Society Reorganization”, http://educationinzion.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Education-in-Zion-Text.pdf.

George H. Brimhall: A Storyteller

Courtesy of HBLL Special Collections

Embedded in both LDS Church history and BYU history, you’ll find various leaders who utilized storytelling–following the examples set by scriptural leaders. Among these modern-day leaders is George H. Brimhall, the third principal of Brigham Young Academy. Brimhall would often give what were called sermonettes where he would tell allegories for the benefit of the students’ learning. He called the following story “The Camel Test.” In it, Brimhall explains how Arabian merchants determined the value of a camel.

“If he rubs his nose in the water, splashes around a little, and then turns and looks this way and that and sniffs the air, he is turned down as a fourth rate camel. If he drinks a little, he is a third rate camel. If he drinks moderately, he is graded as a second rate camel and his value is in proportion. But if he drinks copiously–drains the trough–he is the highest priced camel, granted that he is sound and able to travel. And why! Because that snuffler that simply splashed the water with his nose, that gazer from side to side, that looker into the distance as though he could travel the whole desert when he is loaded and started would perish in the desert. Students are not camels, but they are like them. . . . You will see some information coming from the teacher. You will see [the students] looking, gazing into the future, dreaming about something, I know not what, as though they had the wings of an airship. Then you will see others who will be moderately attentive; and you will see others whose minds are concentrated; they are reaching out, they drain the trough of information . . . the students who succeed, they have been filled with what is to support them, and they will make their journey–they will make their journey.”[1]

[1] Wilkinson, Ernest L. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. 1 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 594–95.

Education in Nauvoo

The years the Saints spent in Nauvoo were rich in both culture and learning. It was here where they established the University of the City of Nauvoo. There was no campus because most funds went to the construction of the temple, but Church leaders did regulate a curriculum. University classes covered a variety of subjects: English literature, languages, math, the sciences, rhetoric and music.

At least thirty common schools were constructed while the Saints were in Nauvoo. Students congregated in various locations: public buildings, private homes and some commercial structures. All the teachers were monitored and certified by the University of the City of Nauvoo.

Approximately 80 men and women taught in these schools.  Abigail Abbot was one of those teachers.  She began teaching school to support her family (of eight young children) after being widowed. In addition to teaching, she kept her own vegetable garden and usually had to tend to it at night, after teaching school.

Other members of the community encouraged education and did their part to help those who were less fortunate. For example, Joseph Lee Robinson built a home and dedicated the entire upper room to be a school for neighbors. He hired a teacher (a sister in the church) and invited those who could afford it to help pay her. He also made sure to invite and include those who could not afford to pay anything. He said“th[ose] that were not able to pay I wanted . . . to feel just as [welcome,] as the school was to be free to their children, every  one of them.”

The community in Nauvoo was one of camaraderie and service. Each person did his or her part to help further the work of the gospel and to educate members of the community.

*All information and quotes are from gallery text.

The Light that Quickeneth Your Understandings

Does anything feel better than light and the warmth it brings after a long, bleak accumulation of days? Sometimes that bleak streak lasts for an entire winter and we begin to lose our focus. Our immediate assignments become harder to rally, and we begin to dream of summer days filled with long hours of light.

The Education in Zion Gallery is filled with extensive amounts of light. The two-story windows and the oculus above the spiral staircase guarantee this generous amount of light. This physical light contributes to the gallery’s uplifting atmosphere.

Like every other physical aspect of the gallery, the light from the windows is symbolic of the light of Christ and implies “enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary, Light).  “And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings” (D&C 88: 11).  It is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2). “Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space …which giveth life to all things” (D&C 88: 12, 13).

As we and all other things on earth cannot exist without light from the sun, let us remember where the source of light truly emanates from; without His light no one truly lives.

LDS Church Schools: Island Treasure

“This Church is always only one generation away from extinction. . . . All we would have to do . . . to destroy this work is stop teaching our children for one generation.”[1]

A lot of us are not aware of the Church’s educational worldwide presence. The Benemérito school in Mexico City, Mexico, is being converted into an MTC[2] while Juarez Academy in Juarez, Mexico continues. Aside from Juarez Academy, there are fifteen other LDS Church–operated schools, all in the South Pacific. These treasures provide both secular and religious education because the regions lack adequate public schooling opportunities and infrastructure. Interestingly, a majority of these South Pacific schools end up sending students to BYU–Hawaii, especially the Liahona High School of Tonga.[3]

Liahona High School has an interesting history. In 1924, mission president M. Vernon Coombs obtained a property lease in Tonga, where he started a school called The Makeke School, meaning “arise and awake.” The Makeke School helped advance the Church in that region of the globe for generations.

In later, this became the foundation for an enlarged school system in the region. Church leaders eventually obtained a lease on a 275-acre plantation outside of Nuku’alofa, not far from Makeke. They used the land there to build an expanded school campus named “Liahona,” and Makeke transformed into Liahona in 1947. Building the Liahona School represented the beginning of the Church’s labor missionary program and it was probably a leading catalyst for the Church’s expansion in Tonga.[4] Liahona continues to prepare youth for leadership positions in the families, Church, communities, and in the government.

Education can open many doors: some of them are personal, some are religious, and others are secular in nature. In the end, however, education ultimately helps the Kingdom of God roll forward, whether it’s in a geographical region of the world, a country, or a family.

[1] Education in Zion gallery text quoting BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland in 1981.

[2] “New Missionary Training Center to Open in Mexico.” Newsroom. The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. <http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormon-mtc-mexico>.

[3] “Liahona High School.” NoMoa.com. Tonga on the ‘NET, n.d. Web. <http://www.tongatapu.net.to/tonga/convictions/schools/tbu/lhs/default.htm>.

[4] “Liahona High School.” BYU Hawaii: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. Web. <http://soe.byuh.edu/node/274>.