October, 13, 2011

Improvement of Every Kind

Those who are having or have had difficulty choosing a major may like this story about education from Mormon history.

When the Saints finally reached the Great Salt Lake Valley, they were far from their former bustling town of Nauvoo, Illinois. As communities grew and matured, settlers began seeking out an existence in the desert. Brigham Young recognized that certain skills were needed to help these communities be successful and continue to grow, so he extended callings to selected men and women to further their education. These individuals then brought their refined skills and knowledge home to help build up Zion.1

For example, in a conversation between Brigham Young and John R. Park, the president of the then up-and-coming University of Deseret, Young suggested that Park travel east to learn the operations of successful universities and implement them in his own school, which is later became the University of Utah.1 Furthermore, Church leaders encouraged some women to study medicine in the East; after they returned home, they used their new knowledge to train others throughout the Mormon corridor in the West.2

The Saints were also interested in the arts, so art missionaries, like John Hafen, were called to further their studies in painting in Paris so they could paint murals in the Salt Lake Temple.3 Even the architect for the temple, Truman Angell, went to Europe to further his skills as he continued to design buildings in the Great Basin.4

Early Church leaders like President Young believed that education should benefit not only the individual but also the community in which he or she lived. How can your studies benefit the communities to which you belong?



1. John R. Park, Diary, 1869–1886, July 8, 1870, September 19, 1870, November 25, 1872,

February 7, 1873, MSS 638, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham

Young University, Provo, Utah.

2. Eliza R. Snow, “An Address,” Woman’s Exponent 2, no. 8 (September 15, 1873): 63.

3. John Hafen to George Q. Cannon, March 25, 1890, MSS 356, John Hafen Collection, 1879–

1918, Arts and Communications, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

4. Truman O. Angell, “His Journal,” in Our Pioneer Heritage, ed. Kate B. Carter (Salt Lake

City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1967), 10:195–213.