March, 7, 2013

Brigham Young and education

Recently my attention has been drawn to Brigham Young, especially his influence on the early saints and the outcome of this University. After electronically searching the gallery text, I discovered that Brigham Young’s name is found in every room of the gallery, either directly or in reference to the school’s title (Brigham Young Academy, Brigham Young University). Why such emphasis on Brother Brigham with regards to education?

Brigham received only eleven days of formal education, and possessed no desire to further his education until after meeting Joseph Smith and joining the church. At that time, Brigham learned of the eternal nature of education, and the everlasting opportunity given to mankind to strengthen and enlarge the human mind. He went on to study a variety of different subjects so as to enrich himself and uplift those around him. In 1860, Brigham Young further exemplified his love for learning with the following quotes.

“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].”

We often remember President Young as a great leader of the church, but this account provides insight into a lesser known aspect of his life. Through word and example, Brigham Young reminds us of the importance of knowledge—an aspect of education which goes far beyond exam scores, letter grades, or degree titles.

Students of BYU are blessed to receive an exceptional education in all the ways Brigham Young foresaw when he established this institution. May we remember Brigham Young’s enthusiasm for learning and knowledge, and remind ourselves to take advantage of our education with that same kind of enthusiasm. As the stresses of the semester periodically ensue, briefly browse around the Education in Zion Gallery to be reminded of the eternal nature of education, and be prepared to experience a change in perspective.

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

Melinda Clark, gallery educator