In the Gallery there hangs two large, striking paintings. These murals are each 10 by 18 feet, and face each other on opposite sides of the gallery. When I first came into the Gallery, I was immediately drawn to these paintings and wanted to learn more about them. The paintings are named, A Temple, a Holy School and A School, a Temple of Learning. The first shows the Kirtland temple, and the second depicts the early BYU, or Brigham Young Academy campus. These names stuck me as meaningful in the way they contrasted and compared the similarities between a temple and a school. As I ponder upon this, I realized they really are not as different as I thought.
I wondered what made my schooling holy, or sacred. In what ways was it like a temple? Was it the religion classes taught on campus? Was it the service and dedication offered by many students and faculty to serve others? Were there blessings offered to me as I worked hard and made commitments? Perhaps it was the sacrifice that went into providing my education, and my own personal sacrifice to seek learning that made it consecrated? I believe there are more reasons than this. Looking at these paintings has helped me ponder what is special about BYU, but also simply what is sacred about my education.
“Precisely as you partake of the spirit, so will you progress in your studies’ (Karl G. Maeser). I’ve shared this quote many times in tours of the gallery and contemplated it on my own. Precisely as I partake of the spirit. The success I’m seeking in my studies- the good grades and graduate school opportunities I’m working for- are contingent on my efforts in both those subjects and on my interactions with the spirit.
I know this. I believe this. And yet, drowning in midterms with finals looming ominously just around the corner, my study has slipped to a purely secular realm. It’s difficult to make room for the spirit in Economics’ supply and demand curves or international relation realist theories on war. But the promise made by BYU’s founding principal, Karl G. Maeser, still holds true, proffering the solution to the progress I’m hoping to gain from my textbooks- partake of the spirit.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork and assignments, it’s easy to put off those things that will feed our spirits- scripture study, temple attendance, meaningful prayers, etc. But it is precisely those things that will elevate our performance in school to the next level. Our progress and success depends on our spiritual engagement and spiritual education. “If we provide a spiritual foundation for our secular learning, we can gain a depth of understanding never before imagined possible. We can see the world around us and understand it through God’s eyes. We are talking about a widening, not a narrowing, window of opportunity to learn if we attend to first things first” (L. Tom Perry).
When I start to forget to put ‘first things first’, a stroll through the gallery reminds me that the foundation of all learning is spiritual. I’m grateful for this place of learning on campus that is my constant reminder to partake of the spirit, work hard, and then watch the miracles unfold.
Competition and comparison can often take over our education here at BYU. There are prestigious programs to apply for and generals meant to “weed out” the weak–some people even compare who is taking more credit hours in a semester. It is easy to fall into these patterns, become discouraged and to forget what is actually most important.
The Four Aims of BYU outline that a BYU education ought to be Spiritually Strengthening, Intellectually Enlarging, Character Building, and promote its alumni to Lifelong Learning and Service. I do want to point out that some level of competition is healthy: it can provide an extra motivation to do our best and to be original, but when taken to the extreme, it can be debilitating and toxic. I will be applying to the Graphic Design program this year, and the highly competitive nature of this major has discouraged me at times, but remembering that I am not meant to compare or to race against the skills of others has helped me relax and gain perspective.
In the Gallery, a section is dedicated to Karl G Maeser, the first president of Brigham Young Academy. He was an inspired and inspiring leader–his personality was contagious and he was able to influence countless youth to be more dedicated to lifelong education and to building their character as they learned. He said, “Knowledge is not power unless sustained by character”. When we are able to back our knowledge up by our actions and when we use our knowledge in service of others–that is when our knowledge is a power for good.
I have been reminded with each tour and introduction I give that my education is all about building my character and how my contribution to Zion can become more meaningful. However, education and growth are not meant to be easy. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” We need to struggle a bit in order to be strengthened and changed.
The importance of developing our character is so evident in the patterns the Lord has set throughout church history. It is even easy to see those patterns in my own personal learning. Education becomes so much more meaningful–and so much less stressful–when I focus less on comparison and competition, and more on how I am becoming the person that the Lord needs me to be.
President Howard W. Hunter — “At the end of your lives you will not be judged by academic success, the degrees or diplomas earned … but rather on the basis of what you have become as persons and what you are in conduct and character.”
Jesus wept. And marveled. And hated. And loved. Emotions are the primary subjects in the school of life that we must experience, learn, and master. As in all things, Jesus is our perfect example, and demonstrates how to master emotions and not be ruled by them. Throughout the scriptures, 127 emotion words and their various conjugations appear 9,685 times across a total of 7,238 verses. One in six words across the standard works contain at least one emotion word.
Although often thought of as human in origin, a closer look at the holy texts reveals the divine source of emotion. If deity can weep, love, and be angry, then emotions are part of the divine makeup each of claims as a child created in the image of God. What distinguishes human emotion from godly emotion is not the feeling itself, but how we react to it. “The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign Sept. 2013).
As we experience our own set of circumstances and accompanying emotions, we can take heart in remembering that Jesus Christ traversed the planes of every emotion- he felt the deepest despair and the most exquisite love. We are not alone on this journey and we need not suppress our emotions, but rather should strive to master them and react to situations with our eyes fixed on the example of our perfectly loving Savior.
Of all the stories in the exhibit, William Clayton’s life and service has always stood out to me. This was a man of many accomplishments and who had studied and learned much he is a wonderful example to us here at BYU of how we can us our learning to serve other — those within and without the church.
William Clayton was born in England in 1814, and was the odlest of 14 children. He held a job as a factory clerk in his early adulthood, which laid a foundation from which he would go forward to use his skills as he served and worked in Zion.
Introduction to the Church & Nauvoo
Clayton first heard of the LDS church from two of the Apostles — Orson Hyde and Heber C. Kimball — when he was 22 years old. He was baptized shortly thereafter in October 1836 along with his newly-wed wife and other family members. Clayton came to Nauvoo only four short years after being baptized.
There he served in many capacities, including scribe and clerk to the Prophet, elected treasurer of Nauvoo, officer int he Nauvoo Music Association, and many others.
The Trek West
After Joseph Smith was martyred, and Brigham Young had been called as the President of the Church, Clayton served as a scribe to Young. He was part of the vanguard group that trekked the plains to eventually settle in the Salt Lake Valley. It was during this trek that Clayton’s creativity and curiosity really came to benefit the Saints.
As they began to make their way across the plains, Clayton wanted a way to measure the distance they had travelled. He began by tying a piece of cloth to one fo the wheels of a cart, and counting each time the wheel made a full rotation. However, this quickly became tiresome, and Clayton looked for another way to solve the problem. He drew up a design of a wheel with a mechanism which would count or record the revolutions fo the wheel. The company’s carpenter, Appleton Milo Harmon, then completed the mechanism. The “roadometer” was first used on May 12, 1847, and became the precursor to the modern Odometer.
A great lover of music, Clayton wrote lyrics for hymns along the trail to Salt Lake. He penned the words for the well-loved hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints” — set to the tune of the traditional English song “All is Well” — in response to the birth of his son. He said “I feel to thank my heavenly father for my boy and pray that he will spare and preserve his life and that of his mother and so order it so that we may soon meet again” (Journal of William Clayton, April 1846).
The hopeful words of this hymn inspired many as they crossed the plains through terrible conditions and with depleted resources
Journal and Record Keeping
Clayton’s personal travel journal is one of the more well-known pioneer journals today. He and John C. Frémont kept a meticulous record of the trek — with immense help from “roadometer” — including distances, paths, suggestions, for places to set up camp, and descriptions of the landscape. This record was later published as the “The Latter-Day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide“, and was used by other Mormon migrants, as well as people of other faiths traveling to the Oregon and California territories.
William Clayton was a wonderful example because he used the resources and knowledge he had in order to serve others around him. His service benefited not only the members of the church, but countless others who traveled across the plains, and even us today with the odometer.
As the Saints arrived out West, they no longer were wholly in one centralized location. Many stayed in the Utah Valley, but others were called or chose to settle in the surrounding country. I can only imagine what it would be like to get the call to settle in Mosquito Bend, now known as Rexburg, Idaho. If the name was not daunting enough, earlier mountain men had said it would be impossible to cultivate.
Though faced with poverty and formidable weather conditions, many Saints sacrificed to further their education and knowledge. One such settler came on recommendation from Karl G. Maser, and was asked to be the first principal of the Bannock Stake Academy; his name was Jacob Spori.
Spori was a highly educated convert from Switzerland. Perhaps the church leaders thought he could handle the “god forsaken snow prison” of Idaho, he having seen and experienced snow before. Teaching the rough and rugged settlers and dealing with looming debts, however, may have been even more intimidating. Regardless, Spori took upon this calling with great passion and effort, insisting the school was divinely inspired. When debts could not be paid, Spori went without pay so that other teachers could receive their wages. Spori even served as a janitor around the school to help relieve expenses. He said, “Sometimes I feel as though I cannot bear it; but the gospel is worth all.”
His words offer timeless advice and comfort. What ever it is we are faced with, be it with work, school, family, or circumstances beyond our control, our sacrifices to build the kingdom of God will all be rewarded in the end. Being a native of Rexburg, Idaho myself, I wonder at the bravery of early saints like Jacob Spori. I cannot fully understand what they went through, but I am able to observe the fruits of their diligence. Though still cold, Rexburg is a beautiful, thriving community that houses Bannock Stake Academy’s progeny, BYU-Idaho, that has been able to serve, educate, prepare, and touch the lives of thousands of students who have lived and studied there. Jacob Spori gave everything he had for education, prompting introspection of how I value my education. Do I see it as something worth sacrificing for? I hope that when the homework load seems unbearable, I too can remember that all my righteous efforts to learn and grow will be worth it in the end.
“Unpromising Beginnings” Education in Zion Gallery
I, the Lord, am well pleased that there should be a school in Zion.
There are thousands of schools and universities around the world that offer top-notch education and fantastic training- schools that seek to intellectually enlarge their students and set them out in the best job markets. From its foundation, Brigham Young University has striven to do that and so much more. BYU (then Brigham Young Academy) was established in 1875 as part of Brigham Young’s vision for LDS students to learn in a spiritually uplifting environment that would tax their talents, expand their minds, and teach them to be united with the powers of heaven. At the school’s opening, Principal Karl G. Maeser said that successful students would need “two kinds of preparation:…familiarity with the lessons….and the possession of the Holy Spirit, obtained by prayer.” From its very beginnings, BYU and its students were given the charge to extend education beyond the constraints of textbook, classroom, or life- fulfilling LDS theology and emerging as “a school in Zion”. The scriptures tell us that “the people of Zion” were actually the Lord’s people; any such school would therefore be “the Lord’s school”.
The Lord’s hand can be seen in the history of BYU; many principals and church authorities received various revelations and visitations to help them fulfill Brigham Young’s vision and the scriptural charge of establishing a school in Zion. One such visitation was recounted to Brigham Young’s daughter by president of the church, John Taylor. Her father had come to him in a dream and told President Taylor “many things of great importance…among others that the school being taught by Brother Maeser (Brigham Young Academy) was accepted in the heavens and was part of the great plan of life and salvation…and that Christ himself was directing, and had care over this school.”
Although that revelation came in the 1880s, Christ is still directing this school today. We see that in the inspiring devotional messages we receive each Tuesday, in the supplementation of tuition with sacred tithing funds, and we can see that personally as we strive to make Christ the center of our studies. BYU is the Lord’s school and, in every sense, we are His students. He will guide us, tutor us, and help us to ‘seek learning, even by study, and also by faith.’
 “Salt Lake Stake Academy”, Desert News, November 24, 1886, 711.
 Karl G. Maeser, “Final Address” The Normal (BYA student publication, Provo, Utah) 1, no. 6 (June 1945): 259-60
Typically, when I give a tour in the Education in Zion exhibit, I like to point out the beautiful architecture of the space and ask how it can relate to education. People often talk about the spiral staircase, the expansive windows facing the library, and sometimes even the skylight above the staircase. As I was in the gallery this week, something stood out to me that I had previously taken for granted: many of the architectural features in the gallery are round.
As I look around, more and more stand out to me: the opening to the spiral staircase, the oculus, the columns, even the large windows and entryway halls have a curve to them creating a circular feel for the entirety of the space. Circles are commonly seen as symbols of never-ending motion, wholeness and eternity. How fitting to have so many cyclical items in an exhibit looking at the relationship of the LDS church with education.
When Brigham Young joined the Church, one of the aspects of the gospel he was most excited about was the prospect of eternal growth. Having only received 11 days of formal schooling, this enthusiastic learner took the news as an invitation to throw himself into continuing his educational pursuits. He studied not only the typical subjects such as literature and science, but delved eagerly into architecture, theater and even gymnastics as well. Young saw this as an opportunity to help himself and those around him to achieve the perfection they were seeking.
I have to ask, do we have that mindset as we interact with our educational pursuits? Maybe it can be something we can work on as we move further and further into this new semester. See your homework assignments and classes as not just another item to be checked off the list, but instead as an opportunity. Take in what you learn and allow it to change you for the better. Your studies will not only be more enjoyable and fulfilling, but you will also rest assured knowing that perfection is one step closer.
In the gallery, we tell the story of Principal Maeser’s inspiration in laying out a vision for BYU. When Maeser was asked to start Brigham Young Academy, he wrote to Brigham Young asking for instructions. President Young responded, “I have only these. You should not teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God. That is all. God bless you. Good-bye.” Wishing to expand upon those rather brief instructions, Principal Maeser sat down at his desk to brainstorm a vision for the school. After many fruitless hours, Maeser knelt in desperation and pleaded with the Lord for guidence. When he finished his prayer, he began to write; inspiration flowed through him as he penned a sort of charter for the Academy.
On a recent tour, after sharing Maeser’s experience, I said, “Maeser’s inspired notes established a unique vision of what a BYU education should be.” Then I asked, “What is it that makes a BYU education unique to you?” The members of the tour gave various answers–the ability to talk about spiritual matters in secular classes, the fabulous faculty, the privilege to live in a community with so many talented, righteous students, etc. Finally, one student said that as he had tried to decide where to attend college, he had visited many different colleges, and he had been particularly struck by the unique spirit he felt on BYU campus.
This answer resonated with me. I spent my growing up years arguing with my father about where I would attend college. When we would visit my grandparents in Utah, we would often visit BYU, and my dad would loudly proclaim that one day I would attend this university. I protested. Growing up around the gorgeous collegiate architecture out East, I was convinced that BYU was the ugliest college I’d ever been to and that nothing could induce me to attend this university.
But as the time for decision drew near, I toured various campuses. Each time I felt that despite the incredible architecture, something wasn’t quite right. Finally, I agreed to go on what my dad referred to as “the brainwashing trip” out to BYU. I found that, while the architecture still paled in comparison to many of the campuses that I had visited, there was a special spirit at BYU. I was impressed by the students I met and interacted with. I loved the classes I visited. Before I left to fly home, I knelt in prayer and received a confirmation that I should apply to BYU.
That decision changed the course of my life. BYU offers a truly unique educational experience. Just as President Young counselled Principal Maeser, BYU seeks to educate not only the mind, but also the spirit. Principal Maeser’s direction in still felt as students at this university have the opportunity to grown not only in their respective fields of endeavor, but to strengthen their character as well. As I begin my last semester at BYU, I look back on the many blessings my BYU education has brought into my life–wonderful friends, tremendous classes, testimony building experiences, fabulous internships, opportunities to serve, and caring mentors. I am eternally grateful for the unique privilege of attending this fine institution.
I hope all those who have been blessed by this incredible university will consider,”What has made your experience at BYU unique? And how can you use the unique spirit and blessings of a BYU education to bless the lives of those around you?”
I love talking about this part of the gallery because it shows just how important education was for the Saints. During the early days of the church the Saints had their children attend community-sponsored common schools.
The most famous of these being the “little red schoolhouse”. It was said by Helen Mar Kimball, a student at the little red schoolhouse, that, “For years after we left Kirtland, I used to look back and pine for the old scenes and school companions; those happy days were lived over again and again in bright dreams.”3
This drive for the education of their children stems from revelations from God, one of which being “teach their children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:28) It was this scripture that motivated the Saints to continue to educate their children despite desperate circumstances, especially during the trying times of continual relocation due to the mob’s presence.
It was said by Emily Partridge that, “about the first thing the Saints did, after providing shelter for their families, was start a school for the children.”3 Its stories like these that remind us of how important our education should be to us. Here at BYU we have it pretty easy. We don’t have to worry about mobs or other people who want to do us harm, as our predecessors did. We can remember the sacrifices they made and make the most of our education.
3: Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Life Incidents.” Woman’s Exponent 9, no. 6 (August 15, 1880): 42.
8: Emily Dow Partridge Young, “Reminiscences of Emily Dow Partridge Young.” Typescript, April 7, 1884, 10, BX 8670, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.