With classes ranging from Church history to college money management, BYU-Idaho Education Week had a topic for everyone in the family. More than 1,600 people gathered on the BYU-Idaho campus July 30-Aug. 1 for the school’s 18th Education Week. The classes focused on the theme “Strengthening individuals and families through lifelong learning.”
Rather than focusing only on teaching adults, the classes were designed to include families with children of all ages with lessons suited to different age groups. All four keynote speakers and four classes were broadcast live online so parents who were outside with small children could still participate in Education Week.
On July 30, Education Week opened with a keynote address from Jane Clayson Johnson, an award-winning journalist who left her profession to become a mother, which she wrote about in her book “I Am a Mother.”
Sister Johnson compared two young people. While serving on the President’s Advancement Council at BYU-Idaho, she attended a program that included students talking about their experiences there and their plans for the future. Sister Johnson told of one young woman who approached the microphone, and remembered thinking, “Boy, she is lit from within.” The young woman said to the council, “I want you to know I’m learning many things here, but most importantly I’m learning to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
In contrast, Sister Johnson related a story that USA Today had done about the growing rate of rejection of all forms of organized religion. The story featured a young man who was described as “typical among his friends,” she said. He explained how “everyone mocks religion at the table.” This young man, she said, “was the antithesis of that young woman I just described.”
In terms of wickedness, at no other point in the known history of the world or the Church has iniquity been any worse than today, she said. “It will not get any better,” Sister Johnson added. She said that Satan’s efforts to “stop the work is well served by binding the tongue of good people.”
She quoted President Thomas S. Monson’s “simple yet far-reaching forumla to guide you in the choices of your life.”
He said: “Number one, fill your minds with truth. Number two, fill your hearts with love. Number three, fill your lives with service.”
Sister Johnson said, “Each of us can commit to work to the same goal. We want to become closer to God at this conference.”
During the afternoon devotional on July 30, BYU-Idaho President Clark Gilbert addressed the conference. “One of the principle missions of BYU-Idaho,” he said, “is becoming disciple leaders.” Doing so often means standing up to the crowd. President Gilbert related a story of how, as a basketball player in his high school in Arizona, he noticed that one of the skits during an assembly was designed to “make fun of me.” When each member of the basketball team was asked their favorite song, he told them it was “I Am a Child of God,” at which point they asked him to sing it. “I sang ‘I Am a Child of God’ to my entire high school,” he said.
“Stand and be counted for what matters most,” President Gilbert continued. “We’ll increasingly see threats, direct and indirect,” to our faith. Referring to his work in the media industry, he said that “few come to hear of values of faith and family in the news.”
One of Satan’s lies is that “you’re the only one on the iron rod,” President Gilbert said. However, studies have shown that “most Americans overwhelmingly believe in God and have concern for moral values.” He shared the example of a movie studio that focused on telling uplifting stories about redemption. Despite Hollywood saying that these films would never sell, this studio has been successful. “There are many good people who share our values,” he said, and they are searching for those values in the media.
The afternoon devotional held on July 31 featured Steve Davis, director of Alumni Relations at BYU-Idaho. From his experiences of struggling to overcome anxiety, Brother Davis learned many things from Joseph Smith’s time in Liberty Jail. “Following the Prophet’s example in Liberty Jail gives us an effective blueprint to face and overcome our challenges,” he said.
The words “if,” “know” and “therefore” form a pattern for doing so, Brother Davis said. Many of the “if” statements in Doctrine and Covenants 121-123 contained difficult trials in Joseph Smith’s life. “In spite of all these personally experienced or forecasted ‘ifs,’ he was told a ‘know.’ God will be with you forever and ever.” Those were followed by commandments contained in “therefore” statements such as, “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).
Education Week concluded with a devotional featuring Brad Wilcox, a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at BYU. He spoke on following “the Law of the Gospel.”
“Over the last few days at Education Week, we have learned much about ‘The Gospel,’ ” he said. “The word ‘gospel’ means good news, and that good news is Jesus Christ. He came, He lived a perfect life, He completed the Atonement, He lives and because of Him we will all be resurrected and have the opportunity to live with God and loved ones eternally.”
Living the gospel goes beyond following rules and commandments, said Brother Wilcox. “The restoration of the gospel was not a restoration of rules; it was a restoration of reasons. The Ten Commandments actually made it through the apostasy. It was the reasons to keep the commandments that were lost.”
Brother Wilcox said that many members feel that their efforts to keep their covenants are in vain. “Christ’s broken heart is more powerful than our broken promises and all of Satan’s blustering and empty threats,” he said. “We are not bad people because we have bad habits. We are good people trying to develop good habits.”