Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. – D&C 130:18-19Gaining knowledge and intelligence has been a pursuit of Latter-day Saints from the earliest period of Church history. And, Church members generally seem to seek knowledge not only of the scriptures and gospel teachings but also of secular understanding.
While most students of higher learning are in their late teens, early 20s and even 30s, it is not uncommon for those in their 40s and above to seek more education. The reasons they do so are varied – improving professional opportunities, keeping up-to-date with technology, increasing self-reliance, or simply fulfilling a love for learning.
Following are accounts of several Church members who are pursuing educational opportunities at colleges or universities, or through community education programs:
Mildred (Millie) Langdon, 71, believes "you're never too old to improve your lifestyle."
And she exemplifies this belief. A member of the Muncie 2nd Ward, Indianapolis Indiana North Stake, Sister Langdon is a freshman at Ball State University in Muncie, majoring in journalism.
It was not by choice she waited so long to pursue her dream of getting an education. "A college education is something I wanted when I was young," Sister Langdon recalled. "I lived during the Depression era and then came a world war. I didn't have the educational opportunities we have today."
After serving in U.S. naval intelligence during World War II, she met and married Paul Langdon, and they had two children.
In 1977, Sister Langdon took an adult education course in creative writing. The instructor, an author of children's books, took a "personal interest in me. She encouraged me to write about a Navy experience I had."
Sister Langdon's ensuing article was printed in "Proceedings," a publication sponsored by the United States Naval Proceedings Institute.
Then tragedy struck her life. Her husband was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, and Sister Langdon spent 10 years caring for him until he died in 1988.
Finally, in 1991, she took refresher courses in math and English from a ward member who teaches local classes for general education diplomas. The instructor was impressed with Sister Langdon's work and encouraged her to pursue a college degree.
Sister Langdon began classes in January of this year and hopes to graduate in 1996. "I've had people ask why I'm doing this at my age. I answer, `I'm doing this for me.' I feel I am enriching my life. Knowledge is all you can take with you when you leave this earth life."
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Lorraine J. Self felt "displaced and didn't know where to go or what to do" when her husband, Ralph, died in 1982 after 34 years of marriage. At the time, she was 56, with three of their six children still living at home, and with her husband's local podiatry practice to sell.
In the summer of 1983, Sister Self of the East Millcreek 11th Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake, participated in an educational psychology workshop at the University of Utah. During the workshop, she analyzed her strengths and wrote down her goals and talents. "I decided I needed to upgrade my skills in case I wanted to work," she recalled. "Before I was married, I worked as a secretary, and I worked in the office of my husband's practice from time to time."
Sister Self paid a visit to the dean of students at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. They discussed the office administration program at the college, and Sister Self "thought the opportunities were just what I needed to upgrade my skills."
She began school that fall. "It was a frightening thing," she related. "I was insecure about being in school with younger people. And I wondered who would hire me over some young person."
But one of her instructors encouraged her, Sister Self remarked. In fact, the instructor was so impressed with her progress that she recommended Sister Self for a job opening as administrative assistant to then-college Pres. R. Ferris Kirkham.
Pres. Kirkham hired Sister Self, and she began work her second year at the school. She continued taking night courses to "keep up-to-date with technology and the demands of the position."
Sister Self, now 65, recently retired, but continues working part-time at the college and continues taking courses. "There's a lot to be happy about," she told the Church News. "I found out that I can make it on my own. I found out that I'm capable of making intelligent decisions and of managing a home and family."
In addition, Sister Self emphasized: "Over the years, I've made wonderful new friends of all ages."
Jesse Pennepacker, who is almost 40, dropped out of college when he was 20. Other than a few business courses he took in 1985, he never completed his pursuit of a formal education.
A member of the Centerville Ward, Tucker Georgia Stake, he worked his way to a position as a claims manager at a public utility. He soon realized, however, his professional skills did not match the job's requirements.
"I went as far as I could with the education that I had. My position required four years of college," he said. "I felt a personal need to improve myself in view of the current job market and economy."
In the fall of 1989, he enrolled at Georgia State University in Atlanta, 25 miles west of Snellville. He plans to graduate in June 1994 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Interestingly, Brother Pennepacker feels his conversion to the Church in 1977 and a subsequent call as a stake missionary helped prepare him to return to formal schooling. "I felt like the best education I got was when I joined the Church," he noted. "I started learning at a tremendous pace. As a stake missionary, I memorized the missionary discussions, which helped me keep my mind sharp. So it wasn't so bad going back to school."
He said the challenge for him has been juggling family, school and Church responsibilities. "I couldn't do this without my wife, Rita. She'll run errands and make phone calls for me. And she gives me time to study."
Brother Pennepacker pushes forward despite the challenges. "In the past I have felt not fully qualified for my job. Now I feel better about myself, and I feel if something happens with my employment, I would be marketable."