When it comes to education, “you have divine help,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Speaking to 450 BYU-Pathway Worldwide students and educators in a special devotional originating from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City on Nov. 8 — and more via broadcast around the world — Elder Holland and many of his associates on the executive committee of the Church’s Board of Education offered encouragement and advice to students.
“You are able, you are far more able than you think,” Elder Holland said.
Elder Holland Spoke at BYU during the 2018 Neal A. Maxwell Lecture at Brigham Young University. Here's what you need to know from his address.
During the broadcast, BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Clark G. Gilbert acted as moderator in a discussion with Elder Holland, Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Quentin L. Cook, all of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Robert C. Gay of the Presidency of the Seventy; Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president; Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education; and Sister Christine Gilbert.
The panel spent close to an hour discussing how to overcome obstacles to education.
“We’re going to walk through a number of concerns students at BYU-Pathway face as they work through the program,” President Gilbert said, later adding, “As you listen to each of these students maybe some of them are more true to you, maybe all of them are true to you.”
The panel focused their remarks on four types of students — “the doubter,” “misplaced zeal,” “happy as I am” and “basic survivor” — and shared personal insights to help students along their path to education.
The purpose, President Gilbert said, is to “help us understand how to stay the course and pursue our education even when things get tough.”
The doubter is a student who is not sure if he or she will make it in the program, who in the first week feels school is tough and the lessons are getting hard to understand.
“Who do you suppose is the ‘father of doubt?’ ” Elder Holland asked. “If you had to have an antonym to doubt, wouldn’t it be faith?”
Recognizing all experience doubt or discouragement at some time, Elder Holland reminded them “God is on your side,” and encouraged listeners to “keep the doctrine in mind and remember who you are.”
“We are all more able than we think, we’re all capable of infinitely more than we do,” said Elder Holland. “And we must not let our fears get in the way. … You have help, we are all children of God. We have divinity in us. We have potential and promise and covenant and privilege that we haven’t even begun to tap and there are legions in heaven that are prepared to help you fulfill that destiny.”
Elder Bednar added, “I would recommend a very simple thing when you have doubts. Repeat the First Article of Faith to yourself. It is the Father’s plan of eternal progression. We come to earth to learn from our own experience the good from the evil, and we are blessed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. … His Atonement helps us to overcome sins and mistakes and strengthens us to do what we otherwise could not do on our own. And the Holy Ghost is the teacher. The First Article of Faith denotes the help from heaven that is available to every person who acts in faith and follows the teachings of Christ: the plan, the Atonement of Christ, and the Teacher.”
Elder Clark spoke of the scripture found in Ether 12:27, which speaks of weakness becoming strong.
“We all have the weakness of the natural man,” Elder Clark said. “We get lazy, we get afraid, we doubt, we get subject to all sorts of maladies, but the Lord says that if you will humble yourself and come unto Him, He will make weak things … strong through the power of His Atoning sacrifice to His redeeming power.”
Important to that change is acting in faith, Elder Clark said.
“We have to act, but act in faith,” he said. “If we do, power flows into our lives through the redeeming and strengthening power of the Savior.”
Whether it is a student who is distracted by getting married and having children — both righteous endeavors — or a student who is still living in his or her “mission days,” some struggle with focusing on investing in the future.
“When we shortchange ourselves on education as a woman, we are not prepared to bless others and really fulfill our divine potential as a daughter of God. … We are commanded to learn in this life,” Sister Bingham said.
Sharing her own experience of becoming a mother while taking nursing classes, Sister Bingham said “everything I learned in those classes, even though I didn’t finish my degree at that time, I used in my mothering. The child development, nutrition — every one of those classes helped me.”
Years later, she returned to finish her degree in education, and she said it was fascinating to see that “not one class was wasted,” and they each helped her to be a better person, better mother and better in her service in the Church.
“I feel that if we work toward our divine potential, anything that we learn is an advantage,” she said.
Sister Gilbert, who with her husband, President Gilbert, has eight children, added that her education has helped her in establishing a learning environment in their home as well as with time management.
Although she doesn’t have to take tests or turn papers in on time anymore, Sister Gilbert said, “I’m still blessed knowing how to manage our time and our schedules and the things that go on in our house.” Learning how to ask good questions as a student has also helped her as a mother.
“I really learned during that time to invite the Spirit into my life every day to help guide and direct me in the things I need to do,” she said.
To the returned missionaries who are wishing to “go back to those glory days” when they were “building the kingdom and doing things that mattered,” as President Gilbert described, Elder Gay reminded them the things they have learned as a missionaries will help them throughout their lives.
“Missionary work is hard work. … It’s down in the nitty gritty of planning, seeking, knocking and in really moving people along,” he said. “I cannot think of anything that you would learn in the classroom that is not applicable in some other setting.”
Recognizing that getting married and raising a family requires problem-solving, creativity, discipline and education, Elder Gay encouraged listeners to continue working toward achieving goals.
“Even if you never use that education degree in the field you go into, you will always use that experience to teach people what you have to do to move your life and the lives of others ahead,” he said.
Elder Bednar added, “In the mission field, there is a structure, a scaffolding that surrounds a missionary. When a missionary comes home from a mission, they sometimes question if they can continue to develop and dedicate themselves to a holy purpose without that protective scaffolding. That’s part of the test.” It is through two words — develop and dedicate — that a person is able to be successful, Elder Bednar taught.
Happy as I am
Identifying the students as people who are “happy as I am,” and may spend much of their time on things that distract them from accomplishing their work or education, President Gilbert asked leaders what advice they would share with them.
“You are continuing to be a disciple of Jesus Christ progressing to receive everything that God has,” Elder Gay said. “It is about becoming, and we have to get that deep down in the heart. The question is not, ‘am I happy?’ ”
Elder Gay suggested an alternative important question to ask: “What lack I? And what do I need to do to move my life ahead the way Heavenly Father would have me move it ahead.”
Paraphrasing a quote from Brigham Young, Elder Holland said the tragedy in life is not failure — the tragedy in life is “diminished expectations,” where a person expects too little of oneself and aims too low.
“I’d much rather have a goal and if there’s failure or limitation or inadequacy along the way, you keep working at it,” said Elder Holland. “But to not even have the goal or to have the goal too low … that really does smack of tragedy.”
To students who are working two jobs just to pay the bills, parents, busy doing Church service, who don’t have a spare minute in their lives to think about attending school or don’t feel like they can afford education, the leaders — while recognizing the hard work they are already doing — encouraged them to keep an eternal perspective.
“As we go around the world and meet with lots of people, I’m always touched by the fact that so many of [the leaders we meet] … when you ask them about earlier in their lives, there were huge sacrifices and times of want and times of deprivation,” said Elder Cook. “But most of them look back on that time with great joy and happiness, and a time of preparation, not just a time of sacrifice. Sacrifice does bring forth the blessings of heaven. …
“Our hearts are so touched by anybody who’s having to work several jobs and trying to get an education at the same time. You have our admiration and our appreciation, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it in this life, and its worth it in the eternities.”
Sister Bingham added sometimes a person has to give up what’s at hand in order to have something better in the future.
“I know that the Lord will bless those who are trying to develop their divine potential to their fullest,” she said. “Sometimes we have to step off into the dark and trust that the Lord will help us to be able to accomplish the things that we need to accomplish.”
Elder Bednar shared an experience he had as a young father with two children while serving as an early morning seminary teacher and completing a demanding graduate program. “When we talk about our capacity being enlarged, because of and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ — a blessing available to every covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint — it doesn’t mean it gets easier immediately,” he said. “You may sometimes have questions and wonder, ‘Can I do this?’ Through stretching and turning to the Lord, our capacity is increased.” As a person does his or her best and strives to live the gospel, there are “compensating blessings.”
“There is a strength and a power beyond our own, that helps us do what we otherwise could never do,” said Elder Bednar.
Doing hard things
“We’ve talked about doing hard things,” said Elder Holland. “Please believe that the great things in life for any generation come by people who do hard things and put forth hard work. Let me ask you to do another hard thing: however tough you think you have got it, someone near you has got it tougher than you do. …
“As limited as your dream might be and as worried as you are, they are more worried — will you remember them? You’ll do a lot better, if in all of your travail, you realize that there’s a neighbor … who needs you.
“Even in your difficulty, and they’re real, even in your difficulty, make sure you step outside yourself and bring someone else along. It’s amazing how much better two of you will make it than one can do alone.”