Elder Cook at BYU Education Week: Give heed to the words of the Prophets

In campus devotional, Elder Quentin L. Cook explains how prophetic direction provides immunity and protection

PROVO, Utah – When Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles looks back over the last 100 years of BYU Education Week, he sees a pattern not just of learning and instruction, but also an effort to build faith in Jesus Christ.

“I commend each of you for attending today to learn and to strengthen your faith. An omniscient God honors your efforts,” Elder Cook told the crowd gathered at the Marriott Center for the devotional on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Beginning as Leadership Week in 1922, Education Week now gathers thousands of people and hundreds of instructors every year on the campus of Brigham Young University. Elder Cook noted that the stated purpose began as a way to provide spiritual as well as academic stimulation and training to leaders, particularly in Church leadership lines. 

Over the years the program moved toward classes to enhance knowledge and continue education — and the event “has continued to progress, evolve, and improve over the years. It blesses the lives of many people,” Elder Cook said.

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Elder Cook noted that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members have a doctrinal commitment to education. Studies indicate that a high percentage of active Latter-day Saints have completed four or more years of college — among the highest of all religions. 

He quoted a Pew Study on religious engagement and education which found that members of the Church “with college experience have [church] attendance rates notably higher than any other group.” Other members pursue informal, continuing education such as the instruction offered during Education Week.  

Knowledge and humility 

Latter-day Saint doctrine emphasizes the role of intelligence and the importance of education and knowledge, as outlined in Doctrine and Covenants 93, which teaches:

1. Truth is independent — it “is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (verse 24).

2. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (verse 36).

3. Exercising our agency to receive “truth and light” is essential (verse 28).

“In the doctrines of the Church, faith and the quest for knowledge are not inconsistent; they are compatible and complementary,” Elder Cook said.

But the quest requires humility — and both effort and commitment.

“We cannot expect to have faith at the center of our lives if all our efforts are expended on knowledge, sports, hobbies, making money or other pursuits,” he explained.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talks with his wife Sister Mary Cook prior to a devotional at BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

‘Give heed to the words of the Prophets’

After he spoke about the 100th anniversary of Education Week, Elder Cook shared key doctrines from Latter-day Prophets given over the past century. In this, he gave his purpose for the devotional address — to examine worldly knowledge through the lens of revealed doctrine.

The Lord has always admonished His people to keep His commandments and follow the prophets. There has always been opposition in all things.

But, Elder Cook said, “The major difference for our day is that the ‘great-and-spacious-building’ skeptics are louder, more contentious and less tolerant than at any time during my life.” 

In the past, the vast majority of people understood they would be judged by obedience to God’s commandments, not the views or philosophies of the day. 

“In this intense, social media-fueled world, many seem more concerned about being mocked than about being judged by God. Many people mistakenly conclude that there is not a moral, righteous standard to which all people should adhere,” Elder Cook said.

He emphasized doctrine and initiatives that have been provided by some of the Presidents of the Church over the last 100 years.  

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the devotional at the Marriott Center during BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. | BYU Photo

“The doctrine I have chosen is significant in that it provides an immunity to protect against specific challenges and evils not only for the times the revelations were received, but also to protect future generations,” Elder Cook said, adding that the teachings also provide an immunity for future events that could seriously impact Church members.

He chose one doctrine characteristic, or teaching, for five Prophets who had served 10 years or more, plus President Russell M. Nelson. He included doctrines that emphasize following the Word of Wisdom, strengthening the family, the revelation on the priesthood, the family proclamation, ministering and making homes sanctuaries of faith.

The teachings were relevant and important when they were taught, but also provide protection and immunity for people today.

The Word of Wisdom

President Heber J. Grant, who led the Church 1918-1945, continually emphasized the principle of the Word of Wisdom. At the time, mass marketing and the developing movie industry glorified the use of cigarettes and alcohol and led to an increase in consumption.

It took decades for scientists and doctors to evaluate and acknowledge the health risks — and data now continually show the dangers of smoking and the detrimental affects of alcohol

“Avoiding cigarettes and alcohol is an excellent example of prophetic guidance preceding education and scientific understanding of the significant detrimental impacts of smoking and alcohol consumption,” Elder Cook said. 

Strengthening the family 

President David O. McKay, who was president of the Church from 1951-1970, reinstituted family home evening and encouraged families to carve out time for religious observance in the home, issuing the clarion call, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

Elder Cook said President McKay expressed concern for concentrating righteous efforts to bless families at a time when it was very important, but the necessity of building strong families has increased — and will become even more important in the future. 

Revelation on the priesthood

President Spencer W. Kimball, the Church’s president from 1973-1985, received the revelation on the priesthood in 1978.

Elder Cook said he is grateful the Lord made very clear to President Kimball what was to be done. “Not enough can possibly be said about this revelation on the priesthood which has blessed and protected both individuals and the Church. It is even more important today than when it was received.”

Attendees listen to Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a devotional during BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The family proclamation 

President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led the Church from 1995-2008, gave “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

When he introduced the proclamation, President Hinckley spoke of the need “to warn and forewarn.” The document to the Church and to the world was “a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.”


President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church from 2009-2018, felt strongly about serving and ministering to each other — he both taught and was an example of “going to the rescue,” said Elder Cook, who shared several stories of this from President Monson’s life.

“I do not believe the transition from home and visiting teaching to ministering could have occurred as effectively as it has without the Christlike example of President Thomas S. Monson,” Elder Cook said. 

Make homes sanctuaries of faith 

President Nelson began serving as the Prophet in January 2018. In the October 2018 general conference, President Nelson announced changes for a new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum.

This “has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith,” President Nelson said.

Of this counsel, Elder Cook said, “How blessed we are to have had this guidance during the pandemic.” The immunity and protection from this observance may be among the most important of the last 100 years. He said future generations will be blessed by this revelation, and it will help to build faith in Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, Elder Cook again told the audience to heed the words of the Prophets.

“These prophetic declarations that I have addressed have provided and will provide immunity and protection in the future to allow members to be in the world, but not of the world, and prepare them for the Second Coming of the Savior.”

Power in following the Prophets

Elder Quentin L. Cook of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks with his wife Sister Mary Cook prior to a devotional at BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Gilbert and Deanna Pond, from Meridian, Idaho, attended the devotional and noted the truth of Elder Cook’s words, having lived through the administrations of many of the prophets he quoted.

“There’s power in following the Prophets,” Gilbert Pond said. “If you can’t understand it, pray about it, and the Lord will witness it to you.”

Their daughter-in-law Jennifer Pond, from Lake Stevens, Washington, said she heard from Elder Cook that making homes a sanctuary of faith will be the most important counsel for the next 100 years.

And Kristy Bockholt, from Eagle Mountain, Utah, said she knows that working on “Come, Follow Me” will make her home a safe place for her family and her children.

“Looking forward, that’s what we need to be working on,” she said.

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