The creation of BYU-Pathway, the Church’s online university, has generated attention both in the Church and across higher education.
In an online devotional broadcast Tuesday, Sept. 22, BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Clark G. Gilbert explained, “In the Church, BYU-Pathway has stirred the hopes of those who thought education was beyond their reach. In higher education, observers have looked at the program’s affordability, its dramatic growth, and the high completion rates of our students as patterns to emulate.”
And yet that alone doesn’t fully explain students’ success, President Gilbert said. “At BYU-Pathway, we know by whom we are led. And it is by that light that He will prepare our way.”
In his address to students around the world, President Gilbert shared three ways to help them remember “by whom we are led.”
First, let deeper spiritual purpose ground learning.
Education is not just about income, prestige or validation. “Education also allows us to serve more effectively in the kingdom,” President Gilbert said and quoted President Russell M. Nelson who taught: “In the Church, obtaining an education and getting knowledge are a religious responsibility. We educate our minds so that one day we can render service of worth to somebody else” (“Focus on Values,” Liahona, February 2013).
One of the reasons BYU-Pathway students realize such remarkable outcomes is their sense of higher purpose, President Gilbert said. “Like Moroni’s army, they are ‘inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all’” (Alma 43:45).
President Gilbert invited listeners to write down their “why,” or their deeper purpose for learning. “If you don’t know it yet, then find it,” he said. “Then post it in your journal or on your mirror; share it with someone. When times get difficult — and they will — BYU-Pathway students turn back to their deeper spiritual purpose and find an added motivation to keep going.”
Second, maintain high expectations of divine potential.
Students in BYU-Pathway often face challenges to pursue education, President Gilbert said. Sometimes he’ll hear people put forth the idea that, because of such challenges, maybe they shouldn’t expect as much from their students.
President Gilbert then recalled his experience serving with a group of young men in inner-city Boston. Many of them came from broken homes, faced financial struggles and other obstacles. Some of their leaders wondered if they should hold them to different expectations regarding seminary attendance, college attainment or missionary service.
“This did not feel right to me,” President Gilbert said. “In fact, the more I reflected on it, it even angered me because it seemed to deny the divine potential in each of them.”
Now, years later, many of them have gone on to serve missions, graduate from college, serve in the Church and develop meaningful careers. “Not once did I ever let them think I expected anything less from each of them. Similarly, as a BYU-Pathway student, we expect you to work hard, to do your best, learn and progress, and complete not only PathwayConnect, but a certificate and eventually a degree. And we expect you to learn to lift and build others because we know of your divine nature and potential.”
Third, “make God your partner.”
President Gilbert said he has wept as he has observed the struggles of many of the students. “But I have also sat in awe at your resiliency and faith. I believe in you and in what you are learning and know it will change your life forever. More importantly, I believe you have the right to call on heaven’s help.”
In a previous devotional to BYU-Pathway students, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “You need to remember always that you are not alone in this. [Y]our Heavenly Father and your Savior know you and can and will grant you heavenly help. Make God your partner in BYU-Pathway.”
President Gilbert promised that as students involve the Lord in their studies, “He will lift you to places you never thought possible.”
BYU-Pathway students who worry whether he or she will make it can have confidence in a well- designed program that draws on the best thinking in higher education. “But that alone is not why you will succeed,” he reminded listeners. “Let your deeper spiritual purpose ground your learning. Set high expectations and realize your divine potential. Above all, make God your partner in BYU-Pathway, and He will lift you and magnify your efforts in ways that will be hard for others to understand.”