Mormons believe in education, work, and self-relianceI’ve been thinking a lot about Brenda’s response to the question about if all Mormon moms stay home after having children. She brought up a lot of important points, including some of the teachings about womanhood and motherhood that have a great influence on Mormon women as they make decisions about how to balance their family roles and their professional goals.

I wanted to piggyback off of that post and talk a little more about some of the principles she discussed but didn’t have the space to expand upon. Today, I’ll talk about education and self-reliance, and in the future, I want to talk more about the principle of agency that Brenda mentioned. (As is always the case, we share our perspectives and understanding here, but do not speak for the Church officially. We do try to point you to official teachings so you can read and consider more on your own about what Mormons believes.)

For today, I will focus on the statement Brenda made, which is that

Our Mormon faith encourages lifelong learning, self-reliance and an emphasis on hard work….

From the time we are young, we as Mormons talke about the importance of education and self-reliance. Consider, for example, the following examples from Church materials.

For LDS girls and boys ages 8-11, we have a goal-setting program, called Faith in God. One of the requirements to complete the program is to “Read D&C 88:77–80, 118 and D&C 130:19. Discuss with a parent or Primary leader how important a good education is….”

A possible Faith in God goal is to “Learn how to budget and save money. Discuss why it is important to faithfully pay our tithing and how Heavenly Father blesses us when we do (see 3 Nephi 24:10–11). Pay your tithing and begin saving for an education.”

Young women ages 12-18 hear a lot about the importance of education and of hard work, both in lessons and also in talks and articles in the youth magazine, The New Era.

I just skimmed over some of these materials to find some examples. From a Young Women lesson on work, we find several meaningful quotes such as this:

The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.

The young women are encouraged to consider such questions as: “What steps do we need to take now for our future temporal welfare? What attitudes could prevent us from learning to work to care for our own temporal needs?”

The search on the topic of education in The New Era yielded nearly 600 results!

I think the Church’s view about education can be summed up well in the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth:

The Lord wants you to educate your mind and improve your skills and abilities. Education will help you to be an influence for good in the world. It will help you better provide for yourself, your loved ones, and those in need.

Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices to obtain learning. Education is an investment that brings great rewards. You live in a competitive world where a good education opens the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you.

Maintain an enthusiasm for learning throughout your life. Find joy in continuing to learn about yourself, other people, and the world around you. Study the words of the Lord, and continue learning about your Heavenly Father’s plan. Make seminary [scripture class for youth] an important part of your total education.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:77–80

The welfare program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also underscores how much education, literacy and other facets of self-reliance matter to Mormons.

I think it’s important to note, however, the Mormons don’t look at education as solely a means to an end of getting a career and making money. Of course, being able to provide for one’s family is important, but it’s not the only reason to get an education.

I loved this story about an  address given by Sister Mary N. Cook about the importance of education. She notes that

My professional education has been the solid foundation that has really helped me in everything that has come since….

Getting an education is a very important part of mortality,” Sister Cook said. “It is one of the ways we become more fit for the kingdom [of the Lord]. We have our agency, we can make many choices that will prepare ourselves to be great teachers, parents and leaders. Rarely do we really know or understand what the Lord has in mind for us.”

When I think about Mormon women and education, I think about the wisdom of what I understood Sister Cook to be saying. I believe we (and actually, I think this applies to men as well), are encouraged to view our education not just for our own fulfillment, nor just about getting a good job (although that is, of course, important). I think we can see it as a means to be better instruments in God’s hands, in our homes and family life, in God’s work, and in our communities — in whatever way He directs us to use our skills and knowledge. And I think that there is key: learning to let God direct us in how we use our time and talents, and how and what we learn.

I love the quotes in this visiting teaching message. (Visiting teaching is a program wherein we visit one another and talk about life and gospel principles and try to serve and care for one another.) This simple material captures so much about Mormon belief and life. We care about spiritual learning. We care about secular learning and preparation. We care about formal education, but we also care about lifelong learning. Education is not simply about schooling, but is more a way of life and includes wise use of our time and setting of priorities. Consider this from President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency:

“We will have to make some hard choices of how we use our time. … But remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. …

… And since what we will need to know is hard to discern, we need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. It also means that we cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read or to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark” (“Education for Real Life,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 18, 19).

So much to think about there. I also appreciated his thoughts on the topic of education in this article for youth.

This quote from Elder Robert D. Hales included thoughts specific to women who are raising children about cultivating a desire for lifelong learning:

My dear sisters, don’t ever sell yourself short as a woman or as a mother. … Do not let the world define, denigrate, or limit your feelings of lifelong learning and the values of motherhood in the home—both here mortally and in the eternal learning and benefits you give to your children and to your companion.

Lifelong learning is essential to the vitality of the human mind, body, and soul. It enhances self-worth and self-actuation. Lifelong learning is invigorating mentally and is a great defense against aging, depression, and self-doubt (“The Journey of Lifelong Learning,” in Brigham Young University 2008–2009 Speeches [2009], 2, 8–9).

I think there are points in these quotes that underscore how multi-faceted our views on education and learning are as Mormon women, and how they intertwine with how deeply we feel about the roles of wife and mother in God’s plan. Our beliefs about education, self-reliance, and learning involve more than just degrees and careers. They intersect with all that matters to us both in this life and the next, and, as such, demand a lot of us in terms of the choices we make about how to use our time and talents.

So how do Mormon women navigate these choices and the many responsibilities in our lives? As Brenda noted, that is where the principle of agency comes in. And that is a topic for another day. 🙂