My dear brothers and sisters, it really is a joy to be with you today. I am grateful for you, and I love you very much. I know that our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, love you. I pray that you have felt that love today and that you will continue to feel loved and appreciated as I speak to you.
These are great days in the kingdom of God and great days in the Church Educational System. What we have heard today about the new Doctrinal Mastery program in seminary is one of the many important, powerful revelations with which our Heavenly Father is blessing Church education. I rejoice with you that we are privileged to live in this day to see the great work of the Lord roll forth in such a marvelous way.
In that spirit of love, gratitude, and joy I want to speak to you today about the future of the Church Educational System.
This is the third time that I have spoken to you since I became the Commissioner of Education.
In August of 2015, I spoke to you about our need to rise up to the great responsibilities that rest upon us. I said then that we need to educate the rising generation more deeply and more powerfully than we have ever done before, and that means we all need to be better and do better than we have ever been or done.
In February of 2016, I repeated that theme and shared with you the parable of the nursery leader. I testified that by acting with faith in Christ, in patience and all diligence, we could, through the grace of Christ, truly be teachers come from God.
Today I repeat those themes: We need to educate the rising generation more deeply and more powerfully than we have ever done before. That means we all need to be better and do better than we have ever been or done. As we do, we will be teachers come from God.
We all need to take counsel from these inspiring words of President Thomas S. Monson:
“In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are all teachers and we are all learners. To all comes this gentle invitation from our Lord: ‘Learn of me … and ye shall find rest unto your souls’ [Matthew 11:29]. …
“When we respond to the Lord’s gentle invitation, ‘Learn of me,’ we become partakers of His divine power. Let us, therefore, go forward in the spirit of obedience, following our Exemplar by teaching as He would have us teach and learning as He would have us learn.”1
Now, in June of 2016, we can see a little further into the future of Church education, and with greater clarity and understanding than we could last August. I want to share with you what we have been given of the Lord since that time and what it means for all of us.
Last fall we discussed with the Executive Committee of the Board of Education, and then with the full Board, how we might reach out much more broadly across the Church to offer many more members the kinds of educational opportunities we can provide through the Church Educational System. In November we took a proposal to the Church Board of Education, and they approved the following concept: The Church Educational System (CES) will seek to provide opportunities for education to the members of the Church wherever the Church is organized.
The proposal was approved by the Board. We have called this effort “The CES Global Education Initiative.”
Eventually, initiative opportunities will include religious education as an essential and foundational part of every program we might offer, secondary education ranging from grade 7 through grade 12, English language instruction, Pathway: Academic Start, technical and skills-based training and certificates, undergraduate degrees in selected fields (both associate’s and bachelor’s), and master’s degrees. As we have done in Academic Start, tuition for these programs will be set low enough to make them accessible. We also anticipate working with Self-Reliance Services and PEF to help students gain access to the opportunities they need.
Along with the concept and the set of opportunities, we also laid out for the Board a set of guiding principles for the initiative. I have summarized them here in four principles:
Principle 1: Education—the struggle for perfection—is a spiritual experience and is essential for building the kingdom of God and establishing Zion. The inclusion of religious instruction, gathering experiences, and a spiritual focus to online learning will be essential.
Principle 2: The Global Education initiative will be a collaborative, system-wide effort, involving all CES institutions. We will partner with Self-Reliance Services, the Missionary Department, and other Church departments as appropriate and will build as much as possible on resources, courses, and programs that already exist.
Principle 3: Instruction will be delivered online and in local gathering activities at institutes and chapels. Instruction at local educational providers, including local technical schools, colleges, and universities, combined with religious education at a local institute, is an important part of this initiative.
Principle 4: Students will access programs through their local Church units, guided by priesthood leaders, supported by CES and Self-Reliance Services. This pattern ensures that Area Presidents, Area Seventies, stake presidents, and bishops and branch presidents make this initiative part of their ministry. When that happens the work takes place under the direction of priesthood keys.
The Global Education Initiative has important implications for you as instructors, directors, and administrators in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (S&I). Your role in this initiative is essential.
First, and most importantly, religious education is the foundation of every program we offer. The objectives of the initiative are all gospel-centered and, therefore, the teaching of the gospel is critical.
Second, the Global Education Initiative will bring many more people into the institutes. This has already happened with Pathway: Academic Start, and we anticipate that the number of students will continue to grow.
Third, S&I will have responsibility for the implementation and management of the secondary education programs in the initiative. That is the pattern we are using, for example, in three pilot programs in the Pacific area. These pilots in Samoa, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea will focus on educational support for at-risk students and on developing English capability.
Fourth, in very important ways, the initiative allows us to focus on the under-served and the struggling. The Savior has called upon us to seek out His lost sheep. Through the initiative, and through your efforts, we will do this both temporally and spiritually.
Brothers and sisters, I hope it is clear to you that the Lord is moving with great power in the earth to make education available to many more of His children and to strengthen learning and teaching of all kinds in His kingdom.
We are on a path into the future that will take us into new spiritual and educational terrain. The Lord is inviting us to do new things. He is directing us to change the way we work, to do better and be better than ever before.
And so, my dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to become like the sons of Mosiah. This is how Mormon described Ammon and his brothers:
“They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”2
Here is Mormon’s description of the impact that the sons of Mosiah had on the people they taught: “And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.”3
The invitation to become like the sons of Mosiah is an invitation to have the spirit of revelation and prophecy so that we will be guided by the Lord in undertaking the changes that lie ahead. It is an invitation to have the spirit of revelation and prophecy in us so that when we teach and bear testimony, God may work miracles in our students—including the miracle of conversion.
Having the spirit of revelation in us takes work—spiritual work. It comes from much fasting and prayer; from obedience, sacrifice, and consecration; and from experience with the Holy Ghost.
As Joseph Smith taught: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; … thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”4
Alma and the sons of Mosiah had much experience with the Holy Ghost. They learned how the Holy Ghost worked with them. They understood the communication of the Spirit. They acted on what they had received from the Lord, and through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ they grew into the principle of revelation. Their sensitivity to the Spirit and their capacity to receive revelation from God increased so much that they became mighty instruments in His hands. And so must we.
We must be teachers of the gospel who have the Spirit of the Lord with us and who know the workings of the Spirit. Our students need increased spiritual knowledge of the mind and the heart—knowledge that can only be obtained through the Spirit of the Lord. We must be teachers who receive revelation from God so we can guide and inspire His children to seek and gain spiritual knowledge through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The introduction of Doctrinal Mastery makes it even clearer that we must be teachers who love questions. We must not only be ready to answer questions, but we need to embrace and engage questions, and address them with our students through the spirit of revelation. We want students to think of seminary as a place where they can ask questions and find answers. We need to be ready to help them seek spiritual knowledge. We need to be teachers who listen with discernment, come prepared with doctrinal and historical insights, and who engage questions in an inspired way because the spirit of revelation is in us.
We can say the same thing of the spirit of prophecy. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever we teach of Christ or bear witness of Christ, our minds and our hearts and the minds and hearts of our students are drawn in a natural way to the future. When we look forward with the eye of faith, we see ourselves in a future that is better than our current circumstances. Whether we teach of repentance or forgiveness or healing or divine help in our trials, we cannot bear witness of Christ’s redeeming and strengthening power without entering into the spirit of prophecy.
We must be teachers who have a deep, abiding witness of Christ and who teach with the spirit of prophecy about His healing power and redeeming love. When we teach students to turn to Christ and promise them that He will cleanse them from sin and heal their wounded souls, it will be prophecy. The students who believe will know in their hearts that we have spoken the truth about the Savior and Redeemer and about their lives.
I want to share with you an experience I had with teaching by the spirit of revelation and prophecy. Years ago I visited a young part-member family with their stake president. The new father had grown up in the Church but had been inactive for the past seven years. His wife, who was not a member of the Church, had recently given birth to their first child. After chatting with them, I felt I ought to speak to the new mother. I looked at her and said, “It’s a great thing to be a mother.”
Those words came in the very moment I spoke them. As soon as I said them, the young mother burst into tears and ran out of the room. Her husband, a young man who hadn’t been to church in seven years, looked at us and said, “I think that’s the first time my wife has ever felt the Holy Ghost.”
When his wife returned I said to her, “It really is a great thing to be a mother. That little girl in your arms is Heavenly Father’s daughter. He has entrusted her to you. You have a beautiful family, and you and your husband and that little girl can be together forever. But for that to happen, you need to go to the temple of the Lord and be sealed together; to do that you need to be baptized and become a member of the Church; to do that you need to meet with the missionaries.” She promised that she would think about it. We invited them to stake conference and had prayer with them.
Now, notice I did not have that little speech I made prepared. It just came by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The next day they came to conference. I saw them in the hallway after the meeting. The difference in their countenances was astonishing! They were full of light. That light was even brighter when Sue and I saw them two years later in the Rexburg Idaho Temple. They were sealed, and their two-year-old daughter and a brand-new baby brother were sealed to them.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord works miracles when we teach by the spirit of revelation and the spirit of prophecy.
I close today where I began: I love you very much, and I know that our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, love you. I am so grateful that the Lord has prepared you and put you here in this great work. And it is a great work. The Lord has called us to do great things. The Global Education Initiative is a great thing. Being a teacher come from God is a great thing. Teaching with the spirit of revelation and prophecy is a great thing.
What the Lord has called us to do may at times seem daunting. We can take heart from the words of President Thomas S. Monson, our beloved prophet. These are his words:
“If any … within the sound of my voice feel unprepared, even incapable of responding to a call to serve, to sacrifice, to bless the lives of others, remember the truth: ‘Whom God calls, God qualifies.’”5
“When we [are worthy], when we strive with faith nothing wavering to fulfill the duties appointed to us, when we seek the inspiration of the Almighty in the performance of our responsibilities, we can achieve the miraculous.”6
I know that is true. I leave you with my witness that God our Father lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer. This is His Church, and we are on His errand. I so testify, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 5/16. “The CES Global Education Initiative: The Lord’s System for Education in His Church.” English. PD60001875 000
1. Thomas S. Monson, “Learn of Me,” Ensign, Mar. 2016, 4, 6.
2. Alma 17:2–3.
3. Alma 23:6.
4. Joseph Smith, in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 132.
5. Thomas S. Monson, “Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony,” Ensign, May 1987, 44.
6. Thomas S. Monson, “You Make a Difference,” Ensign, May 1988, 43.