“True Education—True Religion,” Ensign, Jan. 1980, 74
It is my opinion that the roots of all education over the centuries are essentially religious. Education, and in fact religious education, has existed from time immemorial. I am aware of no culture, primitive or otherwise, that is not very much concerned with at least informal education, and even primitive cultures have placed more formal emphasis on religious education. I certainly do not mean by this that all education in all cultures has been based on truth. In fact, there have been many abuses, to the extent that some of the most grievous of man’s sins against man have been perpetrated in the name of religion.
Perhaps this is one of the basic reasons why in our society today we observe the phenomenon of a conscious effort to secularize education, thus endangering the moral and character development of people. Even as early as Plato’s day, he defined education as teaching those principles of character and morality that have been pronounced right by law and confirmed as truly right by the experience of the oldest and most just. (Robert Ulbich, History of Educational Thought, New York, American Book, 1950, p. 6.) Today it is painfully apparent that we live in a period that Alvin Toffler described as a time when the tempo of change and this process of secularization have arrived at a point in our civilization where institutions are overturned; values are shifted; and life’s most meaningful roots shrunk. (Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, New York, Bantam Books, Inc., 1972, p. 1.)
Of course, I believe that what we need as a human society is true education and true religion because I maintain that all true education is essentially religious and all true religion is essentially educational.
I recall with warmth the faith-confirming experience that I had in my sophomore year of college in a human physiology course. Never before had the miracle of human life and the human body struck me with such power and conviction. I never did learn of what religious persuasion the professor was, but I shall never forget the impact on my life of what I learned and felt. That teacher was instrumental in helping me receive an expanded spiritual commitment that the genesis of life must be credited to a magnificent Creator and not chance.
I found great inspiration in a physics class and I discovered additional reverence for creation in a geology course. I shall never forget what I consider the religious educational experience I found in studying Spanish grammar, composition, and literature with one of the most effective and demanding teachers I have ever known at Brigham Young University. Far from being faith-destroying, I discovered that my experiences with psychology and philosophy became for me sources of strength to my faith. And, without embarrassment, I confess that on occasion I became misty-eyed with what I would describe as a spiritual experience by the beauty of some of the choice portions of poetry, literature, and music created by the masters.
If we as students and teachers would consider education generally with this perspective, can’t you see how much more spiritual and exciting learning and life would be? The search for truth would be constant, and though we recognize that a great amount of those things taught or written today are of little eternal value, we nevertheless would be motivated to continue our quest for ideas and truth by sifting through whatever chaff there may be for the kernels of wheat to nourish us or the pearls of thought to delight us. Then, our learning or education could become a “religious experience” and a source of immense satisfaction and happiness.
Joe J. Christensen, President, Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah