Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What is a good education?

What is a good education?

I have a degree in education so I should be able to answer that question easily. But I can't. The word encompasses so much--I can't quite put a definition in words yet. Still working on my own definition for it.

I remember calling my dad after I graduated for college, preening a bit because I knew he must be so proud of me for getting my degree-- ready for him to celebrate with me. And he was excited for me. But what he said, I will never forget. He said something like, "And now your real education begins."

And boy was he right. No four-year instruction at a University could prepare me for the 6 years that came after my "formal education" was complete. A lot of learning has happened since I graduated from college.

As I was reading Elder L. Tom Perry's biography, I came across this experience that his wife shared--and it has been on my mind ever since:

"Several years ago when we were living in the state of New York, I remember attending a Relief Society Conference. President Belle S. Spafford was there. Also President Harold B. Lee--he was then Elder Lee.

Sister Spafford asked for a definition of education from the audience. Several were given. I recalled a definition give by Plato. Many centuries ago, someone asked him: 'What is a good education?' And he replied: 'A good education is that which gives to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable.'

I was rather pleased with myself because I was able to remember the quotation, but my elation was short-lived because when President Lee arose and addressed the group, eh said; "Well, so much for Plato.'

Then President Lee said he had his own definition of education, and he liked it better. He said: 'The best education is that which gives to the individual the strength and ability to adjust.' I remembered his words and during the ensuing years I have had many occasions to ponder his words and recognize the great wisdom they contain.

Life is filled with adjustments--joys and sorrows, trials and temptations. That's what life is all about--this is the time of our schooling. We are gaining an education from the time we enter this mortal existence until we leave it. There are always adjustments to be made, and how we make them is all important. Our actions and reactions here will determine in a large measure how we spend the rest of eternity. . . .

President Lee has also said: 'The all-important thing in life isn't what happens to you. The important thing is how you take it.'

As we consider the adjustments necessary in life, it may be well to remember the biblical story of Joseph who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into Egypt. . . .Always, Joseph stayed close to God and kept his values in proper perspective. He had the strength and courage to do right. He was able to make the best out of whatever happened to him. . . .

May we prepare ourselves so that we, like Joseph of old, will be armed with an inner strength--even the power and inspiration of God--so that no matter what happens to us in this life during our mortal school, we will cling to the iron rod of the gospel and stand firm in our testimony of truth and right."

Virginia Lee Perry as quoted in L. Tom Perry: An Uncommon Life, pages 299-300

I really liked this account, because I, like Virginia Perry, love Plato's definition of education-- and I was a bit taken aback by President Lee's response to it. And I still think Plato's definition is correct in one sense of the word "education." A loving Heavenly Father wants us to become our biggest, brightest selves. He asks us to seek perfection and even provide the perfect example for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would know what perfection spoke and acted like. (Matthew 5:48) And filling our lives with knowledge and art and experiences that enrich and beautify our lives and the lives around us is all part of that. The scriptures provide many other insights into what learning and true wisdom are (Wisdom- Guide to the Scriptures).

If wisdom and learning and seeking perfection are the end goals, then we can define education as what gets us to wisdom, learning, and eventual perfection. And in that sense, though Plato's definition is lovely, I have to say, that President Lee's definition is certainly more appropriate and applicable. Learning to adjust well to life's circumstances and not become impaired or destroyed by them, is what allows us to move forward and continue learning and growing and flourishing. The times in my life where I became hurt and angry about things that were happening to me, were the times in my life when I learned and understood the least.  Once I learned to adjust and react in positive healthy ways, learning and understanding began again.

Life is the school. Learning to adjust is education. And it has been my experience that the way to adjust and learn and beautify best is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who is learning that educating an almost 3-year old about using the potty is more difficult than teaching 6 periods of 7th-grade English.

"Brigham Young has said, “The person who enjoys the experience of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and at the same time has the love of God within him, is the happiest of any individuals on the earth. …“Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing. ... He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. ...“Truly happy is that man or woman, or that people, who enjoys the privileges of the Gospel of the Son of God, and who know how to appreciate his blessings.” As quoted by Elder L. Tom Perry here

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

See & Know For Yourself

"Wherefore, we again say, search the revelations of God: study the prophecies, and rejoice that God grants unto us seers and prophets. They are they who saw the mysteries of godliness [. . .]

And, fellow sojourners upon earth, it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 12-13

L. Tom Perry, one of the twelve apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died a few weeks ago. He was 92 years old. And he spent a large part of those years testifying that Jesus is the Christ and that His gospel is the way to peace and happiness.

I have grown up listening to Elder Perry speak at our Church's biannual conference and I have always loved him. He somehow combined big and booming with quiet and unassuming. I'm not quite sure how he did it. But he just seemed very, very real to me. And there always seemed to be a twinkle in his eye. He reminded me of my paternal grandpa.

So here is a little tribute to him-- a man that I sincerely believe was an apostle of Jesus Christ:

Elder L. Tom Perry, Deseret News

"The scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He lives and is our Redeemer and Savior. We should follow Him and show our love for Him by remembering Him and humbly keeping His commandments.
Through His Atonement we are able to repent and be cleansed. [. . .]
Personal, sincere involvement in the scriptures produces faith, hope, and solutions to our daily challenges." L. Tom Perry, The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life

“… The world is crying out for something, it scarce knows what. Wealth has come, … [and] the world is filled with … inventions of human skill and genius, but … we are [still] restless, unsatisfied, [and] bewildered. … [If we open] the New Testament [we are greeted by these words], ‘Come unto me and I will give you rest, I am the bread of life, I am the Light of the world, If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink, My peace I give unto you, You shall receive power, You shall rejoice’” (Charles Edward Jefferson, The Character of Jesus [1908], 7, 11, 15–16). Quoted by Elder Perry in his October 2014 Conference Address.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

To Understand - How Rare It Is

To love is easy and therefore common - but to understand - how rare it is!” ― L.M. Montgomery

I could easily spend the rest of this post refuting the statement "To love is easy and therefore common"--but I'm not going to. For my purposes, I like this quote because there is an aspect or definition of love that is easy and common. For instance, I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. I love curling up on a couch and reading a good book. I love going on walks with my little girl (except when this angry, white duck attacks me...which is a whole other story). I love hiking up to a waterfall and feeling the spray from it on my face. I fell "in love" with several boys when I was between the ages of 8 and 22. I also love listening to certain people sing varying from Barry Manilow to Martina McBride to Pavarotti. So there. Most of us, in that sense, probably find that love is easy and common. 

I am not quite sure exactly when it was that I first realized how good it felt to be understood--but one time that stands out in my mind was in college. My sister and I were supposed to go to a church activity--but on a whim, we decided instead to go to the University's production of Hamlet. And it was amazingly good. Probably the best acting we felt like we had seen while we had been at school. After the play, we got some ice cream at a local store and walked to a nearby park where we sat in the sunshine and talked about Hamlet and us and life in general. And it just felt so good--being with someone who really knew me and really knowing somebody else. My sister and I have some very big differences in personality--but we have known each other our entire lives and few people understand me like she does. 

That is a blissful example. There are also examples that hurt. A lot. And in those times, I felt like nobody could understand. And then I met people who had been through similar "hells" and as wrong as it felt to be glad that somebody understood (because it meant that they hurt a lot too), it still was nice to have someone understand.

And I believe that we have a Heavenly Father and a Redeemer, who truly do understand us. Every part of us. One of them understands because He is omniscient and because we are His children. A literal part of Him. The other one understands because He felt every bit of pain and struggle and weakness and temptation that we have ever felt or will feel. I don't believe this because it makes me feel better to believe in something bigger that understands me. As I've mentioned before, I have found that there are many people here already who have had similar experiences and who can understand, to a degree, who I am and what I have experienced. 

I believe in Them because everything that I have read, thought, doubted, believed, experienced has filled me with a certainty that God is our Father and Christ is His Son. "I think, therefore, I am."  Yes, but also: "I am, therefore, They are." 

(Exodus 33:17, Jeremiah 1:5, Alma 30:44, Job 19:25)

Greatest in the Kingdom, J. Kirk Richards
"There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power." 
Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease, David A. Bednar


Who knows she doesn't understand a whole lot of things...but is still working to understand the things that seem to matter most...