In the United States, we are fast approaching the end of another school year. Graduation season is upon us. Soon the noise of the classroom will be silenced as summer vacation begins. There are many wonderful teachers that have worked hard every day to teach the children in their care that deserve our gratitude and thanks. While my initial love of learning came from my parents through instruction and example, I wish to express gratitude to some of my academic teachers, and share why education is important to each of us.
Mrs. Ross was the perfect second grade teacher. She had taught for many years at South Jordan Elementary and was nearing retirement. The United States had just changed the law on prayer in school, but Mrs. Ross didn’t feel it was right—so we started each day with a prayer “thought.” Everyone took turns, and prayer was part of our school day. She wanted us to acquire a love for reading and learning. I remember one of the first books I tried to read that was about a vegetable garden. The book report, where we had to list the words we didn’t know, was more than full. It was frustrating to discover I didn’t know how to read. I struggled with self worth and wondered if I was very smart.
With the patient help of this loving teacher, and parents who read to me and with me every night, I learned to read. By the end of the year, the vegetable garden book was no problem, and I had developed a great love of books. The ability to read opens the door to lifetime education. Learning to love to read has enhanced my desire to continue to learn and insured my continuing education. Thank you Mrs. Ross.
I attended a small private school for a couple years starting at age twelve. I was a scared and nervous seventh grader at a new school as I entered the classroom in anticipation of what lay before me. Brother Walker (the private school was LDS based) would soon win the respect of the class and the love of most of them. The first period of the day was a study of the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History. Since his dream was to be a seminary teacher, we were good practice for him. My family had visited Nauvoo the summer before, so the study of Church History enhanced my understanding and love of the past. I will never forget the lesson where he stood on top of his desk to make a point.
Because we were a small private school, Brother Walker taught us several topics, but most important was his testimony of Jesus Christ and the gospel. What made LeRen Walker a good teacher was not just his ability to teach or the unique way that he taught. For me, it was the fact that I knew he cared and wanted me to succeed and be my best. I remember the day I found out he would not be back the next year. I approached him and told him I didn’t want him to leave because he was such a great teacher. He took me in his arms and gave me a hug, and with tears in his eyes said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.” That hug still warms me today. Thank you, LeRen Walker, for your lessons, your time, your testimony of the gospel, and for caring. My love of the gospel was enhanced in your classroom, and your efforts and love have not been forgotten.
In the eighth grade, Sherry Davis taught me how to type. The words on this page happen because of the hours of classroom practice with my fingers on the right keys. Sister Davis became my full time teacher in the ninth grade. We had a small class spread over several age groups, so the struggle was to work with us each individually on our own level. She spent hours in preparation for each day. Now that my work includes hours on the computer everyday, I am constantly reminded of the lessons sitting at a typewriter and the teacher that taught me these skills. Her class prepared me for a future career and I will never forget the lessons, patience, and caring of a wonderful lady. Thank you Sherry Davis.
There have been many other teachers who have influenced my life. There was my first Book of Mormon teacher, Reed Benson, that instilled in me a love of the Book of Mormon in eighth grade. Mr. Finton, a wonderful high school history teacher and all around good guy. Mrs. Wolf, who taught me high school science and biology. There are many other teachers, to whom I am grateful, for what they have taught me over the many years of formal education.
The Lord counseled us to “obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion” (D&C 93:53). He also declared that we should be “instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel . . . Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgements which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (D&C 88:78-79).
And why must we learn things both spiritual and academic? “That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you” (D&C 88:80). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater knowledge” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 288). Brigham Young stated, “Our education should be such as to improve our minds and fit us for increased usefulness; to make us of greater service to the human family” (The Prophets Have Spoken, Vol. 1, p. 626).
President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “We therefore encourage our people to study and prepare to render service with their minds and with their hands. Some are inclined toward formal university training, and some are inclined more toward the practical vocational training. We feel that our people should receive that kind of training which is most consistent with their interests and talents. Whether it be in the professions, the arts, or the vocations; whether it be university or vocational training, we applaud and encourage it” (The Prophets Have Spoken, Vol. 3, p. 825-826).
The Lord and His prophets have always placed great emphasis on both spiritual and temporal education. Education is empowering the Saints to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and serve their fellow man.
May each of us show gratitude to the teachers in our past through our continued study and learning today. And may we instill in our children a love of reading and learning, that they may be prepared for the “mission” the Lord has “commissioned” them.