August 13, 1013
A Core of Our Own: With Our Feet Firmly Planted
by Joyce Kinmont
As Latter-day Saints we are engaged in becoming worthy citizens in a Zion society, a society we have to build. As a part of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we return to the religious education that was originally understood by Joseph Smith and our early church leaders?
When I wrote a three part article for our website several years ago, I relied on Jack Monnett’s book, Revealed Educational Principles and the Public Schools for understanding and for quotes. I wondered if I dared to use a couple of quotes that included the word “infidelity.” Was the word too strong? Would people be offended? How was it meant? I decided to use them. Today I have no question; the word fits.
So let’s visit those quotes again, and some more.
When the legislature passed the Free Education Act of 1890 (and really, “Free” should be written in quotes because it isn’t free; it’s expensive!) President George Q. Cannon wrote in the Juvenile Instructor:
“It will be a great temptation to many people to send their children to the free schools that will now be supported by our taxes, but of what value is learning if it is acquired at the expense of faith.” – Monnett, p.154
The gospel was not taught in the “free” schools. The Saints didn’t seem to care. So President Cannon tried again, in stronger language, in a later issue of the Juvenile Instructor:
There are parents who are very favorable to their children receiving education, but appear to be indifferent as to the character of the teaching which they receive. They do not seem to place any value on their children being taught the principles of their religion. Apparently, therefore, they would as soon their children be taught in schools or colleges where religion is entirely ignored as in an academy taught by Latter-day Saints . . . the Latter-day Saints have forsaken everything for their religion. They have been willing to die for it . . . how persons who have had these feelings concerning religion in their own case can be so careless as to expose their children to infidelity seems a great mystery. -p.161
If Christ is the bridegroom, then unfaithfulness to Him is infidelity. But the Saints still did not respond.
One frustrated church school principal wrote to Brother Maeser, “We believe the Saints should say today as Israel of old, ‘God hath spoken, let Israel obey and patronize these schools and fill them to overflowing.” –p.155
The Saints heard plenty of counsel, even pleadings, from their leaders. And the Church did everything possible to reduce tuitions and make obedience easier. But the Saints weren’t willing to make the sacrifices.
Jack points out that their choice was clear. The Lord’s schools, or man’s. Follow inspired leaders, or not. For us the choice is clouded by years of compromise and by our having lived so long in Babylon.
Another friend of mine points out that the very purpose of the state schools was to destroy the Mormon religion. So why would the Saints fall into that trap? And why are we still there?
Had those early Saints, some of them the posterity of the pioneers, chosen what seemed at the time to be the hard road, would they have built Zion by now?
Instead they put their church leaders into the same quandary the Utah State School Board found themselves in: Is it better to have a place at the table than to not have any influence at all? It seems the School Board used that question as a justification for doing what they wanted to do – receive a “chunk of cash.” From the taxpayers. (see previous article) The Church, of course, looked to the Master for answers. I’m sure there was much sadness.
Jack wrote that enrollment in church schools “peaked at about 10%. . . . Not only was this a sad commentary against the Saints, it was an embarrassment to their leaders. Their enemies, however, were elated.”
Commissioner Jacob Boreman, who had feared that the Mormons would blindly follow their leaders, reported:
These efforts of the Mormon Church are necessarily causing divisions among the membership of the church upon educational matters. This, however, is a healthful sign, as is every act which causes the people to think for themselves. It creates and develops individual independence. The outlook is indeed encouraging. – p.187
President Cannon had been one of the chief leaders of the church school movement. As President Woodruff’s first counselor, he had worked hand and hand with the prophet to bring about a celestial education program that they and all the General Board agreed was a necessary step in creating Zion among the Saints. When it became clear that church members were more comfortable with an education program “like all the nations,” (1 Sam 8:5) and were not willing to sacrifice or separate themselves from those around them, plans were made to once again work with Latter-day Saint youth in public schools. It was awkward because the Brethren had been vocal about the differences of public and church education and had pointed out public school weaknesses. Previously, President Cannon had asked the Saints, “of what value is learning if it is acquired at the expense of faith?” He spoke to church educators and observed that “Although infidelity is not directly taught in the public schools, its spirit is fostered by the exclusion of religious education.
“In the summer of 1891, recognizing that a partnership had to be forged in order to continue teaching LDS youth, he said:
“The district schools must be patronized by the Latter-day Saints for many reasons; they are supported, to a large extent, by the taxes of the Latter-day Saints, and it would be well for the children to be trained in those schools at least up to their twelfth year; as it is supposed that this can be done without endangering their faith. Again, we have been accused of being opposed to education and the district school system, and we must not give our traducers the shadow of a foundation on which to rest their charges.” – Monnett, p 192-3
Necessarily, the foe became the ally. Competition that had at times been bitter now became friendly. A new educational direction was given to the Saints. . . . Karl Maeser, who had once labeled public schools “godless,” said in 1898: “By wise legislation it is provided, that the public schools shall be kept free from partisan politics, sectarian influences, and the inculcation of infidel theories. These sound restrictions guarantee in some measure at least to the children of our people, a so-called common English education without the bias of sectarianism or the negative tendencies of atheism.” – p.193
In the 1890’s the Church did have a place at the table. John Taylor was the first Superintendent of Schools. Many teachers were LDS. And society was basically moral. By the 1990’s the Church had little influence. And today? Is there any reason to remain in the schools of our enemies?
Now It’s Our Turn
One of the most beautiful talks ever given about becoming Zion is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s August 2012 CES address, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling.” He spoke of the many times when the Lord’s people had to flee:
For more than 4,000 years of covenantal history, this has been the pattern: Flee and seek. Run and settle. Escape Babylon. Build Zion’s protective walls.
Until now. Until tonight. Until this our day.
Our call is to build Zion where we are.
One of the many unique characteristics of our dispensation, this the dispensation of the fullness of times—the last and greatest of all dispensations—is the changing nature of how we establish the kingdom of God on earth. You see, one of the truly exciting things about this dispensation is that it is a time of mighty, accelerated change. And one thing that has changed is that the Church of God will never again flee.
In these last days, in this our dispensation, we would become mature enough to stop running. We would become mature enough to plant our feet and our families and our foundations in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people permanently. Zion would be everywhere—wherever the Church is. And with that change—one of the mighty changes of the last days—we no longer think of Zion as where we are going to live; we think of it as how we are going to live.
How are we going to live? How are our children going to learn their gospel, their life mission and occupation, their family heritage, and their national heritage, all of which includes reading and writing and every truth about everything on this planet? Is it time to pick up where the children of the pioneers stepped off the path? Is it time to walk away from schools that were originally set up in Utah for the purpose of destroying the power of the Mormon church (and on the East Coast for similar reasons, including to make all immigrants “common.”
Do we want to be like Germany, as is the stated goal of the president and was the goal of Horace Mann in early Massachusetts? Why do we put a bubble around government schools and release them from accountability to Biblical moral standards? Why do we force our children to go where they aren’t safe and pretend what happens there is good for them — although we wouldn’t allow such things at home?
Elder Holland said:
In the 21st century we cannot flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws and circumstances and environments that allow the free exercise of religion and our franchise in it. That is one way we can tolerate being in Babylon but not of it.
Our children were born into our family, but not into a school classroom. We do not need to “flee” the school system; we just need to stop choosing to send our children there. If there are attempts to force us to do otherwise, they would be unrighteous dominion and unconstitutional.
What “laws and circumstances and environments” will allow our children to have a religious education? Elder Holland didn’t say anything about education, so we have to figure it out for our own families. Are we willing to fight for our choice of “circumstances”? I hope we are!
With our feet and our families and our foundation firmly planted!
For Further Study:
Israel, Israel, God is Calling, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CES Broadcast, 2012 Elder Holland didn’t talk about education, but he did talk about Zion behaviors we must learn, so please watch the talk!
Not Commanded in All Things, Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, Conference Report, April 1965