Women and Education: Growing Our Knowledge, Changing Our Lives
Writer: Kelsey Petersen
As Latter-day Saints, we are encouraged to collect food storage in preparation for unknown calamities that may or may not occur. Similarly, it is necessary to acquire an education as a way of preparing for the unknown future. Plans change, and hard times will inevitably come. Thirty-five to forty percent of adult LDS women are single for a variety of reasons. Just as food storage gives us peace of mind in knowing that we would be fed if a situation occurred where we didn't have access to fresh food, an education gives us the assurance we need that we will be ready to combat the trials that face us in this life.
President Monson said in the general Relief Society broadcast in 2004, "We do live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties...I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should such a situation arise, you are prepared to provide." Fifty-eight percent of Pathway students are women, and many of them have found that education not only prepares them for the future, but it also gives them confidence, a sense of purpose, and a strengthened relationship with Heavenly Father.
Pathway student Lauren Bone is a mother of two and has found that, although she never planned it, she is the main provider for her family as her husband hasn't been able to find full-time work. Lauren worked as a seamstress for Beehive Clothing, where she sewed about a thousand articles of clothing a day. Joining Pathway has given her peace of mind. She says, "I just want to have something that I can fall back on. If I broke a hand or got injured, I wouldn't have a job anymore. My husband is a part-time deputy constable and it always scared me not knowing what could happen. I just knew that I needed to have a skill in case one of us ever got injured."
Lauren found that joining Pathway gave her opportunities to learn, increased her confidence, and prepared her for an interview at work that resulted in a promotion. She said, "When I went into the interview they asked a lot of different questions, and everything that we had learned in our online class up until that point just popped into my head. There were so many things that applied to that interview. I was able to give them a lot of ideas that I thought would help improve the plant, and I ended up getting the promotion. All the candidates that I was up against were amazing--I don't think there was anything that made me more desirable than them, other than I had taken these classes."
Although life will inevitably provide obstacles that can divert us from our educational goals, moving forward with faith can help us to persevere. Lauren says that at the start of her Pathway journey, her husband gave her a blessing and she was promised that if she gave her children the time they needed, then she would have the time to do school and work. She says, "People get caught up in saying, 'I don't have time for it,' or, 'I won't use it,' but we're never going to lose that knowledge. We are going to take it with us. You just don't know which of the little things that you do are going to turn into something big for someone else."
Sister Mary N. Cook counseled the young women at a general broadcast to never give up on education, no matter how discouraged they may become. She said, "God gave you moral agency and the opportunity to learn while on earth, and He has a work for you to do. To accomplish this work, you have an individual responsibility to seek learning." We chose to come to this earth so that we can be tried and tested as we aspire to reach our fullest potential. As we pursue these opportunities to learn, we become more like our Father in Heaven who, "Comprehendeth all things." We grow as we learn, and are molded into the kind of women we are designed to be.
Pathway student Fabiola Popuchet, a single mother of two teenage daughters, has found that education plays a vital role, not only in becoming self-reliant, but also in serving others. She says, "Heavenly Father sends us a lot of skills we need to develop while we are here to be able to help ourselves and to be able to help others. I think education is really important regardless if you are a woman or a man because it enables you to support yourself and then you can help other people. My first goal is to be able to help others, and an education gives you more of an opportunity to do that."
Fabiola is a wonderful example of using knowledge to serve others. Originally from Mexico, she is a native Spanish speaker. She currently resides in San Antonio, Texas, and started learning English about four years ago. Fabiola tutors elementary-aged girls in Spanish and helps write programs for Girl Scouts of the USA to engage girls at an early age to be more interested in math and science. This will hopefully influence more women to pursue engineering or other math and science-related fields of work.
"The Family: A Proclamation to the World," explains that, "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." In understanding that the divine role of motherhood encompasses teaching children as we nurture them, we recognize that obtaining as much knowledge as we can will benefit them. In the past and present alike, Church leaders have stressed how important it is for women to obtain an education. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in 1975 that "mother's vital teaching responsibility makes it even more important to have educated mothers than to have educated fathers." Teaching our children by example that we value education inspires them to follow in our footsteps.
JaNae Christensen has three grown daughters and nine grandchildren. Although she doesn't know if she'll be looking for a career after earning a degree, she feels that joining Pathway will benefit her family. "I've learned a lot more about instructing and how to be a teacher. I'm also digging into the scriptures deeper than I have before, and I can share the knowledge I've gained." The more we learn, the more we are able to teach our children, our friends, people in our congregation, and members of the community.
We can seek learning in any stage of life; it is never too late. In a general presidency message, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf quotes an old proverb, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now." He goes on to say, "There is something wonderful and hopeful about the word now. There is something empowering about the fact that if we choose to decide now, we can move forward at this very moment. Now is the best time to start becoming the person we eventually want to be--not only 20 years from now but also for all eternity."
Christy Rutherford, mother of 11 children and grandma to 15 grandkids, exemplifies this principle wonderfully. After she joined Pathway, Christy wondered how she could benefit from a life skills and a basic Book of Mormon class at her age. "I've taught seminary for 14 years, I've taught Gospel Doctrine in Sunday school, and I've taught in Young Women's ...I thought, 'What in the world can I learn at 63-years-old?'" She soon found that her Pathway experience provides her ample opportunities for growth.
"Time management, finances, budgeting...those things that I really thought I knew everything about, I really didn't." She also delved deeper than before into the scriptures. "I'm surprising myself in how much I'm learning from the Book of Mormon. It's wonderful; my testimony has really grown. I've read the Book of Mormon so many times I've lost count. I used to tally mark how many times I've read it on the inside cover, but I ran out of room. You would think that I would know it all, but I don't."
Like many Pathway students, Christy has found that the journey toward obtaining knowledge is unending.
"My education isn't just for this life, my education is for eternity. If I'm going to become like God, I'm going to have to know everything. I might as well get started!"
Whether we are a newly graduated 18-year-old or a 75-year-old grandma, we can commit to find joy in learning so that we can prepare ourselves for the future, become self-reliant, and bless the lives of others as we share our knowledge with them.
 Marie K. Hafen, "Celebrating Womanhood," Ensign, June 1992
 Thomas S. Monson, "If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear," Ensign, November 2004
 Mary N. Cook, "Seek Learning: You Have a Work to Do," Young Women General Broadcast April 2012
 Doctrine and Covenants Section 88:41
 The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," General Relief Society Meeting September 1995
 President Dallin H. Oaks Brigham Young University Devotional Assembly, February 12, 1974
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Best Time to Plant a Tree", Ensign January 2014