February 12, 2019
Writer: J.D. Packer

“What I learned in my travels is that when students make learning English a spiritual endeavor, they are much more likely to be successful,” said Brother Brian K. Ashton, the second counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Hearing these wonderful children of God bear testimony of how the Spirit helped them learn to speak and read English has been one of the great spiritual experiences of my life.”

Ashton shared this message in his devotional address to the students at BYU-Idaho. Ashton works as the vice president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide and has the opportunity to see students from other parts of the world try to learn English to help them with their studies. He related this story in his address to help BYU-Idaho students understand the importance of learning and how to do it as a spiritual endeavor.

“When I have the spirit with me in my life, I learn much faster,” Ashton said. “When I have the spirit to a lesser degree, it’s harder to learn. So, I thought that would be useful for students.”

BYU-Pathway Worldwide is a program that started at BYU-Idaho, but now extends its educational offerings far beyond the Rexburg campus. Pathway classes are online and volunteer missionaries help out with the classes. After completing the first year of the program, students can be officially admitted to BYU-Idaho and continue to earn certificates as well as associate and bachelor's degrees.

“I go to places around the world where English is not their first language and yet we have classes in English and these people speak very well,” Ashton said. “As I talk with them about how did they do so well, they have said ‘I had to get the spirit to help me learn.’”

Ashton was completing his service as president of the Texas Houston South Mission, where he was serving with his wife, Melinda Earl Ashton since July of 2012, when he was called as the second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency.

Melinda joined Brother Ashton in an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, to talk about what it takes to learn with the Holy Ghost as she attended medical school and how it helped her graduate.

“I think the Lord wanted to say, and he has taught me this lesson a lot, you can do it all on your own,” she said. “Or I can help you. I will help you if you let me. That was a really valuable lesson for me to learn.”