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1986: Lynn E. Henrichsen - "That My People May Be Taught More Perfectly": A Latter-day Saint Philosophy of Higher Education


1986: Lynn E. Henrichsen - "That My People May Be Taught More Perfectly": A Latter-day Saint Philosophy of Higher Education

L henrichsen

With diverse teaching experience in American Samoa, Mexico, Spain, China, and Japan, Lynn E. Henrichsen quite naturally solidified many of his educational ideas and ideals in the twenty-fourth McKay lecture in 1986. Appointed to Brigham Young University-Hawaii in 1977, Henrichsen completed his B.A. and M.A. at Brigham Young University in 1973 and 1975. Specializing in Teaching English as a Second Language, he used his talents in various ways at BYUH by directing the University's English Language Institute, coordinating the TESL Program, and editing the TESL Reporter for many years. With Dr. Pack, he co-authored Sentence Construction (1980) and Sentence Combination (1981), widely used companion texts in developmental writing. Active in state, national, and international TESL and language organizations, Henrichsen is a former president of the Hawaii Council of Teachers of English. At the time of his lecture, he was nearing completion of his Ed.D. at the University of Hawaii. He and Teri, his wife, are the parents of Cristina, Daniel, Linda, and James.


Giving this lecture is an honor, but it is also a great responsibility. I sincerely hope that what I present will truly extend "a degree of respect to the memory of President David O. McKay."1 By profession, President McKay was an educator, and I suspect that he would have had a particular interest in the topic I have chosen: "A Latter-day Saint Philosophy of Higher Education."

I'd like to begin with a rather long quotation. As I read the passage, please ask yourselves two questions: (1) what nineteenth-century church leader had the vision described in the passage; and (2) what university was he referring to?

I contemplate a people which has had a long night, and will have an inevitable day. I am turning my eyes towards a hundred years to come, and I dimly see the island I am gazing on, become the road of passage and union between two hemispheres, and the centre of the world. . . . The capital of that prosperous and hopeful land is situate[d] in a beautiful bay and near a romantic region; and in it I see a flourishing University, which for a while had to struggle with fortune, but which, when its first founders and servants were dead and gone, had successes far exceeding their anxieties. Thither, as to a sacred soil, the home of their fathers, and the fountain-head of their Christianity, students are flocking from East, West, and South, from America and Australia and India, from Egypt and Asia Minor, with the ease and rapidity of a locomotion not yet discovered. . . all speaking one tongue, all owning one faith, all eager for one large true wisdom; and thence, when their stay is over, going back again to carry over all the earth 'peace to men of good will.' (Newman 50)

Who wrote those words? Joseph Smith? Parley P. Pratt? What university was it about? Did the description make you think of BYU--Hawaii Campus? Well, if that's what you thought, and if this were a quiz, your score would be zero. The author of the passage was John Henry Newman, Cardinal Newman, and he was dreaming of a Catholic university, not BYU-Hawaii.

Now, I didn't choose to begin this lecture with that particular passage just to deceive you. I chose it because it describes one man's vision for an institution of higher education. Such dreams are important. Dreams provide direction--a blueprint for future building. Let me give you another, closer-to-home example--a dream that provided the architectural basis for an important Brigham Young University building:

in 1878, not long after Brigham [Young]'s death [when the Brigham Young Academy met in an old, dilapidated building with only five rooms], he [Brigham Young] visited Karl Maeser in a dream and took him on a tour of a large building, with many rooms and a spacious assembly hall. Maeser, on waking, drew the floor plans for the building in some notes about the dream and put them away until six years later when the old Academy building was destroyed by fire. He remembered the notes and used the plans to design the new Academy Building that became the center of BYU for fifty years. (Maeser qtd. in England 17).

Many other dreams about BYU deal, not with its location or architecture, but with the nature of the teaching and learning that should take place on the BYU campuses. I hope you agree that those aspects of a university are important, for it is about them that I wish to speak today. I am going to present my dream for Brigham Young University. My hope is that you will understand and develop this dream, for, as President Holland has said, 'It is dreams held in common that give unusual strength to our future at BYU' (Address, 27 August 1985).

The "dream" I am going to explain is not something that occurred to me while I was sleeping. Rather, it is the product of wide-awake reason and latter-day revelation. It is my philosophy of higher education as a Latter-day Saint.

Now the topic of a philosophy of education is not as esoteric as you might think. "Having a philosophy of education is quite similar to having a philosophy of life, and being philosophical in this sense is being deeply concerned and thoughtfully reflective about fundamental aspects of educating" (Soltis x). All of us who are involved in the dream of BYU should care and reflect about it.

In the last few years, the world has witnessed a wave of concern for "excellence" and purpose in education (see Gardner et al; Butts). For us at BYU, an LDS philosophy of higher education can (to borrow a phrase from Paul) "shew. . . unto [us] a more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12: 31). For that reason, I have chosen as part of my title a few words from a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1834 in which the Lord explained why the Church needed to "wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion--That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly" (D&C 105: 9-10

The Desirability of an LDS Philosophy of Higher Education

In the preliminary stages of my research on this topic, as I questioned a number of my colleagues about their views on the topic of a Latter-day Saint philosophy of education, the most common reply was, "Do we have one?" Apparently, if we do, it is not widely recognized.

A related question is, "Should we?" There are certainly many scriptural warnings against philosophy. To quote just one, Paul warned the Colossians, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy" (2: 8).

Nevertheless, in the scriptures, one finds an even greater number of admonitions to gain wisdom (Prov. 3: 23, 4: 7; D&C 6: 7), and "love of wisdom" is the original meaning of the word philosophy. In the same sense, a philosopher is "one who devotes himself to the search of fundamental truth" (Oxford). By that definition, all true Latter-day Saints should be philosophers. This LDS philosophical spirit is nowhere more evident than in the words of Elder John Taylor who proclaimed, "I want truth, intelligence, and something that will bear investigation. I want to probe things to the bottom and to find out the truth if there is any way to find it out" (JD 11: 317). And, of course, Elder Taylor was not alone in this quest. Early in this century, Elder B. H. Roberts proclaimed that Mormonism "calls for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development" ("Book" 713). It is in that spirit and with that hope that I have prepared this lecture.

Questions, Answers, and Paradoxes

When truths of the restored Gospel are applied to principles and practices in higher education, a number of significant questions arise. Perhaps the most important of these is "What is true 'higher education' in the Latter-day Saint sense?" That question does not lend itself to a simple, ready-made response. In fact, thoughtful consideration of the possible answers leads to other questions which are equally challenging.

I suspect that some of the answers I have come up with will surprise at least some of you. Principles from the scriptures and the words of the prophets can help us see the teaching/learning process in a new way, and in this light familiar things sometimes take on a new aspect. To borrow the words of T. S. Eliot, "And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time" (ll. 243-244).

At times in my searching, I have found myself face-to-face with a paradox, a seeming contradiction. At first, this bothered me. How could gospel principles contradict each other? Later, I came to realize the value of paradox. As Alfred North Whitehead puts it, "Clash of doctrines is not a disaster, it is an opportunity" (186). The gospel is full of paradoxes.2 To resolve them, we must rise to a higher level of principle, and in the process we learn. Elouise Bell, calls paradox "the major teaching device of the gospel. . . . It is by the unbraiding of the twin strands that make up any paradox. . . by carefully, laboriously unraveling these that we think and ponder our way through the principles of salvation and gain our own light" (2).

The Valuing of Higher Education Among Latter-day Saints

I will not start with paradoxes, however, but with a "given"--that among Latter-day Saints learning and education have always been valued and pursued to an uncommonly high degree. As Arrington and Bitton point out in their history of the Latter-day Saints, "education has long been a kind of obsession among Mormons" (304). This "Mormon education ethic" has a firm basis in the restored gospel. Brigham Young declared, "This is the belief and doctrine of the Latter-day Saints. Learn everything that the children of men know" (JD 16: 77).

Latter-day scriptures contain numerous references to learning and education. Reuben D. Law reported that while the entire Bible contains only 95 such references, there are "at least 112 verses of modern scripture pertaining to education and learning" (13). The greatest of latter-day revelations dealing with education, D&C 88, was received on December 27, 1832, only two years after the organization of the Church. It not only commanded Church members to study, but also outlined a rather extensive curriculum, which went far beyond "basic" education:

And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine. . . .

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 judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms. . . .

Organize yourselves; prepare. . . a house of learning. . . .

Appoint among yourselves a teacher. (88: 77-79, 119, 121)

Subsequent revelations to the early Church continued to emphasize the importance of learning, and the Saints were quick to comply with the word of the Lord. Less than two months after receiving D&C 88, in February of 1833, Joseph Smith established an institution of higher learning called the School of the Prophets. The first term it enrolled sixty students, primarily prospective missionaries, who attended "for the avowed purpose of better fitting themselves for the arduous duty of proclaiming an unpopular message to the world" (Bennion 7). Contrary to what you might suppose, the program of study included more than theology. Political science, literature, and geography were also taught (Bennion 8). In addition, Greek, Latin, and some sciences were later added to the curriculum (Bennion 11).

In November of 1836, in frontier circumstances, another early LDS institution of higher learning, the Kirtland High School, was established. It offered instruction in mathematics, geography, English grammar, writing, and reading (Carver 31). The history of this school is rather obscure. It may even have been part of the School of the Prophets. Nothing is known about it after the Church left Ohio.

The School of the Prophets, however, persisted in spite of persecutions which drove the Saints from Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, and finally to Utah. It was not discontinued until 1873, nearly forty years after its inception (Bennion 14).

After being driven from Missouri, the Saints took refuge in Illinois. On the banks of the Mississippi River they built Nauvoo, which soon became the largest city in the state. In 1840, Joseph Smith proposed the establishment of an institution of higher learning in Nauvoo, and on December 16 of that year the state legislature passed an act authorizing "the establishment of the first municipal university in America" (Bennion 22). This University of the City of Nauvoo operated for several years. In it, mathematics, chemistry, geology, literature, history, German, French, Latin, and Greek were taught (Bennion 25). In 1842 it even bestowed an honorary doctorate. Only two years later, however, Joseph Smith was assassinated and, once again, the Saints were driven from their homes.

As the Saints prepared for the trek west, Brigham Young instructed them not to forget learning. His epistle to them as they were encamped on the banks of the Missouri River stated,

It is very desirable that all the Saints should improve every opportunity of securing. . . a copy of every valuable treatise on education--every book, map, chart, or diagram. . . and also every historical, mathematical, philosophical, geographical. . . astronomical, scientific, practical, and all other variet[ies] of useful and interesting writings. . . from which important and interesting matter may be gleaned to compile the most valuable works on every science and subject for the benefit of the rising generations. (Roberts Comprehensive 506-507)

Even as the pioneers traveled across the plains and mountains, "groups were called together for study and instruction" and almost immediately upon arrival in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847--even before a building to house it could be erected--a school for children was begun (Law 10-11).

Higher levels of education were not neglected in the new settlement. As soon as Utah was organized into a territory, the second law passed by the legislature (on February 28, 1850) "provided for the establishment of the University of the State of Deseret. . . the first university west of the Missouri River, later to be known as the University of Utah" (Bennion 76). The Saints' aspirations for this university were high. Nevertheless, with the passage of time (and the coming of the railroad), outside influences began to affect Mormon Utah. "It became increasingly clear. . . that Church and State could no longer be conducted essentially as one. . . . The Mormon Church, therefore, soon began to develop its own private educational system" (Chamberlin 9).

In the period from 1875 to 1909, the Church established thirty-five different academies throughout the "Mormon Empire" stretching from Idaho in the north to Chihuahua, Mexico, in the south. Some of these were short-lived. Others lasted until the 1920s and 1930s when the Church divested itself of nearly all of them. They then either became public high schools or developed into state colleges and universities (Arrington and Bitton 254).

One academy, however, had a different fate. In 1870, the Timpanogos branch of the University of Deseret had been established in Provo, Utah. It lasted only a few years, until April 1875, but when it was discontinued it was replaced almost immediately, in October of the same year, by Brigham Young Academy. Originally, the BYU was not an official Church school. It was endowed by Brigham Young, and he, as an individual, was its founder and proprietor (Wilkinson and Skousen 49). Nevertheless, it eventually came under the Church umbrella.

Less than fifty years later, Elder David O. McKay envisioned another Church institution of higher learning here in Hawaii (Law 25-30). When he became president of the Church, the Church College of Hawaii came into being. Today, as BYU-Hawaii it shares both the name and the mission of Brigham Young University.

The Destiny of BYU

But Brigham Young University is more than history and tradition. Its future is also important. One of the books about BYU published during the centennial year of the Provo campus was subtitled "a school of destiny" (Wilkinson and Skousen). The question that immediately arises, of course, is "What is that destiny?"

In 1879, when the Brigham Young Academy was still in its infancy, President John Taylor prophesied,

You will see the day that Zion will be as far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining to learning of every kind as we are to-day in regard to religious matters. You mark my words, and write them down, and see if they do not come to pass. (JD 21: 100)

The more recent statement of Charles H. Malik, one-time president of the United Nations General Assembly, has also been frequently quoted in hopeful reference to the potential of BYU:

I believe a great university will arise somewhere. . . to which Christ will return in His full glory and power, a university which will, in the promotion of scientific, intellectual and artistic excellence, surpass by far even the best secular universities of the present, but which will at the same time enable Christ to bless it and act and feel perfectly at home in it. (qtd. in Wilkinson and Skousen 758)

Along these same lines, referring to BYU's eventual destiny, President Kimball, in his 1975 Founder's Day address, urged us to become an "educational Everest" ("Second" 244).

Such pronouncements are inspiring, but they do not specify the means by which such a grand and glorious end is to be achieved. Much is left for us to work out. As we work toward our ultimate destiny, we must consider those means carefully. At the same time we must realize, as President Kimball cautioned us, "that some of the things the Lord would have occur in the second century of BYU are hidden from our immediate view. Until we have climbed the hill just before us, we are not apt to be given a glimpse of what lies beyond" ("Second" 255).

"Excellence"

Apparently, the "hill just before us" has a big "E" on it. BYU is currently involved in a campaign called "Excellence in the 80's." The purpose is to raise one hundred million dollars for the University, and the campaign is reportedly "approaching the mark" ("Approaching" 24). Yet the important question is "What is the mark?" Beyond one hundred million dollars, what are we aiming at? What is excellence for BYU?

Other Church-related universities in America have embarked on similar campaigns. At Notre Dame, an institution formerly known mostly for its "Fighting Irish" football teams, the drive for academic excellence began in the early 1950s. Father Hesburgh, the new president, went to a press conference "prepared to talk about academic programs. Only sportswriters attended. At one point, a photographer tossed him a football and asked him to pretend to hike it" (Ingalls 5). From that point on, "the drive toward academic excellence became 'the overriding passion of his life'" (Ingalls 5).

In the minds of some, our current drive toward excellence may be based on similar motives--merely a reaction to BYU's "happy hunting ground" and "overgrown seminary" images. Those of us who believe in a higher motivation for the campaign are obliged to defend and define its true purposes. A good beginning would be to define what "excellence" in LDS higher education means.

According to the dictionary, the word excel means "to surpass or outshine. . . to surpass others" (Webster's). In keeping with this definition, some have suggested that, as universities seek excellence, they ought to study and imitate the characteristics of successful business corporations, adopting entrepreneurial tactics such as staying "close to the customer" in order to "outperform their competitors" (Douglas 72).

Yet, as Brown and Icke have pointed out,
one must be cautious in advocating excellence [of this type]. Zion will not be built by the drive to surpass one's neighbor. This kind of excelling has a secular ring to it. It implies interpersonal comparison, achievement primarily in relative terms, outperforming some implied group of others. (12)

Further stressing that BYU's goal should not be the type of competitive excellence in which BYU attempts to beat the universities of the world at their own game, Arthur Henry King has insisted, "our first step toward being the Lord's university on earth, our second, our third and so on, are steps away from the habits and customs of apostate universities. We do not need to catch up with the world, the flesh, and the devil" (8). "BYU has to be better than other universities by not being like them" (King 8). Eugene England has expressed a similar sentiment: "To succumb, at BYU, to our critics' insistence that we 'grow up,' come into the 'wonderful' twentieth century, and become a 'real university' is to sell our birthright for a mess of national rankings" (8). And President Kimball challenged,

As previous First Presidencies have said, we say again to you: 'We expect--we do not merely hope--that Brigham Young University will become a leader among the great universities of the world.' To that expectation I would add, 'remain a unique university in all the world!' ("Installation" 5)

Another definition of excellence seems to be in order, and for it I turn not to the dictionary but to philosophy. Philosophers since Socrates have been concerned with definitions, for they are essential to accurate reasoning. As Durant notes: "This is the alpha and omega of logic, the heart and soul of it, that every important term in serious discourse shall be subjected to strictest scrutiny and definition. It is difficult. . . but once done it is half of any task" (68).

The definition of "excellence" which I find most appropriate for LDS higher education comes from classic Aristotelian philosophy. In Aristotle's teachings, a key to the achievement of man's happiness and fulfillment was the performance of his highest function, the thing that man alone could do best. Excellence (or virtue, as the Greek term is often translated) resulted from performing this unique function well.3 To use Aristotle's example: "If we take a flautist or a sculptor or any craftsman in fact any class of men at all who have some special job or profession we find that his special talent and excellence comes out in that job, and this is his function" (37-38). Apart from this example, Aristotle reasoned that the highest function of man generally (as distinguished from the members of the plant and "brute animal" kingdoms) is "the exercise of his non-corporeal faculties" (38). In other words, "the peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought" (Durant 86).

But Aristotle did not limit his discussions to man alone. He also discussed the excellence of things such as the eye (whose excellence is seeing well) and the horse (whose virtue is found in being good at running and carrying its rider) (64). In these discussions the subjects are different, but the principle remains the same: performing its particular function well is a thing's "excellence." The same principle can be applied to an institution. The achievement of its "excellence," depends on the recognition and performance of its unique, highest function.

In the case of LDS higher education, this Aristotelian line of thinking leads to the question, "What is the highest function of BYU?" In my thinking, it would be a shame if the answers were (to once again, borrow T.S. Eliot's words) "Not known, because not looked for" (l. 251). Without understanding our uniqueness, we at BYU may never truly attain our destined "excellence."

Functions of BYU

Of course, BYU cannot be entirely unique or it would not be a university. It "shares with other universities the hope and the labor involved in rolling back the frontiers of knowledge" (Kimball "Installation" 3). It carries on the traditional university functions of "the training of scholars and the maintenance of the tradition of learning and investigation" (Haskins 25). But merely doing what other universities do is not enough. As England puts it, Brigham Young himself would "be opposed to our spending precious tithing monies to subsidize over two-thirds of the education of students merely to gain nothing better than the kind of education they could receive in the secular state institutions which the Saints also subsidize" (10). Clearly, BYU must serve other, additional functions.

The reason for the establishment of BYU's predecessor, the School of the Prophets, was to prepare uneducated Church members for missionary service so they could "cope intellectually" with the world. Likewise, Brigham Young encouraged schooling so "that our young men, when they go out to preach, may not be so ignorant as they have been hitherto" (JD 12: 31). Many years later, when BYU President Harris listed "the reasons why the Church should continue operating BYU," missionary preparation was again mentioned as one of the school's functions, but by that time the list had grown considerably longer, to include such functions as demonstrating "to the world that the Church believes in higher education," providing "wholesome social contacts that result in worthy courtships and temple marriages for LDS youth," and even encouraging "scientific research coupled with the spiritual and moral philosophy of Mormonism" (qtd. in Wilkinson and Skousen 290-291).

Today also, BYU serves various functions--educational, social, and spiritual. It provides a retreat from many worldly influences for young Latter-day Saints, a model of a Zion-like society, and a "happy hunting ground" for those in search of a spouse. As they earn their degrees, BYU students learn about Church history and doctrine, and their faith and testimonies are built up. At the same time, while attending BYU, students are trained to become Church leaders. As an institution, the University also serves other purposes--as a bastion of religiously oriented scholarship and as a showcase in which the Gospel light can shine to the world.

Education for Eternity

BYU's foremost function, however, is something else. It incorporates many of the other functions but also goes beyond them. In his "Second Century" address President Kimball called this function "'education for eternity'" (244). He proclaimed that "education for eternity" is first among BYU's unique features. Therefore, reasoning in the Aristotelian way, education for eternity is the key to our excellence. But what, exactly, does education for eternity consist of?

Speaking at BYU-Provo's commencement ceremonies a few years ago, Hugh Nibley recalled a similar occasion twenty-three years earlier when in the opening prayer he referred to the caps and gowns worn by the participants as "the black robes of a false priesthood" ("Leadership" 16). Twenty-three years later, a disappointed Nibley reported, "Many have asked me since whether I really said such a shocking thing, but nobody has ever asked me what I meant by it. Why not? Well, some knew the answer already; and as for the rest, we do not question things at the BYU" ("Leadership" 16).

Unfortunately, in too many cases, this same lack of probing seems to have characterized our acceptance of the phrase "education for eternity." How many of us have pondered what those words mean and considered what implications they have for our university activities? It is important that we do so. Although we may study more and more advanced subject matter specialties, until we understand and practice "education for eternity," we will not be involved in true "higher" education. On the other hand, when we do understand the meaning of "education for eternity" and base our daily practices on its principles, we will begin learning on a higher level or plane. Insofar as we implement our unique philosophy of higher education, BYU will achieve a greatness unlike that of any other university in the world. It will be great in a unique, LDS way, by a celestial standard. As President Kimball promised, "then, in. . . process of time, this truly will become the fully recognized university of the Lord about which so much has been spoken in the past" ("Installation" 5-6).

A good step in that direction would be to carefully define "education for eternity" and specify the means by which it is to be accomplished. To borrow (and slightly modify) the words of John Dewey, "We shall make surer and faster progress when we devote ourselves to finding out just what education [for eternity] is and what conditions have to be satisfied in order that education [for eternity] may be a reality and not a name or a slogan" (116).

Considering the scriptures and the words of the prophets in reference to education for eternity, I have found that it goes far beyond the typical Sunday School admonitions of "Love your students" and "Teach with the Spirit." This LDS philosophy of higher education is heavy on work and low on apologetics and sentimentality. In fact, it sets "a much more demanding standard than that provided by secular universities" (England 15).

Education: Process and Product

The term education means different things to different people. Some despair that "education is" nothing more than "a progressive discovery of our own ignorance" (Durant qtd. in Peter 173). For the materialistically motivated, "getting an education" means earning a diploma, the prerequisite to landing a job. Many other definitions of education exist, but in the interest of time I will simply share with you the one which I find most appropriate for our present purposes. Harry S. Broudy, a well known educational philosopher, defines education as "the process or product of a deliberate attempt to fashion experience by the direction and control of learning" (9).

Please note that in this definition education has two aspects--process and product. In discussing the meaning of education for eternity, I find it useful to consider each of these aspects separately--first the product and then the process. Before going into that, however, let's consider the meaning of eternal as it applies to education.

Eternal Education

Generally speaking, eternal means of "infinite duration. . . everlasting" (Webster's). In this sense, eternal education would mean education of infinite duration. As Latter-day Saints we do believe that "the learning process begun in this life carries on into the next" (Nibley "Educating" 243), but I would argue that in the case of "education for eternity" eternal has more of a qualitative than a quantitative meaning. Such thinking should not be new to those of us who have read the Doctrine and Covenants and learned that "eternal punishment" and even "endless punishment" are not punishment without end, but rather "God's punishment" for, as the Eternal Father states, "Endless is my name" (D&C 19:1 0-11). That being so, it is certainly possible that eternal education is God's education--education after his manner. In this view, the product of "education for eternity" is a Godlike being, and the process of eternal education consists of learning in a celestial way.

As England points out, this is "the most intellectually exciting goal a university could have the full development of the individual, in terms of all our godlike possibilities, both for our mortal lives and forever" (6-7). Its purpose is not just to prepare people for a profession but to "assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life" ("Mission" [1]). Brigham Young himself hinted at this when he outlined what it meant for Latter-day Saints to be "scholars of the first class":

If we will not lay to heart the rules of education which our [greatest heavenly] Teacher gives us to study, and continue to advance from one branch of learning to another, we never can be scholars of the first class and become endowed with the science, power, excellency, brightness, and glory of the heavenly hosts; and unless we are educated as they are, we cannot associate with them. (JD 10: 266).

"Educated as they [the heavenly hosts] are" implies that not only must we attain the degree of knowledge that exalted beings have, but we must do so by the same process. That brings us to the product and process of "education for eternity."

The Product of "Education for Eternity"

In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the philosopher Immanuel Kant indicated that the whole interest of reason centers on three questions (236). Later, lecturing on logic, he wrote that these three questions could be unified into one underlying query: "What is man?" (qtd. in Collins 315). Likewise, to understand the proper product of "education for eternity," we must consider the LDS view of the nature and purpose of man, for properly educated men and women will be that product.

According to LDS doctrine, man is not just another of God's creations but his actual spirit offspring, created in his image. Man "is of the race of Gods and in one stage of progress toward the mastery of the universe" (Carver 52). The end goal of this process is to become like our Heavenly Father. Naturally then, an important product of our "mortal schooling process" should be the acquisition of godly characteristics (Maxwell "Thanks" 53)..

One of the important messages of the restored Gospel is that at least some of the things we gain in mortality will not be lost when we leave this life. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life. . . he will have so much the advantage in the world to come" (D&C 130: 18-19). This doctrine provides a key to understanding the proper product of "education for eternity," for only those things which will rise with us are eternal. This definition obviously excludes many of the things which are so often sought after at universities: grade point averages, exam scores, diplomas. It also leads us to consider what things actually will "rise with us," for they are of the greatest importance. In the scripture just quoted, knowledge and intelligence are mentioned--and spoken of as separate entities. I find it useful to maintain that distinction. These two educational outcomes, as well as three secondary ones--worthy stewardship, service, and joy--are the major products of "education for eternity."

Knowledge/Subject Matter

I will begin with knowledge, or subject matter. The scriptures, our educational history, and the words of our modern-day prophets all attest that the acquisition of knowledge is important. For instance, when Gordon B. Hinckley outlined "a triad of purposes underlying the establishment and operation of this school," the first mentioned was "to impart knowledge" (1)

This knowledge is to be of all types. In fact, it is not even correct to speak of secular and religious knowledge as if they were distinct, for "Mormon education embraces secular learning as a constituent part of universal truth, which emanates from a divine source" (Bennion 123).

Speaking on this subject, Brigham Young gave unmistakable advice:
'Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all the time?' says one. 'Yes, if you please, and when you have done, you may be nothing but a sectarian after all. It is your duty to know everything upon the face of the earth in addition to reading those books.' (JD 2: 93-94)

On another occasion, President Young proclaimed, "It is our privilege and our duty to search all things upon the face of the earth" (JD 9: 243) [and] "What a boundless field of truth and power is open for us to explore" (JD 9: 167).

Thus he states both the scope and the paradox of LDS educational duty regarding knowledge. We are to "search all things" and "understand every principle," yet he acknowledges that this field of truth is "boundless." Although education will continue in the hereafter, in this life we are surrounded by finite bounds. Therefore, our knowledge of things must be incomplete. How, then, can we fulfill our duty?

Another, related challenge arising from our limited time on earth is choosing which types of knowledge to pursue. All knowledge is not equally valuable. Elder Neal Maxwell reminds us that "something can be both true and unimportant. . . . [T]here is an aristocracy among truths; some truths are simply and everlastingly more significant than others" (Smallest 4). This is in keeping with the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Yet the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things" (6). In response to this challenge, Elder Maxwell emphasizes schooling in such things as love, submissiveness, and sacrifice as part of a "cosmic" curriculum (Smallest 6). This line of thinking, however, inevitably leads to the questions, "Why do we attend universities at all?" and "Why do we spend so much time studying such 'lesser' and continually changing things as TESL, computer science, economics, political science, or electronics?"

One response is that although obsolescence overtakes many of the facts we dispense, it is also true that there are "eternal threads" to be found in virtually any subject matter. These are generally on the level of principle. One of the challenges of "education for eternity" then is to emphasize these principles.

Another response is that our educational duty is in searching, not necessarily in finding. Searching for knowledge teaches us more than just the subject matter itself. It instructs us in the learning process, and it develops our intellectual powers. This perspective also helps resolve another paradoxical subject-matter question: "Why bother with subject matter at all?"

Brigham Young explained that when we arrive in the spirit world after this life we "shall there learn with greater facility," and after the resurrection we "shall learn a thousand times more in a thousand times less time" (JD 8: 10). One might naturally ask, "If learning then and there will be so much faster and better than it is here and how, why worry about it in this life?" Even if a man were to devote his entire mortal life to acquiring knowledge, his erudition would still be minuscule compared to what the worthy will learn in the hereafter.

The resolution to this paradox is found not only in stressing the "earthly" products of education (stewardship, service, and joy), but also in the higher principle that subject matter itself is not as important as learning is. Latter-day scriptures teach us that after death and resurrection we will be "restored" unto the states which we desired and pursued during our earthly probation (Alma 41:3-10). As Brigham Young put it: "We merge into immortality. We do not become another kind of beings in passing through the resurrection" (JD 10: 30). Therefore, if in this life we do not learn how to learn and do not develop our ability to acquire and use knowledge, we may find ourselves in a less favorable position to enjoy an acceleration of learning in the next life.

This is not to say that subject matter knowledge is unimportant. On the contrary, it is fundamental. The other products of education for eternity depend on subject matter. Without something to study we would not be able to practice learning and develop the powers of our intellect. Subject matter knowledge helps us be more worthy stewards and render greater service to others. To use the metaphor of a swimming class, subject matter is the water we learn to swim in. It is necessary, for without it we could not learn to swim. But we must also remember that swimming (not watching the water) is the most important thing. It is swimming, not the water, which gives us exercise and development, pleasure and recreation, and which allows us to rescue a drowning friend.

The implications for teaching and learning are clear. In "education for eternity," our ultimate objective must be more than just subject matter knowledge. If, as teachers, we are merely teaching subject matter, we need to change our perspective and begin encouraging students to do things that will move them toward their divine destiny of becoming Godlike individuals. The advice for students is similar. If you are concerned only about learning the "facts and figures" of knowledge, you may become an unbalanced product of the school system and miss out entirely on education for eternity.

Attributes/Intelligence

Developing intelligence is not the same as acquiring knowledge, just as true education does not consist of merely stuffing information into the brain. The ancestral form of educate, educere, means "to lead forth, to develop the powers" (Oxford). That meaning fits education for eternity well. As God's offspring, we have been endowed with at least some of his attributes, and true higher education requires developing these Godlike qualities. BYU's motto, "The glory of God is intelligence," should remind us that developing intelligence is perhaps the most important aspect of "education for eternity" (D&C 93: 36).

Compared to the development of the human mind, knowledge in a particular subject area is relatively unimportant. In keeping with the teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith that "God has created man with a mind capable of instruction and a faculty that may be enlarged" (51), Brigham Young explained, "It matters not what the subject be, if it tends to improve the mind, exalt the feelings, and enlarge the capacity" (JD 1: 335).

Speaking on our campus just a few years ago, President Hinckley expressed this same idea when he said, "Train those who come here to think with intellectual integrity" (4). Boyd K. Packer echoed it when he told the faculty, "You have a good beginning when they [the students] can think for themselves" (Transcription of Tape 1, Side B: 3). But, as usual, Brigham Young said it most plainly and unmistakably: "We are trying to teach this people to use their brains" (JD 11: 328)

As we go about our educational pursuits at this university which bears Brigham Young's name, we would do well to keep in mind his counsel concerning "the necessity of the mind being kept active and having the opportunity of indulging in every exercise it can enjoy in order to attain to a full development of its powers" (JD 13: 61). As teachers, this principle can guide us in counseling individuals, composing examinations, and making assignments. For instance, when students write a paper or conduct a research project, we can emphasize to them that--although the actual content must be correct--studying the subject thoroughly, organizing their thoughts, and expressing them clearly (all exercises in intelligence) are most important. In our courses, we should aim at academic activities which not only teach subject matter but at the same time require concentration, perseverance, the proper management and allocation of resources, wise decision-making, and self-discipline. And in our concern for developing skills, let us not forget the Lord's words: "come. . . let us reason together, that ye may understand" (D&C 50: 10). Reasoning is one of the Lord's teaching devices. It should be one of ours.

For you students, when the subject matter seems irrelevant to your future job, when the homework load is heavy and the assignments are especially challenging, keep in mind the idea that the most important product of the process you are going through will be a well developed, eternal intelligence.

Stewardship

Other products of "education for eternity" are secondary since gaining them depends on knowledge and intelligence, but they are still important. One of the most important is worthy stewardship. We have all been given stewardships: our homes, families, physical bodies, talents, time, natural resources, etc. In sum, the earth and all in it have been entrusted to us, and the way we care for and develop these things is part of the mortal probationary process. Here again, education plays an important r™le. The effective management and development of resources cannot be done in ignorance. "Education for eternity" aims at providing knowledge and developing intelligence, so that we can be worthy stewards.

Service

Another important product of eternal education is service, and increased intelligence and subject-matter knowledge can help us render greater service. President Hinckley noted that BYU graduates are to "serve the needs of the communities to which they will return" (2), and "stand as examples of men and women possessed of a great sense of service to their fellowmen" (4). As when we go to the Lord's temple to perform work for others, at the Lord's university we should not labor just for ourselves. Having been privileged with unusual opportunities for developing our intelligence, we need to devote ourselves to the work Brigham Young deeded to us along with the University: "The improvement of the condition of the human family" (JD 19: 46).

Unfortunately, some seek learning only for purposes of prestige and personal gain, not service. They act as if the sign at the entrance to the Provo campus ought to be changed to read "Enter to learn, go forth to earn." Brown and Icke caution us against such an attitude:

If one is seeking knowledge or scholarly excellence for the purpose of gaining power, wealth or recognition, that work will fail. The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion. If he labors for money he shall perish. And laboring for scholarly recognition is no more noble. (12)

They then quote the words of Brigham Young: "keep [your] riches, and with them I promise you leanness of soul, darkness of mind, narrow and contracted hearts" (JD 12: 127). Those are not the products of "education for eternity."

Joy

Another product of "education for eternity" is joy. "Men are, that they might have joy" (2 Ne. 2:2 5). Joy--in this life and the next--comes from many sources, such as righteous living and rendering service to others. Education, in and of itself, can also be an additional source of joy. Elder Maxwell has explained: "Part of the pursuit of learning is for the sheer enjoyment, the sense of discovery, the sense of seeing relationships between bodies of knowledge" ("Common" 7). Orson Pratt expressed a similar sentiment: "There is a joy, a satisfaction, existing in the mind of the righteous man, in the discovery of every additional truth" (JD 3: 98).

The Process of "Eternal Education"

With the proper products of "education for eternity" in mind, we can now concern ourselves with the process by which these are to be achieved. It is a process in which both students and teachers alike should be engaged, for it merges learning, teaching, and research into a common process of discovery. Notably, this process also resolves a major paradox--the apparent conflict between the intellectual and the spiritual.

Intellectual vs. Spiritual

Jesus taught that "no man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6: 24), yet at first glance this is what appears to be expected at BYU, where we are constantly challenged to pursue both academic and spiritual ends. President Kimball gave us the following charge:

As LDS scholars you must speak with authority and excellence. . . in the language of scholarship, and you must also be literate in the language of spiritual things. We must be more bilingual, in that sense, to fulfill our promise in the second century of BYU" ("Second" 245)

More recently, President Holland challenged us to make BYU a "mix of Plato's Republic intellectually and Enoch's City spiritually."4

Why is this dual preparation necessary? It is not, as some may think, to fulfill two distinct functions. As long as the spiritual and the scholarly are perceived as being separate, they will compete with each other. Rather, it is because spiritual and academic preparation go together in our LDS process of "higher" learning. When our perspective rises to the level of "education for eternity," the conflict disappears. In the 1832 revelation on education, the Lord instructed us to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88: 118), and a modern-day prophet has reiterated that "knowledge comes both by reason and by revelation" (Smith, Joseph Fielding 2). In ideal LDS learning, we are to "search for truth through secular and spiritual means at the same time" (Wilkinson and Skousen 8). Intellect and faith actually play mutually supportive r™les in the process of celestial, Godlike education.

This "higher" learning process consists of four elements. They are not necessarily stages although I will discuss them sequentially in this lecture today. If you notice parallels between this process and the scriptural pattern for seeking divine revelation, you are not mistaken. It is meant as a model "for understanding in all fields" (Rasband 10).

Desire

Although the process of "education for eternity" includes revelation, divine assistance is not automatic. The Holy Ghost "doesn't serve everyone. He serves only those who prepare themselves" (Flinders 15). The first requirement in this preparation process is desire. A learner must have a sincere, fervent, righteous desire to gain knowledge, develop his potential, and be of service.

The beginning of the "even by study and also by faith" scripture just quoted, reads "seek ye diligently" (D&C 88: 118), and the word "seek" is repeated two more times in the same verse. Seeking is more than just casually looking or happening to be in the right place at the right time. It implies a strong desire to find.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi reports that his understanding of his father's dream "came to pass after I had desired to know" (1 Ne. 11: 1). Likewise, "a majority of the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith were in response to a desire for knowledge on his part" (Rasband 10).

The parallels in "intellectual learning" are readily apparent. As Gardner states, the first characteristic of "an intellect that is 'alive'" is "hunger," hunger for knowledge (21). Other types of academic "hunger"--to get a good grade or a scholarship, to receive a promotion, or to become famous--do not belong to the same category. Only the legitimate kind of desire will do. Some of us may need to re-orient our thinking, for although scholarships, good grades, promotions, and even fame may follow a hunger for knowledge, they cannot take its place.

When Brigham Young University has "faculty who have a burning need to understand truth, and likewise students with the same desire or the potential therefor" it will be well on its way to becoming a truly great university (Rasband 10). When our desire for knowledge and intelligence is greater than our desire for socializing, finding a mate, getting an A,' or impressing our peers, BYU will be on the path to real excellence.

Encouraging are the reports that at least some BYU students are overcoming the typical "obsession with grades and the superficial success that they represent" (King 8). Gardner, for instance, tells of a course in "Learning How to Learn" in which the "challenge became, rather than to get the better grade, to capture ideas and insights" (21).

Worthiness

Desire alone, however, is not sufficient. Additional requirements must be met. One of these is worthiness, living in accordance with God's will. "He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things" (D&C 93: 28).

One important aspect of worthiness is humility, the recognition that we depend on God for our support. In the university environment, where the knowledge and abilities of individuals are often exalted and prominently displayed, it is especially important for us to guard against a feeling of false pride. As President Holland has counseled, "God loves a humble heart. It will be a prerequisite to our receiving much needed revelation" (Address).

Faith is another critical prerequisite. As President Kimball explained, from BYU's beginning, Church leaders have intended it to be a place "to learn all that the world has to teach, but to do so in a setting infused with faith" (Address 1). We all know that, but I'm not certain we have understood the full implication of the charge. This responsibility to build and maintain faith is more than just our part in the reciprocal, mutually supportive relationship between Church and university. Building faith is important--not just as an obligation to our sponsoring Church but as an essential part of the process of celestial learning. If we are to receive divine assistance in our quest for knowledge, we need to have faith "in the capacity and willingness of the Lord to speak to us today" (Kimball Address 1). In today's world, it may be "more difficult to foster faith than reason, but it is crucial to the success of "education for eternity" (Fox 4).

Integrity, or living in harmony with the laws of the Gospel, is another part of worthiness. Those who are violating the covenants they have made with God are seldom receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, when a man acts unrighteously, "the heavens withdraw themselves" and "he is left unto himself" (D&C 121: 37-38). This perspective gives the BYU code of honor new meaning. We are to be honest, moral, and modest--not only for the sake of avoiding punishment or giving a good impression to the world, but also to prepare us for ideal learning. We live the Gospel

--not just to get a temple recommend, but to obtain knowledge from on high.

Struggle

Important as desire and worthiness might be, they are still not sufficient. Intellectual struggle is also necessary. Intelligence is not developed without effort; knowledge is not free. We must pay the price. The great LDS scientist Henry Eyring is reported to have said, "To find truth you have to try, and you have to persist in trying. Sometimes its fun. Sometimes it's boring. But it's always worth it" (qtd. in Brown and Icke 18).

Struggle will be one of the keys to the achievement of excellence at BYU. Using a historical example, President Kimball counseled us:

As the pursuit of excellence continues. . . we must remember the great lesson taught to Oliver Cowdery, who desired a special outcome--just as we desire a remarkable blessing and outcome for BYU in the second century. Oliver Cowdery wished to be able to translate with ease and without real effort. He was reminded that he erred, in that he 'took no thought save it was to ask' (D&C 9: 7). We must do more than ask the Lord for excellence. . . [T]here must be effort before there is excellence. (("Second" 253)

Another example comes from the story of the Brother of Jared, who, when faced with the problem of darkness inside the boats in which his people were to travel, went to the Lord for help and got an answer which amounted to "You work out a solution. Then, I will help you implement it" (Ether 2: 23-25).

Some of you may perceive a paradox in this stress on learner struggle and effort. You may feel there is a conflict between Christian, brotherly kindness and allowing (even encouraging) learners to struggle. If so, I invite you to rise to the higher level of principle that resolves the paradox.

From an eternal perspective, giving away freely what ought to be earned is not really kind. Providing "education" without effort denies learners valuable opportunities for intellectual growth, and, as previously noted, the development of such attributes is the primary product of "education for eternity."

President McKay understood that education consists of much more than dispensing information liberally and gratuitously. He once commented that "the university is not a dictionary, a dispensary, nor is it a department store" (qtd. in Kimball "Second" 250). In other words, the process of gaining knowledge and developing intelligence is not analogous to simply looking something up, swallowing a pill, or asking a clerk.

As teachers, our attitudes may need to change to the point where "Figure it out on your own" is considered more Christlike than "Let me tell you." Perhaps we ought to more frequently employ President Young's words: "Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves!" (JD 11: 27).

Of course, "struggle" cannot be imposed. It must come from within. We all need to urge ourselves to greater efforts in this regard. Much more progress has to be made before BYU can become "excellent." "Too many students and even faculty hunger for the devil's bread of easy and final answers without disagreement or struggle" (England 16). Recognizing this, President Oaks challenged BYU students to do their part in making BYU great:

Brigham Young University will never realize its destiny and establish its place as a generally recognized leader among the great universities of the world until an overwhelming majority of our students exalt learning and are willing to spend greater efforts and hold themselves to a higher standard in the acquisition of knowledge than most have exerted in the past. . . . Despise the mediocre, the effort that falls short of your best! (6)

Struggle is important for another reason. Besides allowing us to discover knowledge and develop our Godlike attributes, it also puts us in position to receive revelation. The rule of struggle before excellence applies to all scholars who would advance in knowledge and discover new truths with God's help. To receive such inspiration or revelation, we must have "paid the price, however high, so that the revelatory leaps to new truth and understanding are possible" (Rasband 13). This "price" includes study and research so that we are "in position," at the "frontier" of knowledge.

As university scholars, we should not expect God to reveal new knowledge to us until we have already learned what we can through experimentation, observation, books, professional periodicals, and contacts with our colleagues. In accordance with this principle, President Harold B. Lee explained that faculty members at BYU are expected "to keep pace with scientists and scholars and the development of modern knowledge" (qtd. in Oaks 6). The reason for this is based on two of God's characteristics. He operates efficiently and does not reveal the same information repeatedly. Neither does he do for men what they can do for themselves.

These principles are not new to LDS higher education. Captain John W. Gunnison, a non-Mormon government explorer of Utah and observer of the Mormons in the 1800s, described the ideals and purposes actuating the founders of the University of Deseret as follows:

Their philosophers already aspire to something more than has yet been accomplished, and they state that they shall revolutionize the kingdom of science and surpass the most learned in mathematics, philosophy and the sciences of observation--for having sought first the kingdom of God and its righteousness; they look for the promise of having all other things and knowledge added; but they sensibly add, the Lord helps those who help themselves, and their minds will only quicken to perceive by the most intense industry. (qtd. in Bennion 97)

More recently, a Latter-day Saint scholar has noted, "Before the flash of inspiration comes, "one must have done the requisite study and technical preparation. . . which may require decades, perhaps a lifetime" (Rasband 12).

Revelation

That brings us to revelation. President Kimball explained, "We expect the natural unfolding of knowledge to occur as a result of scholarship, but there will always be that added dimension which the Lord can provide when we are qualified to receive and he chooses to speak" ("Second" 252). After we have done all we can do to prepare ourselves, we will still need help from on high to fill in the gaps in our understanding and to reach new heights (see 2 Ne. 25: 23).

President Kimball also noted, "there are yet 'many great and important things' to be given to mankind which will have an intellectual and spiritual impact far beyond what mere men can imagine" ("Installation" 3). If we at BYU have the proper desire, and struggle to make ourselves sufficiently worthy--both spiritually and academically--we may be the means through which that promise (and the many others that have been made about the destiny of BYU) may be fulfilled.

Conclusion

President Kimball once stated, "There are many ways in which BYU can tower above other universities--not simply because of the size of its studentbody [sic] or its beautiful campus. . . but by the unique light BYU can send forth into the educational world" ("Installation" 2).

To generate that light, it will take more than requiring religion classes as part of general education, more than just balancing secular and religious pursuits. It will even take more than one hundred million dollars, for no amount of money alone will be sufficient. Funds can provide laboratories, research time, library holdings, scholarships, etc., but these are only resources that can help us as students and teachers in our struggle to arrive at the "frontier" of knowledge, and that is only one aspect of the process of "education for eternity."

To generate the light President Kimball spoke of, we must work toward understanding and practicing "education for eternity" in its totality. Achieving that goal will require an integration of the spiritual and intellectual, leading to a transformation of both the process and product of education. Accomplishing that will not be easy, but it is the key to our excellence.

I agree with England that for the present "the most serious challenge BYU faces is. . . our own failure to understand completely and measure up to our founder's radical vision" (1). I am also optimistic that some day, sooner or later, we will adopt and achieve that visionary goal. As Hugh Nibley has said, "Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to return to Brigham Young's ideals of education; we may fight it all the way, but in the end God will keep us after school until we learn our lesson" ("Educating" 253).

In conclusion, I would like to quote T.S. Eliot one more time: "What we call the beginning is often the end/ And to make an end is to make a beginning./ The end is where we start from" (ll. 216-218). As I bring this lecture to an end, I earnestly hope that we may all make a new beginning in the direction indicated by this LDS philosophy of higher education. I, for one, am going to try, and I invite you to join me. Perhaps if we all do our part we will soon truly be "taught more perfectly."

Notes

1Ed. Note. As have several previous lecturers, Henrichsen here alludes to the lecture "charge"; given to each lecturer by the Faculty Advisory Committee, this charge has appeared on both program issued for lectures and printings of lectures themselves for the past several years. Back to Top

2For example, Christ taught, "He that findeth his life shall lose it" (Matt. 10: 39); Moses set before the Israelites "a blessing and a curse" (Deut. 11: 26); and D&C 22: 1 mentions "a new and. . . everlasting covenant." Back to Top

3Durant notes that "the word excellence is probably the fittest translation of the Greek arête, usually mistranslated virtue" (86). Back to Top

4Ed. Note. Henrichsen cites a "video-taped address in BYU-HC faculty meeting, November 5, 1984, as the source for this quotation from Jeffrey Holland, but whether Holland even visited the campus on that date, let alone addressed the faculty, is problematic: no references to a visit made by Holland to BYUH in early November occurs in either the Ke Alaka'i, the Campus Bulletin, or the correspondence of J. Elliot Cameron, then president of the University, nor does the BYUH library or archives possess a copy of the "video-tape" in question. Unfortunately, Henrichsen was likewise unable to provide any additional information useful in recovering either the videotape or a written copy of the "address," save that he remembers "making a note of Holland's comment when he heard it" (conversation with Jesse S. Crisler, 15 October 1992). Back to Top

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