By President David O. McKay

Improvement Era, September 1967

[1] One of the fundamental teachings of the Church is that salvation depends upon knowledge, for "it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." (D&C 131:6) "If a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:19)

This is the season, my young associates, when many of you are preparing to enter institutions of higher learning at the beginning of a school year. That is as it should be.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands for education. The very purpose of its organization is to promulgate truth among men. Members of the Church are admonished to acquire learning by study, and also by faith and by prayer, and to seek after everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. In this seeking after truth, they are not confined to narrow limits of dogma or creed, but are free to launch into the realm of the infinite.

Gaining knowledge is one thing, and applying it is another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character. A man may possess a profound knowledge of history and mathematics; he may be an authority in physiology, biology, or astronomy. He may know all about whatever has been discovered pertaining to general and natural science, but if he does not, with this knowledge, have that nobility of soul which prompts him to deal justly with his fellow men and to practice virtue and honesty, he is not a truly educated man.

The aims of education are to develop a structure of thought and to improve human relations. A university or college is not a dictionary, a dispensary, nor a department store. It is more than a storehouse of knowledge, more than a community of scholars. College or university life is essentially an exercise in thinking, preparing, and living. The objective of education is to develop resources in the student that will contribute to his well-being as long as life endures, even eternal life. Its objects are also to develop power of self-mastery, that a student may never be a slave to indulgence or other weaknesses, and to develop virile manhood and beautiful womanhood. Truly, a nation's greatest asset is its untarnished manhood and pure womanhood.

What, then, is true education? It is an awakening of love for truth, a giving of a just sense of duty, an opening of the eyes of the soul to the great purpose of life. It is not so much giving words as thought; not mere maxims so much as living principles. It is not teaching the individual to love the good for one's own sake; it is teaching him to love the good for the sake of the good itself, to be virtuous in action because he is so in heart, and to love and serve God supremely, not from fear but from delight in his perfect character.

Character is the aim of true education, and science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish this desired end. Character is not the result of chance, but of continuous right thinking and right acting.

True education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love. It seeks to make men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life.

I look upon all recipients of true education as individuals and groups radiating an influence that makes less dense and ineffective the darkness of ignorance, suspicion, hatred, bigotry, avarice, and greed, which continue to envelop in darkness the lives of men.

Education is an investment, not an expense. It can become an investment not only for time but also for eternity. "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection." (D&C 130:18)

The lives of men become signposts to us, pointing the way along roads that lead either to lives of usefulness and happiness or to lives of selfishness and misery. It is important, then, that we seek, both in life and in books, the companionship of the best and noblest men and women.

My young friends, students of the Church: Choose the paramount purpose of true education and let it be yours as you seek your education in the school, the college, or the university of your choice!

McKay, David O. "Why Education." The Improvement Era 70 (Sept. 1967): 3.