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Cathedral of Learning Nationality Room 1 India
Cathedral of Learning Nationality Room 1: India

Learning has been a sacred experience throughout the history of the world, all the way back to the experiences of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Educational Leadership and Foundations professors Isaac Calvert, PhD, and David Boren, PhD, traveled with twelve students to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Kirtland, Ohio, to gain a deeper understanding of the sacred nature of learning and teaching.

The inspiration behind the sacred learning experiential trip was Calvert’s passion for the history of learning. “Learning is sacred. And it's not a new idea,” he says. “It's an ancient idea. And we have spent very, very little time in the history of the world separating the sacred and the secular.”

Rodef Shalom Synagogue reading the Torah
Rodef Shalom Synagogue reading the Torah

To begin their trip, students sat in the peaceful Japanese Courtyard Garden at the center of Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. There, Calvert taught that “the first center of learning in the world was the Garden of Eden. Despite being in this perfect learning environment with God, there came a time when Adam and Eve had to leave comfort and safety and security to learn further.” He then asked the students, “What is your garden? How are you going to step out of it this trip?”

Inspired by those questions, the group walked through the history of education at the Cathedral of Learning, a landmark of the University of Pittsburgh. This Gothic Revival skyscraper holds 27 nationality rooms designed to reflect individual cultures and religions that valued education. By exploring the rooms, students found that sacred learning is a historic truth.

Group of professors and students outside Heinz Chapel
Heinz Chapel

The group then walked around the city to visit religious institutions and talk with leaders of various sects. “We asked them, ‘How does teaching and learning look in your religion? How is it sacred?’ And they taught us how they learn,” says Calvert.

In Kirtland, the group gained a deeper understanding of how the Restoration unites spirituality and learning by visiting historic landmarks, such as the School of the Prophets, where Joseph Smith learned and taught the principles of the gospel.

Calvert wanted the students to ponder this question: “’Can you study physics or Chem 105 or American Heritage, in a sacred way?’ The answer in the scriptures is, not only can you, but we are commanded to.”

Kirtland Temple
Kirtland Temple

Students returned with a deeper appreciation for a BYU education that combines the spiritual, the academic, and a desire to “create a university that's sacred and holy in the way that we try to understand all truth, whether in art, music, chemistry, math, physics, dance, or any field of study.”




Writer: Alysha Rummler
Contact: Cindy Glad