I am an English Major, which means that I see the world a certain way, a way that is different from science majors, art majors, and economy majors. As I’ve gotten deeper into my studies and become acquainted with new authors and new literary criticism it amazes me how often they remind me of God just as it says in Moses 6:63 that “all things bear record of me”. Even things that one would think cannot testify of Him, that are designed to shake the faith of those who believe in him, often have the opposite effect for me. Contrary to what this might sound like, I am not calling for everyone to change their major so they can study literature all day. As I’ve had conversations with other students at the university I’ve noticed a trend: that no matter what you major in, from Nursing to International Relations, from Biochemistry to Literature, when you have spiritual eyes, you will see Him in your line of study. Because he is the source of all knowledge, you can find him there.
Meet Jaclyn. She is in the Nursing program here at BYU. I don’t normally think of religion when I think of Nursing. I think of needles and dressing gowns and feelings of discomfort and pain. I respect those who are a part of the medical profession, but generally avoid all thoughts of it if possible. This changed after a comment Jaclyn made a couple weeks ago. She expressed her gratitude for the Atonement and the blessing of empathy she could receive through it to help her better serve her patients. She will spend her days seeing people at their lowest points, going through some of the most difficult experiences of their life. But as she relies upon Christ, he will show her their divine nature. He will help her “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). She will become a tool in his hands for the blessing of his children, and each day more fully understand how to keep her baptismal covenants.
Jaclyn’s studies teach her the art of healing. Because Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer, in our attempt to become more like him we must develop this characteristic as well. Despite the current images that are broadcast on television of snarky residents on Scrubs and heartless doctors on House, true healing requires more than just physical care. It requires love and compassion. It requires strength of character and hope. These are things our Savior provides us as well attempt to heal from our spiritual wounds, and they are things that Jaclyn learns to do every day in her experiences.
As an International Relations major Michele studies systems of people. She looks at general trends to ascertain how to change the system to better serve the people it affects. As she analyses she looks specifically as lapses in justice. She asks: how are the people being treated unfairly, and what can be done to change this. Her current job for the Woman’s Stat’s project has elicited many many conversations betweens us. Nightly we talk about everything from the prejudices imbedded in societies to the place of women in God’s plan. She becomes indignant as she records laws, stats, and societal norms that facilitate the manipulation and repression of social groups because of “an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” (Hinkley 1995). She looks to her Savior whose prophets testify that “God is no respecter of person” (Acts 10:34). That He loves all of His children equally. I think this is where she gets her passion to defend women, and all of the people within every system. Knowing that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (Hinkley 1995) reassures her that this passion for equality doesn’t make her an extreme feminist out to destroy the family, but instead, is her way of supporting a core component to our belief system in a world that would choose to manipulate it.
Megan is a minority as a female Biochemist. When I asked her what made her decide to major in Biochemistry she related a story to me about sitting in a high school chemistry class learning about electron orbitals and thinking, “The periodic table is a thing of beauty” (Megan). The order and construction of everything resonated not only within her mind, but within her soul that this was of God’s creation. Although science is often a lot tedious work, experiences like this one are why she decided to stay in her line of study. Being able to see how God’s creations work, to see how minute changes in a cellular process at the atomic level are what keep us alive fill her with awe in the world around her.
The world often posits the questions of whether a person can study sciences and be religious at the same time. They say that studying these things will destroy a testimony. For this reason Megan was a little hesitant about going into the field of science. However, as she took her college classes she realized the inherent lie that is present within the creation of such an ultimatum. He studies have led to many experiences testifying that scientific truths and religious truths can coexist, and in fact compliment each other. That as long as she is willing to trust in God and allow Him to be her supreme teacher she will be able to negotiate the balance between the two.
I am the English major. There is so much I want to describe about this subject, but I think the best way to articulate how I see God in a text is by an example. Last semester I wrote a comparison/ contrast piece on two late Victorian poems, one was Gerard Manly Hopkins’ “Thou art indeed just, Lord” and the other Emily Dickinson’s “This World is Not Conclusion.” I read Dickinson’s poem several weeks before we studied it in class and fell in love immediately. Something resonated with my soul in a way I did not understand. Then a few weeks later, after a class discussion, multiple re-readings, intense annotations, and meeting with a professor about it, during the writing process I realized what it was about the poem that I loved from the start. Here are the paragraphs:
In contrast to Hopkins’ choice of a highly elevated and conventional verse form, Dickinson’s piece is in common meter. Paradoxically, in a poem that vacillates from one source of truth to the next without definitively landing on any of them, common meter is reflective of a hymn, a poetic style that is fundamentally about declaring belief. Although a seemingly simplistic style, Dickinson harnesses its rhythmic drive to maintain a consistent flow, while concurrently exploring the boundaries of flow with her non-conventional use of punctuation. There is only one completed statement in the entire poem: “This World is not conclusion.” (line 1). Every other thought, including the last line, is interrupted by a dash. This enhances the underlying sense of restiveness as the reader is jolted from one idea to the next without any didactic resolution.
Despite this pervasive impression of resigned frustration and the unconcluded thought in the last line, ironically the poem does seem to have closure. Amidst the narrator’s overall dissatisfaction, alongside their contempt for every presented form of epistemology, the concluding lines express a recognition that something higher, something true does exist and cannot be ignored: “Narcotics cannot still the Tooth / That nibbles at the soul -” (lines 19-20). The very existence of this ambiguous entity is enough to gnaw away at any feelings of doubt the soul might have.
I loved her poem because doubt is something we all fall into from time to time. It’s not a good thing, but we do it anyway. It is one thing that frightened me more than anything else at the time I read the poem, but with Dickinson’s words the Holy Ghost testified to me that no matter how disillusioned I could become, somewhere deep inside I would always have a testimony that God lives, that no one could take that from me. Knowing that I will never lose that knowledge is wonderful and comforting to me. Somehow my soul was able to interpret the essence of the poem before my mind could. I felt these feelings without completely understanding why, and so I searched for the source and was rewarded.
Education is an essential part of Zion. As John Taylor said, “We are here that we may put ourselves in possession of every truth, of every virtue, of every principle of intelligence known among men, together with those that God has revealed, and thus educate ourselves and our children in everything that tends to exalt man” (Taylor 1883). Our very existence is that we can progress in knowledge; however, the field of academia has many inherent pitfalls, something Spencer W. Kimball warned about when he stated, “Only an education which educates for eternity has the wholesmoeness which humans need. When we separate learning from divine moral truth it quickly deteriorates into a restless roving search for meaning and often drifts into sensual selfishness” (Kimball 1974). As I talked with Megan about her experiences studying Biochemistry she mentioned how often she feels that she has the opportunity to study by the power of the Holy Ghost. I think we all have, but these experiences come as we desire them. As we invite God into our studies, as we discuss with Him the many questions we have, our education can become something deeper and more meaningful than anything we ever comprehended. When we ask, he blesses us to see his hand in every part of the world.
President Hinkley’s quotes are from The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Megan- A personal interview
Scriptures- King James Version published by the LDS Church
Presidents Taylor and Kimball- quotes from Education in Zion exhibit at BYU