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Crow, LDS leaders: Education lifts humankind

Dignitaries discussed virtues of higher education and how it can help people discover themselves

People in chairs.
January 26, 2016

Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow told a gathering of Mormons that education is the best tool for discovering how to help other people, and that ASU is dedicated to creating a multitude of pathways for young people to do just that.

Crow joined Elder Neil L. Andersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a question-and-answer discussion Tuesday night at ASU's Gammage Auditorium. About 3,000 people attended the first-ever “Family Education Night,” including many high school students.

The dignitaries on stage described the ways that pursuing an education lifts humankind.

“Each of us is endowed with the most exquisite, beautiful, complex thing that God ever created — the human mind,” Crow said. “And we’re each unique. How does one take those two things so that you can help others and communicate and express and be creative and praise God, if that’s the way you want to express it?

“We are here as a university to create an environment to help you learn to do anything, to help you understand anything you wish to understand. We don’t tell you the route or the path. We give you hundreds of routes and paths.”

Andersen said that education is vital to forge a path, and for more than a career.

“We know our purpose here in life is not what we grab in our hands,” Andersen said. “The scriptures say the glory of God is intelligence. We know it’s more than education — it’s spiritual knowledge. It’s not just to get a job; it’s to help us figure out who we want to become.”

People sitting on a stage, under a projection screen.

ASU assistant professor Derrick Anderson (left) moderates a fireside chat with LDS Elder Neil Andersen and ASU President Michael Crow, along with Elder Robert Gay and his wife, Sister Lynette Gay, as they speak about lifelong learning to around 3,000 members of a Mormon-based audience at ASU Gammage on Jan. 26. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Joining the discussion were Elder Robert GayRobert Gay is the founder of the Center for Economic Self Reliance at Brigham Young University. and his wife, Sister Lynette Gay, who have worked extensively in developing countries.

“My father told me that in the world of faith, you always stand at a crossroads,” Elder Gay said. “He asked, ‘Are you going to take the skills and abilities you have and use them to go out in the world or will you stand by? The only way to develop your skills is to go to school.’ ”

Andersen said he received a letter from a student who was deciding whether to attend ASU or Brigham Young UniversityBYU is the private university in Provo, Utah, owned and operated by the LDS Church. .

The student wrote to him: “I was thinking about where I should be so I can meet the person I’m supposed to meet.”

He said that there was a time when BYU was the best place to find a large group of young Mormons.

“Those days are still the truth in many places but not here,” he said, noting that the Phoenix area has five young adult stakesA stake is an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations in denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement. About 5 percent of Arizona’s population belongs to the LDS Church..

Crow said that ASU changed its policy and now prohibits students from losing their merit-based scholarships during their missions. Last spring, ASU dedicated a new LDS Institute at the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. It includes a chapel, a cultural hall, classrooms for religious instruction and offices.

Andersen thanked Crow for making ASU more welcoming to LDS members.

“He’s been a pioneer for us,” Andersen said. “I think there’s another thing happening here. The lord has prepared this university to enter a new stage where we can have more students and more influence.

“I would encourage us to open our minds that this is the place where it’s appropriate for people in the community to make contributions and to go to school.”

Andersen also praised ASU’s commitment to keep tuition low.

“One thing that is very important to the leaders of the church is that we don’t take on too much debt. What’s impressed me at ASU is the ability to put in-state tuition at a low amount for so many students,” he said.

Crow said half of ASU’s undergraduates graduate with no debt.

Crow described the various ways that ASU has boosted innovation, such as restructuring the engineering program to improve retention and enroll more minorities and women. Among the many dignitaries in the packed auditorium was Ira A. Fulton, who was recognized for his contributions to the engineering school that bears his name.

Several high school students asked questions about how to chart their futures.

“Your job is to ask yourself over and over and over again, ‘What do I want my life to mean?’ ” Crow said. “Choose the thing that is allowing you to pursue not a job but what you think your life means. Choose the thing that allows you to smile.”

Top photo: (From left) LDS Elder Neil Andersen and President Michael Crow, along with Elder Robert Gay and his wife, Sister Lynette Gay, speak about lifelong learning to around 3,000 members of a Mormon-based audience at ASU Gammage on Jan. 26. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now