President John Taylor, the third called prophet in these modern times was an highly educated man. He was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, referred to as the Mormons, while still living in England. After joining the Church he traveled to America and was with the saints (Mormons) during their travails as the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ gained a foothold in the world once again. He was in the Carthage jail cell when the prophet, Joseph Smith and his brother, the patriarch, Hyrum were assassinated by a mob with their faces painted black. He was critically wounded by that same mob, during that same event, and lay near death for weeks.
This man stayed true to his testimony of Jesus Christ and his gospel, regardless of the great personal cost demanded of him. One of the things he treasured the most was the value of a good education. It was said of him:
John Taylor’s many writings on gospel subjects included letters, tracts, hymns, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and books. One of his books, entitled The Government of God, was praised by a noted American historian, who wrote: “As a dissertation on a general and abstract subject, it probably has not its equal in point of ability within the whole range of Mormon literature. The style is lofty and clear, and every page betokens the great learning of the author. As a student of ancient and modern history, theologian, and moral philosopher, President Taylor is justly entitled to the front rank.”
In addition to his many writings, President Taylor’s command of language, coupled with his testimony of the gospel, resulted in countless inspiring and instructive sermons. Elder B. H. Roberts wrote: “The Saints who listened to him for half a century will remember as long as they live his commanding presence, his personal magnetism, the vigor and power of his discourses and the grand principles of which they treated. … His eloquence was a majestic river full to the point of overflowing its banks, sweeping grandly through rich regions of thought.” (“Chapter 10: The Value of Education,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 87)
He believed wholeheartedly in being “alive for the cause of education” for ourselves, our children, our friends and neighbors. And why is that? Well certainly, a literate people are difficult to crush. A literate people reach lofty and precious goals bringing them ever closer to the heaven or hell of their choosing. A literate people can be servants of God like no other, as long as they never forget that God is in charge.
We are taught, as Mormons, that we are not here to imitate or follow the world. But we are taught to be of the world, but not in it. In other words, Jesus Christ has given us the restoration of His magnificent gospel that we might be enlightened and instructed in the following of His footsteps back to our heavenly home.
President Taylor taught both secular and religious knowledge and never eschewed his burning desire to learn and grow. We are here in this mortal probation to learn and gain knowledge, to grow, to strengthen our hearts, minds and spirits ever engaged in the cause of righteousness.
President John Taylor lived this principle to his dying day, always trumpeting the value of an educated mind.