My mom has had a job for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I never thought of her as a “working mom.” Whenever I needed her, she was there. I did everything with my mom when I was little. I would go with her visiting teaching, to her “Daughters of the Utah Pioneers” meetings, to the grocery store, to the Scout Emporium, to the credit union, and more. Every time I smell someone getting a perm, I think of my mom and going with her to the salon.
All during this time, she took on-call shifts and worked nights, weekends, and holidays so we had everything we needed. Yes, my mom was a working mom, but she was also present. To my parents, keeping our family of eight—and later, ten—floating was a team effort. They worked together and adjusted whenever needed to give us everything they could. My dad made it clear that having us was something they chose. They wanted every single one of us, even the two caboose babies.
All of this was only possible because of my mom’s education. My mom finished her two-year nursing program at Ricks College and became a registered nurse before she met my dad. She started at BYU and was planning on finishing her bachelor’s degree and going on a mission. When she met my dad, her plans changed and they got married in October of 1983. My dad worked as an electrician for a few years, but when he decided to go back to school and finish his degree, my mom was able to work to help put him through school and support their little family. They both made sacrifices to reach their goals. Again, this was only possible because my mom made the decision to get a degree in something that she was not only passionate about, but that she could turn into a career.
Because of the sacrifices they made for education, my parents took our education very seriously. My dad went from someone who struggled academically in high school to one of the most educated people I know. He showed me that anyone who applies themselves and works hard can get the education they want. This left me with no excuse when I brought home bad grades in math. My parents would tell me that they knew I could do better because I am smart. They believed in my abilities and encouraged me in my education. While they worried when I started studying Latin American studies, they loved how passionate I was about it. It served me well when I was called on my mission to Peru.
When I got home from my mission, my parents and I talked about changing my major. They were anxious that I wouldn’t be able to find a job to support myself once I graduated. After our conversation, I was heartbroken because I loved my major. However, I knew that changing was the right decision for me. That just left the small detail of finding a new major. Not knowing where else to start, I pulled up the BYU Undergraduate Catalog and just scrolled through majors. Geography caught my eye and I found myself deciding between two emphases: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Urban Planning. As I talked to my dad about it, he told me I wouldn’t like GIS—I would end up working for someone else for the rest of my life. He was 100 percent right. I have taken two GIS classes in my college career and I hated both. That just left urban planning. On the first day of my first class, I was hooked.
My parents have been wildly supportive of my decision. Every Christmas, I get a new batch of planning books that my dad gets really excited about. They rode the train with me to my grad school orientation and got excited with me about how nice Portland’s public transit system is. My mom just called me today about drama at a city council meeting in the next town over from them about a new housing development. She knows I enjoy a good public meeting drama. I’ve made it this far in my education because my parents have encouraged, supported, pushed, and sometimes forced me to go after what lights my soul on fire.
Just like my earthly parents, I have Heavenly Parents who have also pushed me forward toward my education. My patriarchal blessing emphasizes education several times. It’s clear that education is essential for my spiritual progression. Often we think of education as merely temporal, but Jesus reminded us in the Doctrine and Covenants that “…all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created” (D&C 29:34).
The Lord has made it clear through modern-day prophetic counsel that education is important to Him. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“The pattern of study you establish during your formal schooling will in large measure affect your lifelong thirst for knowledge. You must get all of the education that you possibly can. … Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of [this] world. … Train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Way to Be! Nine Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life (2002), 28).
Education is an important part of our development as children of God and especially as women.
I was recently talking to a former roommate about her decision to go to grad school. That’s a big decision and I don’t know what’s right for her, but a lot of our conversation was based around education and a future family. Much of our conversation revolved around the struggle we’ve had concerning the investment we’ve made in our education. She told me that she was proud of her education and what it means to her now.
We both agreed that it was hard to struggle through school not knowing how a future marriage or children may affect a career in our chosen fields. It’s difficult to put in all of the effort to get a graduate degree and know that I may only work for a little while. Some may view that as a waste of time. From where I am sitting at this point, graduate school is what feels right for me. This is what I am supposed to be doing. I have a purpose and a goal, and I am growing as a person. I don’t know what this all means for whatever future God has planned for me, but I am content with my choices. I am not worried because if I never get married or if some other unplanned situation arises, I will be able to support myself and my family. Not only that, but I will be doing something that serves those around me.
My mom never anticipated that she would work most of her adult life. She did not anticipate the fulfillment she gets from doing her job, nor the service she has been able to provide to people outside of her work. For example, she’s reassured dozens of new moms that the rash or bump their baby has is completely normal, and they don’t have to go to the pediatrician. For a while, she went to our neighbor’s house every day to give her shots that this woman couldn’t bring herself to do on her own. She rushed to a ward member’s house when their son had an extremely high fever and needed urgent medical attention. She’s been there for me for every scraped knee, shot, busted lip, or headache that I’ve ever had. It was hard when I went on my mission because for the first time in my life, I couldn’t ask my mom what to do when I had hundreds of mosquito bites on my legs, a weird rash on my arms, or a very upset stomach. My mom’s education has blessed the lives of tons of people in so many ways, even outside of work hours.
We as women need an education. We have all been given gifts and talents that God has asked us to grow and develop. I worry that some women get whatever degree they can just to say they did it. I worry that some women leave school when they get married because they see their education as secondary to their husbands’ educations. I worry that women don’t pursue their passions right now in favor of being a wife and mother in the future. I worry that women don’t make the right choices for themselves in favor of making the choice that is viewed as culturally right. I worry that when women hear that they need an education, they look for something that will satisfice that requirement instead of something that satisfies their souls. I worry that we as women are telling ourselves to shorten our reach for what we imagine our lives will be.
With all those worries, I know that being a wife and mother is part of our Heavenly Parents’ plan for us. I also know that they fully intend for women to have joy and fulfillment. They want our souls to shine. They want us to one day stand confidently in our place as exalted beings. My seminary teacher would always tell us that we get to take two things with us into the next life: our relationships and our education. I firmly believe that it will serve us well as women to put our time and talents into both of these things. The demands of our relationships—including preparation for those relationships—often overshadow our education. However, this paragraph in For the Strength of Youth helps put education in the perspective of becoming a well-rounded person:
Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children.
Do I think about how I may be wasting my time with my education? In my darkest moments, yes. However, I always go back to this quote from the modern cinematic classic Love Comes Softly. There’s a lot to the story, but essentially Clark is a widower in a small frontier town who marries recent widow and school teacher Marty so that his young daughter will have a mother figure and an education. At one point, Marty says that an education is wasted on a girl growing up on the frontier and Clark replies, “Nothing is a waste of time if it adds to the person you are.” As women, we are building ourselves into well-rounded people who will serve our community, our church, and our family.
We don’t know what God ultimately has in store for us, so the best we can do is prepare ourselves to meet that potential future the best we can. He has asked us to get an education and I know He fully intends for us to be fulfilled through it. It doesn’t matter if you end up having a full-time career or never work in your chosen field—choose an education that will make you the best version of yourself. Doing so will help you fill the measure of your creation and bring you joy.
Elisha Ransom is a Pacific Northwest native who recently graduated from Brigham Young University. Sight unseen, she moved to a 600-square foot apartment in Portland, OR to pursue a masters degree in urban planning. She is still trying to figure out a way to explain what urban planning is to people she talks to at parties. Elisha served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Piura, Peru. Consequently, she has an affinity for Peruvian food and crowded public transit. In her spare time, Elisha enjoys watching the Great British Bake Off, eating tacos, and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle—these can be separate or combined activities.