April 29, 2021
In his 2021 BYU Women’s Conference address titled “Opening Doors for Education: BYU-Pathway Blessing Women around the World,” Clark G. Gilbert, General Authority Seventy and president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, testified of the importance of education for women. He shared his hopes that those who are thinking about starting or finishing their education will move forward with faith and others will support these women in their efforts.
President Gilbert has a special interest in education for women for two reasons: he is the father of six daughters who he describes as “intellectually curious and academically capable” and is also the president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide, a Church-sponsored higher education organization that, in 2020, served roughly 30,000 women.
In thinking about his own daughters, President Gilbert noted that, “As individual daughters of God, each one is completely unique with her own divine worth and personal mission to fulfill. I know education will play a critical role in their discovering and becoming the women God intends them to be.” The same is true of every daughter of God.
President Russell M. Nelson has said to sisters of the Church, “Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers.”1
It is clear that, based on prophetic counsel, women should have access to and participate in education as formal education can help women develop these attributes and serve in the roles they will be called to. With hope to do just that, President Gilbert has seen BYU-Pathway Worldwide open access to education at unprecedented levels for women from many cultures and economic situations.
He went on to highlight six ways that education, and BYU-Pathway specifically, is blessing women all across the Church.
1. Education leads to increased temporal self-reliance.
President Gilbert promised that, “for women in a variety of circumstances, a better education can be a catalyst to improved earning, children’s health, and opportunity for the entire family.”
Juliet Deletsu in Ghana said, “[BYU-Pathway is] helping me know what to choose and what to do to become self-reliant. They are putting me on that path, and I know the things that will lead me to a better future.”
2. Education also deepens spiritual self-reliance.
President Gilbert recalled a time when a bishop approached him and said, “I have had nine people in my ward go through [BYU-Pathway], and they have benefited spiritually in ways that none of us anticipated. They now raise their hand in a gospel study class. They accept callings. Their countenance and even their physical posture is different. It is impacting their confidence and ability to have an impact in their homes and in their callings.”
3. Education can build leadership capacity.
President Gilbert described that women participating in higher education are “deepening skills in time management, planning, communication, and administration.”
Anastância Balanga, a BYU-Pathway student and Relief Society president in central Africa, said that her education helped her learn how to lead her family, manage her time, and better listen to and serve her Relief Society sisters.
4. Education can increase a woman’s influence in her role as a mother.
Research from the BYU Wheatley Institution2 and Institute for Family Studies at the University of Virginia3 confirms that “not only does a mother’s education increase her ability to develop her children, it is also one of the best predictors of a child’s formal education.” Additionally, a mother’s education can help her children develop spiritually.
Sister Julie B. Beck taught, “Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth.”4
5. Education increases the ability to discern truth and receive personal revelation.
President Boyd K. Packer taught, “We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however, popular, are shallow or dangerous.”5 President Gilbert has observed that “education helps daughters of God to better respond to President Packer’s plea.”
6. Education deepens understanding of divine worth.
President Gilbert shared the divine truth that “there is also something more fundamental to a woman’s education when we see women as daughters of God…. Beyond all of its practical applications, learning is essential because of the inherent worth of women as daughters of God.”
Overcoming obstacles to education
BYU-Pathway helps women overcome three major obstacles that often prevent them from participating in higher education: price, fear, and access. By reducing costs, minimizing requirements for admission, and providing flexible online learning, BYU-Pathway has been able to provide many women with the six benefits of education listed above.
One single mother Alisa Sly shared her experience: “I prayed and explained that I had done all I could to pursue an education in a manner that would allow me to keep up with my family. I pleaded with Heavenly Father that if I was to earn a degree, I would need His help to prepare the way.” The flexibility of BYU-Pathway’s online courses allowed her to fit studies around her family and other responsibilities.
In conclusion, President Gilbert encouraged women of the Church to seek further education in whatever way they can and asked others to support the women around them who are trying to do that.
He closed his remarks saying, “I know you can do this. I know the Lord wants His daughters of all ages and circumstances to have every opportunity to learn and grow and become who they were meant to be. It is my hope that we may use these educational resources in responding to the prophet’s plea for the women of the Church in these last days.”
President Gilbert’s address can be viewed in full as part of the BYU Women’s Conference paid digital package available at womensconference.byu.edu.