The First Epistle of Peter counsels the faithful to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). All of our Religious Education professors labor to help the students who sit in their classrooms follow Peter’s admonition— to strengthen their testimonies of Christ and his gospel and to be ever ready to teach any who might inquire about the doctrines that foster our faith, even the reasons for our hope. This learning, combined with the knowledge gained through their other academic classes, well prepares BYU graduates to remain true to the faith throughout their lives and to be ambassadors for our Savior.
For Latter-day Saints, in contrast to many other religions, there is a positive relationship between education and faith. Sociological studies analyzing religiosity and education levels in the United States typically indicate that the most educated Americans are the least likely to participate in most religious activities such as prayer, Bible study, and missionary work.1 Latter-day Saints, however, stand out as different in these kinds of studies. For us the correlation between education and religiosity is consistently strong and positive. For example, these studies typically indicate that if you are a Latter-day Saint, the more education you have, the more likely you are to attend church, pray, study the gospel, pay tithing, and feel that your faith is important in your life.2 As members of the Church, we are not surprised by these findings, for we understand that a faith confirmed by the Spirit is further confirmed and informed by education.
We are deeply committed in Religious Education at BYU to assure that the wonderful students with whom we have the privilege to study the gospel do indeed find their education to be spiritually strengthening, enabling them to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh . . . a reason of the hope that is in [them].”
Terry B. Ball
Dean of Religious Education
- Religion in America, 1982 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Religion Research Center, 1982), as cited in Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton, “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity,” in Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and Its Members, ed. James T. Duke (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1998), 299. Interestingly, within some individual Christian denominations, the relationship between education and one measure of religiosity—church attendance— appears to be positive, though often only mildly so.
- Albrecht and Heaton, “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity,” 305.