Louis L’Amour became famous for his plethora of western novels. He was the John Wayne of paperbacks. However, in my life, he’s known for his non-fiction rather than fiction. Right before his death in 1988, L’Amour penned his life history, titled “Education of a Wandering Man.” As the title suggests, the memoir chronicles L’Amour’s nontraditional education.
“My own education, which is the one I know most about, has been haphazard, a hit-and-miss affair that was and continues to be delightful,” L’Amour writes. “When I left school at the age of fifteen I was halfway through the tenth grade. I left for two reasons, economic necessity being the first of them. More important was that school was interfering with my education.”
L’Amour’s idea of school interfering with his education has always intrigued me. Don’t get me wrong, I find school to be incredibly important. My father is a high school English teacher, and I am attending a four-year university. However, I do agree with L’Amour that too often school or a university becomes synonymous with an education.
L’Amour wrote, “The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is something available to anyone within the reach of a library, a post office or even a newsstand.”
School, while important, is simply a structure that encourages students to learn. But ask any teacher, if a student doesn’t put in the effort, if they are not actively involved in learning, they don’t receive an education.
A similar idea has always been a part of LDS culture. Joseph Smith was known for his thirst for knowledge, even hiring a rabbi to teach him Hebrew. Shortly after settling in the West, Brigham Young encouraged the saints to build schools, BYU being one result of such a focus.
In 1878, President John Taylor declared, “‘We want also to be alive in the cause of education. We are commanded of the Lord to obtain knowledge, both by study and by faith, seeking it out of the best books.”
Current leaders continue to encourage members to learn through out their lives.
A few General Conferences ago, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve advised listeners to act rather than being acted upon. In his talk, Elder Bednar applied this philosophy to our gospel worship, but it also applies to our educations.
President Henry B. Eyring also encouraged members to be active in their education, writing, “Our education must never stop. If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail. And we will need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark.”
This week, thousands of adults from across the country have flocked to BYU for Education Week. More than 1,000 sessions are offered covering topics from mental health to finances to Gospel principles. These individuals have taken an active role in their educations.
Whether 10, 89 or any age between, we all have more to learn. Our education is not limited only to doctrinal topics, but all truths whether secular or religious. As L’Amour said, education is available to anyone within reach of a library, newsstand or computer.
In our busy world, it can feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to read or learn something else on the side. We’ll get around to that book one day. Next vacation. After this semester.
Life will always be busy, but you can become actively involved in continuing your education. Don’t let the change to learn float. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Find something that engages your interest and follow through. Read while waiting at the bank or doctors office. Listen to a podcast or audio book during your morning commute.