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The Growth and Momentum of the Church Educational System

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Approximately 150,000 students are filling the higher education offerings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this year — more than any previous year. And, with the recent announcement of three-year online degrees soon to be offered through BYU–Pathway, online options are expanding.

“There is tremendous momentum in the Church Educational System (CES),” said CES Commissioner Elder Clark G. Gilbert. “We see deeper engagement, higher relevance, and a real focus of students coming out of the pandemic to want to be together and to gather all across the Church. … We see a unity across [CES] around our purpose to develop disciples of Jesus Christ.”

A shorter version of this video below will be included in the October 2023 edition of the World Report, which will be published on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. The full news program will be available in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Elder Gilbert said there are currently more than 1 million students in CES. That includes BYU–Pathway Worldwide’s 70,000 students in over 180 countries. At BYU–Idaho enrollment has more than tripled since 2000. Enrollment in Seminaries and Institutes is higher than demographic growth.

“No matter where you are in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder Gilbert said, “you now have access to an affordable, high-quality, spiritually based education.”

At every Church college and university, the focus from beginning to end is on developing disciples of Jesus Christ who will lead in the home, the Church, and the community.

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Brigham Young University’s 14th President, C. Shane Reese, takes a selfie with students on campus.

“Everything we do at the university starts and ends with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said BYU President C. Shane Reese. “That includes the hope that accompanies the gospel of Jesus Christ. It accompanies the kindness and the respect that comes with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Latter-day Saints believe learning is essential for salvation. Scripture counsels to ask for knowledge and to seek learning by study and faith. President Russell M. Nelson has taught: “In the Church, obtaining an education and getting knowledge are a religious responsibility. We educate our minds so that one day we can render service of worth to somebody else.” These truths are reflected in four core messages about education Elder Gilbert has for parents and youth in the Church of Jesus Christ:

  1. Education is a spiritual responsibility
  2. Involve the Lord in your learning
  3. Have confidence that BYU’s spiritual leadership across the entire Church Educational System is strong and growing
  4. BYU–Idaho is an incredible option

Elder Gilbert made the last point to stress that students “don’t need to go to BYU [in Provo] to have an amazing Church educational experience.” The Rexburg-based school has “stripped everything out of a traditional university and said, ‘What really matters to the student learning experience?’” Elder Gilbert said, “BYU–Idaho is student-focused and teaching-centered, where the average class size is much smaller than a traditional university.”

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Brigham Young University–Idaho’s 18th President, Alvin F. Meredith III and his wife, Jennifer.

“We believe in the potential of the students that come here,” said BYU–Idaho President Elder Alvin F. Meredith III. “We’ve tried to create a place here that they can come and become lifelong disciples of Christ and then go out into the world and make the world a better place.”

BYU–Hawaii, Elder Gilbert said, has been asked to focus on its target area.

“It’s really designed for students in Asia, Asia North, the Philippines, and the Pacific Area,” Elder Gilbert said of the school, which has some 3,200 students from 70 countries.

Ensign College in downtown Salt Lake City has more than 4,000 students. The college’s focus is to create applied, job-focused programs that lead to immediate employment.

To those not attending a Church college or university, Elder Gilbert said, “We want you to be at Institute. We have Institute programs everywhere the Church is organized.” Institutes of Religion provide religious education in thousands of locations around the world. Institute classes include the study of scriptures, Church history, doctrine and how to prepare for marriage and missions.

“No matter where you are in your own educational progress, context, or personal circumstances, there’s a place in the Church Educational System for you,” Elder Gilbert said.

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