Elder Cook Addresses the Stanford University Convocation

CookWho says the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles are out of touch, or living in some sort of enclosed ivory towers? They are not, and they don’t. They are very much engaged in the problems we face today, and keep a visible presence in the world.

Yesterday Elder Quentin L. Cook addressed the Stanford University Convocation. In his talk, he stated,

“I am deeply concerned that faith, accountability to God, and the religious impulse are so often seen as antithetical to serious academic pursuits. I am equally concerned that the foundations which have historically supported faith, accountability to God, and the religious impulse are increasingly being marginalized in a secular world and derided and even banished from the public square.

stanford logo“I believe many institutions have lost their way. They have abandoned the basic moral high ground that gives meaning to this life and has guided civilizations for centuries. It is the heart of the message I am conveying this evening.

“But first, we must acknowledge that the entire burden for training and teaching young adults is not the responsibility of academia, particularly in areas of moral values, faith, and accountability to God. Many families and society as a whole have largely abdicated their responsibilities to assist the rising generation with the moral values that have been the foundation of civilization for the last several hundred years and in some cases even millennia.”

To read the full transcript of Elder Cook’s remarks please click HERE and then come and tell us what you think in the comments.

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About Joyce Anderson

Joyce is a mother, wife, sister, school teacher, Bulgarian speaker, conservative, lover of good music, social media junky and a two time culinary arts Grand Champion bread baker. She and the family reside in a remote mountain community where great discoveries have been made. When not changing the world, she enjoys the occasional bowl of chips and salsa. She can be found at: http://pinterest.com/TheAtomicMom

27 thoughts on “Elder Cook Addresses the Stanford University Convocation

  1. This was an excellent and timely speech. In the past week or so we have had several leading members of the Council of the 12 giving important addresses to various groups. It is interesting to read or view the speeches closely following Conference when we see them in a different venue, advising end counseling members of the Church

  2. I strongly agree. Unfortunately, I do not see how we can avoid giving up that authority over our families and children when we put them in the public school system (increasingly private as well). The way so-called education is being implemented it’s total top down control, with only a nod and a wink to the parents.

    Increasingly programs are being made that make it impossible for parents to even be involved in something as simple as helping or tutoring with the curriculum. Maybe it’s by accident, but whether it’s by design or not, the end result of designing programs that a generation of parents are ill-equipped to even help their kids with their assignments removes the authority of the parents and transfers it to the teacher. If parents can’t help their kids, they will rely on the teacher to do it. Programs which remove parental input will not lead to more successful families and societies.

    It’s a small tangent, but it fits into Elder Cook’s theme that just as the school system has pushed families out of being able to teach even basic concepts such as reading and math, it is increasingly pushing families out of teaching any kind of morality to our children as well.

    So what do we do? Keep our kids in the system and assume we can change it without it changing us? As much as I don’t like the idea of a prophet calling upon Latter-day Saints to retreat from public education, it saddens me that this seemingly would never even be considered an option (not least because there are thousands of wonderful human beings who are teachers….but that doesn’t change the bad results of the system we force our kids through).

    And yet, we continue to willingly inject our kids into a system that increasingly removes authority from the family and the church. And the only support we receive from the church is to continue to put on the armor of God through fhe, scripture study, prayer, church, etc. I do not disagree in the list that these things are critical. But for every 10 minutes of faith that we connect with our kids, they are being exposed to 60 minutes of secularism. Wouldn’t it be better to remove our kids from that secularist influence until our children are older?

    At some point, we have to be willing to walk away. The fact that so many of our youth are quite frankly lost when it comes to navigating the waters of secularlism with their faith suggests we ought to be removing our kids from these hegemonic and pernicious influences.

  3. Even though each of their families live in what are purported to be good school districts, my three youngest children (all in their thirties) have chosen to teach their children at home, with one minor exception; my youngest daughter takes her hearing impaired son to a few hours of school each day at the state school for deaf students in order to strengthen his skills at using ASL. In the age of the Internet when information and teaching programs from a wide variety of institutions are available at the click of a mouse, even parents with holes in their own education can find plenty of help teaching their children without institutionalizing them. Of course it requires financial sacrifice because one of the parents must be at home. I watched one daughter teach her reluctant child to enjoy reading by working her way through the Book of Mormon, a text with many repetitions and a basically simple vocabulary enhanced by an occasional word that stretched her comprehension. The families are able to take trips to local museums and historical parks as soon as their interest is engaged without elaborate preparations. They begin the day with a devotional during which they sing a number of songs which are either religious or patriotic. Even the toddlers participate.
    The teaching styles they use are geared to their own personalities and training. Some use formal programs such as Waldorf. Others follow the path of the children’s own interests while paying attention to readiness in basic skills such as reading and math. Some have taught themselves to read and write before they were five years old. Others didn’t really try until they were over seven years old, but all have became good readers.
    Best of all they are not burdened by the bogeyman of homework. On the other hand they are expected to keep journals of their daily activities once they can write. The younger children are eager to imitate their older siblings and create journals filled with drawings and efforts to write their names.
    When I was a young mother homeschooling was not an option in most states. Summer was a glorious time of freedom. We lived near Washington DC and many hours were spent in the Smithsonian museums and the national zoo. Some of my children have told me that they feel they learned more during the summers than while they were in school. During the school year homework hung over our heads like a curse. All of the children were eventually identified as being gifted, but that only increased their reluctance to fill out endless numbers of worksheets, and most of the time they were bored by lessons that repeated information they had already encompassed.
    Feminism has taught many young women to feel that they can only be validated by a paying job. Even so it seems the ranks of those who choose to teach their own children is swelling. Most of those who do so come from the far edges of the political spectrum. A group of homeschooling mothers is likely to include both avid socialists and confirmed libertarians, with the latter more likely.

  4. Gerry, I have some of the same concerns about the public education system as you. I have thought long and hard about these too — as I come from a family of teachers, my mom, both of my maternal grandparents, their parents and their parents, most of my cousins and a good portion of my aunts and uncles are all school teachers, as well as myself. We teach school. I don’t think we’re going to be told to disengage, or even encouraged to by our church leaders, unless the end is very near. I think it’s important to have good voices in public schools, even if it means it’s an uphill fight every day. The powers that be want you to think you cannot change the system — if you start at the top, then you can’t. However, there is a lot of power in gathering like minded people in your own community and showing up the school board meetings, raising a well thought out and principled rucks if needed at your local schools and being engaged with what the kids are learning. If that means you don’t do after school activities and have to sacrifice other things, then you do it because it’s important. If good people disengage, where will the accountability be? I also think a lot about the kids who do not have parents who will advocate for them. It’s important to be part of the process, even if the process is less than ideal.

    With that said, I think it is very important for each family to decide what is best for them and go with it. However, homeschooling takes a lot of planning, discipline and dedication to work too. It’s not something that you “just do”. You have to plan, prepare and be willing to put the sacrifice into it.

    For us, as much as I would love to have my kids home with me, I know it’s the right thing for them to go to public school. We debrief every day, our teachers know I am there every day with a question for them and that I do hold them accountable for what they teach my kids. That said, I also know when to draw lines for my kids and set boundaries. There are times when I will just tell them to ignore work, or that we will not worry about certain things and that I will explain and take the heat for it. There is not a lot the school can do about that. If they know you will not back down, they’re not going to bully you.

  5. Consider the even the Book of Mormon. It’s unable to gain the same kind traction it once could because the entire population has had a counter narrative constructed based on the historical evidence we have taught in schools for the past 100 years. It used to be possible to believe that there were many descendants of Israel in the Americas among even non-members. Now we can scarcely get members to believe it!

    Why? The hegemony of the narrative constructed by academia has kowtowed even the church into changing so thoroughly that even the introduction to the Book of Mormon should be altered to carve out a small enclave of the possibility for faith. Why? Did anything prove it false? No, we just caved under the weight of the dominent narrative.

    This tells me that when the narrative of the church runs into the narrative constructed by society through academia, the church gives ground.

    Likewise, when the moral or social narratives taught in school run up against the church’s teachings with our children, I fear it’s increasingly our teachings which must give ground.

    I’m not saying we should stick our heads in the sand and ignore all tellings of history by academia, but it does seem sad the presumption is always against the historical narrative of our church.

    Adam and Eve? Nope, that’s historical fiction the answer is evolution.
    Lamanites and Nephites. Nope, that’s historical fiction, the answer is Asia land bridge.
    Book of Abraham, nope, best case inspired fiction.

    I’m not saying these are all without nuance and can be accepted as the simple reality often presumed (I’ve no problem teaching evolution, etc)…but I don’t see much defense of the faith Joseph and Brigham restored. Rather a clear distancing from that faith whenever it bumps up against the hegemony of the modern culture.

    Public school isn’t the only boogeyman, or even the primary problem, but it is a strong reinforcement of the reality that we teach our children to trust in the public institutions before our family and religious institutions.

    Why and how is that? Simply because we’ve abdicated the bulk of our teaching of children to those public institutions. Why would we expect our children not to give more weight to all the answers provided by society, when from before even their age of accountability we’ve turned over the vast majority of their time and learning to care of society?

    We have been sowing. And the fruits of what we are reaping is not an increase in miracles and conversion, but confusion about the midst basic elements of the plan of salvation.

    Sorry to seem like I’m ranting. Just something in Elder Ballard’s words made me worried for the future and fear that our century long trust on societal institutions with our children might bear more similarities to tightening individual strands of flaxen cords on the faithful as time goes on.

    It’s not so easy to break those cords after they’ve been willing placed around our necks.

  6. Ironically two of the parents homeschooling parents I spoke of were both trained as teachers and spent some time in the profession. The father still works as a teacher but he does so online. Many school systems offer the option of online instruction. I also have a heritage of teaching in my family. Both of my grandmothers and a great-grandmother were trained and worked as teachers as was my mother. I did not teach because I married young and resolved to stay home with my children after having experienced a mother who truly was dedicated to her teaching to the extent that she spent most of her time at home during the school year correcting papers and creating new class assignments. I resented being secondary to her students. As a result, when most of my peers were experiencing the thrill of feminism I was countercultural and made my family my first priority.
    In some ways it can be more difficult to find a path for children in public education than it is to instruct them at home. I never really considered homeschooling my children but I often worked the system so that they could be in the environment I preferred. At one point this included moving them to a different state in order to meet the needs of one particular child. One of my daughters accuses her sisters of being selfish by keeping more disadvantaged children from the benefit of associating with their well behaved, talented children in a local school. I believe Joyce is correct that parents can use formal schooling in beneficial ways if they are vigilant, particularly if they live in a small community where their voices are heard. The school systems I dealt with were huge. The head of schools usually made as much as a Wall Street executive, at least a half a million dollars to handle the responsibility of thousands of children. In such an environment it can be very difficult to make an impact on more than a personal level.
    Even 20 or 30 years ago my teenaged children had knifes pulled on them, knew friends who were murdered and had to deal with extreme lifestyles among their peers. This was in one of the wealthiest counties in the country.
    Since that time secularization has increased and we have a federal government which seems intent on controlling our children from an early age.

  7. My wife and I have decided that it either came down to owning a home requiring two incomes or to sacrifice and homeschool our kids.

    Revelation came to us that homeownership can wait until were done raising the Children of God given to us. It became very clear to us that our children would be consumed by Babylon if we abdicated our parental responsibility to raise them.

    Now were on a pathway for them to be firmly planted in gospel soil as well as get their associates before their mission. It aint easy but we are so happy!

  8. It is useful to remember in this discussion how the United States forced Deseret to accept state schooling. Only formally trained teachers could instruct, and they were forced to teach the state’s curriculum. This was in the 1880’s.

    Yet we survive.

    An alternative to full home schooling is to be filling engaged with your children, constantly talking with them about the past, treating them as persons of intelligence with a divine right to respect. It involves intelligent discussion of the reason families are critical to the importance, how children ought best be raised, making them part of the “team” that is working towards transforming themselves from the state of child and barbarian to glorious adult.

  9. I’m inspired by the replies. Thanks. The comment about Deseret and schooling is sobering.

    Nephi understood that flaxen cords placed one strand at a time* is so successful precisely because it allows us to survive and even exercise independent agency. But eventually those cords become so many and so tight we can’t really take solace in mere survival as the reality of our bondage is made plain.

    *admittedly, the multiple strands part of the analogy is a modern prophetic addition to Nephi’s words.

    I think Meg’s alternative, is the best hope if you stay in the system, but that is rather worrisome because we know that most of us won’t do it. Most won’t withdrawal and teach their kids on their own either, hence the reason for my seemingly bleak outlook. A small percentage will thrive in the system due to exceptionalism of some kind, a small percentage will withdrawal, and the bulk of society will continue on its course as agents perpetually to be acted upon rather than increasing in faith through the righteous use of their agency.

    Not that mass withdrawing from the community has shown better results** for LDS in history now that I think on it. **murders, mass forced emigrations, extreme prejudice and the like.

    Perhaps just another way we’re a societal Adam and Eve eating that apple. Is there no other way…

  10. We experimented with “family school” with our oldest daughter when she was very young. This was a charter-type school where the kids were in class 51% of the day, in age-independent classrooms, and home schooled the other 49%. Because they were enrolled over half time in a school affiliated with the district, the district got its funding, so its approach to the family school could be described as “benign neglect.” Which is just what was needed.

    We later elected to move to a city with a school system having a terrific reputation. It has been rather a disappointment, but the job change turned out to be mostly good for me, and I don’t know how the kids would have done with the old system in the long run. They would have been a challenge in any case: one has fibromyalgia, one has a severe sleep disorder, and the third is high functioning autistic.

    The autistic kid is a particular challenge. He’s very bright in some respects (like a lot of autistic kids) but the worst part is that, unlike some autistic kids I’ve met, he’s bright enough to be aware of his handicap. *Painfully* aware. And that makes him pretty angry at the world at times. It sounds like Meg can relate.

  11. Ultimately the answer is engaged parents who have a clear vision of what they want for their children and their family. Some of our family members have found excellent resources for children with various disabilities through the public schools. However, aside from those who have acknowledged handicaps which have been addressed by special programs, being different is often a recipe for being bullied. Children who are too tall, too short, too plump, too smart, too slow, too talented, or even, as one of my daughters experienced, ‘too tan’, can become the focus of vicious behavior by classmates and sometimes even teachers. Fortunately, there are currently many opportunities to choose the way a child is educated.
    Children are our greatest trust and responsibility. We cannot mold them to our expectations, but we should do whatever we can to prevent damage either by a system that has become corrupted or by peers who have not learned moral behavior, let alone manners.

  12. I find it objectionable to call anything other than public school or its variant as “withdrawing.”

    I am of the impression that anything other than teaching your kids yourself as “withdrawing.”

    The harder path is usually the right path.

  13. @KGB, I like the book “Asperger’s from the Inside Out”, by Michael John Carley. Available cheap used at Amazon. In it he recommends some other books.

  14. Re: autism and being aware. I remember the hard days when I confronted the reality that my daughter would be painfully handicapped. But I was comforted by the supposed truth that profoundly autistic kids don’t realize they are excluded.

    Then came the day when my youngest daughter had a play date, and my autistic daughter flopped on the bed next to me and said she wished she could have a play date. I bawled.

    The awesome thing is that I was never informed at any point of all the hard bits my future years would include. I think I would have given up in despair. But day by day, the hard bits are manageable.

    I talked with my youngest this morning about this whole child-barbarian to glorious adult concept. And I thanked her for being a fabulous person, an unbarbarous barbarian (given that she is still in the age range for “barbarian).

  15. Ron,
    You’re withdrawing from the public option. Withdrawing from the systems put in place by society. There’s nothing negative. It’s a descriptive fact. It’s one that I quite frankly think more people should do and part of me wishes the church would more proactively advocate it.

    Of course, I’m also worried that if it was advocated on a large scale by those in authority, it could be the beginning of the end for Mormons integrated into society within 2-3 generations… Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that if it’s the right thing to do.

  16. @Meg 2:05: One of the hard moments was when I took my son to school, when he was about six, and stood with him for a few minutes in the line to go into his classroom. The other children slowly edged away from us. I didn’t think he was aware of it then, but now I’m not so sure.

  17. For better or worse, my daughter has many who know her.

    Because she was not in a good place relative to us being able to trust her, we took her with us to our youngest daughter’s Back to School Night, which was at the high school from which my autistic daughter had just graduated. It was a nice homecoming for her, being able to see numerous teachers and students without any need for folks to be professionally or scholastically responsible. She is well-liked, particularly when her impishness isn’t affecting education.

    And then there’s the time she crashed the scouts activity and ate half their brownies. People just say, “Ah, that’s Beth.” And I’m glad that’s how they react. But I wish we were in a place where they didn’t need to make allowances.

    Regarding parenting, it’s been interesting to see the Chinese reaction to the complete recission of the one child policy. Folks are now snidely asking if the government is going to force them to have more than one child. It would be ironic indeed if China continues to experience a contracting population and the abortion or euthenasia of females when the state’s imperatives have been lifted.

  18. Gerry, that’s just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Even with three kids in the public education system, I literally have no idea what you’re talking about. Is this some sort of conservative paranoia meme they only explain at Tea Party covens?

  19. Now Owen, not all Tea Party people are paranoid. We’re nice and not as crazy as you think we are.

  20. Hi Owen,

    Could you be more precise about which “thing” is the dumbest “thing” you’ve ever read?

  21. Owen, you’re a coward. It would be lovely to meet you in person to see if you have the gumption to say that to my face.

    I’d rather be called dumb than actually be a coward any day.

  22. Meg, isn’t it now a two child policy? Same enforcers, same enforcement apparatus, just a new value for “x” ?

    From what I’ve been told, the policy wasn’t just intended for population control, but for control of the people.

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