The term Zion has multiple meanings in the scriptures. Perhaps the most general idea is “the pure in heart’ and/or being of “one heart and one mind” with emphasis of living in righteousness and eliminating poverty (See D&C 97:21 and Moses 7:18; online LDS Topics, “Zion”).
John Taylor (1808-1887) declared many years ago concerning a Zion people: “You will see the day that Zion will be as far ahead of the outside world in everything pertaining learning of every kind as we are today in the regard to religious matters” (Durham, The Gospel Kingdom, 275).
When I heard that a sixth spoke to the Church’s educational wheel was announced I was delighted. BYU-Pathway Worldwide (BYU-PW) now joins BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, LDS Business College, and Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. The wheel of educational opportunities continues to roll forward. The creation of BYU-PW is evidence of a greater effort to offer education to a broad range of individuals in a broad range of countries, economic situations, and social situations.
The press conference announcing the details of the educational endeavor is worth reviewing. The program provides an inexpensive online education that has a once a week gathering for a cohort of students. They gather to discuss the week’s material for the course. Students take turns leading the discussions. They also spend time studying the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This pathway concept can lead to certificates and degrees. After one year students can continue online options or apply for on-site campus instruction. This pathway concept also provides the student a chance to consider their interest in pursuing further education, and to do so at a fair cost. Not all students will feel inclined to continue. BYU-PW will expand its efforts to align with economic and professional demands in the local or regional area. Support and advisement will be provided students.
This new spoke in the wheel is considering students who, for untold reasons, didn’t pursue traditional university, college, or vocational studies. It doesn’t require a certain GPA, test score, recommendations, or endorsements for acceptance. Allowing those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being reviewed as the foundation of the program sets up and is able to support a larger structure.
The board of education for the Church sees these added pursuits as man’s mortal efforts to “keep up with the Lord.” Living in Columbia Missouri, I have seen a BYU Pathway program firsthand. I have seen one cohort finish. It blesses people’s lives. It opens doors. It helps people learn about their mental faculties and nudges their abilities and talents to come out of dormancy.
In setting a greater pace, we ought to remember that in heart and principle, Zion doesn’t leave people behind.