President Dallin H. Oaks called Doctrine and Covenants 88 “the first and greatest revelation of this dispensation on the subject of education” and “the basic constitution of Church education. It defines Brigham Young University’s role in the kingdom” (“A House of Faith,” BYU annual university conference address, 31 August 1977). As BYU’s basic constitution, Doctrine and Covenants 88—which Joseph Smith named the Olive Leaf—reminds us that the university’s spiritual origins predate the founding of Brigham Young Academy in pioneer Utah. The Olive Leaf links BYU to the Prophet Joseph, with his extravagant thirst for knowledge, and to similar revelations he received affirming that “the glory of God is intelligence” and admonishing the Saints to “become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people”; with “history,” “countries,” and the “laws of God and man” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:15; 93:36, 53).
The Olive Leaf links BYU to the School of the Prophets, which placed learning among Latter-day Saints on spiritual foundations, and to the University of the City of Nauvoo, with its ambitious Olive Leaf–inspired curriculum and with the high hopes Joseph had to found a university that would become “one of the great lights of the world” ( Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith, “A Proclamation to the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Times and Seasons 2, no. 6 [15 January 1841]: 274). These and many other educational currents flow from the Church in Joseph’s day to BYU today.
But above all, the Olive Leaf links BYU to the Church’s first temple and to Latter-day Saint temples generally. Verses from this revelation, including the oft-repeated injunction to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118), were quoted in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 109:7). The overlap between Doctrine and Covenants 88 and 109 bespeaks deep continuities and homologies between school and temple in Latter-day Saint history and doctrine. Church schools were originally housed in temples. Today they often stand beside temples. And they share with temples a mandate to become houses of faith, learning, and the Spirit (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:119, 137).
The following excerpts from the Olive Leaf and from Doctrine and Covenants 90 and 93 illustrate foundational principles of Church education regarding truth, learning, and schools:
• Truth: God is the source of truth and light; His light quickens the understanding; He gives law to all things; His creations reveal His majesty.
• Learning: To comprehend light, learners must be clean and sanctify themselves, having eyes and minds single to God; they are to seek learning diligently, both by study and by faith; they are to teach one another not only doctrine but broadly of things in heaven and in earth so as to be prepared in all things.
• Schools: Church schools are to be temple-like houses of learning and faith; in them, teachers and students are to learn from each other such that all are edified of all; in them, all gather as brothers and sisters in the bonds of love, remembering their covenants and determined to walk in the commandments.