Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information for clarity.
The devotional addresses housed on the BYU speeches website typically receive on average 1,000-2,000 page views in the first two weeks following the speech, but a BYU devotional given two weeks ago by Eva Witesman, an associate professor for the BYU Marriott School of Business, has been viewed nearly 14,500 times, according to the school's speeches department. Its page views make Witesman’s speech, “Women and Education: ‘A Future Only God Could See For You,’” the highest viewed BYU devotional on the BYU speeches website in the last month. Witesman’s is not a household name, so what is it that she said that has attracted so much attention?
Witesman opened her talk by sharing a prophesy given in the book of Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
“Your daughters shall prophesy!” Witesman said. “In these last days we are meant to seek and receive spiritual revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Like Rebekah, Hannah, Elisabeth and Mary, women are meant to receive direct spiritual revelation through the gifts of the Spirit. Like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, we can develop the spiritual gift of prophecy and refine our ability to communicate with our Father in Heaven in ways that affect our own spiritual development and have a positive impact on the world around us.”
In making the point that education is a commandment, Witesman pointed out that while “prophetic counsel to women has repeated the benefits of education in case we are called upon to become so-called breadwinners in our households,” there is “a deeper truth about the education of women.
“Our pursuit of knowledge has its own spiritual value regardless of whether we ever enter the paid labor force,” Witesman said before supporting this belief with a quote by President Russell M. Nelson and then added, “Our learning is of value not only if we become mothers or workers, church leaders or community activists. We are of value because of our divine heritage and because of what will one day be our divine inheritance. Our value is not merely instrumental. It is intrinsic. And our learning is not merely instrumental. It is essential.”
Witesman proceeded to share her personal experience accompanied by the story of Pakistani education advocate Ziauddin Yousafzai’s daughter Malala, as well as quotes from LDS leaders about the importance of women’s preparation educationally.
In conclusion, Witesman said, “Latter-day Saint women are courageous, particularly when they have been emboldened by the knowledge that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us and that he will qualify us to do the work that lies before us. Once we know what God wants us to do, we are fully capable of following the counsel of President Hinckley to ‘sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to train [our] minds and hands to become an influence for good as [we] go forward with [our] lives.’ We will seek every good gift in the service of our God. All we ask is that others not stand in our way as we pursue the Lord’s errand.”