It Has Made My Life More Meaningful

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Jane Hinckley

Adjunct Faculty, Comparative Arts & Letters


I have always enjoyed learning. My patriarchal blessing counsels me to seek learning and knowledge, so the decision to pursue a master’s and PhD degree was an easy one. Devoting those years to receiving my advanced degrees filled my life with significant purpose and provided me with experiences where I felt God’s love for me and I could share his love with others.

One opportunity I had to testify of God’s love for me occurred when I was finishing my MA degree. While I was preparing to write my master’s exams, my younger brother committed suicide. I flew home to grieve with my family and to participate in the funeral and interment of my sibling. After a few weeks, I returned to school in order to sit for my exams. The department’s administrative assistant asked me how I was able to concentrate sufficiently to write these exams, which I had passed with commendatory marks, so soon after the tragic death of a loved one. I was able to share with her my belief I would see my brother again and how I have felt God’s love for me during this painful time.

My graduate education also helped me to become a better learner and teacher of secular and sacred material. My graduate classes introduced me to the writings and art of men and women who explored in profound ways various aspects of our mortal existence; I learned to interpret these cultural productions by utilizing a variety of critical methodologies. My graduate school training of reading and discussing texts from differing analytical viewpoints has enhanced my personal study of Latter-day Saint devotional literature and canonical scripture and my ability to teach Christ’s good news. I had many opportunities to teach in the student ward I attended, as well as to fulfill many other kinds of callings, and I experienced the Lord’s help as I tried to fulfill my ecclesiastical obligations while also completing the intense workload of graduate school.

I have felt God’s love for me in the many roles I fulfill because of my graduate degrees. As a female scholar, I experience a deep sense of sisterhood with, admiration for, compassion with, and sometimes disappointment towards the eighteenth-century female writers I study. As a mother, I feel gratitude when one of my children expresses appreciation for an opera, a symphony, a classic novel, an historical event, or a work or art. As a professor, I rejoice when students learn to analyze the arts in intellectually engaging ways.

One of my deepest spiritual experiences while teaching here at BYU occurred when I explained to an IHUM 202 class the purpose of a particular Northern Renaissance altarpiece. When the students first viewed the altarpiece, I saw and heard instantly that they were repelled by this very non-LDS depiction of the crucified Christ. As the students read aloud Isaiah’s poetry, which describes Christ as having no comeliness, no beauty, and being acquainted with grief, and as I shared with the students how the diseased patients in the hospital where this altarpiece was housed would be brought to worship in front of this image of Christ with the same skin-ailments that were tormenting them, their reaction to the art changed from audible revulsion to hushed reverence. The truth and power of Christ’s infinite atonement was palpable in that HBLL classroom as these students learned that historical context can alter their perception of a devotional object. I am intensely grateful for my opportunity to pursue advanced degrees, which enriches my life at home, at church, and in the classroom – it hasn’t made my life any easier, but it has made it more meaningful.

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