This article was co-written by Brogan Houston and Mario Miguel.

The first day of Education Week at BYU-Idaho saw two keynote speeches and 104 classes. While Scroll could not send reporters to nearly every event, here’s an overview of a few.

Keynote Speaker: Ross Baron

Ross Baron, a religion professor at BYU-I, spoke at 9 a.m. to kick off Education Week. He spoke about how one can come to know that God is real.

He spoke about a time when one of his young daughters asked how she could know for sure whether God existed. In her mind, the tooth fairy had, at one point, existed — How was God any different?

Baron focused his hour-long presentation on answering this question, saying many of the same things he’d told his daughter not long before. He said that humans navigate most things in life with the five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. But he warned that detecting the presence of a God is not so simple.

“If you want to recognize spiritual truth, you have to use the right instruments,” Baron said, quoting a 2014 general conference talk from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

Baron gave several instances of people who converted to God because they read the Book of Mormon. “The Book of Mormon is palpable evidence of the First Vision,” he said.

He spoke of a friend of his, the late Ron Hellings, a former NASA physicist. Hellings was a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but because of the nature of his profession, he often faced people who challenged his beliefs with science.

“The problem with science is not the process, but the artificial limits that most scientists put on the evidence they will accept,” Hellings said. “Evidence, they say, must be objective. This is a reasonable limitation, in a way, because the goal of science is not just to find truth, but also to communicate it. And you can only communicate things that others will understand through you common experience. But many scientists use this limitation on what they can communicate to others as the criterion for what they will accept for themselves. They will not seek a revelation because it would be subjective evidence. So what? What a brain-numbing, truth-avoiding, close-minded attitude this is. This is not doing your utmost with your mind, no holds barred; It is setting up artificial rules that exclude a wealth of evidence and knowledge. This is bad science.”

Designer Food Storage Plans: Kylene and Jonathan Jones

Kylene and Jonathan Jones run the YouTube channel The Provident Prepper, which has almost 200,000 subscribers. The Joneses experiment with every food storage technique they possibly can, and they spent Thursday sharing what they’ve learned with attendees of BYU-I Education Week.

The Joneses focused on who, what, where, why, when and how. Their answers were as follows:

Who: Everyone.

What: Enough calories and nutrients to feed the entire family for determined periods of time.

Where: For those who don’t have dry, dark, cool basements in which to store their food, room can always be found underneath furniture and in closets.

Why: The prophets have advised many times to have food storage — and many lives have been saved because of that direction.

When: Start right now.

How: The Joneses spoke in great detail about the details of food storage. To for full details, see their YouTube channel.

Entrepreneurship Rocks: Nephi Zufelt

Nephi Zufelt owns several businesses, which he runs from his home. He spoke extensively about entrepreneurship and the reasons why he feels it’s important.

In a world where artificial intelligence is becoming more and more useful, Zufelt implored the audience to use those tools in their entrepreneurial efforts. He demonstrated how he’s made art for a children’s book with AI — and how that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of today’s computers.

Dads, We Need You: Nephi Zufelt

Zufelt also gave a speech on the importance of fathers. He gave several statistics that showed that worldwide, children are better-off when they grow up with fathers in the home.

He went on to talk about how to be a good father. He suggested having activities to do with each child in order to strengthen relationships, using the example of how he wrestles with his youngest son because his son loves it.

Another suggestion Zufelt had was to consider how valuable a father’s time with his kids is. He recognized that a lot of fathers work so much that they don’t get to be at home very much, and that often when they are home, they’re too tired to do anything with their kids. This was once the case in Zufelt’s life, so he quit his job and found something he could do from home.

Gender is an Essential Characteristic of Individual Premortal, Mortal, and Eternal Identity and Purpose: Rex Butterfield

Rex Butterfield, a religion professor at BYU-Idaho, taught about the divine origins and roles of men and women.

He said that Latter-day Saint theology begins with Heavenly Parents who desire that their spirit children become like them — therefore, instituting laws that allow them to accomplish that. All humans began as intelligences, according to Latter-day Saint doctrine, and, by following divine laws, progressed to spirits and then to bodied humans. The next steps toward godhood in mortal life are eternal marriage and having children.

Butterfield also taught that despite men’s and women’s differing roles, neither is more important than the other in the grand scheme of things, comparing the two sexes to the wings of airplanes — which would not fly without one of its wings. Through their ability to give birth, women are co-creators with God and have a role in bringing about His purpose of immortality. Men, through their opportunity to administer saving ordinances, can assist in providing eternal life. While each gender has a primary role, Butterfield said they each have a secondary role in helping one another.

Insights into the Book of Mormon from Scholarly Research — Lehi’s Family: Daris Howard

Daris Howard, a mathematics professor at BYU-Idaho, gave insights into several questions surrounding the lives of the prophet Lehi’s family members, including:

Why did they use Egyptian to write what is now the Book of Mormon?
Why did they spend eight years in the wilderness?

Why did they use Egyptian?

Howard pulled from several sources saying that at the time Lehi left Jerusalem, the Egyptian language was the lingua franca among merchants and the upper class in the region. It is likely Lehi would have even attended a university on the Arabian Peninsula to learn the language. Though Hebrew was easier to write with, Egyptian could be used with shorthand that saved the limited space available on the gold plates which Latter-day Saints believe contained the Book of Mormon.

Why did they spend eight years in the wilderness?

From the time they first left Jerusalem, Lehi and his family spent eight years traveling through the wilderness before departing by boat to the Americas — a land journey that, by Howard’s calculations, should have taken 95 days. 

The compass God provided Lehi, known as the Liahona, was dependent upon their faith.

Howard said that while he was quick to judge the family for their lack of faith, a question soon entered his mind: How long are you in your wilderness?

Keynote Speaker: Aaron Sanns

Sanns is managing director of institutional planning at BYU-Idaho.

Drawing upon his family history, Sanns devotional centered around Alma 37:6:

“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”

Both of Sanns’ parents grew up in poor and abusive households, but small acts led to their eventual conversion. At a Church exhibit at an exposition on the East Coast, Sanns’ mother encountered a mural depicting God’s children that left a positive impression on her. Years later when the missionaries knocked on her door, she quickly developed a testimony. It took longer for Sanns’ father to convert, but regular visits and expressions of love by an older Church couple softened his heart.

Sanns said that all the small but good things members of the Church do, like attend seminary or institute, “result in powerful, spiritual uplift over time.”

The first day of Education Week concluded with a family dance and a youth dance. The event continues with classes on Friday and activities on Saturday.