I have been contemplating getting a PhD from a national university so I can become a professor but I have some apprehensions. First, the Lord has mandated that we get all the education that we can, but does that mean I should get a PhD if I am in a position to do so?
Also, currently I have a wife and three children and we live frugally. I have already accumulated student loan debt and becoming a PhD student would grow that debt more. I will have to take out loans for housing, food, my children’s education, and clothing for my family.
Our parents cannot provide any assistance, I cannot provide much assistance because of the very small stipend I would get as a PhD student. Our government may be able to help but I was wondering about asking the church?
The church does not want me to go into unnecessary debt. However food and shelter is necessary. Should I look more to student loans for assistance or do you think I could ask the church for assistance for those 4 years?
Your first question, “First, the Lord has mandated that we get all the education that we can, but does that mean I should get a PhD if I am in a position to do so?”
When we contemplate the mandate given by our Lord pertaining to our education as found in Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, the emphasis is more upon continually learning and improving ourselves both spiritual and temporally. When we connect D&C 130:18-19, as instructed in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet we also recognize how our education will be able to assist us in the eternities.
As you ponder the option to earn a PhD it is very important to remember that our Lord doesn’t compel us in “all things.” Initially, here are some of my thoughts:
1. Is there a company you could work for now, which will help you reduce your debt and gain experience in your field?
2. Does your chosen career path require a PhD. For example, if you want to be an instructor at a prestigious university then you will need a PhD. Thus earning a PhD has already been decided for you.
If your career path doesn’t require a PhD, then it might be better for you to begin working, pay off some debt, and then once you feel comfortable about going into more debt apply for schools offering a PhD.
As I have discussed this question with friends, one of my friends shared this quote from Bruce R. McConkie regarding seeking an education:
“In the realm of intellectual attainment I have a doctor’s degree, and I hope my sons after me will reach a similar goal. In their sphere, education and intellectuality are devoutly to be desired.
But when contrasted with spiritual endowments, they are of but slight and passing worth. From an eternal perspective what each of us needs is a Ph.D. in faith and righteousness. The things that will profit us everlastingly are not the power to reason, but the ability to receive revelation; not the truths learned by study, but the knowledge gained by faith; not what we know about the things of the world, but our knowledge of God and his laws.”
Your next question, “I was wondering about asking the Church?”
This answer is simple. I wouldn’t ask the Church to help support your living. This is a decision you must make, figure out all the possibilities, and then move forward with faith. At times, the church may help with food and some expenses, however they are not to be used for helping support a whole family for an extended period of time. This is a quote from the Church’s site regarding its Welfare Plan:
“A mere desire to become self-reliant is not enough. We must make a conscious, active effort to provide for our own needs and those of our families. Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop, reminds us that when we have done all we can to be self-reliant, “we can turn to the Lord in confidence to ask for what we might yet lack.” Being self-reliant allows us to bless others. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says, “Only when we are self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others.”