Education is an “investment in yourself” and, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency has taught, “not merely a good idea,” but “a commandment.”

That was the message of BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s President Clark G. Gilbert to Church members living in the Caribbean Area during a special Pathway devotional held on Dec. 16.

With more than 600 BYU-Pathway students in the Caribbean region, the Church’s Caribbean Area president, Elder Walter F. González, a General Authority Seventy, invited President Gilbert to visit in an effort to help members realize what is available to them and to expand the number of students across the area.

“Pathway sites [are] growing all over the world,” said President Gilbert. “It is very unusual that we have the opportunity to be together here in the Dominican Republic, but at the invitation of Elder Gonzalez, we have come here to learn a little bit … and hopefully share more with you.”

Meetings held in Santo Domingo and Santiago, Dominican Republic, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, brought Church members together both via broadcast as well as in Pathway sites.

“We were also pleased with the strong spirit we felt from the students we met with in the Caribbean,” President Gilbert told the Church News. “In each area we saw examples of students coming back to Church or deepening what was already a strong testimony of the gospel.”

While there, President Gilbert participated in a special devotional for students — and potential students — to share a message about the importance of education.

“It appears that the outcomes in the Caribbean Area are encouraging,” President Gilbert said. “Students are completing Pathway at a high percentage and those who complete are seeing job improvements. In fact, over 80 percent of those who complete Pathway find improved job opportunities when they are looking for better work.”

One of the reasons for the job improvements, President Gilbert said, is that English language ability appears to be particularly valuable in the Caribbean Area, especially with the high level of travel and tourism industries in the area.

“We have been impacted by this declaration by President Uchtdorf that education is more than a suggestion, it is a commandment,” Elder González said in his remarks. “It is a value we need to pass on to our children and the children of our children.”

During the devotional on Dec. 16, held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, President Gilbert spoke to the Spanish-speaking audience with help from a translator.

Focusing his remarks on the statement by President Uchtdorf, President Gilbert said, “For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea, it’s a commandment.”

President Gilbert spoke of four types of students, encouraging listeners to not fall into one of those categories.

“You might be one of these students that I talk about tonight,” he said. “Maybe you are all four types.”

“The doubter”

“Education is a commandment, sometimes our doubts and fears get in the way,” he said.

Speaking of a young woman who is worried whether she has the capacity, talents, gifts or intelligence to complete an education, President Gilbert said, “she doesn’t know her divine potential as a daughter of God.”

Recognizing that sometimes it doesn’t start out easy, President Gilbert spoke of his own life, when his father used to say to him, “It doesn’t matter how good your grades are, as long as you do your best.”

Today President Gilbert has a sign in his family home that says, “Do your best.”

“My father knew that … if we did our best, over time, we would get better and the Lord would bless us. … If you do your best, the Lord will help you and make up the difference,” he said. “But you have to build the habits and do the work.”

“Misplaced zeal”

Describing two people — a young man and a young woman — President Gilbert spoke of proper priorities.

First he spoke of the young man, a returned missionary who loved his mission and worked hard. After returning home, the young man missed his mission so much that he began to think his work and career are not as important.

“This returned missionary does not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ,” President Gilbert taught. “Heavenly Father expects him to become something more than he is, and He expects him to develop his talents and his career and his education to provide for his family and to serve in the Church.”

President Gilbert then shared the example of a young woman who wants to be married and become a mother.

“Marriage is one of the most important things she will do in her life, but she does not yet understand how important an education will be for her role as a mother, for her service in the Church and for her family,” he said.

President Gilbert reminded listeners that education is an investment in a person’s future.

“Too many of our sisters believe that they should focus just on their family and maybe a part-time job,” he said. “But they don’t invest in themselves to become who the Lord needs them to become. That will help them with their family, when they need financial support, but it will also help them be effective mothers and leaders in our Church.”

“Happy as I am”

Describing this person as someone who “doesn’t need to work or study or prepare because he is very good at video games,” President Gilbert spoke of “too many young men who spend their time watching TV, playing games on their phone, and not investing in themselves.”

He invited the young men listening to “rise up and be the men you need to be for your families.”

“Basic survivor”

President Gilbert described a student who is busy working two jobs — sometimes late at night — who doesn’t feel they have the time to stop work and get an education.

“This student is not lazy,” President Gilbert said. “He is not a professional video game player. He works very hard, but he doesn’t understand that to become who he needs to become, he has to take time to invest in his career.

“We are a people who believe in hard work, but we are also a people who believe in investing in our future. To invest in your future means you may have to spend a little more time investing in your education.”

Recognizing many of the programs and certificates available through Pathway Connect take two years, President Gilbert reminded students that education is an investment, one that will bless a person and their family for years to come.

“That’s the investment it takes to become able to have a better job and a better career,” he said. “If you spend two years now, the rest of your life you will have a better opportunity to provide for your family.”

President Gilbert invited listeners, no matter what kind of a student they currently are, to “rise up and become the person the Lord wants you to become. The Lord wants you to invest in who you are. We are an eternal Church, you need to invest in the eternal perspective, and the pain now sometimes helps with the joy later and brings more joy to your family and to your Church.”