2005
Elder W. Rolfe Kerr Appointed Commissioner of Church Education
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“Elder W. Rolfe Kerr Appointed Commissioner of Church Education,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 74–75

Elder W. Rolfe Kerr Appointed Commissioner of Church Education

Elder W. Rolfe Kerr

Elder W. Rolfe Kerr

Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy was called in January by the First Presidency to serve as Commissioner of Church Education. He succeeds Elder Henry B. Eyring, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who served twice as commissioner for a total of about 17 years.

Under the direction of the Church Board of Education, Elder Kerr will oversee operations of all Church Educational System (CES) entities, including the Church’s institutions of higher education: Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, and LDS Business College; the Church’s seminary and institute of religion programs; and a number of Church-operated elementary and secondary schools.

“While this assignment will be a heavy responsibility, it is natural and comfortable in that it relates closely to the professional focus of my career,” Elder Kerr said.

Elder Kerr, who was called as a General Authority in 1996, brings extensive educational experience to his new appointment. He has served as Utah Commissioner of Higher Education, executive vice president of Brigham Young University, and president of Dixie College in Utah. He has also held administrative positions at the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Weber State University in Utah.

Elder Kerr observed that the scriptures as well as the prophets of this dispensation have stressed to Church members the value of receiving an education. He noted: “Our learning needs to be spiritual as well as temporal, and doctrinal as well as academic. We need to have a breadth but also a balance in our learning.” The Church Educational System addresses the academic and spiritual aspects of education.

After citing 2 Nephi 9:29, “To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God,” Elder Kerr said, “We’ll be better parents, better husbands and wives, better citizens, and better members of the Church as we educate ourselves.”

While CES is primarily for young adults who are members of the Church, about 12,000 people who are not members of the Church are enrolled in the institute of religion program worldwide, making the program not only an effective method of perfecting the Saints but also a missionary tool.

The Church Educational System tries to be responsive and flexible when dealing with the growth of the Church, Elder Kerr said. One of the biggest challenges is to keep up in making the programs readily available as the Church grows.

Elder Kerr said that he is excited about his new appointment because it gives him an opportunity to work with the young people of the Church. “I love education, and I love youth,” he said. “My career has been primarily focused on the age groups served by CES.”

The Church Educational System has a special place in his heart because Elder Kerr was involved in CES programs as a young man. He graduated from seminary and institute and acknowledges how his life was blessed by them. “I enrolled in at least one institute class every term of my undergraduate study at Utah State University,” he said, “and it was a marvelous blessing to me.”

Elder Kerr said faithful seminary students receive the same kinds of blessings. “We find that homes and families are substantially blessed as the young people attend seminary,” he said. “Some choose not to participate, thinking it’s too great a sacrifice, but in the long run not participating is the greatest sacrifice.”

On the Shoulders of Giants

As Commissioner of Church Education, Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy says he feels like he is “standing on the shoulders of giants.” A look back shows those who have filled similar assignments in the past:

Karl G. Maeser

1888–1901

Superintendent of Church Schools

Joseph M. Tanner

1901–1905

Superintendent of Church Schools

Horace H. Cummings

1906–1920

Commissioner of Church Schools

David O. McKay

1920–1921

Commissioner of Church Education

John A. Widtsoe

1921–1924

Commissioner of Church Education

Joseph F. Merrill

1928–1933

Commissioner of Church Education

John A. Widtsoe

1934–1936

Commissioner of Church Education

Franklin L. West

1936–1953

Commissioner of Church Education

Ernest L. Wilkinson

1953–1970

Administrator/Chancellor of the Unified Church Schools System

Neal A. Maxwell

1970–1976

Commissioner of Church Education

Jeffrey R. Holland

1976–1980

Commissioner of Church Education

Henry B. Eyring

1980–1986

Commissioner of Church Education

J. Elliot Cameron

1986–1989

Commissioner of Church Education

Henry B. Eyring

1992–2004

Commissioner of Church Education

W. Rolfe Kerr

2005–

Commissioner of Church Education

Church Education around the World

Church universities and colleges

56,000 students

Elementary and secondary schools

9,000 students

Seminary and institutes of religion

735,000 students

Continuing-education programs

450,000 members

Countries involved

140 countries

Volunteers

35,000 members

Elder Kerr served as executive vice president of Brigham Young University in the early 1980s. (Photograph by Mark Philbrick, courtesy of Brigham Young University.)