The Newsroom Blog

Mormon Youth and Education: A Case Study

As New Zealander Joseph Mara came to the close of his two years of service as a Mormon missionary in Sydney, he started applying at several universities in New Zealand and Hawaii.

After he arrived home in Napier, he decided to accept an offer he received to study law and media studies at Victoria University of Wellington.  His family liked that, he says, because he wouldn’t be going too far away.

“My first year was extremely challenging,” he says, “adjusting back into normal life from the mission and trying to keep up with assignments, I eventually found my feet and was under way.”

Graduation Photo 3

Mara says one of the keys to his success at university was the fact that he was an active member of a Mormon ward (congregation) in Wellington. He accepted invitations to serve in a variety of lay service positions including as a Sunday School teacher and choir director.

This also led, he smiles, to many delicious meals in the homes of families from his congregation.    

One quotation about education that he came across as a student also helped him a lot. He read that Elder Matthew Cowley, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1897-1953), said: “Preparation is a prerequisite to inspiration, inspiration will never elicit thoughts from an empty head.   Study assiduously, striving to develop a creative mind.”

“I decided to apply this to my university study,” Mara says.

 He says that his faith has been a huge source of strength as a university student.

“I am eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father and His Son’s Atonement for the reassurance and peace of mind the gospel brings,” he said.  “Through my ups and downs I always had this knowledge.”

The Church’s Institute program — where young Latter-day Saints study the scriptures together each week — helped Mara keep a balance between gospel and secular education, he says.

“This environment allowed me to fellowship with like-minded people and put into perspective what’s most important.  I graduated from Institute at the end of 2012.”

He says he has also taken advantage of the various activities on offer to young single members of the Church in Wellington, and in other parts of the country.

“It’s always good to have good friends in the Church.”

Earlier this month Mara graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in criminology and media studies.  He hopes to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in June. 

“I am extremely grateful to the many people who have helped me along my way,” he says.

The Dominion Post newspaper published a photograph of Mara on his graduation day.

Mara is currently working at New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department in Wellington.

Read more about Mormons and education.

Browse the Blog

About The Blog: This blog is managed and written by staff of the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The information here is reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church. The purpose of this blog is to provide journalists, bloggers, and the public with additional context and information regarding public issues involving the Church. For official news releases and statements from the Church, visit

Style Guide Note: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.