By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Intellect and the Gospel

In the April 1993 Ensign is an article titled "The Inexhaustible Gospel" by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Maxwell was always a favorite of mine--he was humble and intelligent and had a wonderful sense of humor. He offered marvelous insights into the gospel and was always enthused about learning and sharing what he learned.

In the article I linked to above, Elder Maxwell discusses the different kinds of knowledge and intelligence, where they come from, and why they are important. He refers to numerous scriptures to illustrate his points. The first two paragraphs are:

The title of my address, “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” is intended to convey the vastness and preciousness of that enormous body of knowledge we call the gospel, and—if I am at all successful—some of my ever-growing excitement over it.

Before using terms like truth, knowledge, intelligence, education, and wisdom, I stress at the outset that the scriptural insights concerning these terms or definitions of them give us, as Latter-day Saints, an added understanding of these concepts. These differ from those of the world—markedly, in some respects. Each is “added upon” by the relevant revelations.
He also says:

Therefore, gaining knowledge and becoming more Christlike “are two aspects of a single process.” (C. Terry Warner, in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4:1490.) This process is part of being “valiant” in our testimony of Jesus. Thus, while we are saved no faster than we gain a certain type of knowledge, it is also the case that we will gain knowledge no faster than we are saved! (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 217.) So in our different understanding of knowledge and truth, behaving and knowing are inseparably linked.

Thus defined, the gospel is inexhaustible because there is not only so much to know but also so much to become. The vital truths are not merely accumulated in the mind but are expressed in life as well.
One of the most intriguing things about the gospel is the way we gradually understand more and more and go deeper and deeper into all the meanings available in the scriptures. We learn what we are ready to learn at any given point in our lives, but there is always more to be learned.

I also like what Elder Maxwell says about how "behaving and knowing are inseparably linked". We learn the gospel as much by actually obeying the commandments as we do by reading them in the scriptures--perhaps more so.

I hope you will read his article. It's an interesting reminder of many gospel ideas and can give a sense of perspective to our learning and living.

One thing I want to mention here is that while I love to share gospel ideas, I am far from perfect. I hope I don't come across as someone who is "preaching down to the little people". What I am trying to do is share thoughts and ideas and links to articles that I find meaningful and helpful for myself and that I hope others will gain something from, as well. I am always interested in hearing other's thoughts and ideas about these topics--it helps me a lot and I am sure it helps all those who come here to read. We can all edify one another.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

On Being Humble

Mosiah 4 in the Book of Mormon is a wonderful chapter full of instruction and promises. It is also a chapter that invites much pondering and application to our own lives. (It also contains the verses--Mosiah 4:16-26--about the beggar that s'mee and I referred to in the comments in my previous post.)

What I am thinking about today is whether we perhaps do not take the concept of being humble far enough. Do we think of being humble as just avoiding bragging? Do we think it is just refraining from calling overmuch attention to ourselves? Do we think it is just admitting that we aren't perfect? Those are outward manifestations of being humble, but I think it should go much deeper. A phrase found in a number of scriptures leaps to mind--a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

As I read Mosiah 4, I have the idea that we must humble our entire selves before God and recognize that without Him, we are completely powerless--powerless to save ourselves. We do have our agency and we can choose to do this or not. If we choose to become completely humble, I think it requires an all-encompassing trust in God and in His Son Jesus Christ. It requires that we do not hold back parts of ourselves or favorite sins or anything else. And it requires believing that His power to save us is greater than our power to make mistakes and commit sins--that He can save even us.

I don't think I have found the words to truly express what I am thinking, but what do you think? Do you think that maybe we believe in God and in Jesus Christ, but that maybe we don't have faith that He loves us individually and personally? Do we believe that He will help others, but doubt that He will help us? Do we not trust Him completely?

My thoughts are that if we can become truly humble and allow God into our hearts and minds completely and obey Him and keep His commandments, then we will learn that He will indeed save even us. We will learn to trust Him completely in all things. We will become truly converted.

This is not something we can come to in an instant, but is rather a process over time, but if we can work on this--if I can work on this--we will come to a greater relationship with God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost than we can now imagine. I think, too, that our relationships with other people will be transformed as we learn to see them as God sees them. And as we let God teach us, will we not learn the gospel more thoroughly than we now know it?

Please share your thoughts with me.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Considering Viewpoints

One of the things I struggle with is compassion and "tough love." As I consider viewpoints on a variety of topics, I come up against wanting to help people and wanting those same people to learn to help themselves. I see ideas that would immediately relieve suffering, but that would cause serious problems down the road. Case in point: welfare.

If we give people food, money, housing, and so forth, it can give them an opportunity to pull themselves together because they aren't totally caught up in wondering where their next meal is coming from or where they are going to live. However, too many people become dependent on welfare and come to expect these things to just be given to them. They aren't using the reprieve from suffering to improve their education and job skills and to look for jobs, or otherwise improve their lives and their prospects.

Immigration is this sort of problem, too. If we grant illegal immigrants all kinds of privileges and perks, we are rewarding their lawbreaking. National security issues enter into this situation also, something we can't ignore in this day and age. Yet most of us do feel compassion for the poor who want to come to America.

Environmental concerns can cause problems, too. If we rush into solutions that appear to solve the problem in the short term, we may seriously cripple our economy and cause much greater problems in the long run. Yet we do need to be good stewards of this earth.

War also brings into play many considerations and, in the heat of the moment, it is hard to think of long term consequences. Yet we must. Peace--real peace--cannot be bought with the price of genocide and oppression.

Throw into this mix trying to live as God and Jesus Christ would have us to live. We study the scriptures and pray and seek the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Somehow, though, different people come up with different answers as to what is right. My own take on the matter is that while we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, this does not mean giving in to whatever our neighbor wants or allowing our neighbor to lead us astray. There are lines that must be drawn. Waste is waste. Sin is sin. Foolishness is foolishness. These things ought not to be encouraged.

Charity isn't giving things away indiscriminately, but is the judicious use of reasonable help coupled with teaching the recipient how to do better in living their lives. Some would say that it is not our place to tell others how to live. To a point, this is true--each has his own agency and has to make his own decisions. However, you would not buy alcohol for an alcoholic, would you? There are some things that are just wrong and need to not be supported. Truth is not relative. Morality is not relative. And the greatest act of charity that we can perform is to help someone see a better way to live. We cannot force them to choose that way, but we can at least let them know it is there and that they do have a choice.

I also think that in choosing our viewpoints on various topics, we need to be aware that there are those who advocate for one viewpoint or another who have their own agendas. They may be seeking power, fame, or fortune. Be aware of that possibility. It is possible to be led astray by a good speaker/writer. Take the time to do your own research. It seems, too, that it is easy to obsess over some perceived problem to the point where one sees examples of that problem everywhere, even though in reality, the so-called examples are nothing of the kind. We need to use our God-given intelligence, discernment, and judgement in making our decisions about what to believe and what causes to support or disavow.

Ah, judgement. The new bad word. The truth is, though, that we have to use judgement constantly to make decisions. It is true that we should treat people kindly and tactfully, but it is not true that we cannot learn from the mistakes we see others make, and it is not true that we have to embrace wrong things just so we won't hurt someone's feelings. I certainly wouldn't recommend going around criticizing people or being rude, but we do not have to follow their leads.

It is not easy to do the right thing in all situations and to choose the right viewpoints to support, but we have to try. It is how we grow and learn and become better tomorrow than we are today. If we can learn to look down the road and see the consequences of this or that choice, we will be in a better position to make right decisions that won't cause irreparable harm.

Love thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment, but even before that one is to love God with all thy heart, might, mind, and strength. To me, this means to not only love God, but to follow His ways in all things, and to learn what His ways truly are, not just what we want them to be.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Seeking Learning

President Spencer W. Kimball had an article in the September 1983 Ensign that was called "Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith". It was reprinted from previous addresses of his. This is a topic that interests me greatly, being a person who loves to learn.

President Kimball discusses in this article the position that secular learning holds in relation to spiritual learning. I recommend reading it to gain a good perspective and also to be directed to some scriptures that deal with the subject of learning.

Spiritual learning, and the action that should go along with it, is the most important for each of us. It leads us to eternal life, and it also helps us to find joy and happiness in this life. We learn of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. We can have the help of the Holy Ghost in all of our learning, both spiritual and secular, including how best to apply our learning to our day-to-day lives.

Spiritual learning helps us learn the self-control we need to live good lives and it also helps us in our relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. We learn absolute truths that guide us in deciding what to do in various situations, so that we are behaving ethically and know what we can do to serve others.

With spiritual learning taking first place and giving us a firm foundation, we can study the secular topics of the world: math, science, music, politics, history, and so forth. We learn how things work and how they fit together. The more we learn about the earth and everything on it and in it, the better we will know how to be good stewards of the earth. The more we learn about the countries and peoples of the earth, the better we will know how to help them and how to view the political decisions we come to in our country--what is good and what is not.

Secular learning also helps us to find and develop our talents and share them with others. We also gain a greater appreciation of the talents and abilities of others.

Spiritual learning gives a necessary perspective concerning our relationships with ourselves and with others and with God. Supplemented with secular learning which gives us much practical knowledge, we can live a good life indeed.

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