By Study and Also By Faith

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

Saturday, May 03, 2008

"Seek Learning, Even By Study and Also By Faith"

In the May 1983 Ensign there is a message by President Spencer W. Kimball entitled "Seek Learning, Even By Study and Also By Faith". President Kimball provides a good perspective on the importance of different kinds of learning, and which kinds are the most important. One thing he says is:
What is this knowledge, intelligence, and light and truth that our Heavenly Father would have us receive? Does it consist solely of the truths God has revealed through his prophets? What place does knowledge gleaned from secular sources and with secular means have in the scheme of eternal progression?

In considering these questions, we must recognize that secular knowledge alone can never save a soul nor open the celestial kingdom to anyone.

The Apostles Peter and John, for example, had little secular learning—being termed ignorant, in fact. But Peter and John knew the vital things of life, that God lives and that the crucified, resurrected Lord is the Son of God. They knew the path to eternal life. They learned that mortality is the time to learn first of God and his gospel and to receive the saving priesthood ordinances.

Yet secular knowledge can be most helpful to the children of our Father in Heaven who, having placed first things first, have found and are living those truths which lead one to eternal life. These are they who have the balance and perspective to seek all knowledge—revealed and secular—as a tool and servant for the blessing of themselves and others. They know that preeminent among all activities in this life is preparing themselves for eternal life by subjugating the flesh, subjecting the body to the spirit, overcoming weaknesses, and so governing themselves that they may give leadership to others. Important, but of second priority, comes the knowledge associated with life in mortality.
So we see that spiritual knowledge is the most important and it addresses the reason we are here--to learn how to return to our Heavenly Father. This doesn't mean neglecting secular learning, however.
Is it not thrilling to know that the prophets knew long ago that the earth is but one of numerous planets created and controlled by God! That knowledge came because faith and righteousness opened the door to revelation. It is from this perspective that we teach the truth that the Church is the greatest institution of learning in the world. The Church is designed to enlarge and develop the powers of our spirits, to educate us for eternity and to help us live intelligently and joyfully in mortality. The gospel and its teachings lead us to Christlike living, which in turn leads us not only toward exaltation but toward knowledge.

Of all the treasures of knowledge, the most truly vital is the knowledge of God, of his existence, his powers, his love, and his promises. Through this knowledge, we learn that our great objective in life is to build character. In fact, we learn that the building of faith and character is paramount, for character is higher than intellect, and perfect character will be continually rewarded with increased intellect.

The spiritual learning helps us with the secular learning. The Lord Himself wants us to learn many things while we are here in mortality.
To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed much about the learning Latter-day Saints should seek. Note that in the following verses the first two counsel us to obtain an understanding in matters of the “law of the gospel” that are “expedient” for us to understand:

“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

“Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

“That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” (D&C 88:77–80.)
And how do we learn all these things that the Lord wishes us to learn?
But how will we obtain this knowledge? We expect the Saints to gain such knowledge naturally, as a result of righteousness and by study and faith. We must remember the great lessons taught to Oliver Cowdery, who desired a special dispensation of knowledge. Oliver Cowdery wished to be able to translate the plates of the Book of Mormon. But he wanted to do so with ease and without real effort. He was reminded that he erred in that he “took no thought save it was to ask.” (D&C 9:7.) We must do more than ask the Lord for learning. Perspiration must precede inspiration; there must be effort before there is the harvest. We must take thought, work, be patient, acquire competence.

But in all our searching, we must remember that there are things which we will not fully discover or probe with accuracy before the Lord comes. These are things both spiritual and secular. But “in that day when the Lord shall come,” the Prophet tells us, “he shall reveal all things,” and then he identifies some matters on which final knowledge will remain “hidden” until he comes. (D&C 101:32.)

As a people, we Latter-day Saints have been encouraged by the Lord to progress in the learning of God as well as in the sound learning of the earth. Too many of us spend far too much time watching the television or in habits and activities that do not enlarge ourselves or bless others. Would that we might lift ourselves to higher visions of what we could do with our lives! There should be no people who have a higher desire to obtain truth, revealed and secular, than Latter-day Saints.

President Kimball has many more insights to share in his message. How do you go about seeking learning?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am James, the owner of a blog called Lehi's Library. I have been studying a bit about spiritual experiences and how they function in our lives as LDS. I am searching for information, perhaps a article, essay, or book that explores some of the tougher philosophical challenges that are involved with this issue (ex. "what about the spiritual experiences of other faiths?").
I am also interested in apologetic articles that argue that our belief in spiritual experiences as a foundation for faith is a biblical doctrine.
I am familiar with Jeff Lindsay's writings on the subject, and Blake Ostler's FAIR presentation.
I am wondering if you know of any other resources that talk about these issues. Perhaps a Sunstone or Dialogue article, or anything at all really.

I am enjoying perusing your blog, keep up the good work!


7:11 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Hi, James! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm not familiar with sources for what you are looking for, but maybe someone else will stop by and leave a comment with some ideas for you. It sounds like an interesting subject for research.

I'll be checking your blog. I'm always interested in what others are writing about.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary, this post helps put into perspective the things of learning. It is amazing to think of how much was known by faith and God revealing it to Prophets such as Moses. We have many discoveries and much beneficial knowledge in our day that we can gain from proper study and application in our lives.--Barb

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, you might want to to check out the blog, Mormon Metaphysics.-barb

8:28 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Hi, Barb! Thanks for your suggestion for James. That's a pretty good site. I agree that it's amazing to think of all that has been revealed to prophets. And I believe that God has enlightened all researchers and inventors and discoverers as they go about their work, so that they find what is useful and good for mankind.

4:31 PM  
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