By Study and Also By Faith

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

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Education is important to us all. It is how we prepare for the future, but it is also how we enrich our lives now. I love to learn. There are so many interesting things to study. There is the gospel--scriptures and words of prophets and church history--so much depth and breadth. There is secular learning--history, science, math, literature, languages, and so forth--also with much depth and breadth. So how do we prioritize our study?

I find good counsel in a talk given by then Elder Henry B. Eyring called "Education for Real Life". I hope you will read the entire talk. One thing he says is:
It is clear that our first priority should go to spiritual learning. For us, reading the scriptures would come before reading history books. Prayer would come before memorizing those Spanish verbs. A temple recommend would be worth more to us than standing first in our graduating class. But it is also clear that spiritual learning would not replace our drive for secular learning.

The Lord clearly values what you will find in that history book and in a text on political theory. Remember His words. He wants you to know “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” (D&C 88:79). And He favors not only Spanish verbs but the study of geography and demography. You remember that His educational charter requires that we have “a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (D&C 88:79). There is also an endorsement for questions we study in the sciences. It is clear that putting spiritual learning first does not relieve us from learning secular things. On the contrary, it gives our secular learning purpose and motivates us to work harder at it.

If we will keep spiritual learning in its proper place, we will have to make some hard choices of how we use our time. But there should never be a conscious choice to let the spiritual become secondary as a pattern in our lives. Never. That will lead to tragedy. The tragedy may not be obvious at first, nor may it ever be clear in mortal life. But remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.
Spiritual learning is the most important learning we will ever do. It is eternally important. However, the Lord wants us to learn secular things as well--history, science, math, etc.--and with spiritual learning firmly in place, we can receive the Lord's guidance about what direction we should take with our secular learning. What would be a good choice for our vocation? What can we learn that would develop the talents the Lord has blessed us with? What would help our family? What would help us to serve the Lord better?

The answers to those questions will be different for each individual, but if we put God first in our lives, He will help us with the rest.

Another quote from Elder Eyring:

For many of us, the feeling bears down on us that we must choose between spiritual and secular learning. That is a false conflict for most of us, particularly for the young. Before we have families, there is leisure time even in what is our busiest day. Too often we use many hours for fun and pleasure, clothed in the euphemism “I’m recharging my batteries.” Those hours could be spent reading and studying to gain knowledge, skills, and culture.

For instance, we too often fail to take advantage of the moments we spend waiting. Think of the last time you sat in a barber shop or a beauty salon or the waiting room of a doctor’s office. It is so easy to spend time thumbing through any magazine that is stacked on a table there. In fact, if you think about it, you will remember how you wondered where they get those out-of-date magazines. There is much valuable reading you could do if you took a book with you to fill those islands of time.

From at least the time man was created, there was the written word. The scriptures tell us that from what they teach about Adam and Eve. They were conscious of the need to develop the mind and the power of reading and writing. In the book of Moses we read, “And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled” (Moses 6:6).

It takes neither modern technology nor much money to seize the opportunity to learn in the moments we now waste. You could just have a book and paper and pencil with you. That will be enough. But you need determination to capture the leisure moments you now waste.

How do you manage to continue learning, even if you are not going to school? What ways to you capture spare moments to learn something new? How does constant learning help you?

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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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