Education is a high priority among the latter-day saints. As a people, we are some of the most highly educated in the world. All the latter-day prophets have encouraged the people to seek learning, but we seek to learn by faith as well as through conventional studying. The question we will look at today is does using faith make a difference in how and what we learn?
Two kinds of learning
When we are looking for something to learn we can either turn to the world and its wisdom, that which philosophers and scientists have figured out, or we can turn to the prophets and study from the scriptures and the writings of the prophets outside of the scriptures. Here is the Lord’s commandment to those who were attending the school of the prophets in the early days of the Church. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
The world has learned a lot, especially in the latter days. But much of what the world has learned is not completely correct. Mankind is revising and correcting philosophies and discoveries all the time as new information emerges. So worldly knowledge, for all its usefulness is still incomplete and flawed.
The other source of knowledge is the scriptures. They are as perfect as knowledge in this world can get. Our understanding of them if definitely flawed. That is why we need to continually study them and learn to live by them better with each passing year. As we live the gospel principles we come to understand and appreciate them more. As our scope of understanding grows, so too do we come to appreciate the eternal wisdom within the pages of the scriptures.
Faith for conflict
There is no such thing as a truth for you and a truth for me. Truth is what it is. When science feels they have figured something out they call their conclusions the truth. The Lord may disagree with their conclusions, hence the conflict. If we are studying and just accepting what man has found through research and thinking, we may find ourselves on the opposite side of the fence from what the prophets have told us.
How many times have you seen this in school? Our teachers instruct us in evolution, but the prophets say intelligent design. Our teachers put forth a planet that is billions of years in the human development, but the prophets assert something closer to a six thousand year human history. How do we work with both views and learn from both? Faith.
Is it possible that the Lord took much longer than six thousand years to create the earth, but only put Adam and Eve on it roughly six thousand years ago? Of course it is possible. What we have to remember is that the only information we have been given by our Father in Heaven is what is required for us to gain exaltation. We haven’t been told a lot of things, mainly because it isn’t crucial to our ultimate salvation.
Our growth and development in mortality was designed to be done through the development of faith. Faith is a character-building exercise. This requires that we learn to suspend disbelief while obeying the Lord until such time as the Lord chooses to answer our questions. This is illustrated in Ether 12:6.
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
The Lord does not hide things from us because he is a tease. We are kept in the dark for a reason; it is to help us develop the attribute of faith. The outcome of developing faith is that our trust in God becomes more and more absolute. This is required for us to be able to handle the really hard things that we don’t understand, but are critical that we be able to do in order to progress in the eternities.
Faith gets us through those times when the wisdom and shortsightedness of man are in conflict with the knowledge given us in the scriptures and from the Lord’s prophets. We can learn many things through the wisdom of man, but the wisdom that is more important than man’s comes from God, and that requires the development of faith to attain. Here is a quote from the lesson.
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley gave an address in which he quoted the Savior’s injunction “Learn of me” (Matthew 11:29). Then he said: “I should like to suggest that you follow that injunction given by the Son of God. With all of your learning, learn of him. With all of your study, seek knowledge of the Master. That knowledge will complement in a wonderful way the secular training you receive and give a fulness to your life and character that can come in no other way” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 118; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1964, 1092).
When can we stop?
In the world there is an implied expiration date on learning when we graduate from school. We are no longer held accountable to a teacher or an institution to continue to learn. Some go on to higher learning, but that is for the prospects of a better, more lucrative job down the road. There are precious few who actually advocate continually learning as a life skill. If there isn’t money attached to it, most won’t bother to do it.
The Lord, on the other hand, says we should be developing a love for learning, a thirst for knowledge that propels us forward. We should always be seeking to learn and understand more today than we knew yesterday. Remember that mortality is the season in which we demonstrate to ourselves and to the Lord whether or not we find joy in seeking to become like Him.
One of the divine attributes is the possession of all knowledge. If we act like knew knowledge causes an allergic reaction then we may not currently be a good fit for the lifestyle of the godly crowd. Those who seek to become like God are always looking for greater understanding. The more we learn to understand the processes of plants, animals, the very earth itself, and the stars and planets, the more we will be able to grasp when the Lord reveals information about how the earth was made and placed in the heavens.
When it comes to learning to be holy and divine, our education is just starting in this life, and it will continue for eons into the eternities. It will be a long while before we begin to draw near to the goal of knowing what our Father and Christ know. That process begins here, and it requires both study from the best sources of knowledge, the best books, and faith in God and his prophets and plan for our salvation. Here is Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19.
18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.