As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, I know that learning is “good” if I follow the counsel of God. (See Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 9:29.) I know that I can take with me into the next life “whatever principle of intelligence” I gain in this life and it will be to my “advantage” there. (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19.) I know that the “glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36). I know that it is “impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). I know that continual and lifelong learning is important and can be very satisfying and enjoyable. I have other references that support my knowledge.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began his talk “Learning to Love Learning” with this statement: “Learning to love learning is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, is vital to our ongoing spiritual and personal development, and is an absolute necessity in the world in which we do now and will yet live, serve, and work….”
Elder Bednar discussed his three aspects of learning and then stated: “Learning to love learning equips us for an ever-changing and unpredictable future. Knowing how to learn prepares us to discern and act upon opportunities that others may not readily recognize….”
From the above information, I know that learning is important to my “spiritual and personal development” as well as my ability to influence other people; therefore, I must gain as much knowledge as possible and love the process of gaining knowledge. With this understanding, I must ask a question: what am I supposed to learn?
President Spencer W. Kimball asked this same question more eloquently: “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….
“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.”
From President Kimball I learned that I am to seek knowledge of God and His kingdom first. I should seek the many different kinds of learning that pertains to the kingdom of God. (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:78). After I gain knowledge of God and His kingdom, I should seek secular knowledge. This brings another question: what secular knowledge should I seek? I found the following scriptures to be very informative in answering this question.
“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” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
“Teach ye diligently and … be instructed … 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….” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:78-80).
“And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:15).
“And, verily, I say unto you, that it is my will that you … obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:53).
These scriptures tell me that I should learn all I can from “good books.” This learning would include languages, history of the various countries in the world, astronomy, current events, geology, geography, agriculture, and many more subjects. I should obtain all the knowledge that Heavenly Father wants me to have. This is one reason why I should continue to learn for my entire life or seek lifelong learning.
The scriptures also give warning about being prideful because of my learning. “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned, they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish”
(2 Nephi 9:28).
We all know people who think they “know it all.” Many people who have college degrees, and especially Masters and Doctorates, believe they are “better” than other people because they have more formal education. Some of these same people look down on those who are humble and honest seekers of the things of God. They think their secular knowledge is much better than knowledge gained through the Spirit.
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained why we should not trust intellect over faith: “The intellect is not the only source of knowledge. There is a promise, given under the inspiration of the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: `God shall give unto you knowledge by his holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost’ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26).
“The humanists who criticize us, the so-called intellectuals who demean us, speak only from ignorance of this manifestation. They have not heard the voice of the Spirit. They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. Then, supposing that knowledge comes only of reasonings and of the workings of the mind, they deny that which comes by the power of the
“Do not be trapped by the sophistry of the world, which for the most part is negative and which seldom, if ever, bears good fruit. Do not be ensnared by those clever ones whose self-appointed mission it is to demean that which is sacred, to emphasize human weakness, and undermine faith, rather than inspire strength.” (See “Be Not Afraid,Only Believe” [CES fireside for young adults, Sept. 9, 2001], 4; as quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, , 68-69.)
From all the above information, I understand that I am to gain as much knowledge as possible, both academic and spiritual, but not lose my soul in the gaining of such intelligence. I can maintain my faith while getting a degree by doing those things that keep me close to God. I can best do this by communicating with Heavenly Father often, daily scripture study (particularly the Book of Mormon), attendance at my weekly Church meetings, and going to the temple as frequently as possible. By doing these four things, I can keep balance in my life and still gain all the knowledge possible. I can stay humble by remembering the greatness of God and my littleness compared to Him!