When I was growing up our family made a weekly trip to the local library. Occasionally we’d not go for 2-3 weeks but generally we were at the library every week. Each of us would come home with a stack of books, which we would then read over the next 1-3 weeks. For the most part the books I checked out were novels or other fiction works but I’d also check out non-fiction books. We were and are a family of readers. All of this reading supplemented our education in school, which was very good. From an early age I gained a love of learning.
One thing I really loved was animals so I read animal encyclopedias and many other animal books. I also learned about music, coins, roses, electricity, and many other topics. There were algebra, history, anatomy, and other books at our house. My parents also exposed us to computers; while I might have spent more time using a computer (and still do) than my parents might like (although apples don’t fall far from trees), most of my work today is focused around computers. The research I do is not possible without computers. Growing up we also learned to work; we had daily and weekly jobs. We learned to take care of a garden and fruit trees and the house. We learned the scriptures and the gospel. Learning was not limited to just secular or sacred – we learned about all good things.
The Lord said: “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” (D&C 88:118). The title of this blog is taken from that verse. We are commanded to seek learning and wisdom by study and by faith. We cannot just have faith without works, we cannot learn without studying. We need to seek out and study the best books. Those books are not just the scriptures or religious works, they can be anything from sacred to secular. We as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept all good and all truth, regardless of its source.
However, learning can be a two-edged sword. There are many people who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). If you learn and study but never find the truth, there is not much point in your studies. These are some of the same learned who believe they are also wise because they know a lot. Because they have a lot of knowledge they think that they do not have to listen to (or believe in) the counsels of God. They become (or already are) humanists. Of these people the Lord said, “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).
The Lord commands us to study and learn but He wants us also to be faithful. That is what the next verse in 2 Nephi says: “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29). We should learn; we should learn all we can but we must always be faithful. Why? Because we are to seek learning by study and faith! Learning is incomplete if we just study without faith.
This is something I taught the Teachers in our ward on Sunday – that studying is important; more importantly, we should exercise faith when we study. We should pray when we study. I ask for God’s help as I work on my dissertation; maybe not every time I work on it but often. Does that mean I should expect to always be successful and have earth-shattering research? No, but I seek for truth in all I study and learn. Not only is that what the Lord has told us to do but also that is what I have found to be most effective in my life whether I am studying the brain, reading Shakespeare, doing calculus, or reading the scriptures.