Homeward Bound to the Personal God

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During the final meeting with His apostles, a meeting paralleled many years later by Joseph Smith giving his last charge and saving ordinances to the latter-day apostles and others, Jesus gathered with His friends to celebrate Passover. He performed the ordinance of the washing of feet. Jesus broke bread and drank wine in sacrament with His disciples. He sent one off who would betray Him and then taught the apostles significant doctrines. Only after Judas departed did the real teaching and blessings begin. What the Savior taught during these late hours is covered in just over four chapters in the book of John – one fifth of a book covering three years of Jesus’s ministry. That so much of the book of John focuses on this time is one indication of the importance of what Jesus taught before His atoning suffering in Gethsemane and His death upon the cruel cross.

What did Jesus teach? One of the most powerful lessons in all scripture is found in John 17, what is commonly called the intercessory prayer, intercessory meaning praying or petitioning on behalf of another. Of this prayer John wrote: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:1-4)

The key verse here is “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). Life eternal is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. As we strive for eternal life we must strive for a knowledge of God. Even more, we must not only have a knowledge of Him but also truly know Him. The better we know Him the more we love Him. How can we fully love something we do not understand? How can we truly love someone we do not know? The more familiar we are with someone, the more we understand and love that person.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision was a light in the darkness of knowledge about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Joseph had clear evidence that the Father and the Son are distinct beings. One of the implications of knowing that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are distinct Beings is that we have a special relationship to God (He is our Father, not just the Savior’s) and we have an opportunity to become more like Him. We are His children and as His children we can grow and develop, gaining attributes of our Divine Parent.

Most of Christianity, at least in formal theology, believes that Jesus Christ is not a separate Being from the Father – a distinct manifestation but not a separate physical Being. If our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are separate individuals – They are! – and if Christ is the Son of God – He is! – then all children of our Father have the potential to become more like Christ for that is what is clearly taught in the scriptures. The Savior prayed to His Father in the last hours of His mortal ministry: “Neither pray I for these [His Apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:20-22).

Christ is the Son of God and we are also children of God; then we can be, as the ancient apostles taught and as modern prophets and apostles teach, joint-heirs with Christ of all that our Father has! To the Romans Paul taught: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17). That is quite a promise! This pleading for oneness with the Father is thus not just metaphorical. Christ pled that His Father would bless His apostles and all those who believe and follow Christ’s teachings with the same oneness that He and the Father share. This does not diminish the power or authority of God or Christ – for their power and authority are endless and eternal. Rather, it shows our true relationship to God; we are His children and He loves us not just as a perfect God but as a perfect Father.

This is all what was so revolutionary about what was re-taught in bright clarity to the world when Joseph Smith, a young man of 14, saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It upended not only the world’s misconceptions of the nature of God but also of the world’s misconceptions of the nature of men and women and of their divine potential, even though that potential would not be understood for years. We can have a personal, loving, relationship with God our Father here on earth just as we had with Him before we were born with physical bodies.

A simple recent experience reminded me of the nature of God’s love for us. As I was praying, just seconds into a prayer, my infant son started crying in the other room. I asked my Father if He would please excuse the interruption to the prayer because my son needed me and then I closed the prayer. I had the distinct impression that my Eternal Father understood completely. My concern for my son mirrored His concern for me, for you, and for all His sons and daughters. That is the nature of God – He is our Father; He loves us; He watches over us. He knows us and wants us to have joy. God hears our prayers. Experiences like this can remind us of our Heavenly home.

There is a visual phenomenon called afterimage where when looking away from an object (usually a bright object such as a light bulb), there is an image that appears to float in front of our eyes. This image “burn in” is caused by a severe depletion of pigment chemicals in the eye. Normally, we compensate for this loss of chemicals by rapidly and subtly moving the eyes around, changing where we focus our vision. Doing this gives the time for the pigments to replenish, allowing cells within the eye to work efficiently again. But when we stare at something, especially if it is bright, we can temporarily overuse these pigments.

To get an afterimage, stare at a lightbulb for a couple seconds (not the sun – that will damage your eyes). Afterimages occur when you focus intently on an object with high contrast or brightness. This process often results in a negative afterimage (like camera film negatives) but bright lights can create positive afterimages where the brightness of the light appears to still be there when you look away. In other words, when staring at bright lights, we continue to have that light before our eyes even when looking away. These afterimages last just for seconds but are reminders of the light that was before us.

Before we were born we all lived with our Father in Heaven. We basked in His radiance, we felt His glory and presence, and were filled with His light; it was continually before our eyes. We knew His Spirit and saw His burning glory. Joseph Smith said that this brightness and God’s glory were above that of the sun: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description” (JS-H 1:16-17). In another account of his First Vision, Joseph Smith stated that it appeared as if the trees surrounding the Father and the Son were on fire. This is why Isaiah stated that the Lord lives in “everlasting burnings” (Isa. 33:14).

We all lived with God before our mortal births and partook of His glory and radiance. We are born through a veil of forgetfulness but the “afterimage” of God’s glory remains with us. The poet Wordsworth expressed it well when he wrote:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

We are not left utterly naked when we come to earth. We have the afterimage of our pre-earth life given to us by light of Christ; we have remembrances of old light and the giving of new light unto us through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, which all people feel at some point. The test is whether or not we accept and act upon those burnings. As with visual afterimages, if we do not look to the Light, if we turn away from God in our sins and do not turn to face Him again in repentance, the light of Christ fades from our lives, becoming the light of common day, and we lose the spiritual afterimage that is our intimation of our immortality. It is imperative that we seek out this light and replenish Christ’s image in our lives by constantly looking to God and loving Him.

Service

One way can keep God’s light and love with us is when we love and serve others.

Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “Humans are prone to dislike or hate those we do not really know. This is our human nature. But the more we get to know those who are different from us, the more we learn that perhaps they are not so different from us after all…. If we each learned to genuinely love God and to love our fellowmen as our brothers and sisters, we would have more compassion and the problems of the world could be more easily solved.” (Pres. Uchtdorf, Facebook post Saturday, April 25).

Jesus taught:

“34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:34-40).

Knowing God comes as we know His children. Serving God comes as we serve His children. Loving God comes as we love His children.

I’m going to share an experience as an example of the kind of opportunities that are around us to serve others. Recently I had an opportunity to do a small act of service. A few months ago I was driving to work when I saw a man walking along the side of the highway. This man was dressed in old clothes and looked like he had experienced a hard life. He held a sign but I couldn’t read it until I was passing him; he needed a ride to a location in town that I would drive right by on my way to work. As I contemplated whether or not I should turn around and give him a ride, I was soon too far down the road to easily get back to him. I justified my actions by telling myself that I didn’t know where he was going until I was passing him at 60 miles an hour and I was in a hurry to get to work so I could get a better parking spot. What weak justifications these were! Those were probably similar justifications to those thought by the priest and Levite as they ignored the injured man who was later helped by the kindly Samaritan. Feeling bad as I drove on, I vowed that if I saw him again, I’d stop and give him ride. A few weeks later I saw him on the side of the road wanting to go to the same location. I was able to get over to a turning lane and work my way to him but another driver just ahead of me did the same thing and gave him a ride. This time, while I didn’t serve him, I had tried to serve and so I felt much better. Then just a couple weeks ago I saw him again. I was able to pick him up and give him a ride to his destination. Along the way John told me a sad story of a hard life. He was grateful for the ride and I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. It was a small thing but it helped me to reflect on the Savior’s teachings.

Are there times in our lives when we need to pick others up and give them a ride along the road to eternal life? Do we notice those around us who are struggling for the strait and narrow road and offer to help? Even simple acts of service are important because those simple acts done unto others are done unto the Lord. As we get to know others, as we serve others and love others, we serve and start to understand God. Knowing God is part of eternal life. As we come to know God, we can become one with Him, having a unity of purpose, love, and power.

Unity

It is worth repeating what Jesus prayed for His disciples and for us: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:19-22)

Unity. What a special blessing it is! We can be unified when we love and serve others.

Some years ago on a bright Utah morning, the weather was cooling down as Fall approached. I woke up early to get ready for class. It was my first semester back at Brigham Young University after my mission. I had worked through a busy summer and was excited to be back in school and back to one of my favorite places in the world.

My first class was at 8 AM that Tuesday morning so I was up early, getting ready for the day. I turned on the television to watch the morning news while I finished preparing for school. On TV was shocking news. Something – a plane or a missile (reports were unclear at that time) – had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. I watched as smoke poured from the building. Everyone was in shock. Then, as I watched the coverage, a plane hit the second tower. Shortly later, the towers collapsed.

I attended both of my classes that day. One of my classes was cancelled after we got there but I have notes from another class so we worked the best we could through the terrible events. I watched more news coverage – much of the world watched the news. I read news stories online and saw photos and videos of the events of that tragic day. I had never been to New York City. I did not know anyone from New York or who had a personal connection with someone who lost a life in the attacks. I was only weeks into a new semester after a two year break from school. I was living in a new apartment with new roommates. There was so much going on that I don’t remember many more specifics of that day and following weeks. There are many more people who were affected much more than I was. The effects on me were circumstantial but still vivid. It’s difficult to imagine what it would have been like – and what it still is like – for those directly affected.

What I do remember is how the people of our nation came together; we united as people, we united as states, we united as a nation. We united across faiths and ethnicities. We united as one. The foundation of our nation for many years has been – e pluribus unum – “out of many, one”. We stand united, we fall divided. Unity is something desired by the followers of God. Unity is what Jesus pleaded for in His great intercessory prayer (see John 17) – that He and we might be one with His Father.

It was as a united people that we banded together in prayer and service. Many people answered that horrific act of hate and violence at the hands of wicked men with acts of love and compassion for others. As a nation, in spite of hurt and anger, our love for one another burned brighter and with more clarity in the days and weeks following the tragedies of September 11, 2001. Our hearts turned to family and friends. Our hearts reached out to strangers. Good Samaritans shared their oil of life, their means, and of their love with those in need.

The unity quickly dissolved in our nation but for a time it was there and powerful. We as individuals can strive for such unity in our homes, our wards, and our communities and not just in the face of great tragedy.

We can have unity when we serve, love, and care for others.

How can we apply these principles and make meaningful change in our lives? Without action, these words don’t mean much. I encourage each of you to start every day and ask your Father in Heaven in prayer for specific experiences to serve or help someone and then go throughout your day attentive to and acting upon such opportunities. I know some, maybe many of you do this already. As you do this, you will see the hand of God in your life and in the lives of those around you. As you do this, your love of others will grow. As you and I bear one another’s burdens, we serve God. As we serve God, we know Him. Our Heavenly Father placed us all here on earth through the miracle of birth. He loves us – He loves me and He loves you. Our Father wants us to return home to Him.

May we pray to the Father with the poet: “If you find it’s me you’re missing, If you’re hoping I’ll return, To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning, In the road I’ll stop and turn. Then the wind will set me racing As my journey nears its end, And the path I’ll be retracing When I’m homeward bound again. Bind me not to the pasture; Chain me not to the plow. Set me free to find my calling And I’ll return to you somehow. In the quiet misty morning When the moon has gone to bed, When the sparrows stop their singing, I’ll be homeward bound again” (Marta Keen, Homeward Bound).

May we be homeward bound to the loving and very personal God, our dear Father in Heaven! God lives and loves us.

Hidden Truths

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In Alma 45 we read of a beautiful exchange between Alma (the Younger) and his son Helaman.

“Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept? And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe. And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come? And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken. And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments? And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart. Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.” (Alma 45:2-8).

Before passing on the responsibility of keeping the scriptures and before adding other responsibilities to his son, Alma interviews Helaman to assess his testimony in the Savior and the teachings of the prophets. In many ways, this was similar to our modern temple recommend interviews or personal priesthood interviews in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After Helaman bore his testimony, Alma continues on to prophesy of things to come, acting in his role as seer. Prophecies of the future (or past) are not unique in the scriptures – there are many such prophecies; what is unique, or at least explicitly stated is that Alma prophesied things to Helaman that Helaman was not to reveal to anyone else; he was to record it upon the records but not tell anyone else. Why the secrecy? What was this important prophecy and why, if it was important, keep it from general knowledge?

Keeping revelations and prophecies and doctrine secret or, rather, sacred, has been the practice of prophets from the beginning. Christ taught this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matt. 7:6). We also know there is a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that has not yet been revealed to the world. There are prophecies of the brother of Jared and John the Beloved that are not widely revealed. Sometimes these are kept from the world because the prophecies are so great that most people are not ready for them. Isaiah taught of the importance of solidifying foundations before grasping at straws of doctrines beyond current comprehension: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10) and “But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13). What Isaiah meant is made clear in the Book of Mormon: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30).

This reminds me of working with my oldest daughter on mathematical concepts and problems. She is young enough that she is still learning arithmetic; while I am constantly trying to push the boundaries of what she knows, we cannot jump ahead to trigonometry or calculus or even much algebra because she does not have all the basics of mathematics learned yet. This does not mean I cannot or do not teach her pre-algebra (I do) or introduce more complex concepts of mathematics but most of what I could teach her is not possible for her to understand – she doesn’t know enough of the basics to understand more and her brain is physically/physiologically/neurologically not capable of comprehending these higher order concepts of mathematics yet; these concepts require complex abstractions that a very young brain cannot process. Thus, my daughter’s understanding is not just limited by a lack of knowledge (ignorance) but also a lack of physical development.

Gospel and spiritual knowledge are the same way. We cannot comprehend greater light and knowledge without understanding the foundations of the gospel – the doctrines of Christ – faith, repentance, resurrection, the Atonement, charity, and so forth. In a like manner, we might not be able to understand “higher” doctrines simply because we are spiritually undeveloped – our spirit brains, if you will, are not yet matured. This spiritual maturation comes from learning, accepting, and living the gospel over time. Without such development, we cannot understand what some call deeper doctrines.

This is why Alma asked about Helaman’s testimony; this is why many prophecies remain hidden to us (and this specific prophecy of Alma remained hidden until the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) – many people who might hear them or read them are not ready for them. So what did Alma tell Helaman?

“Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.” (Alma 45:10)

Not only will Christ appear to the Nephites following His resurrection but also there will come a time of general apostasy among the Nephites and Lamanites. This apostasy mirrors that of the Old World among the Jews and early Christians. When Moroni wrote his last words on the plates of gold and sealed up the record it was around 421 AD. Christ appeared to the Nephites around 30 AD (plus or minus 6 years or so), which means that by the time 400 years had passed, the Nephites were all extinct. Alma continued:

Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct—Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come. And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi. But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled.” (Alma 45:11-14).

So the day will come when the Nephites will all be destroyed or will no longer be called Nephites, having joined the Lamanites (this makes it clear that Nephite and Lamanite are mainly political terms rather than strict references to genealogy). Further, the few righteous disciples will be hunted down and killed. Why would knowing the timeline of the destruction of the Nephites be hidden knowledge? Knowledge brings accountability. This prophecy was also not essential for the Nephites and Lamanites to know. How would it benefit their salvation? How would it increase faith in Christ? It wouldn’t. It was the type of knowledge reserved for a few righteous individuals, those with solid spiritual development. What this means is that people were not ready for the revelation. This was like the revelation of the brother of Jared – specific revelation about future events; we still do not know what is contained in that revelation. Why do we not have access to that revelation? We are not ready and at this point it is not important for us. What is important for us to do is to have faith and do what is right. Light and knowledge will come as we demonstrate our faith over time.

Science and Religion

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In the late 1800s Edwin Abbott wrote a satirical novella called Flatland. While written as a commentary on Victorian society, physicists and mathematicians have used the concepts of the story to help explain higher dimensional space. In Flatland there are only two dimensions. Imagine the world as 2D – there are x and y axes but no z. The world would be like an infinitely thin sheet of paper. While such a world could be beautiful and rich, there is a depth missing that those of us who live in a three spatial dimension world (like we all do; 3 dimensions suffice for our discussion now unless we want to get into a discussion of some of the theories or propositions of theoretical physics, in which case there are some who believe that our universe has a number of other dimensions than the viewable three {and non-viewable one of time}). We, in our 3D world, can easily comprehend all of the 2D Flatland. However, Flatlanders cannot comprehend 3 dimensions. If a 3 dimensional being passed through Flatland, the Flatlanders would only see cross-sections of the 3 dimensional being. This would allow a glimpse of the being but not a full comprehension of him or her.

My point with all of this is that science is like Flatland. Religion turns the world of Flatland into our world – a world of 3 rich dimensions. The three dimensions fully encompass the 2 dimensional world of science. Science and religion are complementary. Let me qualify that statement – true science and true religion are complementary. Science has breath and height; religion adds depth. Science teaches us much but religion allows us to understand the world from a greater perspective. Having the 3rd dimension offers a perspective of and purpose for science that science cannot achieve by itself.

If (true) religion is inclusive of (true) science, why do we need science? Why then does religion not answer all the questions about the world and universe around us? Why does science provide so many answers that religion does not answer?

This stems from science and religion asking different questions. Science asks “Why?” and religion asks “What for?” Science uncovers knowledge, religion teaches wisdom. That is not to say that knowledge cannot be obtained from religion – it can, even to a greater extent than from science – but wisdom are seldom drawn from science.

Science teaches us about the world, the universe, our bodies, and all that is around us. Religion does this but with added meaning and morality. Science does not address meaning; it is also inherently amoral. That is one reason with human and animal research we have ethics boards to review research. Ethics are philosophical replacements for morality and religion. It is telling of science that we require additional philosophical frameworks (e.g., ethics) to provide guidelines for what is appropriate science when applied to human and animal research subjects. This shows that science without a foundation of morality (ethics are a branch of morality; someone can personally be amoral or immoral while still being ethical but ethics would not exist without morality; morality only exists because of religion and inspiration from God. Morality exists because of our consciences given unto us by God).

Science is important. There are few things in life that I love more than science. Science is what I do. However, I recognize its limitations. Religion, particularly the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, adds a richness to my life that science never could add. My religion and my faith teach me to be a better person, science just teaches me. I see no contest between science and religion – they are parts of the same whole. Science adds to my faith and my faith adds to my science. They are not separate spheres, they are overlapping and inseparable. For me, science would lose much richness without religion and my life would lose much richness without science.

The more I learn about the world, particularly the human brain – my own particular field of study – the more in awe I am of what God has created. Can we really fathom the human brain? Can we truly understand the 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections between neurons in the human central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)? What’s even more amazing is the ability of the brain to change – to learn and grow. It has infinite storage capacity. Think of that, our brains have the ability to continue to learn new things indefinitely. That does not happen in this life because of degeneration due to age but there is still no limit on what we can learn. In the post-mortal life we will have the ability to continue to progress in knowledge infinitely – spirit and body inseparably connected in an immortal form will be able to learn more faster than we now can.

I believe that science and religion go hand in hand. When there are clashes, that just demonstrates that we have more to learn doctrinally or scientifically. This means that if I ever had to choose between my faith and my science, I would choose my faith. Thankfully, I get to choose both because both add to my understanding of life. This is all why ongoing revelation and sensitivity to the Spirit of God is so important – it will guide us in all things. All things will be revealed at some point, most likely not in our lifetimes but in the post-mortal world. Then we will see with eyes unfettered. As our faith and even science are founded upon the rock of Christ we can continue to grow and progress to become more like Him, including knowing what He knows.

The Path To Christ

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The apostle Peter provided a blueprint of a holy house, a house wherein those who dwell become more like Christ.

“And beside this [giving up our sinful ways], giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

First, we need to act with diligence. We need to cease our sinning and follow the teachings and commandments of Christ. This takes tenacity and perseverance. As we start to follow the teachings of Christ and His prophets, we are blessed with faith.

Faith is just a start though. We need to add virtue to our faith. Virtue is goodness, it is chastity. It is being morally clean, in all the meanings of the word moral. Once we are filled with virtue we can gain knowledge (virtue could also be understood as priesthood power but that is not true to the underlying Greek {virtue in this verse is from the Greek areth meaning valor}; see Luke 8:46 {virtue in this verse comes from the Greek dunamin meaning power}).

So first faith, then virtue, then knowledge. Why is this order important? Nephi provides an answer: “O that cunning plan of the evil one [notice that Satan has a plan just as Father has 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). Without a foundation of faith and virtue (i.e., goodness, or even valor in living Truth), knowledge has a way of fostering pride; then knowledge profits nothing.

Diligence –> Faith –> Virtue –> Knowledge –> Temperance. Temperance is control, it is restraint. It is power over our appetites, passions, and desires. I think this is a natural progression from knowledge, even if it is not practiced as much as it should be practiced. We learn and grow and learn the value of moderation. Temperance is also important with knowledge because knowledge is power and without a virtuous foundation and without temperance, it can be easy to abuse knowledge. Part of learning temperance is learning self-restraint. Within the LDS Church we have Fast Sundays where part of our practice is to gain control over our appetites. We also are taught and given other reminders to be temperate in our physical appetites and passions.

To temperance we add patience. We can be patient in the midst of afflictions; we can be patient towards others; we can be patient in living our lives in the hope of Christ’s promised blessings. I’ve found that life flows more smoothly with patience.

Next, we add to patience, godliness. Godliness means having the characteristics and qualities of God, particularly, holiness. Holiness means that we consecrate all we have to God and to His work. It means that we rise above the sins of the world living sanctified lives. It means, for Latter-day Saints, attending the temple and remaining true to the covenants we make there.

Now, all the Christian characteristics so far have largely been focused on the self. That’s not what the gospel is about though; that’s not what being a disciple of Christ means. To truly be like Christ, we have to serve others. In order to serve others as Christ did, we need to develop brotherly kindness. We have to recognize that each individual is a child of God. That’s not just a nice phrase of hyperbole, it’s a phrase of literal truth. We are all children of God and should treat one another as such. If we are godly, we can develop a true brotherly kindness and strive to do good to all others, even those who do evil to us.

Lastly: Diligence –> Faith –> Virtue –> Knowledge –> Temperance –> Patience –> Godliness –> Brotherly Kindness –> Charity. The chief virtue is charity. This is the pure love of Christ: “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:47). Charity is without end, it will endure forever. Charity is much more than helping others, it is more than treating others well, it is a pure love that comes from God. Charity is a gift from God.

Peter lays out a clear path to Christ. The foundation is built on keeping His commandments and receiving His ordinances. As we are diligent in following the Savior, we can become more like Him, even becoming filled with charity. We will be able to bless the lives of those around us and have a desire to bless the whole world.

Seek Learning

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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.

Lessons from Life: Cockroaches – Part 2

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We can and must fight the encroaching evils that try to enter our lives. Killing one cockroach is much easier than trying to root out a nest of them if they become established. There is an oft quoted poetic verse by Alexander Pope that explains why we must root out sin in its infancy:

Sin is a vice of such frightful mean
That to be hated has but to be seen
But seen too often, and familiar with the face
We first abhor, and then endure, and then embrace (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man {1732}, epistle 2, lines 217–20, in The Complete Poetical Works of Pope, ed. Henry W. Boynton {1931}, 144.).

This may sound like a slippery slope fallacy but that pattern is demonstrable repeatedly throughout history. It does not take much reading of the Book of Mormon to see people have a cyclical relationship with good and evil. We see this also in the Bible – righteous Adam and Eve who then have descendants quickly turn to evil. Similarly, in secular history we see countless civilizations rising, waxing, waning, and dying only to have other civilizations fill the void. I am sure that if we had a clear understanding of history we would see that the destruction of civilizations would in many cases be tied to the wickedness of the people. That might be a gross generalization and we know that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people and with nations, sometimes the destruction of a civilization is due to the wickedness or ineptitude of the leaders and not necessarily the wickedness of the people; however, I am sure that if we correctly understood history (like we will in the next life) we will see how the wickedness of civilizations usually led to their destruction. What I think we will see is that every wicked civilization was or will be destroyed but not all destroyed civilizations were necessarily wicked.

The light of Christ is given to all that they might know good from evil. The light of Christ provides inspiration – both spiritual and secular. When people en masse reject this light, their righteous progress as civilizations and individuals slows, stops, and even reverses. Knowledge can be lost. The ancient American civilizations knew much about astronomy and math and science – things that their more modern descendants had lost. The same goes for the ancient Egyptians – they understood much about architecture and mathematics that future generations lost. Fortunately in our day we have better record-keeping and access to knowledge so knowledge is less likely to be lost but it still can be lost. The overwhelming amount of information and knowledge to which we have access can be a problem, however. Things that are most important and useful can be lost in the shuffle of what is most flashy and trendy.

I’ll close by quoting the prophet Jeremiah. He said that the wars and evils that came upon the Israelites was “because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers” (Jeremiah 44:3). When we worship and serve other gods (which will be the topic of an essay to follow) and let sin come crawling into our lives like cockroaches, we are speedily heading toward destruction – whether in this life or in the next.

Testimony

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To testify is to declare a belief about, of, or in something. It is to declare a fact or a truth about something. It is to witness your knowledge of the veracity of something. The word testimony is a noun so someone has a testimony or can declare their testimony by testifying. The word testimony comes from the Latin word testis meaning witness. It is also related to the Latin words for three and stand, implying that the testis, or witness, stands as another (third) witness. We are taught in the Old Testament – testament is the same word as testimony – as well as the New Testament and Doctrine & Covenants that there need to be multiple witnesses to establish the truth of an accusation or declaration; this includes God’s word, which shall be established by multiple witnesses (two or three; see Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; D&C; 6:28). It is in the bearing testimony of multiple witnesses that truth is established. Even the Godhead, though one in witness and purpose and glory, constitute multiple witnesses. When Jesus Christ was baptized, His Father bore witness to John the Baptist saying, “This is my beloved Son.” The Holy Ghost also descended like a dove to bear witness to John of the divinity of Jesus Christ. God’s pattern for testifying of His truths is well-established.

When Alma and Amulek started preaching to the people in the land of Ammonihah, the people were astonished that two people bore witness unto them: “And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused, and also of the things which were to come, according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them” (Alma 10:12). This is one reason LDS missionaries go out two by two – there are multiple people to bear witness, to share their testimony of the truths of the gospel.

In the October 2001 General Conference Elder Richard G. Scott gave this powerful teaching about testimony: “A strong testimony is the sustaining power of a successful life. It is centered in an understanding of the divine attributes of God our Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is secured by a willing reliance upon Them. A powerful testimony is grounded in the personal assurance that the Holy Ghost can guide and inspire our daily acts for good. A testimony is fortified by spiritual impressions that confirm the validity of a teaching, of a righteous act, or of a warning of pending danger. Often such guidance is accompanied by powerful emotions that make it difficult to speak and bring tears to the eyes. But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Scott; emphasis added).

Let me repeat: “[A testimony] is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.” A testimony is based on the goodness of our lives, of our characters, and our actions. Our testimonies are strengthened as we live in accordance to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. In fact, that is the surest way to gain a testimony! Live the gospel principles for which you strive to gain a testimony. If you want to have a testimony of tithing, pay it! If you want to have a testimony of Jesus Christ, live His teachings. If you want to have a testimony of anything else, do it. That is one reason we are taught in Alma 32 to “experiment upon the word.” As we test what God has told us, we can know of its truth.

I want to share an experience when my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith was strengthened. I’ll quote from my missionary journal: “Tonight we taught Sarah [name changed] the 1st discussion at the stake center. She bought us pizza! What an amazing discussion. Elders VanBebber, Malie, and I taught it. Sarah is amazing. (Today Elder Malie and I reviewed the 1st [discussion] for companionship study and how we can apply it to Sarah. While doing that I decided to use the Joseph Smith pamphlet and read the Joseph Smith history in the discussion, as we are supposed to [do] but do not always do). [Sarah] used to go to church when she was 8 or so (LDS Church) with some friends. She even wanted to be baptized but told [her mom] and [her mom] said she couldn’t go to that family’s house any more. What a change [Sarah’s mom] has gone through [we taught and baptized her previous to this experience]! I got to teach the Joseph Smith principle. Amazing! While I paused after the First Vision story, the Spirit hit me hard and I even started to cry. That is the first time that has happened to me – getting emotional like that in a discussion. As I testified of Joseph Smith I thought, ‘Now I can really, honestly, [and fully] say that I know Joseph Smith is a prophet.’ I have always known but now I KNOW! That feeling I received, I shall never forget nor deny.”

I have not forgotten that feeling, even 8+ years later. That was one of the singular moments in my life. As I wrote back as a missionary, I have always known Joseph Smith was a prophet. That’s not something I have ever doubted. My testimony of his calling as a prophet was based on years of going to church, reading the scriptures, praying, and learning about him. I saw and partook of the fruits the Lord restored through him to the earth. However, before that time I had not had a powerful singular experience like the one I had that evening. That does not mean I did not have a testimony before – I did – but it was strengthened considerably by that experience. What I did not write was how I had been reading my scriptures and praying with a sincere earnestness that I would receive a witness of the gospel. I had not just received that witness out of the blue, although that can happen; testimonies are most often gained through mighty prayer and righteous living. Sometimes – or most times – we must wrestle in prayer as we seek a witness of the truths of the gospel.

For any who want to receive a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel Elder Scott offers His apostolic counsel: “Try reading the Book of Mormon because you want to, not because you have to. Discover for yourself that it is true. As you read each page ask, ‘Could any man have written this book or did it come as Joseph Smith testified?’ Apply the teachings you learn. They will fortify you against the evil of Satan. Follow Moroni’s counsel. Sincerely ask God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, with real intent, if the teachings of the Book of Mormon are true (see Moro. 10:3–5). Ask with a desire to receive a confirmation personally, nothing doubting. There has to be an explanation of that book you can hold in your hand. I know that you can receive a spiritual confirmation that it is true. You will then know that Jesus Christ lives, that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church (see introduction to the Book of Mormon, especially the last paragraph). You will confirm that the Savior guides His Church through a living prophet. These truths will become a foundation for your productive life.” (Elder Scott, Ensign, November 2003).

I add my testimony to his that all can receive a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. We can all know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is God’s word. We can know that Jesus is Divine, the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh, our Savior and Redeemer. We can know that God has a plan for each of us and that plan is to return to live with Him again and to someday see Him as He really is. I know these things and testify of them in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Light of Truth – Part 2

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The prophet Joseph Smith taught us more on this topic of intelligence. I’m going to quote at length from Doctrine & Covenants 93 in order to provide some context. This will help us understand better what intelligence is and how it grows.

“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple. The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C; 93:28-36).

God organized us and taught us the plan that would allow us to progress and gain intelligence like His. Regardless of our starting intelligence or ability, we are able to grow and progress in this life and in the eternities (more so in the next life) to become like our Father. Again, I will repeat this point because it is important: regardless of our starting intelligence we can progress and gain intelligence like God’s! That is quite the blessing.

We add to our intelligence by study. How much we know is a component of intelligence. As we study, especially by faith, we gain more light. This light will be spiritual; it will also be temporal. The power of faith rends through the inky shroud of ignorance. It helps truth resonate in our minds and our spirits. I believe that much of the truths we discover in this life are actually un-covered, or more accurately, re-membered – brought back again to our memories. That is why some truths and knowledge resonate with us – we knew it in our life before this life. There are great blessings promised to those who seek and gain more intelligence. Pay attention to the key words in this passage:

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. 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. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C; 130:18-21; emphasis added).

The key words were diligence and obedience but the key word is obedience. We gain knowledge and intelligence through diligence and obedience – in fact we obtain all blessings from God by obedience. Knowledge and intelligence are blessings from God; He is the source of all Truth. As we are obedient to the principles and ordinances of the gospel we obtain more light and truth. As we are obedient to our pursuit of knowledge and intelligence, we will be blessed accordingly.

Link to part 1 of this essay.

Experiment Upon the Word, Part 5

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Education, as stated previously, is a major focus within the Church. We have been counseled to gain as much education as possible. It has always been a major focus within my family. It was expected that we would work hard in school, well at least do well in school. Both of my parents graduated from college. My father has a master’s degree and a JD. All of my siblings (there are 7 of us children) graduated high school, attended BYU, and graduated from BYU. Some of us have advanced degrees as do some of my brothers-in-law (I have a lot of sisters). I’m currently working towards a PhD. However, education does not stop there. Further, light and knowledge and truth do not come with degrees; in other words, you do not have to have any college degrees to learn. In fact, sometimes degrees get in the way of learning, at least learning what is really important.

As I wrote before, the most important education to receive – the most important knowledge to learn – is spiritual. “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. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:28-29). Worldly wisdom and learning are good only if they build upon and do not detract from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another reason for the strong focus on education within the LDS Church are the following verses in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. 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” (D&C; 130:18-19). Just as knowledge we gained in the previous life as spirit children of Heavenly Father continued to some degree with us in this life (i.e., what we have in this life is in part due to what we did in the premortal existence), so will our knowledge and faith gained and grown in this life rise with us in the next. I think it is important focus on the word rise in verse 18. Our intelligence will rise in the resurrection. It will grow and develop. Intelligence is not a static state – it is something that can grow and be nourished unto the perfect day.

The prophet Brigham Young taught much about education and learning. I’ll include a few key quotes. “Inasmuch as the Lord Almighty has designed us to know all that is in the earth, both the good and the evil, and to learn not only what is in heaven, but what is in hell, you need not expect ever to get through learning. Though I mean to learn all that is in heaven, earth, and hell. Do I need to commit iniquity to do it? No. If I were to go into the bowels of hell to find out what is there, that does not make it necessary that I should commit one evil, or blaspheme in any way the name of my Maker” (Discourses of Brigham Young {DBY}, p.249).

“Every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all science and art belongs to the Saints [i.e., we accept all good and all truth]” (DBY, p.253). “Our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular” (DBY, p.258).

“There is no ingenious mind that has ever invented anything beneficial to the human family but what he obtained it from the one Source, whether he knows or believes it or not. There is only one Source whence men obtain wisdom, and that is God, the Fountain of all wisdom; and though men may claim to make their discoveries by their own wisdom, by meditation and reflection, they are indebted to our Father in Heaven for all” (DBY, p.260).

Faith accepts all true science. Further, it is through our faith experiments that we not only nourish the tree of life but also the tree of knowledge. We accept all truth. As we experiment upon the word, the power of the word is revealed. This power is sharper than a two-edged sword; the power of the word is the power of eternal life. This powerful word is Truth. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we love truth. As Pres. George Q. Cannon said, “It is the truth and the truth only that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts, no matter where it is found” (as cited by Robert Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet, p.13).

Experiment Upon the Word, Part 4

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Faith experiments and science experiments are similar in some ways. One of the similarities is that both seek knowledge; rather, through both, the experimenter seeks knowledge. Because knowledge is so important, learning is a major part of both. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are commanded to seek wisdom and knowledge: “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). This verse relates perfectly to the faith experiment because it tells us that because “all have not faith” we need to seek wisdom and learning. Wisdom and learning help nourish the seed of faith, helping it grow.

Education is a vital part of life. Education is not just vital, life-long education is vital. We started learning as spirits living with our Heavenly Father. He taught us and had others teach us. We all progressed to various points, some learning more and some less than others. Then we came to earth, receiving bodies that allow us to continue to grow and progress. We also are able to learn spiritual and temporal things. Life-long education need not be formal, although receiving as much formal education as possible is a great goal. We can continue to learn and study on our own by seeking wisdom and knowledge out of the best books. We can and should study the gospel. We can and should study as many good topics as interest us.

Formal education is important because it helps teach you different ways of thinking. Learning in general exposes you to new ideas and new experiences, which help broaden your understanding of the world. Gaining a formal education also allows you to provide better for your self and your family. It also can lead to more free time with which you can do more church service. I’ve always thought it interesting how educated in general the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are. Most have higher education degrees and many have advanced degrees. Within the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, most have advanced degrees.

  • Pres. Monson has a bachelor’s in business from the University of Utah
  • Pres. Eyring has a doctorate in business administration from Harvard
  • Pres. Uchtdorf has a degree in business administration as well as being a highly respected military and commercial pilot
  • Pres. Packer has an Ed.D. from BYU
  • Elder Perry has a B.S. in business from Utah State University
  • Elder Nelson has an M.D. from the University of Utah and a PhD from the University of Minnesota – he is a world-renowned heart surgeon
  • Elder Oaks has a J.D. from the University of Chicago
  • Elder Ballard attended college but I’m not sure if he graduated – he was a successful businessman, however
  • Elder Scott has a bachelor’s degree but he also received the “equivalent to a doctorate in nuclear engineering at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, but due to the classified nature of the work, a formal university degree could not be awarded” (Source)
  • Elder Hales has an MBA from Harvard
  • Elder Holland has a PhD in American Studies from Yale
  • Elder Bednar has a PhD in organizational behavior from Purdue
  • Elder Cook has a JD from Stanford
  • Elder Christofferson has a JD from Duke
  • Elder Andersen has an MBA from Harvard

That’s quite a list of education accomplishments (and I didn’t even touch their other accomplishments). 11 of the 15 apostles (Quorum of Twelve plus the First Presidency) have advanced/professional degrees or the equivalent thereof. However, the greatest accomplishments these men have experienced are at home and in their church service. Every one of them gave up their careers in order to answer the call to full-time church. They do set a wonderful example of education and the life-long pursuit of learning. Contrast the current apostles’ education with that of Joseph Smith. He had little formal education but he continued to study and learn his whole life. He learned new languages; he studied the sciences; but most importantly, he studied the scriptures and the gospel; he was taught directly by angels as well as the Savior. He was one of the most intelligent and understanding men of all time.