Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the LDS apologist colleagues who have lost their footing and left the Church. I won’t name names, but I am saddened by the loss (theirs and ours) and have long pondered how it could happen.
So it happens that several decades ago, when I began scouring ancient texts and discussing the gospel with anti-Mormons and others, my father warned me to be careful. Yet, I have always felt it a mission to do the studying. My patriarchal blessing tells me several times to study and learn; that my life’s work will be based on it. So I have followed the path the best I can.
I must admit that some things I’ve studied about Church history have left a bad taste in my mouth (such as MMM), but nothing that would have me walk away from it. I’ve also noted on occasion how some apologists try so very hard to brace up a theory that just doesn’t seem to be holding its own weight very well anymore.
In looking at my own past story and that of my fallen collagues, D&C 88:118 came to mind:
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. (see also D&C 109:7, 14)
Here we have a passage that I’ve considered in a variety of ways before. Now, it seems to speak to me in a new way. When it tells us to “seek out of the best books”, does that mean any scholarly path or document is okay? Or must I be selective, choosing “good, better, best” means to grow in the paths God wants me to? Second, we can understand “by study” alright. However, how do we “seek learning…by faith”?
It hit me that perhaps this is where many that fall away get lost in the first place. When a scholar learns too much by study, and little or none by faith, he does not maintain the balance between brain and spirit, man’s knowledge and spiritual experience. This holds true for the average member, who reads something shocking on the Internet (Joseph had more than one wife????!!!!) and suddenly “loses” his testimony.
I believe such people have not given enough focus on “learning…by faith.” When we learn of something that shocks us, what kind of faith knowledge do we have to lean upon to protect our fragile testimonies? For me, when I ponder the problems with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP), polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Book of Abraham papyri, Adam-God theory, etc., I know I need to also spend as much (or more) time focusing on the spiritual experiences that have taught me what to believe regarding the foundational teachings of the gospel.
I believe God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, not because of anything I’ve studied in books, but because of my studying by faith. Renewing those experiences by remembering them, just as I should remember the things I read in history books, is very important to our maintaining a testimony in tough times.
On the other side of this, too many members are NOT studying out of the best books. Too few read their scriptures. Too few study the General Conference talks. Too few study
“… 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 88:78–80)
Few realize that verse 81 then tells us to go and warn our neighbor, as what we should do AFTER we have prepared ourselves by studying! Too many of our members are ill prepared to warn their neighbors, simply because they don’t know the scriptures, do not know the gospel, and do not know what is going on in the world around them.
We should be the most educated and knowledgeable people on earth, regarding both learning by study and learning by faith.