Seek learning, even by study and by faith

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.

10 thoughts on “Seek learning, even by study and by faith

  1. Rame, for me the best strategy has been: remember the joy the Church has brought you and the sorrow before you were a Church member. When you encounter something that seems to challenge the Church, your default position should be that you put it in the mental category of: “I don’t understand this yet, but I will approach it from a position of faith first.” This seems to work for me. I think it is often terrestrial hubris that tells us that our human minds must be able to understand the ways and means of God.

  2. I have family members who have drifted away, one claiming that she was so offended by polygamy etc. she could no longer remain a memebr and another because he simply never truly “got religion.” It is very hard to deal with both cases as they are now in the 50′s and can no longer learn anything about the Church and its teachings. There are some people whose temperaments prevent them from progressing. Perhaps that is their fate, but still, it is sad to watch them adopt worldly ways having lost their way in life.

  3. I think this dichotomy is reflected in everything – some of God and some of earthiness in all we are doing here. It is only when we wrap the two together and tie them with a mantle of covenant that we have true wisdom. Many times when I have entered with prayer into a scholarly study, I have felt revelation about what is there, either clarification, further understanding, a testimony that it is true, or a testimony that it is narrow and misguided. With this process, learning as Joseph did by both study and faith, we are less shaken by anything we discover either by study or by faith.

  4. Very good post Ram,

    From my viewpoint, I think a huge dose of humility would help folks out here. Unfortuneately, today’s academia does not teach humility. They don’t teach, “Just because I can’t understand or comprehen or fathom it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

    So often I have conversations with militant atheists who refuse to see the other side. They then proclaim themselves more tolerant. They proclaim themselves “winners” of unfair arguments where they define themselves as the victors.

    I don’t see why we play their game at all.

  5. h_nu,
    I agree that some militant atheists take that approach. However, many Christians (including some LDS) take a militant stance regarding Creationism or some other Biblical interpretation, as well. We do no one a favor when we insist on limiting God’s truth by accepting something else in its place. Instead, we should accept the concept that the gospel embraces all truth, regardless of where we get it: scripture or science.

  6. Hi Rame,
    Excellent post and conversation. I think your thinking on this matter is related to my latest post on depression and Toxic Perfectionism. I have seen when members have left the church, even though they state some doctrinal/historical issue in related to the church, the change of heart was proceeded by a social incident of shaming/bullying, or a trial they could not come to terms with. Toxic Perfectionism causes the spirit to leave and when it does, a wedge can easily be inserted in a once strong tree. This example was cited by Spencer W Kimball in a Conference talk titled Hidden Wedges.

  7. Johnna,
    Thanks. I agree there is a connection with your article (which was excellent, BTW).
    Not only do we feel we must be hyper-perfect, but that the Church leaders, the Church, and the gospel we currently have must be hyper-perfect.

    We need to not look at such like a football game, where we seek to always be in the endzone, competing against the #1 team for points and who will win. Instead, we should consider it as a marathon, where we spend our time in the journey: often stumbling, often wanting to give up, refreshed by the occasional cup of water or juice someone hands us. And we do not need to be the first across the finish line. We just have to finish.

  8. Lovely lovely insight Rame. You have hit the nail on the head, we expect hyper-perfection from ourselves as well as the church. I think you have it figured out, the key to people leaving the church for historical or doctrinal issues, that truly have nothing to trials or bullying; OCD/toxic perfectionism can cause apostasy.

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