Friday, March 26, 2010

Seek Ye Diligently...

December 17, 2009
by Tim Barker

D&C 88:118
In December 1832 and January 1833, Joseph Smith received a revelation, known to us today as Doctrine & Covenants section 88, and known to early Latter-day Saints as the “Olive Leaf” revelation. Within this revelation, the Lord told Joseph, “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). Joseph Smith described this particular revelation as “the olive leaf which we have plucked from the tree of paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us…we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Lord approves of us, and has accepted us, and established his name in Kirtland for the salvation of the nations; for the Lord will have a place, from whence his word will go forth, in these last days, in purity…” Joseph then adds, “the Lord commanded us, in Kirtland, to build an house of God, and establish a school for the prophets.”1 While it is not within the scope of this talk to go into much detail regarding the context of the School of the Prophets, or of the Temple, it is important to note that learning by study and faith was to be an integral part of the preparation process for the Temple endowment, and some of this preparation took place within the School of the Prophets, and subsequently, the School of the Elders.

As prefaced in the scripture, the purpose of learning and teaching, was related to the fact that “all have not faith.” Evidence of the Saints obedience to the Lord’s revelation can be found in the organization of the School of the Prophets and in the 1834-1835 theological courses wherein they commenced their catechumen with the Lectures on Faith – seven treatises presumably composed by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon2 – regarding faith unto salvation. This effort answering to Paul’s statement that “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Additionally, however, the School of the Prophets included secular learning, including the study of penmanship, English, Hebrew, grammar, arithmetic, philosophy, literature, government, geography, and history.3 This, then, indicating that the saints understood this scripture to include secular and higher learning, while the overall intent was to build faith. While the revelation was directed to those in Kirtland, Ohio at the time, the history and evolution of the school of the prophets reflects how the revelation has been applied to subsequent generations. Several scholars have pointed out that what began as the School of the Prophets has eventually evolved into the Church Education System,4 where CES Institute classes are now offered at many universities, and where Church-owned universities have spiritual learning incorporated into secular teaching.

It appears then, that there are two sides to this scripture – the secular and the spiritual; however, Brigham Young pointed out that in reality there is only one side. “I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrines. We believe it, it is ours, we claim it.”5 Why is that? It is because Mormonism, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, embraces all truth. Whether it is the laws of physics or world history, all truth of facts as they exist, are embraced within this gospel. This idea is further elaborated on by our late President, Gordon B. Hinckley:

This restored gospel brings not only spiritual strength, but also intellectual curiosity and growth. Truth is truth. There is no clearly defined line of demarcation between the spiritual and the intellectual when the intellectual is cultivated and pursued in balance with the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and strength....The Lord Almighty, through revelation, has laid a mandate upon this people…6

Here, President Hinckley recites our scripture at hand, D&C 88:118, and then in demonstrating his own pursuit of learning, President Hinckley discusses a book that he had read regarding another Latter-day Saints’ active pursuit of gaining knowledge.

The other evening I picked up a new publication of the writings of Dr. Hugh Nibley, a man my age whom I have known and admired for many years. On the dust jacket of the book I read these words:

As a young man he memorized vast portions of Shakespeare and studied Old English, Latin, Greek, and other languages. As a student at Berkeley, he began reading at the southwest corner of the ninth level of the library and worked his way down to the northeast corner of the first level, studying every significant book that caught his eye.”7

His encyclopedic knowledge has given him tremendous and well-deserved status among his academic peers. It also has made him a powerful advocate of the work of the Lord. His appetite for learning has been whetted by the gospel he loves.

President Hinckley continues

….The mind of man is the crowning creation of God, in whose express image man was made. The development of the mind is a companion responsibility to the cultivation of the spirit, as set forth in the revealed principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.8

This example of seeking learning also demonstrates the reward of seeking. The reward being the extensive knowledge and increased spirituality that comes from obedience to the Lord. On the other end of the spectrum are those who put forth little to no effort. This may be attributable to several reasons, including indifference, lack of adequate time, or mental inhibitions. Regarding the latter, the Lord has given us a commandment to seek diligently with a promise that we will find (D&C 88:63, 118) and that the Lord will prepare a way for us to accomplish all that He has commanded us. (1 Nephi 3:7) Regarding the lack of time, it should be noted that we always seem to make time for the things we love. Where we lack the love necessary to make time, we should pray for this gift. Regarding the problem of indifference, again we should pray for the spirit to inspire us. We should also consider the words of Prof. B.M. Jacobson who discussed “Bad Mental Habits and Hints For Their Cure” in a Seventies meeting, years ago; he said, “the world is full of important and wonderful things. Get interested.”9

It should be as easy as that. When our learning is coupled with faith, we can then understand how the Christian author, Mr. Arthur Custance, felt when writing of his conversion to Christianity and the love of learning. He said, “it was…as if God had placed [me] in the hub of the wheel and now all of the spokes connected.”10 To him, all subjects became interesting because they were all connected, and all truths, or spokes, centered on the hub, which center and hub is really Christ and His gospel. This is the same passion that Hugh Nibley shared, and it is the same passion that President Hinckley enjoyed. President Hinckley further described the environment in which he grew up and stated that he was thankful to his parents for providing a home, “…in which we were reared, [with] good things to read.” Says he, “We had a library in that home with more than a thousand volumes….I do not wish to convey the idea that as children we read extensively in our father’s books. But they provided an environment. We saw our father and mother read, and they read to us. It did something of an indefinable nature. It gave us a familiarity with good books. We felt at home and at ease with them. They were not strangers to us. They were as friends, willing to give to us if we were willing to make a little effort. In addition to such books we had the Church magazines. Our parents read them and read to us from them.”11 This brings up another point that was revealed by the Lord that parents are to teach their children the Gospel. (D&C 68:25-28) This can best be done by providing the appropriate literature from which to learn. President Thomas S. Monson taught that the home is the best place for this education. “A…hallmark of a happy home is discovered when home is a library of learning…the Lord counseled [D&C 88:118] The standard works offer the library of learning of which I speak. We must be careful not to underestimate the capacity of children to read and to understand the word of God.”12

At this point it is important to contrast the difference between worldly truth and knowledge versus the truth and knowledge that will lead to salvation. Certainly there are truths which are insignificant in comparison with those truths revealed by the Lord through his servants, the prophets. (Amos 3:7) Paul wrote to Timothy regarding those in the latter-days who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) The question must be asked, why are they never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth? And in Jacob’s teachings to the Nephites he admonished “to be learned is good, if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:29) We also ask here, why is learning good only if we hearken to God’s counsels? We may suppose that the answer to the first question relates to what and how one studies. If the subject of study does not lead one to Christ, and if their studies do not include the exercise of faith, the conclusion is like that that given to Alice by the Cheshire cat:

Alice asked, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”13

Those who are “ever learning” are sure to get “somewhere,” but without a focal point, and that focus being on salvation through Christ, they will continue to learn much but will never come to the “knowledge of truth” that Paul referred to. Additionally, Jacob answers our second question by asserting that learning without obedience to the knowledge gained, can be a device of the devil:

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)

President N. Eldon Tanner spoke of those who have obtained this wisdom which the world provides, but have never learned the essential spiritual knowledge obtained through religion. He states, “They say one should keep an open mind and learn all the truth one can, yet they close their minds when it comes to the subject of religion. I want to emphasize too that a scientist who is trained in one field of science is not always an authority in another field. How ridiculous is it, then, for one who is learned in the things of this world to consider himself an authority in religion, or to think that his lack of learning in religion or understanding of the gospel is justification for him to claim that it is not true and to ridicule those who believe.”14 From the foregoing we can understand that worldly knowledge in itself is insufficient. Regarding the statement made by Joseph Smith that “a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge,”15 we must also understand, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell pointed out that “our being saved by gaining knowledge obviously refers to a particular form of knowledge….therefore, gaining knowledge and becoming more Christlike are two aspects of a single process. This process is part of being valiant in our testimony of Jesus. Thus, while we are saved no faster than we gain a certain type of knowledge, it is also the case that we will gain knowledge no faster than we are saved!”16 Additionally, Elder Maxwell adds, “…the gospel is inexhaustible because there is not only so much to know but also so much to become. The vital truths are not merely accumulated in the mind but are expressed in life as well.”17

This then, provides a window to understanding how we are to seek learning, not only by study, but also by faith. The Lord declared, “For of him unto whom much is given, much is required….” (D&C 82:3) We are to grow by degrees; “line upon line, and precept upon precept.” (2 Nephi 28:30; Isaiah 28:13) Peter said, “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) These steps are precursors, according to Peter, to make our calling and our election sure. (2 Peter 1:10) Abraham provided the example for us in seeking knowledge and faith. Once he discovered the gospel, he said, “…having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge…I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” (Abraham 1:2) Thus, we may grow in light as the Lord has said, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day,” (D&C 50:24) until the Lord allows us to see all things. But this light doesn’t come by gaining knowledge alone; it comes from obedience to the light which we receive. We are promised that “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) While we can only speculate regarding how we will be advantaged, one thing we can be certain is that there is a “hierarchy of truth”18 and those truths, and that knowledge, relevant to the Lord’s Gospel, will provide the greatest advantage.

Returning to the components of our scripture and the individual and collective pursuit of faith and knowledge, there are 5 essential ingredients in this scriptural recipe:
  • Diligence
  • Teaching “words of wisdom”
  • Obtaining “words of wisdom” from the best books
  • Seeking learning – by study
  • Seeking learning – by faith

Let us not pass over too lightly the significance that the Lord places on certain doctrines and principles through the use of adjectives. The Lord emphasizes diligence in obedience to his commandments in numerous scriptural instances. The Olive Leaf revelation includes instruction to “seek me diligently,” “teach ye diligently,” and “labor diligently.” (D&C 88:63, 78, 84) Regarding the Laodiceans, the Lord reveals through John: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) In other words, mediocrity doesn’t cut it when the Lord gives us instruction. He wants all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. (D&C 4:2; Matthew 22:36-39) We usually interpret this scripture as implying that we’ll go where the Lord wants us to go, say what the Lord wants us to say, and be what the Lord wants us to be, but we should also consider that we need to know what the Lord wants us to know.19 As Elder McConkie stated, “if we are to have faith like that of Enoch and Elijah, we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.”20 The Lord gave a revelation through Joseph Smith to his brother Hyrum that before he sought to declare the Word, or in other words, say what the Lord wanted him to say, he was to first seek to obtain the Word, or know what the Lord wanted him to know. (D&C 11:21)21

Nephi admonishes us to “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ.” (2 Nephi 31:20) Elder Maxwell similarly describes secular vs. spiritual learning in these terms: “…our consuming of certain information is like consuming our daily bread. We need it, but it is perishable. We will soon hunger again. Instead, the Bread of Life is inexhaustible.”22 Diligent study of His Gospel will satisfy our spiritual appetites and we’ll find that an abundance of spiritual meat and milk as Paul described is available at this feast. (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Cor 3:2; 2 Nep 26:25) Once we have partaken of the feast, we can describe as Joseph did that, “This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life…”23 A brief example of diligent scripture study is found in the life of Spencer W. Kimball. His biographer stated, “In May 1975, while the Kimballs were visiting the Dean Curtis family in Arizona, Dean got up about 6:00 A.M., thinking to be the first one stirring, only to find Spencer in a corner of the living room reading the scriptures.”24 Another example of a scriptural feast is found in the conversion story of Parley P. Pratt. In his autobiography, he stated:

I opened [the Book of Mormon] with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep. As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life.25

Teach one another “words of wisdom”

If Paul rhetorically asks, “where is the wise?” And also asked, “…hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?,” (1 Corinthians 1:20) than what are the words of wisdom we are supposed to teach one another? Those who were called “wise men” in the scriptures were those who saw the sign and sought Christ. (Matthew 2:1-2) Likewise, true words of wisdom will be those words that lead all mankind towards Christ. As the Lord is the One who has all wisdom, therefore, all of His words should be sought after. Our teachings then, should consist of His Words, whether historically recorded, or presently given through the Holy Ghost. As the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38) The reason it is the same is because when His servants speak His words, they are speaking by the influence of the Holy Ghost which “giveth utterance.” (D&C 14:8) As His servants have taught us in these last days, the purpose of the church is to proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, and redeem the dead. Proclaiming the gospel is headed by 19 to 21 year-olds that would certainly be destined for failure if the Lord was not the author of the message and the Holy Ghost their companion. In perfecting the saints, we meet together and sustain our teachers who are called through inspiration of the Holy Ghost and in some cases direct revelation from the Lord. We redeem the dead as they receive the ordinances in the House of the Lord vicariously and are endowed from on high, and where they receive instruction from the Most High. In each of these instances, the words of wisdom, are the words of Him who is all-wise and all-knowing.

Paul has said that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) As the proverb states, the “fear of the Lord” or humility, is the beginning to obtaining wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7) We are instructed to “be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8) Additionally, the Proverbs state “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)

Obtaining “words of wisdom” from the best books

So we finally get to the question that was begging to be asked: which books are best? If we were to judge based on the Harris Poll conducted in March 2008, we’d find a variety of books ranked as America’s favorites, including Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and others. While these books have their time and place, they are stories for leisure reading, and are inadequate in providing the right kind of knowledge we are diligently seeking. With the abundance of books available to us, it is easy to be overwhelmed, and especially difficult to find a starting point; we certainly don’t want to waste time reading the wrong books. Well hath the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “…of making many books there is no end…” In discussing this abundance, President Ezra Taft Benson stated that “it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read….Feed only on the best. As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, increases the authority of the body over the mind.’”26 Within President Hinckley’s home, he mentioned a library of over one-thousand volumes. President Hinckley says that while our children are “…very young, read to them the great stories which have become immortal because of the virtues they teach. Expose them to good books. Let there be a corner somewhere in your house, be it ever so small, where they will see at least a few books of the kind upon which great minds have been nourished.”27 The fact that classic literature is implied here is relevant to studying the best books as indicated by the Lord in the Olive Leaf revelation that we are to 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 [us] 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.” (D&C 88:78-79)

Within this instruction provided by the Lord, there is no mistaking that our studies should be religiously focused. As previously quoted, President Monson informs us that the hallmark of a happy home is a library of learning, and the standard works provide that library. Included in the previously mentioned Harris Poll results, the Bible is the number one favorite book among Americans surveyed. Certainly, the results would also include the additional scriptures brought forth in this dispensation, if those surveyed had read and were familiar with the Lord’s dealings with those peoples in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and more recently, in the Doctrine & Covenants. The canon is our greatest library as it contains the greatest compilation of God’s words to man.

To those who feel overwhelmed by the grandeur of gospel library, Wilford Woodruff has offered the following counsel:

Do not be discouraged because you cannot learn all at once; learn one thing at a time, learn it well, and treasure it up, then learn another truth and treasure that up, and in a few years you will have a great store of useful knowledge which will not only be a great blessing to yourselves and your children, but to your fellow men.28

And to those who stubbornly refuse to believe that the scriptures can provide continued enlightenment through repetitious reading and place their own roadblock on the path of spiritual enlightenment, their spiritual learning as well as their spiritual faith, hit the brick wall, so to speak, while those who continue a frequent and diligent study of the scriptures find, as expressed by Elder Oaks and Elder Scott, that the scriptures become a personal Urim and Thummim for continuing personal revelation.29 Those who are diligent will find with joy that the gospel, as described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell is “inexhaustible”30 where we can continually seek higher spheres of “greater happiness…peace…righteousness…and…knowledge” as described by Abraham. (Abraham 1:2)

Regarding the importance of these books, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Marriner W. Merrill and other General Authorities have stated that there is still something greater than the scriptures. In 1897, Wilford Woodruff described an experience that occurred when the Saints were still in Kirtland, Ohio. He said:

Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.” “And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.”31

In another instance, Brigham said, “If you have these living oracles with you they are better to you than all that has ever been written from the days of Adam until now.”32 The living oracles are those who speak the mind and will of the Lord. They are the living prophets and apostles whom the Lord has called and chosen in our generation, and specifically to us, those living now. I have made it a personal goal to obtain all books written about or by the apostles and prophets in this dispensation. While Joseph said that “a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such,”33 even their non-authoritative writings certainly provide us with righteous instruction as they have been able to drink closer to the fountain spring of Living Waters. Certainly, a collection of books, magazines, or talks from the Lord’s anointed provides essential reading. Whether we are enrolled in formal education, in institutes of religion, or whether we are autodidacts, we need to continually seek further light from the “light of truth” which is the “light of Christ,” (D&C 88:6,13) and further knowledge from Him who “knowest all things.” (John 16:30)

Seek learning by study

Previously quoted was Ecclesiastes 12:12, regarding “of making many books there is no end…”. Continuing to the end of that verse, it reads, “and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) While continuous physical study can take a toll on our mortal bodies, as previously quoted the Lord wants all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. However physically taxing the pursuit of learning is upon our minds and bodies, the Lord wants us to give our all. Though the sacrifice can seem overwhelming, we need to consider the teachings of Brigham Young on the matter. He said:

Now, you Elders who understand the principles of the kingdom of God, what would you not give, do, or sacrifice, to assist in building up His kingdom upon the earth? Says one…“I would sacrifice all my property.” Wonderful indeed! Do you not know that the possession of your property is like a shadow, or the dew of the morning before the noon-day sun, that you cannot have any assurance of its control for a single moment! It is the unseen hand of Providence that controls it. In short, what would you sacrifice? The Saints sacrifice everything; but, strictly speaking, there is no sacrifice about it. If you give a penny for a million of gold! a handful of earth for a planet! a temporary worn out tenement for one glorified, that will exist, abide, and continue to increase throughout a never ending eternity, what a sacrifice to be sure!34

As if that weren’t enough, we recall the great sacrifice of the Savior and the stinging, but comforting words He spoke to Joseph Smith: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8) Previously mentioned was that D&C 88:118 was relevant to the organization of the School of the Prophets, and the instruction received by those students from the Lectures on Faith. As taught in these temple and missionary preparation courses, it was said, “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation;” the Prophet directly linking sacrifice with faith. Continuing on, it was said that when “a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.”35 This diligence and devotion leads us to our subsequent step:

Seek learning by faith

After all is said and done, as Joseph Smith taught, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”36 In the case of Ezekiel, Lehi, and John the Revelator, they have the best scenario for any religious book lover, as they were able to obtain divine teaching and read heavenly books. In each instance, an angel brought a message for these prophets to read, and these messages were contained in heavenly books. While everybody would surely like the visit of an angel, we should consider for a moment the significance of having a greater source, even a member of the Godhead to provide us with divine instruction. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and as explained by President Joseph F. Smith, the gift of the Holy Ghost “simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment.”37 Joseph Smith metaphorically stated that the Holy Ghost is the oldest book in the world and said, “I thank God I have got the oldest book in the world and the Holy Ghost. I thank Him for the old book, but more for having the oldest book in my heart—the gift of the Holy Ghost.”38

To me, an appropriate definition of faith is the exercise of belief in Christ and His gospel. It is more than lip service, and more than believing. It is giving of the heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord. When we study the Word of God, and when we study the wisdom of the world, we need to become more Christlike, as Elder Maxwell previously stated; they are two aspects of a single process. And as Paul said we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” (Colossians 3:10) and we are to be “conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:29) In other words, if we are to become more like Him who is all-knowing, we must treasure up the knowledge of truth so that we become closer to knowing all, be it ever mortally impossible, until we are conformed to his image through the atonement so that we may have treasures laid up in heaven, hereafter. (Matthew 6:20)

Ultimately, the purpose of this scripture was to prepare the Elders and the Saints for a temple endowment so that they might declare the gospel. It was just as Abraham described, that after obtaining great knowledge and great righteousness, we are to seek after greater knowledge and greater righteousness. (Abraham 1:2) This higher learning is to be received in the Holy Temple of God. Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

The temple is a great school. It is a house of learning. In the temples the atmosphere is maintained so that it is ideal for instruction in matters that are deeply spiritual.

The temple ceremony will not be fully understood at first experience. It will only be partly understood. Return again and again and again. Return to learn. Things that have troubled you or things that have been puzzling or things that have been mysterious will become known to you.

Many of them will be the quiet, personal things that you really cannot explain to anyone else. But to you they are things known…

So look toward the temple. Point your children toward the temple. From the days of their infancy, direct their attention to it, and begin their preparation for the day when they may enter the holy temple.

In the meantime, be teachable yourself, be reverent. Drink deeply from the teachings—the symbolic, deeply spiritual teachings—available only in the temple.39

As stated in the Olive Leaf revelation, this is to be a house of faith, a house of learning, and a house of glory. (D&C 88:119) Additionally in this revelation, it is stated that if our eyes are single to His glory, our “whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:67-68) The exercise of faith with our hearts, our might, our minds, and our strength will bring us the fullness of the atonement, because we will find that we are at one with the Lord, having our hearts pure as His is, our might increased to endure to the end, our minds full of the knowledge of truth, and our strength sufficient to “succor the weak, [to] lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5) We will see the atonement fulfilled because we will be like Him, as opposed to those who did not exercise faith, as described by King Benjamin, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 4:13)


In opening it was stated that the Olive Leaf revelation was “plucked from the tree of paradise.” In closing we should consider that whether this leaf was symbolically from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the tree of life, it is no matter, since both trees play a role in bringing men closer to God. The tree of knowledge brings us discernment between good and evil. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…” (Genesis 3:22) As the prophet Omni said, “there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil.” (Omni 1:25) The scriptures and best books teach us the difference between good and evil and lead us toward eternal life. If the leaf comes from the tree of life, we will understand like Nephi that the meaning of this tree “is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men…” (1 Nephi 11:22) The love of God being exemplified in its fullness in Christ’s sacrifice for us, which turns the key and opens the door for all to have immortality and eternal life. President John Taylor stated:

When Adam was driven from the Garden, an angel was placed with a flaming sword to guard the way of the tree of life, lest man should eat of it, and become immortal in his degenerate state, and thus be incapable of obtaining that exaltation, which he would be capable of enjoying through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and the power of the resurrection, with his renewed and glorified body. Having tasted of the nature of the fall, and having grappled with sin and misery, knowing like the gods both good and evil, having like Jesus overcome the evil, and through the power of the atonement, having conquered death, hell, and the grave, he regains that Paradise, from which he was banished, not in the capacity of ignorant man, unacquainted with evil, but like unto a god. He can now stretch forth, and partake of the tree of life, and eat of its fruits, and live and flourish eternally in possession of that immortality which Jesus long ago promised to the faithful: “To him that overcomes, will I grant to sit with me in my throne; and eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.40

President Gordon B. Hinckley suggests that we “follow that injunction give[n] by the Son of God. [“Learn of me.”] With all of your learning, learn of him. With all of your study, seek knowledge of the Master. That knowledge will complement in a wonderful way the secular training you receive and give a fullness to your life and character that can come in no other way.”41

1 Times & Seasons Vol 5, No 22, 720
2 Larry E. Dahl, “Lectures on Faith,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 818-821
3 Steven R. Sorenson, “Schools of the Prophets,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1269
4 Bruce R. Satterfield, “The History of Adult Education in Kirtland, Ohio 1833-1837,” Dissertation (Univ. Idaho), 11-12
5 Journal of Discourses, 13:335 (hereafter JD)
6 “Come and Partake” by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1986, 46
7 Old Testament and Related Studies, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986
8 “Come and Partake” by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1986, 46
9 Lundwall Collection; Gerber 1:180
10 (Oct 2008)
11 “Tithing: An Opportunity to Prove Our Faithfulness” Ensign, May 1982, 40
12 General Conference Oct 1988, 81-82; Ensign, Nov 1988, 70
13 Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 81-82
14 “First Presidency Message: Right Answers,” Ensign, Oct 1973, 2
15 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 217 (hereafter TPJS)
16 “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Ensign, Apr 1993, 68
17 Ibid
18 Ibid
19 Verbiage is taken from LDS Church Hymn 270 “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go”
20 “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” General Conference April 1985, as published in A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, xv
21 Word play based on John chapter 1
22 “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Ensign, Apr 1993, 68
23 TPJS, 355
24 Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, 51
25 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 31-32
26 “In His Steps” 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year, 1980, 61
27 “Opposing Evil,” General Conference October 1975, 57; Ensign, Nov 1975, 39
28 Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 269
29 Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan 1995, 7. “We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation.” See also Richard G. Scott, “The Power of the Book of Mormon in My Life,” Ensign, Oct 1984, 7. “I bear witness that it can become a personal Urim and Thummim in your life.”
30 “The Inexhaustible Gospel,” Ensign, Apr 1993, 68
31 General Conference, Oct 1897, 22-23
32 Brigham Young Addresses 3:33
33 TPJS, 278
34 JD 1:114; discourse given February 27, 1853
35 Lectures on Faith, 6:7 (pg 69)
36 TPJS, 190
37 Gospel Doctrine, 60-61
38 “King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text,” BYU Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 10
39 The Holy Temple (Pamphlet), 6-8
40 The Government of God, 118
41 General Conference October 1964, 118

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