Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Acquiring Gospel Knowledge / Becoming a Gospel Scholar

Editor's note: This is number 28 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne, sharing quotes from his book, Determining Doctrine: A Reference Guide for Evaluating Doctrinal Truth. You can read the introductory post here. The first part of each post is a new introduction, placing the quotes in context with contemporary issues. The quotes that then follow are from the Determining Doctrine book, which contains many quotes that are not readily available elsewhere or are exclusive to the book.

This lifetime pursuit—gaining spiritual knowledge and experience—is the great inoculator/cure for doubt. Knowledge of Heavenly things is what gives obedient and faithful gospel students an advantage in the next life (see D&C 130:19).

People who leave this life educated/experts in finance, science, sales, medicine, construction, computers, war, politics, engineering, mechanics, and a thousand other fields, will find that their earthly knowledge is largely useless on the other side of the veil. Activists and protesters will find their zeal for worldly causes worse than useless.

What in all eternity could be of more use on the other side than the abilities and talents and knowledge that a missionary-preacher possesses? In a place where missionary and family history work and gospel instruction are the main labors, most other fields will fade into insignificance.

            Both in mortality and in the next life, faith, repentance, spiritual experience and doctrinal knowledge keep one grounded, stable, sanctified, guided, and coming ever closer to entering into the “rest of the Lord.” Those without such faith in God and grounding in the scriptures face much greater peril and danger from the Tempter and his many mortal agents. Ancient Israel’s greatest prophet Moses proclaimed his great desire—“would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29.)

Joseph Fielding McConkie:

            Indeed, every member of the Church has an equal responsibility to know and understand the truth. Similarly, each one has equal access to it. We were all taught the gospel long before we were born, we all receive the same promise of direction and companionship when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and we all receive the same endowment of power from on high when we go through the temple. Further, we all have the same right to approach our Father in Heaven in prayer, and we have all been given the same scriptures. Wearied by my endless questions, my father [Bruce R. McConkie] once said to me, “Look, Junior, you have the same sources available to you that I have available to me.” The promise of the Lord to reveal the mysteries of heaven has nothing to do with office, position, station in society, or gender. It has everything to do with the desires of our hearts and our willingness to love and serve the Lord (see D&C 76:5-10). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998], 15.)

Mark E. Petersen:

            If we are eventually to become perfect as God is perfect, then our learning must go on and on continuously. We must have an almost insatiable desire for more knowledge and more learning. The important thing, though, is that we must make sure that our knowledge is good knowledge, that it is uplifting knowledge, that we get facts and not theory. We must have the facts. If we learn mistaken notions, we get off on a tangent. It is only the truth that keeps us on the track, and, therefore, we must be highly selective in the kinds of books we read and in the kinds of instructions we accept. (“Avoiding Sectarianism,” address to religious educators, 22 June 1962; in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church Educational System and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982], 113.)

Joseph F. Smith:

            It is a good thing for us not to attempt to advance new doctrine, or new and advanced thought in relation to principles and doctrines pertaining to, or presumed to pertain to, the gospel of Jesus Christ, without weighing it carefully, with the experience of years, before we attempt to make a doctrinal test and to advance it to the people of the Lord. There is so much simple truth, necessary to be understood that has been revealed to us in the gospel that it is extreme folly in us to attempt to go beyond the truth that has been revealed, until we have mastered and can comprehend the truth that we have. There is a great deal within our reach that we have not yet mastered.—Improvement Era, vol. 21, May, 1918, pp. 567-573. (Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, comp., John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939], 457.)

Joseph Fielding Smith:

            A Key to Understanding: The Lord has given us a key by which we may be guided. It is found in Section 68 in the Doctrine and Covenants:

            And behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

            And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

            And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God, unto salvation.

            There is nothing more important in the lives of members of the Church than to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. There is nothing of greater importance to the individual member of the Church than the gift of knowledge, and this does not come by observation but by constant study and faith. Each member holding the priesthood should be so well versed that the light of truth would be constantly in his heart. No authority of the Church when guided by the Holy Ghost will ever teach a doctrine that will be contrary to the revealed word of the Lord. He may express an opinion, a personal view, but in doing so he should so declare it. The writings of Paul were not sent forth to the saints in various parts of the world in their completeness as doctrine. There were times when Paul expressed his own opinion. The authorities of the Church have the same privilege, but when they do, they should make it perfectly clear that it is their personal view. When they have the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord the members of the Church should likewise, by their faith and obedience, have the same Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord will bear witness to our spirits, under such conditions that what has been said is true.

            Many Truths Would Be Revealed: There are many things that the Lord would reveal to his people, if they were prepared to receive them. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 6 vols.[Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957-66], 2:113-15.)

Dallin H. Oaks:

            The acquisition of knowledge by revelation is an extra bonus to seekers in the sciences and the arts, but it is the fundamental method for those who seek to know God and the doctrines of his gospel. In this area of knowledge, scholarship and reason are insufficient. (“Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, 29.)

Joseph Smith:

            I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time. (History of the Church, 7 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1949], 5:215.)

Brigham Young:

            It is not possible for a person to learn all the will of God in an hour, a day, or a week; it requires much time and attention to do this. The Lord gives a little here and a little there, a precept now and a precept again, and by close observance of these things in our lives we grow in grace and in a knowledge of the truth. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-86], 14:38.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            We need to be taught how to approach the Standard Works of the Church, and then, if we follow the simple, easy formulas that are provided, we shall have a new vision of doctrinal understanding, and new desires to live righteously will grow up in our hearts. (“Drink from the Fountain,” Ensign, April 1975, 70.)

Bruce R. McConkie:

            I have heard President Joseph Fielding Smith say many times that all men are accountable for what they teach and that all teachings must be measured against the revealed statements in the Standard Works. I personally think there is no question about the doctrine involved and that in due course all the faithful brethren, whether in this life or in the spirit world, will have a perfect understanding and be united wholly and totally where the concepts are concerned. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1972.)

From the New Testament:

            And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
            Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45.)

From the New Testament:

            Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39.)

From the Book of Mormon:

            And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. (2 Nephi 4:15.)

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