23. "Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith"
This Gospel Doctrine lesson fits well with the mission of BYU Studies, which is to bring you scholarship based both in faith and reason. Joseph Smith could not even tell people all that he had learned from his interactions with heaven, but he nevertheless pursued his own study of languages and many secular topics.
Academic Pursuits in Joseph Smith's Day
Between 1833 and 1884, Church leaders from time to time organized schools for instructing members in Church doctrine and secular subjects and for discussing political and social issues relevant to the Church's mission. Although they varied greatly in form and purpose, these schools were called Schools of the Prophets.
"A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Society," Kenneth W. Godfrey, BYU Studies, Vol. 14, no. 3
The Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute was founded in January 1844, and seven prominent Mormons in Nauvoo were chosen to deliver lectures to the institute. From a perusal of the minutes we know the titles of over four hundred books held by the Nauvoo library. These titles provide the historian with an excellent source of studying and evaluating the intellectual climate of Nauvoo.
Seeking Learning through Study and Faith
Elder Maxwell writes that faith does not depend on proof, but a lack of reasoned defense of faith lets it wither away. We should maintain a climate in which faith and reason both flourish. Discipleship and scholarship both matter in keeping our covenants.
A Latter-day Saint's intellectual life must be infused with perspective and purpose: we should learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, learn broadly so that we can communicate with diverse people, learn deeply in one's chosen field, and serve in the Church. We must work hard and keep an open mind while searching for truth. Mormonism thrives, Welch says, because it welcomes the idea that the world is fundamentally pluralistic: scriptures, priesthoods, worlds, revelations, covenants, even gods. Mormon thought also brings together rights and duties: with all rights come powers and privileges, and with powers and privileges come duties. Scholars have inherent duties to selflessly serve and teach others, unashamed of the gospel of Christ.
The attitude of the Church toward education is unusual in several respects. First, the Church is distinctive in the degree to which its members, child and adult alike, participate in the many educational activities of the Church. Second, its commitment is to education as an essential component of religious life. Third, it holds a deep conviction that knowledge has an eternal dimension because it advances man's agency and progress here and in the world to come. Fourth, it is insistent that secular and spiritual learning are not at odds but in harmony with each other.
LDS scholars must not be ashamed or hesitant to acknowledge the role of the spirit in all learning. Saints must acknowledge the voice of the spirit in their study and realize that some things cannot be known through the intellect.
A 1998 survey substantiates that BYU faculty provides and supports both academic excellence and belief in God.
In 1984, the author conducted a statistical survey of 500 LDS Church members in St. Louis, asking questions about their education level and church practices and belief. He found that for Latter-day Saints, religiosity increased mildly with educational attainment.