Students Encouraged to "Lean Not to Thine Own Understanding"

Contributed By By Marianne Holman Prescot, Church News staff writer

  • 27 January 2014

Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, speaks at a BYU devotional on January 14.  Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU.

Article Highlights

  • Intelligence, knowledge, experience, wisdom, and promptings from the Holy Ghost all lead to understanding to know and do what is right.
  • Understanding comes through trusting and a complete reliance upon the Lord.

“As we trust and rely on the Lord, a greater measure of understanding comes from Him into our heart, rather than our own understanding, which comes to our head.” —Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church 

Real understanding comes as individuals trust and rely on the Lord rather than their own understanding, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, said during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University on January 14.

“As we trust and rely on the Lord, a greater measure of understanding comes from Him into our heart, rather than our own understanding, which comes to our head,” he said.

The Presiding Bishop encouraged students to follow the scripture found in Proverbs that says, “And with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7), and he spoke of how understanding something means to obtain a higher level of comprehension.

Bishop Stevenson quoted Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “First, we start with the intelligence with which we were born. … To our knowledge we add experience, which should lead us to a level of wisdom. In addition to our wisdom, we add the help of the Holy Ghost through our prayers of faith, asking for spiritual guidance and strength. Then, and only then, do we reach an understanding in our hearts—which motivates us to ‘do what is right; let the consequence follow.’ The feelings of an understanding heart give us the sweet spirit of assurance of not only knowing but doing what is right no matter what the circumstances. The understanding in our hearts comes from a close interdependence of study and prayer” (“Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life,” Oct. 1988 general conference).

Intelligence, knowledge, experience, wisdom, and promptings from the Holy Ghost all lead to understanding to know and do what is right, said Bishop Stevenson. Recognizing the critical intersections and crossroads in life that come during the “getting” time of life college students are usually in—“getting” an education, spouse, children, job, salary, house, and a mortgage, for example—Bishop Stevenson said that “understanding” comes through trusting and a complete reliance upon the Lord.

BYU students and faculty listen as Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church, speaks at a BYU devotional on January 14. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU.

President Monson often quotes a scripture from Proverbs, which adds another dimension about this understanding: ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5). As we trust and rely on the Lord, a greater measure of understanding comes from Him into our heart, rather than our own understanding, which comes to our head.”

Bishop Stevenson spoke of the personal heartbreak and havoc he has observed as individuals focus on the worldly “getting” and not the Lord’s “understanding.”

“It seems that those who lean unto their own understanding or rely on the arm of flesh are more likely to develop a disproportionate focus or obsession almost for material gain, prestige, power, and position,” he said. “Keeping the ‘getting’ in accordance with this scriptural guidance of ‘understanding’ will temper your temporal appetite. This will allow the proper context for your activities as a student, as a productive member of society, and of the Lord’s kingdom. …

“I have great expectations for each of you, as does the Lord,” he said. “I finish where I began with the exhortation found in Proverbs, ‘and with all thy getting get understanding’—real understanding. This will come to you as you realize the interdependence of study and prayer, as you maintain a commitment to serve while learning and earning, and as you lean not unto yourself but rely or trust in the Lord.”