The teaching materials for the learning experience on “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” are divided into four parts. Part 2 helps students understand, feel the truth and importance of, and apply the following principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge:
Act in faith.
Examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective.
Seek further understanding through divinely appointed sources.
During this part of the learning experience, students will study paragraphs 3 through 12 of this section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document, as well as the doctrinal mastery passage Doctrine and Covenants 6:36. You may need more than one 40-minute class session to help students understand and feel the truth and importance of these principles. In addition, it is important that you review these principles with students throughout this seminary course so they can remember and apply them while responding to questions, concerns, and issues during doctrinal mastery practice exercises and outside of class.
Invite students to consider if they have ever had a concern or question about the Church and its teachings and history that they did not know how to answer or if they have ever been asked such a question by someone else.
As an example, display or write the following on the board: Why did Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saint men practice plural marriage by marrying multiple wives?
Why might it be difficult to know how to address this question?
Invite a student to read aloud paragraph 3 of the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Ask the class to follow along, looking for counsel that can help us when we encounter concerns or questions that may be difficult for us to understand or answer.
What counsel in this paragraph can help us when we encounter concerns or questions that may be difficult for us to understand or answer?
Explain that this portion of the learning experience will help them learn three principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge: act in faith, examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective, and seek further understanding through divinely appointed sources. These principles can guide them when they have questions or are presented with questions from others.
Invite three students to take turns reading aloud paragraphs 5–7 in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Ask the class to follow along, looking for statements that explain what we can do to act in faith when we encounter questions or concerns. Invite students to consider marking statements that are especially meaningful to them.
According to these paragraphs, what can we do to act in faith when we have questions and concerns? (As students respond, you may want to ask them to explain how following the counsel they identified could be helpful when they have questions or concerns.)
Point out the following key statement of doctrine: The Lord Himself has invited us to “look unto [Him] in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
Which doctrinal mastery passage helps teach this key statement of doctrine? (Invite students to consider marking D&C 6:36 in a distinctive way in their scriptures so they will be able to locate it easily.)
To help students understand the context of this passage, explain that the Lord revealed the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 6 to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery while they were working on the translation of the Book of Mormon. At that time, Oliver Cowdery had not yet seen the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. He desired “a further witness” (D&C 6:22) that the work Joseph Smith was doing was truly of God.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord counseled Oliver to do.
How might the Lord’s counsel in this verse help us when we have questions or experience uncertainty?
How can looking unto the Lord in every thought help us overcome doubt and fear?
Refer to the question on the board.
Based on what we have discussed, how could you choose to act in faith if you had this concern?
What do you already know about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Prophet Joseph Smith that can help you when you have questions about the history or teachings of the Church?
Invite three students to take turns reading aloud paragraphs 8–10 in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how we can examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective.
According to these paragraphs, how can we examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective?
Invite students to consider marking the following truths: To examine doctrinal concepts, questions, and social issues with an eternal perspective, we consider them in the context of the plan of salvation and the teachings of the Savior. We seek the help of the Holy Ghost in order to see things as the Lord sees them.
Point out that because of our knowledge of Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation, we may view certain concepts or questions differently than those who do not share the same beliefs.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency to seminary and institute of religion teachers. Ask the class to listen for what he said students should do when they are presented with a difficult concept or question, or a point of view that differs from their own.
“I suggest that it may be preferable for our young people to refrain from arguing with their associates. … They will often be better off to respond by identifying the worldly premises or assumptions in the assertions they face and then by identifying the different assumptions or premises that guide the thinking of Latter-day Saints” (Dallin H. Oaks, “As He Thinketh in His Heart,” [evening with a General Authority, Feb. 8, 2013], broadcasts.lds.org).
Based on President Oaks’s suggestion, what can we do when we are presented with a difficult concept or question, or a point of view that differs from our own? (You may need to help students understand that a premise is an idea that is used to support a conclusion and that an assertion is a declaration of a person’s position, point of view, or opinion.)
Point out that when we consider another person’s beliefs or assumptions, we should do so with kindness and respect, and we should be sensitive to the person’s feelings and to the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
To illustrate how a person’s beliefs, assumptions, or testimony can influence his or her conclusions, draw the following diagram on the board:
Refer to the question on the board. Point out some beliefs or assumptions a person could have regarding this concern, such as the following: God has called prophets throughout history. Previous prophets were asked by God to marry more than one wife (for example, Abraham and Jacob). Write these statements on the board beneath the phrase “Beliefs, assumptions, testimony.” Also point out that we can know through the power of the Holy Ghost that God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet (see Moroni 10:5). Write the following statement on the board under the phrase “Beliefs, assumptions, testimony”: God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet.
With these beliefs and assumptions, and with the testimony that God called Joseph Smith to be a prophet, what can we conclude about Joseph Smith’s and other early Latter-day Saints’ practice of plural marriage? (After students respond, write the following statement on the board under “Conclusion”: God commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage. [See D&C 132:34–35.])
Note: At this point you may want to ensure that students understand that the Lord’s standing law of marriage is monogamy—one man married to one woman.
Read aloud the following information to help students view the practice of plural marriage among early Latter-day Saints with an eternal perspective:
The Lord has ordained that a man is to have only one wife, unless He commands otherwise by revelation though the President of the Church (see Jacob 2:27–30). “By revelation, plural marriage was practiced in Old Testament times and in the early days of the restored Church by the direction of the prophet who held the priesthood keys (D&C 132:34–40, 45). It is no longer practiced in the Church (OD 1); today, having more than one wife is incompatible with membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Marriage, Marry,” scriptures.lds.org).
While we do not understand all of God’s purposes for instituting plural marriage, it was part of the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). Other reasons given by the Lord for the practice were to help the Saints fulfill the commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” (D&C 132:63; see also Genesis 1:28) and “raise up seed unto [the Lord]” (Jacob 2:30). In addition to the purposes given by the Lord in scripture, the practice of plural marriage affected the early Saints in other ways. Marriage became available to some women who may not have had the opportunity otherwise, and it increased many women’s financial stability. Additionally, obeying the Lord’s commandment concerning plural marriage in spite of opposition increased early Church members’ understanding that they were the Lord’s “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). (See also “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Gospel Topics Essays, topics.lds.org).
What insights from this statement can help us view the practice of plural marriage among early Latter-day Saints with an eternal perspective?
Explain that some people may choose to examine questions about the early Latter-day Saints’ practice of plural marriage with the assumption that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God.
What conclusion do you think a person might make if he or she started with this assumption?
Refer to the question on the board.
Based on the principles we have discussed, why is it important to have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God when we examine this and other questions about the Church’s history and teachings?
Explain that when the angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith to teach him about the latter-day Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon, he said that Joseph’s name would “be both good and evil spoken of among all people” (Joseph Smith—History 1:33). Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish. There will be family members and friends who will need your help” (Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 30).
Invite a student to read aloud paragraph 11 in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord has given us to help us discover and understand truth.
What has the Lord given us to help us discover and understand truth? (Invite students to consider marking the following statement: As part of the Lord’s appointed process for obtaining spiritual knowledge, He has established sources through which He reveals truth and guidance to His children.)
What blessings can we receive as we turn to the Lord’s divinely appointed sources of truth?
Show a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Why is the Book of Mormon an especially important source for those who desire to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018):
“If you will read [the Book of Mormon] prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
“Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.
“If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 86–87).
Refer to the question on the board.
What are some other divinely appointed sources you could turn to if you had this concern? (Point out that they will learn more about the Lord’s command for early Latter-day Saints to practice plural marriage later in this seminary course, when they study Doctrine and Covenants 132. They will learn about the Lord’s command to stop the practice of plural marriage when they study Official Declaration 1.)
Invite a student to read aloud paragraph 12 in the “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge” section in the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what this paragraph teaches about sources of information that are not produced by the Church.
Why is it important to be wary of unreliable sources of information?
How can we recognize truth in sources of information that are not produced by the Church? (Help students understand that the Holy Ghost can help us recognize truth or error in whatever source we may find it [see Moroni 10:5].)
To help students further understand how they can apply the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge to find answers to their questions and to help others, show the video “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge: Madison’s Story” (8:36), which is available on LDS.org. Invite students to look for how a young woman named Madison acted in faith, examined her question about Joseph Smith and plural marriage (or polygamy) with an eternal perspective, and sought further understanding through divinely appointed sources.
In what ways did Madison act in faith?
How did Madison examine her question with an eternal perspective?
What are some ways Madison sought further understanding through divinely appointed sources?
How was Madison blessed as a result of applying the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge?
How did Madison’s experience in applying the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge prepare her to help others?
Invite students to share how they have been blessed as they have applied the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge.
Explain that during the school year, in addition to studying Joseph Smith—History and the Doctrine and Covenants sequentially, students also will be studying the nine doctrinal topics from the Doctrinal Mastery Core Document. They will also study the 25 doctrinal mastery passages from Joseph Smith—History and the Doctrine and Covenants that are associated with these doctrinal topics. As students study each topic, they will have opportunities to practice applying the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge and the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Share your testimony of the importance of applying the principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge. Encourage students to obtain knowledge from their Heavenly Father by acting in faith, examining concepts and questions with an eternal perspective, and seeking further understanding through divinely appointed sources.
The following review activity is not intended to be taught during the same class session as this lesson—“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Part 2.” It is intended to be used during seminary class sessions that take place after you have taught this lesson but before you teach “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge, Part 3.” This short review can be taught at the beginning or end of classes in which you teach a regular sequential scripture lesson from the Doctrine and Covenants. Be sure that this review takes no longer than five minutes, so as not to take away from the scripture block students will be studying in class.
Invite students to turn to Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 in their scriptures. Write the first letter of each word of this verse on the board: L U M I E T; D N, F N.
Invite students to work in pairs or on their own to memorize the verse, using the letters on the board as a memorization tool. After a couple of minutes, invite the class to repeat the verse aloud while you point at the letters on the board. Then erase or hide the letters on the board and invite the class to again repeat the verse.
What do you think is the difference between asking questions and doubting?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statements by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what President Uchtdorf taught about asking questions and about doubting.
“My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. …
“… Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel.
“But they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth. God commands us to seek answers to our questions [see James 1:5–6] and [asks] only that we seek with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ [Moroni 10:4]. When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us by the power of the Holy Ghost [Moroni 10:5]. Fear not. Ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not. Doubt not. Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 1, 2009], LDS.org).
“We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come, Join with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 23).
What stands out to you in these statements by President Uchtdorf?
To help students locate divinely appointed sources, consider telling them about (and if possible, showing them or inviting them to locate on their electronic devices) the official Church website mormonnewsroom.org. Explain that on this website the Church clarifies information regarding various issues of public interest related to the Church and corrects partial or incorrect information that is reported in the media. Also consider showing students the Church’s Gospel Topics page (topics.lds.org). The Gospel Topics Essays contain valuable and forthright information on many difficult historical and doctrinal issues.