Lesson 26: Seeking Knowledge

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 219–26


The purpose of this lesson is to encourage us to seek knowledge.

Introduction

The Savior has commanded us to become perfect, as He and our Father in Heaven are. To become like them, we must learn and grow in the knowledge of the truth.

The Commandment to Seek Knowledge

In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord commands us to seek knowledge.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:78. According to this verse, what does the Lord want us to learn? (All things that are expedient for us to understand about the kingdom of God)

Of all the knowledge we can gain, the most important is a testimony of Jesus Christ, His divine mission, and His gospel. To gain this testimony, we should continually study the scriptures, pray, and live righteously. All the knowledge we obtain will not matter unless we have understood and obeyed the saving principles of the gospel.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:79. In addition to the gospel, what else does the Lord expect us to study? (List answers on the chalkboard. Answers could include the earth, the heavens, history, current events, predictions of the future, our own country, and other countries.)

President N. Eldon Tanner said, “The Church has always urged us as members to get a good education and to learn everything possible about ourselves, history and geography, science, the universe, and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ” (regional representatives’ seminar, 2 April 1971).

Since the Restoration of the gospel, the Church has always encouraged its members to obtain an education. Even in the early days of the Church the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith to organize schools for both adults and children (see D&C 55:4; 90:7). Besides gospel study, these schools offered classes in history, languages, grammar, mathematics, and other subjects. Today the Church continues to spend much time, effort, and money to support education. Among its efforts is the Church Educational System, which was established to help meet the members’ educational needs.

The Purpose and Blessings of Knowledge

When we have a knowledge of the people and world around us, we can use that knowledge to help build the kingdom of God. We can find better ways to teach the gospel to more people. In addition, as Latter-day Saints become well respected in their professions, they become examples that may influence others to learn more about the Church.

Education is important not only as a missionary tool but also as a source to build character. President David O. McKay said:

“True education consists not merely in the acquiring of a few facts of science, history, literature or art, but in the development of character. … True education trains in self-denial and self-mastery. True education regulates the temper, subdues passion and makes obedience to social laws and moral order a guiding principle of life. …

“… The objective of education is to develop resources in the student that will contribute to his well-being as long as life endures” (Secrets of a Happy Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1967], 46–47).

Gaining knowledge will also help us serve others and our society. We can use our knowledge to provide food, clothing, and shelter for our families; help people overcome sickness and suffering; and make life more productive.

Sometimes, however, as people gain worldly knowledge they become proud of their own wisdom and feel they do not have to follow the counsels of the Lord and His prophets. The Lord has told us that to be educated is good if we listen to His counsel. Otherwise we will use our education foolishly. (See 2 Nephi 9:28–29.)

The Importance of Attending School

  • Why is it important to attend school? What can we learn by attending school?

Much of our education comes through school, where we learn how to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. We also learn about history, geography, and science. We study the human body, the movement of the stars, and the beauty and purpose of the plants and animals. Education allows us to keep up with advancements in industry, technology, and science.

  • Show visual 26-a, “Education is important for young people.”

Members of the Church, especially the youth, have always been counseled to do everything necessary to get a good education. This includes receiving the training necessary for employment. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to attend school. We may be concerned about the money, time, or effort required. But because the Lord wants us to be well educated, He will help us attain this goal if we seek His help through prayer and make our best effort. If formal schooling is not possible, we can seek help from those around us who have special knowledge or skills. Such people will usually help us when they see we are willing to learn.

Education Continues throughout Our Lives

  • Show visual 26-b, “Education should continue throughout one’s life.”

We should continue our formal education as long as possible. This can be done by attending a university or a vocational or trade school or through on-the-job training. We can also attend local classes for adults or classes offered by some schools through the mail.

We should continue our education by learning “out of the best books” (D&C 88:118). This requires that we choose reading material wisely. Some books and magazines help us become better people by teaching us about the good and the beautiful. Other books and magazines promote wickedness.

President Spencer W. Kimball warned us that “many … evil influences come right into the home—through television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of literature” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 67; or Ensign, May 1978, 45). We must avoid evil influences and instead fill our minds with righteous things. As we read and study about good things, we should ask the Lord to help us understand and remember them.

We can also gain knowledge by attending plays that teach us to have compassion and sympathy for all people and by attending concerts and visiting art museums to increase our love of the beautiful. We should then share those things we learn with others.

Much informal learning can be done as a family. Families can make things together. They can turn picnics, camping trips, vacations, and even short walks into family learning experiences.

Learning by Doing

Heavenly Father placed us on the earth to learn and gain experience. Many of the things we should learn can be learned only by doing; it is not enough just to study about them. For example, we cannot learn to love someone simply by reading about love; we must serve that person if we are to develop love for him or her.

The Lord has provided many opportunities for us to serve and lead in His Church and thereby learn. As we perform the tasks assigned to us in an office or calling, we are often presented with challenges. As we overcome these challenges by doing our tasks, we increase our abilities, and tasks that were once difficult become easier to do. We are then able to help others overcome similar challenges.

Learning by doing is something we all can do, no matter how much formal education we have. One woman, for example, once complained to Dr. Louis Agassiz, a distinguished scientist, that she had never really had a chance to learn. She told him that she and her sister ran a boardinghouse and that she did not have time for anything else. He asked what type of work she did, and she replied:

“‘I skin potatoes and chop onions.’

“He asked, ‘Madam, where do you sit during these interesting but homely duties?’

“‘On the bottom step of the kitchen stairs.’

“‘Where do your feet rest?’

“‘On the glazed brick.’

“‘What is glazed brick?’

“‘I don’t know, sir.’

“He said, ‘How long have you been sitting there?’

“‘Fifteen years.’

“‘Madam, here is my personal card,’ said Dr. Agassiz. ‘Would you kindly write me a letter concerning the nature of a glazed brick?’”

She took him seriously. She looked up “brick” in the dictionary but felt that the definition was too simple to send to a famous scientist. So she looked in the encyclopedia. As she read about bricks, she came to words that she did not understand. So she looked them up. And then, because she really became interested in what she was learning, she visited a brickyard. When she finished her studies, she sat down and wrote Dr. Agassiz a 36-page letter on the subject of glazed brick.

Back came a letter from Dr. Agassiz informing her that with just a few minor changes he had published her letter and was sending her $250. At the bottom of the letter he asked, “What was under those bricks?”

She found ants under the bricks, so she began to study ants. She found there were between 800 and 2,500 different kinds. She became fascinated by the many varieties of ants and how and where they lived. After wide reading and careful study, she wrote 360 pages on the subject to Dr. Agassiz. He published it as a book and sent her more money.

With the money she had received she went to visit all the lands of her dreams. (Adapted from Marion D. Hanks, The Gift of Self [1974], 151–53.)

  • Besides the money she received, how was this woman’s life enriched? (By increased knowledge and new interest in the world around her)

Elder Richard L. Evans taught: “There are some things you can give another person, and some things you cannot give him, except as he is willing to reach out and take them, and pay the price of making them a part of himself. This principle applies to studying, to developing talents, to absorbing knowledge, to acquiring skills, and to the learning of all the lessons of life” (Richard Evans’ Quote Book [1971], 74).

  • Discuss the opportunities that are available in your area for increasing knowledge and experience.

Conclusion

The Lord has instructed us to gain knowledge about the gospel and the world. We can do this by studying the scriptures and words of the prophets, praying, living righteously, attending school or taking other courses, taking interest in the things around us, and seeking to understand our experiences. As we gain knowledge, we will learn to appreciate all that the Lord has provided for us. Increased knowledge and training will also help us support our families, build the kingdom of God, be better citizens, and become more like our Father in Heaven.

Challenge

Fathers: Encourage your children to gain an education. Set an example of learning for them to follow. Plan family activities that will help everyone learn together.

Young priesthood holders: Make the plans necessary to obtain a good education.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Become familiar with the educational opportunities in your community and the surrounding areas.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.