God’s children are encouraged to “seek learning, … by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Following this pattern helps individuals qualify for the help of the Holy Ghost in the learning process. Today, the Internet and other sources provide an abundance of information—some true, some false, and some misleading—about the Church’s doctrine, history, and position on social issues, making it especially important for us to rely on the Holy Ghost to help us discern truth from error. Learning to identify and use appropriate sources of information is part of this process.
Suggestions for Teaching
A pattern for learning
Read aloud the following description of the School of the Prophets held in Kirtland, Ohio:
“In 1833, the Prophet and a group of Kirtland Saints had a unique opportunity to study the gospel. In January of that year, in accordance with the Lord’s command (see D&C 88:127–41), the Prophet organized the School of the Prophets to train priesthood holders for their work in the ministry and to prepare them to preach the gospel. The school was held in a second-floor room in the Newel K. Whitney store, where the Prophet lived. About 25 brethren attended, some traveling hundreds of miles for the privilege of studying the gospel in a room no larger than 11 by 14 feet. Many of these men would later become Apostles, Seventies, and other Church leaders. Though the Prophet and the other brethren occasionally studied language, they focused primarily on learning the doctrines of the gospel, diligently pursuing their studies from early morning until late afternoon. This school lasted for four months, and similar schools were later held in Kirtland and also in Missouri, which hundreds of people attended” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 261).
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 88 contains instructions from the Lord to those who would participate in the School of the Prophets. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 silently, looking for the pattern of learning prescribed by the Lord. Then discuss the following questions:
What do you think it means to “seek learning, … by study and also by faith”?
In what ways could following this pattern increase our ability to learn? (Students may give a variety of answers, but make sure it is clear that when we include faith in the learning process, we qualify for the Lord’s help.)
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 88:121–26, which records further instruction from the Lord to the School of the Prophets. Ask the class to follow along, looking for principles that help us understand how to learn by faith. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find. Consider listing these principles on the board as students share them. You may also want to suggest that students write the phrase “principles that teach how to learn by faith” in the margin of their scriptures next to these verses. (Note: Making notes in the margins of the scriptures can help students find and remember important principles more easily.) If there is time, you could ask students to search Alma 32:28, 41–43 and John 7:17 for additional principles.
How can living the principles taught in these verses help us learn by study and by faith? (As students respond, you may want to emphasize that following these principles will help us qualify for the help of the Spirit.)
When we qualify to have the Spirit of the Lord with us, how does this Spirit affect our search for truth?
Discerning truth from error
Display the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“Never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information—some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true.
“Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error” (“What Is Truth?” [Church Educational System devotional, Jan. 13, 2013], 3, lds.org/broadcasts).
What are possible consequences if we do not learn to discern between truth and error?
Write the following question on the board:
How can we correctly discern between truth and error?
Explain that the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 91 taught Joseph Smith how to discern if something he was reading in the Apocrypha was true. Ask a student to read aloud the heading to section 91 while the class follows along. Then invite students to consider the question on the board as they study Doctrine and Covenants 91 as a class.
Explain that the Apocrypha is a collection of sacred books of the Jewish people. These books were not originally included in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) but were included in the Greek translation of the Bible shortly before the time of Christ. When early Christians compiled the books of the Bible centuries later, they included the books of the Apocrypha as an appendix. Some Christian religions consider the books of the Apocrypha to be scripture, but other religions do not believe they are inspired writings. The copy of the Bible that Joseph Smith used to create his inspired translation contained the Apocrypha. Joseph asked the Lord if his translation of the Bible should include these books.
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 91:1–3 aloud.
What did Joseph Smith learn about the Apocrypha? (You may need to explain that an interpolation is material that has been inserted in a manuscript, sometimes resulting in the corruption of the original text.)
Invite another student to read Doctrine and Covenants 91:4–6 aloud.
How can the counsel in verses 4–6 help us to discern truth from error and evaluate the reliability of what we read? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The Holy Ghost can help us know if the things we read are true.)
Explain that the abundance of information available on the Internet has created a growing need for each of us to have the spiritual gift of discernment (see D&C 46:23) so we know how to correctly discern truth from error. (For further information about why the gift of discernment is so important in our lives, see Elder David A. Bednar’s article “Quick to Observe,” Ensign or Liahona, Dec. 2006, 31–36.)
Give each student a copy of the following statement by Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy. Invite students to search the first two paragraphs for counsel Elder Snow gave about evaluating information we might read about the Church’s history and teachings.
Balancing Church History
Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy said:
“The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.
“Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.
“Some young people are surprised and shocked by anti-Mormon material on the Internet because they haven’t fortified themselves against it. They may not have spent enough time on the spiritual side to prepare and strengthen themselves for whatever may come. When life experiences come to knock their legs out from under them, it’s important that they do those basic things we always talk about: continuing to study the scriptures and having meaningful prayer with our Heavenly Father. Those basic things prepare people for all kinds of adversity, including anti-Mormon articles they’ll come across online” (“Balancing Church History,” New Era, June 2013, 21–22).
© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Since we need to carefully evaluate the reliability of sources of information about the Church’s history and teachings, how could you use Elder Snow’s teachings to help you evaluate the reliability of something you read about the Church?
Invite students to read the third paragraph of Elder Snow’s statement silently. Then discuss the following question:
How will Elder Snow’s counsel help when you encounter information that may challenge your beliefs?
Staying faithful when questions arise
Explain that Church members may sometimes have questions or even doubts about the Church’s doctrine, history, or position on social issues. Share the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf with your students:
“It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty” (“Come, Join with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 23).
Provide each student a copy of the handout “Discerning Truth from Error,” which includes counsel from Church leaders for those who have questions or doubts. Invite students to read the statements on the handout silently and identify principles that would help someone approach questions or doubts in a faithful manner. After sufficient time, invite students to explain how something they read on the handout could help someone who has a question or doubt about the Church’s doctrine, history, or position on social issues.
As you conclude the lesson, emphasize that although there may be some questions we cannot find answers to in our lifetimes, we can find answers to our greatest questions when we obey the commandments, study appropriate sources of information—particularly the words of living prophets—seek guidance through prayer, and exercise patience and faith.
Invite students to share experiences they have had when they felt the Lord’s help guiding them to find truth and answers to their questions.
Encourage students to review the statements on the handout, and invite them to follow the counsel from the lesson to seek learning by study and by faith.
Discerning Truth from Error
In all gospel dispensations, the forces of evil have opposed God and His work. But God’s work will not be frustrated. In these latter days, the stone has been cut out of the mountain, and it will “roll forth, until it fills the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). However, because individual members of the Church can be deceived, we each need to “watch and pray always” (3 Nephi 18:18).
“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God” (Thomas S. Monson, “Obedience Brings Blessings,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 89).
“My dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. 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).
“For those who already embrace the truth, his primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.
“If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place. …
“… And it is always good to keep in mind that just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.
“Sometimes untrue claims or information are presented in such a way that they appear quite credible. …
“… What may seem contradictory now may be perfectly understandable as we search for and receive more trustworthy information” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “What Is Truth?” [Church Educational System devotional, Jan. 13, 2013], lds.org/broadcasts).
“When we begin by measuring modern practices and proposals against what we know of God’s plan and the premises given in the word of God and the teachings of His living prophets, … we know that this puts us on safe ground eternally” (Dallin H. Oaks, “As He Thinketh in His Heart” [evening with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Feb. 8, 2013], lds.org/broadcasts).
“In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. … When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 93–94).
“We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a ‘truth’ filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true” (Neil L. Andersen, “Joseph Smith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 29).
“Answers to spiritual questions are given to individuals who don’t harden their hearts; who ask in faith, believing they will receive; and who diligently keep the commandments” (Paul V. Johnson, “A Pattern for Learning Spiritual Things” [Church Educational System address to religious educators, Aug. 7, 2012], si.lds.org).
“Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors [is] like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus” (Neal A. Maxwell, “All Hell Is Moved” [Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 8, 1977], 3, speeches.byu.edu).
© 2015 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.