Saturday, November 18, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on suggestions for study and learning

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"I would offer you this advice in your own study: Be patient, don’t be superficial, and don’t ignore the Spirit.
"In counseling patience, I simply mean that while some answers come quickly or with little effort, others are simply not available for the moment because information or evidence is lacking. Don’t suppose, however, that a lack of evidence about something today means that evidence doesn’t exist or that it will not be forthcoming in the future. The absence of evidence is not proof....
"When I say don’t be superficial, I mean don’t form conclusions based on unexamined assertions or incomplete research, and don’t be influenced by insincere seekers. I would offer you the advice of our Assistant Church Historian, Rick Turley, an intellectually gifted researcher and author whose recent works include the definitive history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He says simply, 'Don’t study Church history too little.' ...
"Finally, don’t neglect the Spirit. As regards Joseph Smith, we seek learning both by study and by faith. (See D&C 88:118.) Both are fruitful paths of inquiry. A complete understanding can never be attained by scholarly research alone, especially since much of what is needed is either lost or never existed. There is no benefit in imposing artificial limits on ourselves that cut off the light of Christ and the revelations of the Holy Spirit. Remember, 'By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.' (Moroni 10:5.)"
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, September 24, 2013
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Christofferson offered these suggestions to students in the context of learning about Joseph Smith and aspects of Church history, where critics and opponents are eager to create doubt and dissension. But I think the principles apply to all areas of study and learning. We so easily jump to conclusions based on the first evidence or explanation we hear, and we don't always think carefully about the other possibilities that might also explain the circumstances we observe. Learning to withhold judgement in patience is an important skill:

Perhaps the most important skill is learning to be guided by the Holy Spirit as we strive to learn and understand. According to Nephi, the Holy Ghost "will show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:5). What a precious promise!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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