Sunday, July 1, 2018

Elder Orson F. Whitney on the importance of spiritual learning

Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931), a journalist, teacher, poet, and historian, was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1906 and served until his death in 1931 at age 75.
"This people are the friends, not the foes, of education; that they are seekers after wisdom, lovers of light and truth, universal Truth, which, like the waters of earth, or the sunbeams of heaven, has but one Source, let its earthly origin be what it may.
     'Truth is truth, wher'er 'tis found,
     On Christian or on heathen ground,'
and worthy of our love and admiration, whether far or near, high or low, whether blazing as a star in the blue vault of heaven, or springing like a floweret from the soil.
"'Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning even by study, and also by faith.' (D&C 88:118)
"Why did the Lord so instruct his Prophet? Why did the Prophet so teach his people? It was because God had designed, and his prophet had foreseen, a great and glorious future for that people....
"Literature means learning, and it is from the 'best books' we are told to seek it. This does not merely mean the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the book of Doctrine and Covenants, Church works and religious writings—though these indeed are 'the best books,' and will ever be included in and lie at the very basis of our literature. But it also means history, poetry, philosophy, art and science, languages, government—all truth in fact, wherever found, either local or general, and relating to times past, present or to come.
"Yes, the Prophet even meant revelation, inspiration. immediate and direct; for does he not say, 'seek learning by study and also by faith'? Faith points to futurity, to things that will be; study pertains more to the past, to things that have been. History is temporal; prophecy is spiritual. The past is great, but the future will be greater. The dead letter may be precious, but the living oracle is beyond all price."
- Orson F. Whitney, "Home Literature," speech at the YMMIA Conference, June 3, 1888, and subsequently published July 1888 in The ContributorClick here to read the full article

This is a fascinating article by Elder Whitney, in which he encouraged the Saints to focus on personal education in a variety of opportunities and settings; but especially to be advocates of "home literature" and to take every advantage of learning from personal efforts to read and study. Truth can be found in many sources, and we truly should "seek learning" by our study of "the best books" and by our faith. Well we might ask ourselves how we are doing in our pursuit of understanding in "history, poetry, philosophy, art and science, languages, government"—a wide variety of endeavors!

As we seek learning by revelation, this explanation of the relationship between faith and study is especially interesting. It helps to give some perspective to our efforts, and to make sure that all we do is grounded on a spiritual foundation.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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