Three times in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord exhorts Latter-day Saints to learn “by study and also by faith” (see D&C 88:118, D&C 109: 7 and D&C 109:14). What responsibility does this place on those who are studying the gospel, and how do study and faith combine in teaching and learning true doctrines and principles?
“Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit,” says Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us.”
He continues, “In our quest for truth, we need to seek the help of our loving Heavenly Father. His Spirit can direct and intensify our efforts to learn and magnify our ability to assimilate truth. This learning with the Spirit is not confined to classrooms or preparation for school examinations. It applies to everything we do in life and every place we do it—at home, at work, and at church.”
The Bible Dictionary says, “Faith is a principle of action and of power. … Although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree.” Growing such a tree, whether spiritual or secular, is every learner’s responsibility. It is an exercise of agency.
Write Promptings Down
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches that one way we can extend a proper invitation and learn from the Holy Ghost is by writing His promptings down. “Most individuals limit their learning primarily to what they hear or what they read. Be wise. Develop the skill of learning by what you see and particularly by what the Holy Ghost prompts you to feel. Consciously seek to learn by what you see and feel, and your capacity to do so will expand through consistent practice. Ask in faith for such help. Live to be worthy of it. Seek to recognize it.
“Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. … Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being.”
“Ultimately, the responsibility to learn by faith and apply spiritual truth rests upon each of us individually,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches. “This is an increasingly serious and important responsibility in the world in which we do now and will yet live. What, how, and when we learn is supported by—but is not dependent upon—an instructor, a method of presentation, or a specific topic or lesson format. …
“You and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are the children, youth, and adults we serve acting and seeking to learn by faith, or are they waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are you and I encouraging and helping those we serve to seek learning by faith? We are all to be anxiously engaged in asking, seeking, and knocking,” Elder Bednar says. (See 3 Nephi 14:7.)
“A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness,” Elder Bednar says. “Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost. Thus, learning by faith involves the exercise of moral agency to act upon the assurance of things hoped for and invites the evidence of things not seen from the only true teacher, the Spirit of the Lord.”