“Editorial: The Meaning of Education,” Ensign, May 1971, 81
There can hardly be any dispute concerning the commitment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the principle that knowledge, learning, and education are vital to all men. This issue of the Ensign attempts to describe some of that contemporary commitment as it pertains to the formal religious and secular educational systems of the Church. Further, President Joseph Fielding Smith spells out very plainly, also in this issue, that gospel knowledge is the most important thing to seek after.
Although the acquisition of knowledge in and of itself does not hold the key to individual salvation, there are some significant benefits for all men in the learning process. In fact, those benefits are so great that none of us can afford to stop being students.
The first fruit of knowledge, it seems to us, is the realization that there is so much more to learn. It is true that there are some who become “puffed up” with a little bit of knowledge and decide that they have acquired a monopoly on the world’s wisdom. But the honest seeker after truth can almost be overwhelmed by his own inadequacy as he acquires more information, whether it is secular or religious.
And with this humility in the face of all there is to know comes a broader vision of the complexity of life and living. The tunnel view of existence that so many of us have can be widened by every scrap of information we acquire.
Knowledge is a forerunner of wisdom, and with wisdom men can avoid the emotionalism and extremes that characterize so much of life today. There is ample evidence, both in the Church and in the world, that passion and fanaticism breed violence, hate, and distrust. What would a thoughtful, moderate, rational attitude do for the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland? For the Arabs and Jews in the Mideast? For dissatisfied students throughout the world? For a father and son who meet head on in a family quarrel? For a Latter-day Saint who may challenge the decision of a stake president or a bishop?
Contrary to what some would have us believe, there are eternal verities; there are truths that should be defended with a passion. But in most of our normal relations the world would be a better place if we were less strident and less sure about those things upon which the Lord has not spoken.
Knowledge sought for the purpose of bringing us into an exalted state will humble us. It will teach us that honest men may disagree without either man being motivated by evil intent.
There is nothing more challenging and exciting than the search for truth. Latter-day Saints start with a vast reservoir of truth at their fingertips. But there is more to be found if we will continue the quest.
The Lord expects us to stretch our intellectual capacity to its limits. He has made it clear that we are continually to acquire knowledge and information upon all subjects. Our pursuit of perfection will never be successful through the mere rote performance of “legalistic” duty. Perfection is a spiritual attitude and commitment as well as the acquisition of all knowledge within the capabilities with which we are blessed.
“The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and everyone that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Deseret Book Company, 1968], p. 297.)