“With All Thy Getting Get Understanding,” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 2–5
I desire to share some thoughts having to do with education—specifically the education of our minds and hearts, for those are the instruments by which we obtain knowledge. Said the Lord to Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart.” (D&C 8:2.)
I remember a day some years ago when I strolled about the campus of a great university. I was impressed with the splendor of the buildings, the immaculate laboratories, the teaching theaters, the magnificent library, the dormitories, the gymnasiums. But I was more impressed with the students. There were thousands of them—handsome young men and beautiful young women, seemingly serious and intent and earnest.
I am awed by the great forces of knowledge represented in our time. Never before have so many been educated in the learning of the world. What a powerful thing it is—the intensive schooling of a large percentage of the youth of the world, who meet daily at the feet of instructors to garner knowledge from all the ages of man.
The extent of that knowledge is staggering. It encompasses the stars of the universe, the geology of the earth, the history of nations, the culture and language of peoples, the operation of governments, the laws of commerce, the behavior of the atom, the functions of the body, and the wonders of the mind.
With so much knowledge available, one would think that the world might well be near a state of perfection. Yet we are constantly made aware of the other side of the coin—of the sickness of society, of the contentions and troubles that bring misery into the lives of millions.
Each day we are made increasingly aware of the fact that life is more than science and mathematics, more than history and literature. There is need for another education, without which the substance of secular learning may lead only to destruction. I refer to the education of the heart, of the conscience, of the character, of the spirit—these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another.
Over fifty years ago while serving in England as a missionary, I went to the London Central YMCA. I suppose that old building has long since gone, but I can never forget the words that faced visitors in the foyer each time they entered. They were the words of Solomon: “With all thy getting get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7.)
Understanding of what? Understanding of ourselves, of the purposes of life, of our relationship to God who is our Father, of the great divinely given principles that for centuries have provided the sinew of man’s real progress!
I cannot discuss all of these great principles, but I desire to suggest three. I offer them in a spirit of invitation. Let these principles be added to our vast store of secular knowledge to become cornerstones on which all of us may establish lives that will be fruitful, productive, and happy.
The first principle is gratitude, the second is virtue, the third is faith. I believe these are fundamental to the full development of every child of God.
Gratitude is a divine principle. The Lord has declared through revelation: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. …
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.” (D&C 59:7, 21.)
Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those who have been so magnificently blessed. How grateful we should be for the bounties we enjoy. Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief. We have seen our beaches, our parks, our forests littered with ugly refuse by those who evidently have no appreciation for their beauty. I have driven through thousands of acres of blackened land scourged by a fire evidently set by a careless smoker whose only concern had been the selfish pleasure gained from a cigarette.
Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without appreciation, there is arrogance and evil.
Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to pride.
How magnificently we are blessed! How thankful we ought to be! A bulletin of some years ago of the Royal Bank of Canada dealt with underprivileged people of the world:
“It is difficult for [most] North Americans to understand the plight of people in underdeveloped countries, because [most of us] have never been hungry. No one dies here of starvation. Elsewhere more than 1,500 million people go to bed hungry every night. … The fact is that not more than one in a hundred of the people in underdeveloped countries will ever, in all his life, have what a North American family would consider a good, square meal.”
Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges each of us enjoy. The Lord has said that the meek shall inherit the earth. (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God, and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. Walk with gratitude before him who is the giver of life and every good gift.
Associated with gratitude is virtue. I think they are related because he who is disposed to shun virtue lacks appreciation of life, its purposes, and the happiness and well-being of others.
An observer of our plight has written the following: “We are witnessing the death of the old morality. The established moral guidelines have been yanked from our hands. … We are left floundering in a money-motivated, sex-obsessed, big-city dominated society. We must figure out for ourselves how to apply the traditional moral principles to the problems of our times. Many find this burden too heavy.” (Look, Sept. 1963, p. 74.)
Challenging though it may be, there is a way to apply traditional moral principles in our day. For some unknown reason, there is constantly appearing the false rationalization that at one time in the long-ago, virtue was easy and that now it is difficult. I would like to remind any who feel that way that there has never been a time since the Creation when the same forces were not at work that are at work today. The proposal made by Potiphar’s wife to Joseph in Egypt is no different from that faced by many men and women and youth in our day.
The influences today may be more apparent and more seductive, but they are no more compelling. One cannot be shielded entirely from these influences. They are all about us. Our culture is saturated with them. But the same kind of self-discipline exercised by Joseph will yield the same beneficial result. Notwithstanding the so-called “new morality,” notwithstanding the much-discussed changes in moral standards, there is no adequate substitute for virtue. God’s standards may be challenged everywhere throughout the world, but God has not abrogated his commandments.
The violation of his commandments in this, as in any other age, brings only regret, sorrow, loss of self-respect, and in many cases tragedy. Rationalization and equivocation will not erase the cankering scar that blights the self-respect of a person who disobeys the law of chastity. Self-justification will never mend the heart of a person who has drifted into moral tragedy.
In April 1942, the First Presidency of the Church issued a message which has the tone of scripture:
“To the youth of the Church … above all we plead with you to live clean, for the unclean life leads only to suffering, misery, and woe physically—and spiritually it is the path to destruction. How glorious and near to the angels is youth that is clean; this youth has joy unspeakable here and eternal happiness hereafter.” (The Improvement Era, 45:273.)
It is verily true, as the scriptures state: “The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light.” (Prov. 6:23.)
Do not mock God. Do not flout his law. Let virtue be a cornerstone on which to build your lives.
When I discuss faith, I do not mean it in an abstract sense. I mean it as a living, vital force with recognition of God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we accept this basic premise, there will come an acceptance of their teachings and an obedience which will bring peace and joy in this life and exaltation in the life to come.
Faith is not a theological platitude. It is a fact of life. Faith can become the very wellspring of purposeful living. There is no more compelling motivation to worthwhile endeavor than the knowledge that we are children of God, the Creator of the universe, our all-wise Heavenly Father! God expects us to do something with our lives, and he will give us help when help is sought.
Jesus said: “Learn of me. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29–30.)
I should like to suggest that we follow that injunction given by the Son of God. With all of our learning, let us also learn of him. With all of our study, we need to seek knowledge of the Master. That knowledge will complement in a wonderful way our secular training and will give us character and a fulness to life that can come in no other way.
We were aboard a plane some years ago flying between Honolulu and Los Angeles. It was in the days when only propeller-driven aircraft were available. About midway in the journey one of the motors stopped. There was a decrease in speed, a lowering in altitude, and a certain amount of nervousness among those aboard. The fact of the matter was that much of the power was missing, and the hazards were increased accordingly. Without that power, we could not fly high, fast, and safely.
It is so with our lives when we discount the need for faith and disregard knowledge of the Lord.
Passive acceptance of the Lord is not enough. Vibrant testimony comes of anxious seeking. Strength comes of active service in the Master’s cause. “Learn of me,” was Jesus’ injunction. He further declared that he that doeth the will of the Father “shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17.)
And so, while we read math and physics and chemistry, we need to read also the Gospels of the New Testament and the testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon, which was brought forth by the power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” (Title page, Book of Mormon.)
I cherish the words of Paul—he who had traveled far and suffered much and grown ripe in wisdom. These words were written to Timothy while Paul was a prisoner of Nero in Rome: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:7–8.)
To every Latter-day Saint I commend this stirring injunction. This is the spirit that will reform the world.
I recall the statement of Charles Malik: “In this fearful age it is not enough to be happy and prosperous and secure yourselves … you must have a message to proclaim to others; you must mean something in terms of ideas and attitudes and fundamental outlook on life; and this something must vibrate with relevance to all conditions of men.” (Successful Leadership, p. 5.)
Let us take upon ourselves the name of the Lord and then with faith go forth to share with relevance that which will affect the lives of mankind and bring peace and joy to the world. The world needs a generation of men and women of learning and influence who can and will stand up and in sincerity and without equivocation declare that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.
As we pursue our secular studies, let us also add to our lives the cultivation of the Spirit. If we do so, God will bless us with that peace and those blessings which come from him alone.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
Daily we are made aware of our society’s sickness and of the contentions and misery millions suffer.
We each need to educate our heart, our conscience, our character, our spirit—those aspects of personality that determine what we are and how we relate to others.
We need to apply basic divinely given counsel to enjoy a fruitful, productive, and happy life:
—Cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the marvelous gifts and privileges we enjoy.
—Live a virtuous life. Though our culture is saturated with immorality, those who are chaste experience happiness here and eternal joy hereafter.
—Develop faith as a living, vital recognition of God as our Father and Jesus Christ as our Savior. Faith is the very wellspring of purposeful living and enables us to draw upon divine help when it is needed.
Bear testimony of the importance of educating both the mind and the heart. Ask family members to share their feelings on this theme.
Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?