“Lesson 3 Class Preparation Material: Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 3 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is the way that the Church got its start, from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. … Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. … Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth. (“The Reflection in the Water,” Church Educational System devotional [Nov. 1, 2009], broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org)
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ delight to give us knowledge and understanding. We grow spiritually as we ask questions and seek answers with sincerity and faith. Remember that as the Lord helps us learn to have faith in Him, He may not provide every answer to every question we have in this life. In fact, we do not have to find answers to every question in order to receive a testimony and stand as a witness of the truth. But asking sincere questions can help us to continue to learn and grow.
The following principles can help you seek answers to questions and resolve concerns in the Lord’s way:
Act in faith.
Examine concepts and questions with an eternal perspective.
Seek further understanding through divinely appointed sources.
As you study these principles of acquiring spiritual knowledge below, consider marking the significant statements or points that stand out to you so you can share them in class and refer to them later.
Faith begins with the belief that God lives, knows all things, and is the source of all truth. We act in faith when we choose to trust God and turn to Him by sincerely praying, studying His teachings, and obeying His commandments. The Lord invites us to “doubt not, but be believing” (Mormon 9:27). As we establish a pattern of acting in faith in our daily lives, we build a firm foundation on Jesus Christ that ensures we will remain strong, even when we face difficult questions or challenges (see Helaman 5:12).
When you encounter information or claims that you do not understand or that challenge your beliefs, you do not need to doubt your testimony or past spiritual experiences. During such moments, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland counseled, “Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the [spiritual] experience[s] you [have] had” (“Remember How You Felt,” New Era, Aug. 2004, 6). Instead, “hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 94).
While you “hold fast to what you already know,” remember that the attitude and intent with which you ask questions and seek answers will affect to a large extent your ability to learn from the Holy Ghost. This process requires humility, sincerity, and real intent to act on the truth we receive from the Lord.
When Joseph Smith faced a religious climate filled with “confusion and strife among the different denominations” (Joseph Smith—History 1:8), he could have easily become discouraged, let doubt fill his heart, and “remain[ed] in darkness and confusion” (verse 13). Instead, he searched the scriptures and was deeply impressed by the message found in James 1:5 to “ask of God.” Acting in faith, he went to the woods and “[knelt] down and began to offer up the desires of [his] heart to God” (Joseph Smith—History 1:15). His sincere prayer was answered with a heavenly vision. He left the woods having “learned for [himself]” the answers to his questions (verse 20).
To examine doctrinal concepts, questions, and social issues with an eternal perspective, we consider them in the context of the plan of salvation and the teachings of the Savior. We seek the help of the Holy Ghost in order to see things as the Lord sees them (see 1 Corinthians 2:5, 9–11). This approach helps us to see things from the Lord’s point of view rather than from a worldly perspective. We can do this by asking questions such as “What do I already know about Heavenly Father, His plan, and how He deals with His children?” and “What gospel teachings relate to or clarify this concept or issue?”
Questions related to historical events should also be examined with an eternal perspective. It can also help to examine historical questions in the proper historical context by considering the culture and norms of the time period rather than imposing current perspectives and attitudes. For example, if you discovered an ancestor from the 1800s who married at the age of 14 or 15, you might see it as an extremely early marriage unless you understood that in that time period, it was not uncommon.
It is important to remember that historical details do not carry the saving power of ordinances, covenants, and doctrine. To be distracted by less significant details at the expense of missing the unfolding miracle of the Restoration is like spending time analyzing a gift box and ignoring the wonder of the gift itself.
Imagine that a stranger accused one of your loved ones of doing something wrong. How would you figure out if they were telling the truth or if they were misled? What would the danger be in believing the stranger without further investigating the matter?
Through the internet, we have unprecedented access to good information. At the same time, the internet exposes us to an onslaught of unreliable information. Because the internet does not automatically filter out misleading, deceptive, or false information for us, we must filter it ourselves. President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency warned, “We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources” (“Truth and the Plan,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 25).
As part of the Lord’s appointed process for obtaining spiritual knowledge, He has established sources through which He reveals truth and guidance to His children. These divinely appointed sources include the Light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, Church leaders, and faithful family members. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the Lord’s prophets on the earth today—are a vital source of truth. The Lord has chosen and ordained these individuals to speak for Him.
We can also learn truth through other trustworthy sources. However, sincere seekers of truth should be wary of unreliable sources of information. Learning to recognize and avoid unreliable sources can protect us from misinformation and from those who seek to destroy faith. The following questions and guidelines can help as you determine the reliability of sources: