“Is religious education more important than academic education?” New Era, Feb. 1972, 36
Answer/Dean J. Elliot Cameron
This question certainly concerns youth today. In looking toward our day, Daniel was shown when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4.)
Paul told Timothy to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), and he further stated:
“This know also, that in the last days … men shall be … ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2, 7).
Great emphasis has been given in our time to gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake. An editorial writer has indicated:
“Knowledge is no longer a thing apart from life; knowledge and education, though they may remain an end in life for a few specialists, are today a means to an end, which is the enhanced understanding of everything in life.” (Fortune, November 1964.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith has said, “Knowledge comes both by reason and by revelation. We are expected to study and learn all we can by research and analysis. But there are limits to our learning abilities in the realms of reason and study. The things of God can be known only by the Spirit of God.”
The Lord has counseled us that we should learn as much as we can about “things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79.)
We must therefore conclude that we cannot neglect our academic learning if we are to follow the counsel of the Lord.
However, this does not mean that we concentrate only on academic learning. The Lord has stated that we should “be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God.” (D&C 88:78.)
We must not believe that all academic education is separate and apart from religious education. The more knowledge we have, when obtained under the direction of the Spirit of God, the better we can understand religious teachings.
Jacob, the brother of Nephi, warned: “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Ne. 9:28–29.)
The academic knowledge we gain will benefit us in our temporal pursuits but the knowledge we gain of spiritual and eternal truths will prepare us to live happily in this life and throughout eternity in the kingdom of God.
Our eventual goal is to gain all knowledge necessary to be like our Eternal Father. We can move in that direction only if we devote our energies and abilities to gaining knowledge of God and his laws and incorporating into our lives eternal truth wherever it is found.