If you wish to contact me for any purpose or would like to ask any questions, I can be contacted through these various ways:

Email: barryjustinhobert@gmail.com

Facebook: 'Things As They Really Are' Facebook Page

Facebook Messenger

Twitter: @Thingsastheyrea


An Approach to Gospel Learning

With Christmas being practically here, this will be my last post for at least a handful of days. Due to this fact, I thought it would be productive from an introspective position to monitor what the brethren and the scriptures teach about gospel learning. As many of you know, the Church, starting at the beginning of the year, is emphasizing more of a home-center formula of Gospel study. President Nelson called this "a home-centered and Church-supported plan"(1).

The first rhetorical question I would ask is, "What is the purpose of this?" An interesting possibility comes from Bruce C. Hafen, an Emeritus General Authority. He has written about the Church's strategy when it comes to a universal curriculum:

"... in this day of both the internet and the international Church, we need to do a better job of introducing our children, young people, new converts, and others to the process of learning how to deal productively with complexity.

During the recent decades of international growth, the Church has needed to simplify its curriculum, magazines, and other materials so that inexperienced Church members in many cultures can understand them..." (Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, Faith is Not Blind [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018]) (2)

Hafen goes on to call this approach by the Church "the common-denominator... approach" (3). This is not a critique of the Church's approach, but it might give us a glance into the why of the "home-centered" curriculum. In summation, the Church sees a growing need to elevate learning among its members while trying to balance the simplistic approach in its core Sunday School curriculum in order to nurture an ever-increasing membership worldwide. It is, therefore, suggested that this new "home-centered" curriculum is for the direct purpose to deepen our knowledge of the gospel. 

The Home the Center of Gospel Learning in the Scriptures

Probably the best and most straightforward example of this in the scriptures is found in 3 Nephi 17:2-3. This section of the Book of Mormon has been coined by various scholars as the Holy of Holies of the Book of Mormon (4). This is due, in part, to the light intensive things being taught by Christ in the midst of the Temple to the surviving people of Nephi. In the previous chapters, Christ teaches truths that are heavily borrowed themes from Isaiah. He also had taught them about the Doctrine of Christ and the Sermon on the Mount. With all this unloading of information Christ then pauses and gives the following admonition:
"I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." (5)

It should be noted that after this is when we really get a Holy of Holies experience. Which is interesting in regards to the truths already taught and Christ calling them 'weak' just previous. After this light intensive experience, Christ leaves (see 3 Nephi 18:38-39) and the people disperse and follow the commandment to ponder on His teachings in their homes (see 3 Nephi 19:1). It was only after this that the Nephites were 'strong' enough to endure words "that cannot be written, neither... uttered by man" (see 3 Nephi 19:34). It was only after this, as well, that we get Christ quoting very large portions of Isaiah, further highlighting the need for our homes to prepare us for more difficult things to understand.

When this is taken all together, we can perhaps gain a greater appreciation and insight for the following:

"Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness." (6)

Latter-Day Teachings on Gospel Learning
There is a certain dogma in the Church that tells us that gospel learning should be simple and plain. While it is indeed true that the Gospel is plain and simple, a word study around those words is illustrative. For our purposes though, I have borrowed the following quotes to highlight the importance of our personal gospel learning:

"The milk/meat metaphor, often employed in the scriptures, communicates the principle effectively because of our common experience in feeding children. Children thrive on milk, but would choke on meat. But children also grow up, and their diet changes to suit the growing needs as their bodies mature. And so it is intended in the realm of spiritual things. When we are first introduced to the gospel, we are as children needing doctrinal milk. As we mature in learning and living the gospel, however, it is expected that gradually our spiritual digestive system will be able to handle more meaty doctrines." (H. Dean Garrett, ed., Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: Illinois [Provo: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1995], 129 - 130.)

"The "deep things of God" give us deep and spanning knowledge which is emancipating and makes us intellectually free. Without the perspectives of the gospel, the universe becomes a prison or an unfathomable maze, causing some to act out through hedonism and others to sink into despair...
The deep problems individuals have can only be solved by learning about "the deep things of God," by confronting the reality of "things as they really are and things as they really will be." Hard though this process may be, painful though it may be, it is the one true course for human happiness here and everlasting joy in the world to come." - Neal A. Maxwell (Speech to the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, Sept. 28, 1978)

"It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the Gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons. The Gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject. They who pass opinion on the Gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless." - Elder John A. Widstoe (How May a Testimony, pp. 16-17)

"As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved...A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence we need revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God." - Joseph Smith (TPJS, p. 217)

"I like this thought: “Your mind is a cupboard, and you stock the shelves.” Let us make certain that our cupboard shelves, and those of our family members, are stocked with the things which will provide safety to our souls and enable us to return to our Father in Heaven. Such shelves could well be stocked with gospel scholarship, faith, prayer, love, service, obedience, example, and kindness." - Thomas S. Monson (2005 April General Conference, Constant Truths for Changing Times, Sat. Morning Session)

"Some Church members know just enough about the doctrines to converse superficially on them, but their scant knowledge about the deep doctrines is inadequate for deep discipleship (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus uninformed about the deep doctrines, they make no deep change in their lives. They lack the faith to "give place" (Alma 32:27) consistently for real discipleship. Such members move out a few hundred yards from the entrance to the straight and narrow path and repose on the first little rise, thinking, "Well, this is all there is to it"; and they end up living far below their possibilities. While not as distant as those King Benjamin described "For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13) -- these people are not drawing closer either." - Neal A. Maxwell (Men and Women of Christ. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, pp. 2-3)

"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God." - Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 3:295)


Coming unto Christ necessarily involves learning what the Father and the Son know. "God is giving away the spiritual secrets of the universe, but are we listening?" (7) The home is where we expand our gospel scholarship. It is where we put our 'mind' upon the altar to let it be consumed. I have often felt that the rejection of increasing in our gospel learning is an unwillingness to consecrate our mind to God. How else are we to come to know those who love us most, but by diligent study and a consistent showing that we indeed want to know them. 
We have a God who values the expansion of our minds. There is so much depth in the scriptures waiting for our plummeting. Admittedly, there are many things hard to understand in the scriptures. I take this to mean that God trusts us and wants to enable us to understand. To suggest they are not worth the feasting on is to suggest that God speaks idle words. The illumination of our souls is what we should want.


Popular Posts