Oct 29

The Most Important Knowledge to Gain

Upon considering the things taught recently at the Sperry Symposium and at General Conference, it has become clear that there are different types, grades or levels of knowledge that one may gain.  Which are most important?

Let’s consult the words of Spencer W. Kimball to discover his feelings on the matter of the most important knowledge we can gain:

“Yet secular knowledge can be most helpful to the children of our Father in Heaven who, having placed first things first, have found and are living those truths which lead one to eternal life. These are they who have the balance and perspective to seek all knowledge-revealed and secular-as a tool and servant for the blessing of themselves and others. They know that preeminent among all activities in this life is preparing themselves for eternal life by subjugating the flesh, subjecting the body to the spirit, overcoming weaknesses, and so governing themselves that they may give leadership to others. Important, but of second priority, comes the knowledge associated with life in mortality.”

“Of all the treasures of knowledge, the most truly vital is the knowledge of God, of his existence, his powers, his love, and his promises. Through this knowledge, we learn that our great objective in life is to build character. In fact, we learn that the building of faith and character is paramount, for character is higher than intellect, and perfect character will be continually rewarded with increased intellect.”

“Thus, our real business on earth is to master self. And as we master ourselves, we will learn to master the earth and its elements. Most important, we will learn how to help others overcome and perfect themselves in all ways of living.”

“In the same way, let us seek the truth. Let us first seek the truths of God, and then let us live them. Then let us seek after the truths of his earth. Let us seek learning ‘by study and also by faith.’ (D&C 88:118.)”

“And let us remember that it is not so much what we know that is important, as what we do and what we are. The Master’s plan is a program of doing, of living, not merely knowing. Knowledge itself is not the end. It is how we righteously live and apply that knowledge in our own lives and how we apply it to help others that describes our character.”

“If we seek true happiness, we must expend our energies for purposes larger than our own self-interests. Let us ponder prayerfully how we may effectively and lovingly give service to our families, neighbors, and fellow Saints. And let us know that when we learn to do this we have learned one of the great truths of eternity.”

Spencer W. Kimball, “Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also by Faith,” Ensign, Sep 1983, p. 3

Further, how important is it that we continue learning throughout our lives?  Two wonderful talks have come to my attention about the cruciality of continuously learning.

The first, given by Eliot Butler in September 1976, is entitled “Everybody Is Ignorant, Only on Different Subjects.”

The second, given by Marion D. Hanks in June 1955, is entitled “Learning Never Ends.”


All three of these addresses are inspiring in directing one’s focus to how important it is always to continue learning.  They also clarify what types of things are the most important to learn.

Oct 26

The Sidney B. Sperry Symposium is Today

Today is going to be marvelous.  How do I know?  The Sperry Symposium begins tonight.  Attending one of these yearly events has long been a wish of mine.  Unabashedly, the following explanation of this event was taken right off the Symposium page:


Joseph Smith Building (JSB) Auditorium, and other adjacent campus locations.

Who is it for?

The Sperry Symposium is not just for professional teachers in the Church’s Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and at BYU–it’s for all who study the scriptures. The symposium is free to the public, and no registration is required.

About the Sperry Symposium

The Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, held annually at the end of October at Brigham Young University, features speakers from BYU Religious Education, Seminary and Institute teachers in the Church Education System, and other gospel scholars. The symposium focus is traditionally on the topic for Gospel Doctrine and Church study for the upcoming year.

It begins Friday evening with a keynote address, followed by a selection of presentations. The symposium continues Saturday morning.

Sidney Branton Sperry (1895–1977), a leading LDS scholar of the Book of Mormon and Bible, joined the Religion Department at Brigham Young University in 1932 and retired in 1969. The first Sperry Symposium was held four years later in 1973.

Admission is free

The symposium is free and open to the public. For further information, call 801–422–3611.

The Friday schedule is 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Saturday, it is from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.  Should anyone wish to attend and has an interest in carpooling, let me know!

Oct 23

Exciting New Technology Coming Soon!

As Latter-day Saints, we diligently strive to gain a mastery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no more important body of knowledge to apply to ourselves as human beings. Consider the following quotation of Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior…. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 17).

We find that this proposition is based upon scripture:

“And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just–yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them–therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” – Alma 31:5

My life is a testament to the soundness of this principle. As I spend time straining to understand the Gospel, studying and pondering the Scriptures, and writing down things that come to my mind, my very core behaviors change. If only slowly, my own perceptions of myself and the world around me become more positive.

The purpose of Gospel Study Journal is to enhance Gospel study and further Gospel scholarship through technology. This will be accomplished primarily with a specially-designed Gospel Study Journal. There is no cost to you should you decide to create one. Your entries are your own, and are kept private.

As you study the Gospel, you may have inspiration that you wish to write down. Even while doing completely unrelated things, impressions may come to you. You may have an experience that you may wish to record. This Study Journal will offer to you a central location to record all such notes, thoughts, and impressions.

In addition, the study journal will allow you to:

  • link together entries that are related.
  • tag entries with keywords describing the content.
  • link related scripture passages to your entries for easy reference in the future.
  • include relevant citations to other uplifting books that are not in the Standard Works.

As I have spent a great deal of time considering different scripture marking systems, some of them seem to have certain drawbacks, for example:

  • Scriptures wear out – Over time as you mark your scriptures, they begin to look tattered and become difficult to read. There is no longer room for new notes.
  • Lost scriptures mean lost notes – Should you lose your set of scriptures, all of your notes are lost, too.
  • Storage and Retrieval of Thoughts – How many times do you say, “Now, where did I mark that thought or idea?” Many systems fail to provide a good way to retrieve thoughts.
  • Difficult to share with others – Sharing thoughts and notes isn’t as easy as handing them a copy.
  • Forgetfulness – To save space, we sometimes use symbols to mark our scriptures. This means we have to remember what the symbols mean. We run the risk of forgetting what we wrote down.
  • Skew of Meaning – Let’s say you write a thought out to the side of a verse that touched your heart one day. The next time you read through that passage, you may see that note and mistakenly tell yourself, “I already know the meaning of that verse.” This is more common than you might think, and you may not even realize it’s happening. The idea is to have a clean slate where you are able to receive continued revelation, even on verses you may have read many times.
  • Either too much or not enough structure – With many systems, you are either told exactly how to use the system, and it is in a rigid format (such as a book). The huge drawback with books are that they are linear. You read them front to back, and cannot access many pages or pieces of pages at once. You are tied into the structure of the book and cannot move things around as you want.

The Study Journal offered on this site will overcome all of these problems. You will be able to link journal entries to each other, tag them with keywords, link them to scripture passages, or even add citations from other books into your notes, among other things. The benefit of an immersive, intensive study of the Gospel is a tendency towards self-improvement. These are all things that have contributed to the creation of this site.

A preliminary version of the Gospel Study Journal will be available on http://www.ldsscripturestudy.com/ very soon. We will keep you posted on the progress!

Oct 18

Inviting the Spirit

Something for which I strive daily is to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. For different activities in which you may be engaged throughout your day, there may be an assortment of ways appropriate for doing this.  My hope is that it will be of benefit to discuss some ways to invite the Holy Ghost to be with you as you are in different situations.

A few weeks ago, our family sat down to think of ways that we could bring the Spirit into our lives.  The following are some of the things that we thought of:

  • Listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – I do this every moment that I am working on this website.
  • Praying – Plead with the Lord to bless you with the power and influence of the Holy Ghost.
  • Singing Hymns – I cannot tell you how many times “I Am a Child of God” has calmed our children.
  • Studying the Scriptures – Written through revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost, scripture study is one of the best ways to invite the Spirit.
  • Performing Service – How can you serve someone and not feel the warm confirming influence of the Spirit inside you?
  • Being nice to everyone we come into contact with – Wishing someone a good day may have more impact in their life than you can ever know.  It can also bring the Spirit into your day.
  • Clean and tidy up our home – The Holy Ghost will not dwell in unclean places, as we have been told.  How much better do you feel when your room or home has been straightened up and is clean?
  • Visit the temple grounds – Taking children to the temple grounds is great occasion to help them recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost because of how strong it is there.
  • Talk about the Gospel – Gospel discussions, if done with a spirit of love, can be prime occasions for feeling the influence of the Holy Spirit.

This is a mere handful of the great many ways that you can invite the Spirit into your life.  I leave the challenge with you to sit down with your own family, or even by yourself.  List out as many ways as you can that will invite the Holy Ghost into your life, especially as you are doing other activities.

Oct 16

Scripture Study Session Format

When studying the scriptures, one of the primary goals is to learn about the Gospel.  As it is the Holy Ghost that instructs us, it raises the question: How can we best study such that we have the Holy Ghost with us?

As studying the scriptures itself brings the Holy Ghost, that is one thing we will already be doing.  Singing a hymn also brings the Holy Ghost.  Before you study next time, sing all of the verses of “I Am a Child of God.”  Then take note of the feelings brought to you through the presence of the Holy Ghost.

What else is very simple that we can do to feel the Spirit as we study the Gospel?  What if we said a prayer asking the Lord to pour out the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon us as we study and ponder His holy teachings?

It is my experience that a hymn followed by a prayer as a prelude to studying the Gospel brings a much richer experience in my studies of the scriptures and Gospel scholarship as a whole.

Oct 15

Study Journal Progress

Studying the Gospel has been important to me for a long time.  The system hosted here has also been available for a number of years.  I’m re-writing it so that it is usable for everyone, and not just myself.  We’re making progress.

The Gospel Study Journal has all of the mechanics for doing what it needs to, but it isn’t quite polished.  That’s what the new version is all about.  So far, it displays about 25 entries per page.  The entries alternate colors so that it’s easy to view.  I have paging buttons to move through your collection of entries. I have a rudimentary search available.

My focus is making it as easy to use as possible.  This enables just about anyone to study the gospel in a simple and easy way.  In future releases, I would love to have localization set up so that we can translate it for folks who may not speak English.

Although the progress is slow, it’s coming along nicely.  It is worlds better than what is available now.  Subscribe to the RSS feed to keep appraised of progress on the new version of the Gospel Study Journal.

Oct 09

BYU Religious Education Review

Creating an edifying and uplifting environment and atmosphere for yourself is conducive to your desire to be the best person that you can.  Hanging photos on your walls of the Lord, the leadership of the Church, or temples can serve this purpose.  In addition, informative and worthwhile books and magazines can help perform this function.  Many likely have the Scriptures and the Ensign close by.  But do you have your copy of the BYU Religious Education Review?

From the site, a description of this magazine is given as follows:

“BYU Religious Education Review magazine provides readers with information about BYU’s college of Religious Education, the Religious Studies Center (RSC), the Religious Educator journal, our most recent books published, the latest information from BYU’s Religious Education, including interviews, commentary, articles, advancements, awards, and often features faculty members who are making news and realizing extraordinary accomplishments.”

The subscription for the semi-annual magazine is free.  Those who wish to take advantage of this marvelous resource may do so on the SUBSCRIPTION PAGE.  You may also call 801-422-6975 if you wish to subscribe by phone.

Each issue includes recent discoveries and scholarly developments made since the last issue.  Also included are dates of conferences and symposia that will be held in the six months following the publication of that issue.  The events are generally free of charge, and registration is not usually required.  Take a look at the CONFERENCES AND SYMPOSIA page for further details.

This is a recommended resource for those who wish to keep current on Gospel Scholarship.

Oct 03

The Prophet Speaks – Our Semi-Annual Privilege

first-presidencyTwice each year, we have a unique opportunity to study the Gospel through listening to our Prophet, Apostles, and General Authorities speak to us.  The highest hope of their hearts will be that they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost — that they will convey to us that which the Lord would have us know.  The other half of this principle is that we must have the power and influence of the same Spirit to inspire us with the true meaning of the words that we will hear.

This weekend, as we listen to the talks, perhaps we could keep a notebook handy.  Is this to attempt to write down everything each speaker says?  My suggestion is that it is not.  What if we pondered on each discourse, writing down the inspiration given us by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost about what is being said?  Could this be personal revelation?  Could this perhaps be the Lord’s will concerning us with regards to what is being said?

Should the Lord tell you something directly, wouldn’t you greatly desire to record it for future reference?

This, to me, is a marvelous way to study the Gospel: listen to the revealed word of the Lord through his representatives here on the Earth, receiving revelation of your own at the very same time.  What could be better?

Oct 01

We Become Our Focus

Does it not astound you how many scriptures touch on one of the most basic principles of our lives?  Divers are taught this principle.  Motorcyclists should be aware of it, as well.  Many who are very good at what they do practice this principle.  What is it?

You tend to gravitate towards that upon which you are focused.

Divers learn that wherever they move their head, their body follows.  With golfers, they focus on where the hole is, not where the traps are.  Having been a motorcylist myself, I can attest to the fact that your bike tends to go in the direction in which you are looking.

For those interested to see the connection, let us take a look at 3 Nephi 13:20-22, which says:

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Matthew 6:20-22 provides a nearly identical precept.  But we are to have an eye single to what?  Let us consult the Doctrine and Covenants.  In section 82 verse 19, section 59 verse 1, section 4 verse 5, section 88 verse 67, section 55 verse 1, section 27 verse 2, and Mormon 8:15, we learn that we are to have an eye single to the glory of God.  So… what is the glory of God?

An appropriate place to begin to answer this question seems to be Moses 1:39, in which we are told:

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

Surely, if we focus on bringing to pass our own eternal life, and that of our family, that will be the direction in which we gravitate.

A word of caution, though.  Should we focus on not becoming what we don’t want to be, we are still focusing on it.  Guess what that means?  We will gravitate in that direction anyway.  My humble suggestion would be to remind yourself every day of what it is that you want to become, what your goals are, and the direction you want to take your life.

According to holy writ, you cannot help but move towards that end.