Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“Seek Learning, Even by Study and Also
The School of the Prophets provides a pattern for us to follow in our learning.
We should learn "by study and also by faith."
We should continue to learn throughout our lives.
In the temple we gain an education for eternity.
A study of this lesson will encourage us to learn “by study and also by
faith” throughout our lives (D&C
Scripture references for study:
Class Member Study Guide
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 23 Handout (PDF)
A Latter-day Commitment To Education
The Kirtland Era
The School of the Prophets - A Pattern for Learning.
The Prophet was commanded to organize the School of the Prophets.
The revelation was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on December 27, 1832
"And I give unto you a commandment that you shall
teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
"Teach ye diligently and
my grace shall attend you, that you may 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, that are expedient for you to understand;
"Of 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—
"That ye may be prepared
in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto
I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you."
This school was formally organized in Kirtland in January 1833.
It first started in a small room above the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland.
The school was opened with fourteen high priests and two elders. Orson Pratt
was admitted to the school a few weeks later.
The students frequently gathered at sunrise in the spirit of fasting and
The teacher would precede the students into the classroom and offer a personal
"And when he cometh into the house of God, for
he should be first in the house—behold, this is beautiful, that he may
be an example—Let him offer himself in prayer upon his knees before God,
in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant." (D&C
Once the students had gathered, the instructor saluted them with uplifted
hands. He would then recite an oath which the students would repeat.
"And when any shall come in after him, let the
teacher arise, and, with uplifted hands to heaven, yea, even directly,
salute his brother or brethren with these words:
"Art thou a brother or
brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or
remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you
to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable,
to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of
love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving,
forever and ever. Amen....
"And he that cometh in
and is faithful before me, and is a brother, or if they be brethren, they
shall salute the president or teacher with uplifted hands to heaven, with
this same prayer and covenant, or by saying Amen, in token of the same."
(D&C 88:132-133, 135)
The classes often continued until 4:00 PM.
They often fasted all day, breaking the fast by partaking of the sacrament
together before returning home.
Members were admitted only after participating in the ordinance of washing
Can you imagine such a school? Can you imagine the kind of learning
that must have transpired in that environment?
Orson Pratt said they gathered to learn about "the
operations of the Spirit upon the mind of man" (The Heaven's
Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838, p266).
John Taylor said that Joseph Smith counseled the elders not to hesitate
in expressing their thoughts, for, the Prophet said, "it
was very common for the Holy Spirit to reveal some things to obscure individuals
that were not known to others. Consequently, an exchange of ideas and reflections
was considered profitable to all." (Ibid., p266)
The Prophet noted on March 18: "Great joy
and satisfaction continually beamed in the countenances of the School of
the Prophets, and the Saints, on account of the things revealed, and our
progress in the knowledge of God" (HC, 1:334).
Sacred experiences at the school.
In March 1833, the Prophet instructed the students to prepare themselves
for a day of "revelation and vision."
They gathered at sunrise.
Joseph Smith counseled them to prepare their minds for "the pure in heart
should see a heavenly vision."
The elders present then offered personal prayers.
The Prophet reported "many present had the eyes
of their understanding opened by the Spirit of God, so as to behold many
things. I then blessed the bread and wine, and distributed a portion to
each. Many of the brethren saw a heavenly vision of the Savior, and concourses
of angels, and many other things, of which each one has a record of what
he saw." (HC, 1:334-335)
John Murdock reported the following experience at the school in the spring
"The Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves
before God, and exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord.
And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my
understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely,
the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright
silver gray, curled in most majestic form. His eyes a keen penetrating
blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered
from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than
any garment I have ever before seen. His countenance was most penetrating,
and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole
personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed....
But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never
felt before to that degree." (The Heaven's Resound: A
History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838, p267)
The school continued for about three months.
The School of the Elders was organized in November 1834. It replaced
the School of the Prophets and was sometimes referred to as the same.
As with the School of the Prophets, this school had the purpose of training
men to be more effective missionaries and ministers of the gospel.
It also prepared the elders to receive an endowment in the Kirtland Temple
after its completion.
This school was held during the winter months when there was less farm
work to be done.
A second session was held during the winter of 1835-36.
"Those who attended the school studied such subjects
as English grammar, writing, philosophy, government, literature, geography,
and ancient and modern history. Among the texts they used were Richard
Watson's Theological Institutes or a View of the Evidences, Doctrines,
Morals, and Institutions of Christianity (1834) and Royal Robbins's The
World Developed in Its History and Geography Embracing a History of the
World (1832). Although the students explored a variety of disciplines,
religious topics received the main emphasis." (Ibid., p268-269)
The Lectures on Faith were first delivered to this school during the winter
After the Kirtland Temple was completed (1836) the School for the Elders
was reorganized under the name School of the Prophets.
This school was conducted in the temple and included the administration
of the sacrament, the ordinance of washing of feet, and obtained a special
endowment or gift of knowledge and power.
In January 1836 a new class or school was created, called the Hebrew School.
This class was also held in the temple.
The brethren engaged a Hebrew professor by the name of Joshua Seixas. He did not arrive in time for the opening of the school, so the Prophet
began the course. Progress was slow.
"Their studies were also interrupted one day when
class members spent their time discussing some powerful spiritual manifestations
in the temple. The students were more interested in discussing the visions
they had witnessed than trying to learn to read Hebrew." (Ibid.,
This sounds like a typical class, easily led off on a tangent. But
this was a good one.
Professor Seixas arrived in Kirtland late in January 1836.
Forty students were enrolled in the class, but interest was so great additional
classes were organized.
They studied from a Hebrew Bible and other textbooks on Hebrew.
The school continued for about three months.
After three weeks, those that were excelling in the school were separated
out for advanced training. These students included Joseph Smith,
Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, William W. Phelps,
William E. McLellin, Edward Partridge, and Sylvester Smith (Ibid., p272).
Orson Pratt eventually received a certificate from Professor Seixas stating
he was capable of teaching the language.
Although women were not enrolled in the school, many of them studied with
their husbands in the evening.
The Prophet's attitude: "My soul delights
in reading the word of the Lord in the original. I am determined
to pursue the study of the languages, until I shall become master of them,
if I am permitted to live long enough." (Ibid., p272)
The Kirtland School.
This school was more of a traditional school. It was attended by
old and young, male and female.
In February 1835, one hundred students attended with William E. McLellin
"They studied geography, writing (penmanship),
arithmetic, and English grammar. In addition to using Noah Webster's dictionary
as a text, they studied Samuel Kirkham's Grammar, J. Olney's Geography,
and T. Burdick's Arithmetic." (Ibid., p272-273)
The school moved to the Kirtland Temple for the term beginning in November
During the Kirtland era, other schools were established.
Several taught elementary subjects.
Home schooling was popular during this period.
Eliza R. Snow taught the Prophet's family at home in 1837.
"In addition to the formally organized schools
in Kirtland, the Saints had various other opportunities to learn. Benjamin
F. Johnson recalled attending a geography class one evening. William W.
Phelps wrote to his wife that he had attended a writing school. Eliza R.
Snow stated that during the spring of 1836 she 'taught a select school'
for young ladies in Kirtland." (Ibid., p273-274)
The Tradition Continues
As the early Church developed during the Kirtland era, education became
a important part of life for the Saints. That commitment has continued
forward from the Kirtland period.
"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other
words, light and truth." (D&C 93:36)
"It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance."
Joseph Smith: "A man is saved no faster
than he gains knowledge." (TPJS, p217)
Elder John A. Widtsoe: "We believe in education,
the gathering of knowledge and the training of the mind. The Church itself
is really an educational institution. Traditionally, we are an education-loving
people." (CR, Oct 1944)
Schools were erected in Independence and Far West.
Along with other schools established during the Nauvoo period, the Nauvoo
charter included a provision for the University of the City of Nauvoo.
The university opened in 1841 with a curriculum that included languages
(German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), mathematics, chemistry and
geology, literature, and history.
As the Saints evacuated Nauvoo, one might think that the entire focus would
be on survival and the mechanics of the journey.
"Brigham Young instructed the migrating Saints
to bring with them at least a copy of every valuable treatise on education-every
book, map, chart, or diagram that may contain interesting, useful, and
attractive matter, to gain the attention of children, and cause them to
love to learn to read; and, also every historical, mathematical, philosophical,
geographical, geological, astronomical, scientific, practical, and all
other variety of useful and interesting writings, maps, etc., to present
to the General Church Recorder, when they shall arrive at their destination,
from which important and interesting matter may be gleaned to compile the
most valuable works, on every science and subject, for the benefit of the
rising generation." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
A variety of schools were established throughout the settlements of the
The University of Deseret (now the University of Utah) was established
by Brigham Young in Salt Lake City in 1850, just three years after the
arrival of the Saints.
In 1876, Brigham Young appointed Karl G. Maeser, a German immigrant, to
be the principle of the Brigham Young Academy in Provo.
"The development of the Academy movement and the
direction of Church policies in education were largely determined by this
German educator." (Ibid., p443)
Over time, the Brigham Young Academy evolved into Brigham Young University,
one of the foremost religious universities in the world.
As publicly supported schools became more fully established in Utah, the
Church began to close its academies. To supplement secular education
with religious teaching, the Church established the seminary program.
The first seminary was opened in 1912, adjacent to Granite High School
in Salt Lake City. Students were released from school classes for
one period each day to attend religious instruction.
The seminary program has continued to grow since that time. In addition
to the released time seminaries, early morning and home study seminaries
have been established.
As of 2017, more than 400,000 students are enrolled in seminaries worldwide (MormonNewsroom.org)
Similar to the seminary program, the Church established the Institute of
Religion, giving university students an opportunity to advance their religious
The first institute was established adjacent to the University of Idaho
in Moscow, Idaho, in 1926.
In 1935, Elder John A. Widtsoe spoke about the purpose of the Institute
program: "During University years students
meeting much new knowledge frequently have difficulty, unaided, in reconciling
their religious beliefs…with their academic studies…. LDS Institutes have
been established to meet this situation. They offer studies in religion
on the college level, in college terms, dealing with the profound questions
which every thinking individual has a right to ask. At the Institute students
discuss these questions freely and frankly with the Institute Directors,
either in classes or in private consultation." (Ibid., p684)
The Church now sponsors four institutions of higher education: Brigham
Young University in Provo, Utah; Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie,
Hawaii; Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho;
and LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. The Church also sponsors
a handful of schools in Mexico and in the islands of the Pacific.
At the April 2001 General Conference, President Hinckley announced the
latest Church program to support education of LDS students through out
- "We propose a plan—a plan
which we believe is inspired by the Lord. The Church is establishing a
fund largely from the contributions of faithful Latter-day Saints....
Based on similar principles to those underlying the Perpetual Emigration
Fund, we shall call it the Perpetual Education Fund.
"From the earnings of this
fund, loans will be made to ambitious young men and women, for the most
part returned missionaries, so that they may borrow money to attend school.
Then when they qualify for employment, it is anticipated that they will
return that which they have borrowed together with a small amount of interest
designed as an incentive to repay the loan.
"It is expected that they
will attend school in their own communities. They can live at home. We
have an excellent institute program established in these countries where
they can be kept close to the Church....
"Where there is widespread
poverty among our people, we must do all we can to help them to lift themselves,
to establish their lives upon a foundation of self-reliance that can come
of training. Education is the key to opportunity." (CR, Apr 2001)
The Church has a long and wonderful tradition in education, both temporal and spiritual. I recall a college professor
telling the class that the majority of university graduates do not complete
reading a single book within five years after graduation. The Latter-day
Saints have a much different attitude towards education. We not only
support formal education, but the ongoing process of learning throughout
This attitude of education and learning is best exemplified in the life
of my mother. She set the example, not only for her own children,
but for the generations that are now following. On birthdays and Christmas,
grandma sent books to the children. My own children treasure the
books that she sent over the years. Up to the end of her life, at the age of 89, mom
still actively reading and learning. A visitor to her house found
books scattered throughout. She was frequently found listening
to video or cassette tape addresses from General Conference and BYU devotionals. Indeed, her house
was a "house of learning."
Seek Learning By Study & By Faith
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently
and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books
words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."
The Latter-day Saint attitude toward education has been noted above. It is a commandment from God. Education is essential to our temporal
salvation as well as our eternal salvation.
"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain
unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person
gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence
and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world
to come." (D&C 130:18-19)
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS SHOULD WE STUDY?
Things pertaining to this life and world.
Instructions from the Lord.
Words of wisdom out of the best books (D&C 88:118).
"...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
"...become acquainted with all good books, and
with languages, tongues, and people" (D&C
"...obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries,
and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man"
President John Taylor: "We ought to foster
education and intelligence of every kind; cultivate literary tastes, and
men of literary and scientific talent should improve that talent; and all
should magnify the gifts which God has given unto them. … If there is anything
good and praiseworthy in morals, religion, science, or anything calculated
to exalt and ennoble man, we are after it. But with all our getting, we
want to get understanding, and that understanding which flows from God."
(Gospel Kingdom, p277)
WHAT ARE THE BEST BOOKS?
President Ezra Taft Benson: "Surely
such books would first include the scriptures and then the words of prophets,
seers, and revelators." (Come Unto Christ,
This counsel from President Benson is important. I grew up attending public schools where religion had little to do with
the secular curriculum. I found it almost eye-opening to attend BYU
and have the influence of revelation and teachings of the Brethren broaden
the scope of subjects such as geology, biology, and history.
I heard it said once that what we become depends
upon the people we associate with and the books we read. Among the
best books are those that help us to grow and become better people, that
enlighten our minds, and help us better understand our culture and heritage.
Over the years I have read a number of books on the American
revolution, the Civil War, and America's involvement in World War II. These books have helped me better appreciate the divine purposes of this
nation, the hand of God in its history, and the price of patriot blood
that was spilled to gain and preserve our remarkable freedom.
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "You
know that your children will read. They will read books and they will read
magazines and newspapers. Cultivate within them a taste for the best. While
they are very young, read to them the great stories which have become immortal
because of the virtues they teach. Expose them to good books. Let there
be a corner somewhere in your house, be it ever so small, where they will
see at least a few books of the kind upon which great minds have been nourished."
(CR, Oct 1975)
Joseph Fielding Smith: "A
book may not be classed as bad, but we should ask ourselves if it contains
any thought that will benefit us intellectually, morally, or spiritually,
if we read it. I do not mean to say that a book written solely to amuse
is necessarily bad and to be condemned, for some of our most worthy authors
have given to the world good books of this kind that can safely be recommended.
But if the aim of a book is not uplifting or helpful to the reader it should
be avoided. There are so many books that have been tried and proved to
be good that we need not waste our time with those we may consider doubtful."
(Doctrines of Salvation, p206)
Things pertaining to the eternities.
"...in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the
law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God,
that are expedient for you to understand" (D&C
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I should
like to suggest that you follow that injunction given by the Son of God.
With all of your learning, learn of him. With all of your study, seek knowledge
of the Master. That knowledge will complement in a wonderful way the secular
training you receive and give a fulness to your life and character that
can come in no other way." (CR, Oct 1964)
This should be the cornerstone of our study program. Everything else
should supplement our study of the gospel. We have weekly Church
meetings where we receive instruction in the doctrines of the kingdom. We should involve ourselves in daily reading of the scriptures as individuals
and families. We should study the teachings of the Brethren.
Seek Learning by Study.
We could take a whole lesson on this topic alone. The word study
implies an application of effort. Casual reading does not require
effort. To study a subject, requires an application of one's mental
faculties. The Lord wants us to apply ourselves in obtaining knowledge
and wisdom. As part of this process we need to invoke the process
of pondering and prayer.
Seek Learning by Faith.
WHAT DOES FAITH HAVE TO DO WITH LEARNING?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "The things of God
cannot be learned solely by study and reason. Despite their essential
and beneficial uses, the methods of study and reason are insufficient as
ways of approaching God and understanding the doctrines of his gospel."
(Lord's Way, p56)
President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency said: "I
believe in study. I believe that men learn much through study. … I also
believe, however, and know, that learning by study is greatly accelerated
by faith." (Learning for the Eternities, p72)
Brother Joseph Fielding McConkie: "The eyes
of faith enable us to see much that otherwise goes unobserved, whereas
those who refuse to see and feel the things of the Spirit eventually become
blind to such things and beyond feeling." (Answers: Straightforward
Answers To Tough Gospel Questions, p174)
The Temple - The University of Eternity.
As we prepare ourselves for eternity and to serve the Lord in this life,
the Lord has provided us with the opportunity to gain advanced gospel learning
at his holy house, the temple.
Elder John A. Widtsoe: "The temple is a
place of instruction. Here the principles of the gospel are reviewed and
profound truths of the kingdom of God are unfolded. If we enter the temple
in the right spirit and are attentive, we go out enriched in gospel knowledge
and wisdom." (quoted in Ensign, Jan 1972, pp56-57)
Elder Boyd K. Packer: "The temple is a great
school. It is a house of learning. In the temples the atmosphere is maintained
so that it is ideal for instruction in matters that are deeply spiritual.
"The temple ceremony will not be fully understood
at first experience. It will only be partly understood. Return again and
again and again. Return to learn. Things that have troubled you or things
that have been puzzling or things that have been mysterious will become
known to you. Many of them will be the quiet, personal things that you
really cannot explain to anyone else. But to you they are things known.
"So look toward the temple. Point your children
toward the temple. From the days of their infancy, direct their attention
to it, and begin their preparation for the day when they may enter the
"In the meantime, be teachable yourself, be reverent.
Drink deeply from the teachings—the symbolic, deeply spiritual teachings—available
only in the temple." (The Holy Temple [pamphlet, 1982], pp6-8)
For additional information on this topic see
Learning at LDS.org.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on education and learning as discussed in this
lesson. What can you do to further your education, both in temporal and
Resources Used In This Lesson
Answers: Straightforward Answers To Tough Gospel Questions by Joseph Fielding
Come Unto Christ by Ezra Taft Benson.
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.
History of the Church (HC).
Learning for the Eternities by Marion G. Romney.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
The Gospel Kingdom by John Taylor, edited by G. Homer Durham.
The Heaven's Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio,
1830-1838, by Milton V. Backman, Jr.
The Holy Temple by Boyd K. Packer.
The Lord's Way by Dallin H. Oaks.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
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