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Terry B. Ball

Allow Learning to Inform and Confirm Your Faith

Thank you for that beautiful, beautiful number—the Spirit is invited. I hadn’t heard that particular arrangement before. I love that hymn [“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”]. I love the doctrine it teaches. I love the way that it makes me feel, and how it captures so much of my faith. “Oh to Grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be. Let Thy goodness, as a fetter, bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.” A marvelous prayer.

I’m so happy to be invited to speak to you today. This is just a thrill for me. Thank you for coming. As you came in, I couldn’t help but think how good you look, and I suspect you are probably as good as you look. In fact, not only do you look good, you’re really quite good-looking. Isn’t it great to be both—to look good and to be good-looking? Do you know what makes you good-looking? Living the gospel. The more you live the gospel, the better looking you are.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. You’re saying, “Oh, Brother Ball, you must have lived the gospel a long time.” Well, I’m teasing of course. I don’t know that living the gospel makes one physically more beautiful or attractive or handsome. I do think there is something wonderful, something truly remarkable and attractive about a people who are trying to live a life that is pleasing to God. That’s what matters the most. At the end of the day, it’s so much more important to be good than to be good-looking, isn’t it?

And while living the gospel may not make us more beautiful or handsome, I think you know that it does make us happier. Doesn’t it? Not that we’re happy all the time. Someone said if you are happy all the time, they’ll have to lock you up. Living the gospel doesn’t make us immune to the trials and struggles we face in life, but it helps us deal with those trials and struggles better, doesn’t it? It gives us such hope, such perspective and purpose and direction in life. What a blessing to be able to believe, to have the privilege, the wonderful gift of faith and testimony.

In addition to helping us be happier, sociological studies indicate that living the gospel also helps us be better students. Does that surprise you? It helps us be better students, and it also—being better students helps us live the gospel better. A number of studies indicate such. One in particular that I’m familiar with was done by some of my colleagues at BYU. It’s entitled “Secularization, Higher Education, and Religiosity.”[1] That particular study looked at the relationship between religious behavior and education levels in the United States. It found that, for most Americans, the more education you have the less likely you are to be engaged in religious activities such as prayer, Bible study, and missionary work. That’s the case for most Americans. That study and similar ones have found that is not the case for Latter-day Saints. Does that surprise you?

If you are a Latter-day Saint the more likely you are, the studies show, to pray, to study the gospel, to be involved in missionary activity, to pay tithing, and to feel that your life—that faith is an important part of your life. I’ve certainly found that to be true in my own academic training. As you know, I’m a professor of ancient scripture at BYU, but my PhD is in the sciences, in the field of archaeobotany. Over the years, I’ve seen many examples of faithful Latter-day Saint scientists who have made remarkable contributions to the scientific community and also are firmly committed to the gospel and providing great leadership.

One of my favorites is Dr. Henry Eyring, President Eyring’s father. He taught at Princeton for 15 years, then moved on to become the dean of the graduate school at the University of Utah. By the time he finished his career, he held 15 honorary degrees, had published over 600 papers, 10 scientific books, was president of the American Chemical Society, and probably best known for the Absolute Rate Theory of Chemical Reactions. He loved to speak about how his scientific education had blessed his faith. One of his most famous statements—he said: “I am now going to venture to say that science has rendered a service to religion. The scientific spirit is a spirit of inquiry, a spirit of reaching out for truth. In the final analysis, this spirit is… the essence of religion. The Savior said, ‘Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ The scientist has in effect reaffirmed this great fundamental laid down by the Master, and in doing so has given a new impetus to religion.”[2] What a beautiful statement.

Another example of a faithful Latter-day Saint who excelled as a scientist is Dr. Harvey Fletcher. Every time you put on your headphones or listen to music, you owe a debt to Dr. Fletcher, because he pioneered the development of stereophonic sound reproduction. By the time he finished his career, he published more than 50 papers and two books, as well as obtained 19 patents. He received honorary degrees from numerous universities and institutions, was the first president of the American Acoustical Society, and probably best known as the first Utahn and the first Latter-day Saint to become a member of the National Academy of Science. He was often known to modestly say, “I have a fair reputation as a scientist, and a firm faith in God.”[3]

There are many living examples of highly educated, faithful LDS scientists who are excelling in their disciplines as well. Some can be found teaching at our Church schools. For example, at BYU there’s Dr. Scott Summerfeldt. He’s a pioneer in active noise control, a science that studies how to control noise with noise. Another, Dr. Kyle Rollins—he is acclaimed for the many lives he has helped save, by his research that helps us predict earthquakes and figure out how to respond to or prevent the damage that they cause. Another, Dr. Larry Howell, is recognized as a world leader in the development of microelectromechanical systems, that are so vital to our technology today. And then there’s Dr. William Barrett. Every time you use Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, you are using tools and algorithms developed by Dr. Barrett.

Some highly educated scientists have set aside their scientific pursuits in order to provide critical leadership for the Church—some even in the Quorum of the Twelve. Perhaps you know that Elder John A. Widstoe was trained as a chemist and an agronomist.  He graduated with high honors and taught chemistry at Utah State Agricultural College, and later went on to be the president of the University of Utah, all before being appointed to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. As he spoke of the relationship between education and faith, and particularly of science, he said, “Science contributes help in numerous corners of religion. The fields of prayer, eternity of man, the Resurrection, life hereafter have been made clearer to the human understanding by the facts of science. Indeed, the progress of knowledge by the scientific method has been a handmaid to faith.”[4]

Perhaps you know that the apostle James E. Talmage, the author of Jesus the Christ was likewise a scientist. He studied geology and chemistry at Brigham Young Academy, Lehigh University, John Hopkins University, became a professor of geology and chemistry at BYU and eventually he too became a president of the University of Utah. He became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1911, and often spoke of the relationship, again, between science and faith. He said, “My belief in a loving God perfectly accords with my reverence for science.”

Among current members of the Quorum of the Twelve, there are two who are trained in science—Russell M. Nelson in the medical sciences, and Elder Richard G. Scott as a nuclear engineer. Elder Nelson on one occasion, speaking to a group of young single adults, offered this important observation. He said, “In the Church, we embrace all truth, whether it comes from the scientific laboratory or from the revealed word of [God]. We accept all truth as being part of the gospel.”[5]

On one occasion speaking at a BYU devotional, Elder Richard G. Scott reminisced warmly about his experiences as a nuclear engineer and then made this profound observation as only Elder Scott can. He said, “I find a combination of scientific method and that of seeking pure truth by prayer to be a tremendously effective way of solidifying a foundation of knowledge in our lives.”[6]

There are many other examples of faithful Latter-day Saint scientists who could be included in my list of examples, as well as many examples of Latter-day Saints in other disciplines, careers, and professions, who are both leaders in their fields and deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. You—you will join their ranks as you take full advantage of this opportunity to receive an education—as you educate your minds and your hearts, your faith and your intellect during these critical years of your schooling.

I think I know some of the reasons why education and faith have such a strong correlation for Latter-day Saints. I want to mention three that have occurred to me. First of all, our faith always has and always will continue to stress the importance of education. I love the way the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants teach principles. In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, “the Olive Leaf,” the Lord’s message of peace unto us, we read: “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.”[7]

To be better missionaries, in that same section we are told to be “instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in 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 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 perplexities of nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.”[8]

In the 93rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, we are reminded that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”[9] And in the 130th section we are taught that “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.”[10] As Latter-day Saints, we believe that if we are to become like our Heavenly Father, we must take full advantage of our educational opportunities.

The second reason I think faith and education are so strongly correlated for Latter-day Saints is that what we learn in our academic studies often informs or helps us understand our faith better. And our faith often informs or helps us understand what we’re learning in our classrooms better. Let me again illustrate from a personal example.

Over the years I’ve found that my botanical training has been a wonderful asset to me in my study of the scriptures, particularly in the studies of Isaiah. By my count, Isaiah uses more than 300 botanical metaphors in his prophecies. One of my favorites is found in Isaiah 28:24-29. It beautifully teaches principles fundamental to our faith. It reads [Brother Ball proceeds to read the following passage very rapidly.]:

“Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?

“When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cumin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?

“For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.

“For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cumin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cumin with a rod.

“Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.”

Isn’t that just inspiring? Well, that’s not the way to read Isaiah, [is it]? It may be the way you read it at 6:00 a.m. family scripture study, because you just wanted to get through it. But there’s power in these words. And if you take your time to look at them carefully, and with a little botanical background, we learn truths that are so fundamental to our faith and vital to our testimonies. So let’s look at it again, a little more carefully.

It begins with this rhetorical question: “Does the plowman plow all day to sow?” In other words, does he plow the same field over and over again? The answer has to be “no,” but rather, when he has broken the clods of the ground and when he has “made plain” and level “the face thereof,” he then begins to plant different kinds of seeds in different kinds of ways. The first thing he plants is fitches. Now the plant identified as fitches—it says “doth he not cast abroad the fitches”—is a plant we think called nigella sativa, commonly known as black nutmeg, black cumin. It’s a delicate herb to grow, on a long, slender stalk, has fine incised leaves, a terminal pale blue to white flower. When it goes to seed, it has a walnut-size shape and colored seed pod that’s kind of brittle, and if you open it up you’ll find it’s full of tiny, tiny seeds that are very spicy and pungent. It’s prized as a spice. They’re added to soups and sprinkled on breads, and used in curries, and used as an astringent in folk medicine. A wonderful little crop.

Now if you’re going to plant fitches, how would you go about it? Would you get out your magnifying glasses and your tweezers and pick up each seed and put it where you want it to go? The answer is “of course not.” Instead, you would take handfuls of these and what would you do with them? You’d throw them out. We call that “broadcast seeding.” You just throw those out on the ground. And that’s the word here, where it says, “doth he not cast abroad,” or cast out—that Hebrew word means “to throw out, or to scatter, to cast abroad.”

Now you know that when you broadcast, you throw out the seeds, they all land in nice, evenly spaced rows, right? Well, hardly. They tend to be closely clumped together and grow in dense clumps. But the neat thing is, that’s the best way for fitches to grow. They’re such a delicate herb that if they’re far spaced out, they can’t compete with other vegetation and weeds. But when they’re sown closely together, they create this wonderful little microenvironment and preserve the water and choke out the weeds, and they just thrive. And knowing this, then, the farmer broadcasts—he casts out the fitches.

And then next it says that he “scatters the cummin.” You sisters know what cumin is—it’s a member of the carrot family, another seed very prized in cooking and as a spice. It likewise does best when it is scattered, and here the word means “to throw abroad, to throw out,” again, broadcast the cumin seeds. And it does best when it too is thrown in tight-knit communities.

So he throws out his fitches, he throws out his cumin. But the next thing he plants is the wheat. Wheat was the most important crop grown in the ancient world. It was the staff of life. The word here, where it says he “cast in the principal wheat”—to cast in is the Hebrew word “som,” which means “to place.” He seems to be making a contrast whereas he threw out the fitches and he threw out the cumin, he is placing the wheat. It says he “cast in the principal wheat.” The word translated as principal is probably better understood as “in rows.” So whereas he broadcasted the fitches and cumin, he carefully plants the wheat in rows. And that’s the best way for wheat to grow. It does best when it’s in rows, so it can be properly irrigated and cultivated and have the seed, the spacing for the seed heads to ripen as they need to.

And then next it says he puts in “the appointed barley”—or better translated, the barley in its appointed place. Barley is an inferior grain for human consumption. Barley bread is the “poor man’s bread.” Its redeeming value is that it will grow where weeds will not. It’s especially tolerant of poor soil. If you’re flood irrigating a field and you have an area with poor drainage, the salinity of the soil will go up to where wheat won’t grow there. But barley will thrive there, and a farmer knows his field so well that he puts his barley in that part of his farm.

And the last thing he plants, it says, is that he puts the “rie in their place.” Now the word translated as “rie” here is actually referring to a kind of spelt wheat. It’s a wheat that is not free threshing, meaning you can’t easily separate the seed from the husk. And so it’s hardly used for human consumption. It’s more used for animal fodder and straw and bedding, that kind of thing. The phrase “in their place,” the “rie in their place”—gabuto—means “around the edges” or “around the borders.” And so he seems to be using the rie—the spelt wheat—all the way around the edge of his farm as kind of a living fence or a hedge.

Can you see his farm then? A nicely broadcast patch of fitches, a nicely closely broadcast patch of cumin, carefully laid out rows of wheat in the best spot, and then in the poor soil, the rows of barley, all surrounded by this hedge of rie.

Now the question is, why is Isaiah telling us this? Do you think he just wants to give us a lesson in Old Testament agriculture? I think not. One way to understand this, and it follows with the admonition to “liken the scriptures” unto ourselves, is to understand the farmer as our Heavenly Father. What then do the seeds represent? Or maybe we should ask, who do the seeds represent?

What if they represent us? What then does the different manner of planting of the seeds represent? Have you ever wondered why you came to earth when you did, in the situation that you are in, at the time and in the family, with the opportunities and challenges you face? Do you think it was all capricious, just by chance? No. Fundamental to our faith is the understanding that before we came to this earth, we lived as spirit children of a loving Heavenly Father, that in that premortal existence we had agency, and as we exercised our agency we grew and developed at different rates, with different challenges and talents and abilities. And when it came time for us to be placed on this earth, it was not a capricious decision, but rather a loving Heavenly Father placed each of us on this earth in the time and the place that would help us best reach our divine potential and maximize His harvest of redeemed souls.

And so some of you were fitches. You’ve been placed on this earth in a tight community, well supported, and you’re an important part of that thriving community. Some of you are wheat. You’ve received special handling throughout your entire life, because God is counting so much on what you will produce, what you will provide, how much you will help Him as He goes about his work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.

Some of you likely are more like the barley and the rie. You’ve been put in some pretty tough situations and had to deal with some real challenges in your life. But God knows you and He loves you, and He knows you will reach your divine potential and He’ll bless your life and the lives of others as you face the struggles and challenges that you have.

Some of you may be zucchini. It wouldn’t matter where you’re planted, you’ll just grow like crazy and produce tons of squash to be foisted upon unsuspecting neighbors. Don’t you love what he teaches us there? We have a loving Father who knows us and loves us and puts us on this earth in the time and the place that’s best for us in His eternal plans.

Now this metaphor doesn’t end right there. He goes on to talk about how these particular plants are threshed—how they get the seeds out of them. He makes the observation that “fitches are not threshed with a threshing [sled], and neither is a cart wheel turned…upon the cummin.” When he talks about a threshing sled, he’s talking about a toboggan-shaped sled that has rocks imbedded in the bottom of it. And the way this works, when you’re going to harvest your grain, you go out and you cut the stalks off close to the ground, and you tie them into bundles of sheaves, and then you bring the sheaves over and you lay them down on an area of beaten earth called a threshing floor. And then you take your threshing sled and lay it flat on top of the sheaves and weight it down with rocks or grandkids or whatever you have, and then you have the threshing sled pulled around over the sheaves. You hook up donkeys or oxen or graduate students—some beast of burden—and have them pull the thing around and around and around. That is a threshing sled is pulled around over the sheaves, it pulverizes and grinds them into chaff, and knocks the seed clean from the seed head. So you end up with this mixture of chaff and seed. And then on a windy day, the farmer comes out with his winnowing fork and he sticks it in the mixture of chaff and seed and throws it in the air, and the wind blows the chaff away and the seed falls down.

But he says fitches and cumin are not threshed with a threshing sled or with a cart wheel. If you don’t have a threshing sled, you drive a heavy cart over it to grind it. Well, why not? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Those plants are too delicate to be handled that way. What would happen to your fitches and cumin if you drove a threshing sled over them? You’d grind it into oblivion. That’s not the way to get the goodness out of fitches and cumin. Rather, he observes, that “fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.”

I picture that he probably lays out a piece of cloth, he’ll have a handful of fitches here and a seed head up here, and he takes a stick and just lightly taps the seed heads. And they break open and all the goodness spills out of them. That’s all it takes to get the goodness out of the fitches, just a little light tapping with a stick. What would happen if you tried to thresh wheat that way, lightly tapping the seed head with a stick? You’d labor all day and have very little to show for your efforts.

And that seems to be the point he makes in the next sentence. He says, “Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it”—he doesn’t want to spend all day—it takes a lot of grinding and pulverizing and vigorous handling to get the goodness out of the wheat and the barley.

Do you see the message? What does the threshing represent? Often our immediate thought is that it represents the trials and challenges we have in life. Sometimes trials and challenges bring out the best in us and help us learn and grow and get the best out of us. It can also represent our opportunities and our talents that we’re given. Maybe it’s a calling. Have you ever been threshed by a calling? Some of you are fitches and it doesn’t take much of a calling to get a lot of goodness out of you. You could be called to be the assistant to the assistant to the secretary to the nursery class, and you would magnify that calling so well you’d gain your exaltation. Others, you really can’t get the goodness out of them unless you call them to be the bishop or the president of LDSBC or something like that. They’ve got to really be pushed to get something good out of them.

But don’t you love what he’s teaching us here? Not only will God put us on this earth in the time and place that’s best for us, but if we’ll trust Him and involve Him in our lives, He’ll see that we have the experiences necessary, the challenges, the trials, the opportunities, the callings, the blessings to reach our best potential.

You’ll have kids like this, too. You’ll have some that are fitches, that are so easy to raise—just a little gentle nudging and they’ll do what you want. If they do something wrong, they’ll get all teary-eyed and say, “Oh, mother dear, I’m so sorry I’ve disappointed you. Could I please wash dishes for a week? Please?”

But most of your kids will be like you. They’ll need a lot more rigorous handling, a lot of rules and instructions and encouraging, and when they get to be teenagers and they grow through rebellious stages and they get mad and go lock themselves in their room and say, “I’m not going to come out for a week.” And then they don’t keep their promise, and they come out.

If you have a child that’s easy to raise, that’s easy to get the goodness out of them, put your arm around them. Give them a hug and say, “Thank you for being cumin and fitches.”

 And they’ll say, “What do you mean?” And you’ll open up and read this wonderful parable to them and explain it to them, and tell them how grateful you are for them. And when you’re done they’ll say, “Oh, mother dear, oh father dear, you are so wise.”

And you will say, “Yes, I am.” You’ll be right.

Can you see what wonderful truths this passage of Isaiah can teach us? What a blessing my education has been in helping me to understand the great principles taught there. I believe that when an engineer, a musician, an accountant, a computer programmer, a business manager, a social scientist, or anyone trained and educated in any career, profession or discipline studies the gospel, they can gain insights and make discoveries unique to that discipline, if they’re looking for them, if they’re observant.

It’s exciting to be part of a community of learners who are doing so and sharing their insights and discoveries with others, and thereby informing their faith with their learning and their learning with their faith.

Another reason I think education and faith are so positively correlated for Latter-day Saints is, not only can our education inform our faith, it can also confirm it, or bear testimony—validate our faith. Recall how Alma defines faith. He said, “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things. Therefore, if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Thus, while a person may believe a false principle is true, that belief cannot be real faith, for faith by definition is a belief in things that are true. It is little wonder, then, that what we learn in our academic studies, the truths we learn in our academic studies, strengthen our faith because the gospel is true. God lives. He’s our Father. Jesus Christ is our Savior. Joseph Smith was God’s prophet of the Restoration. These things are true. If you believe these things, then you have faith, and the truths you learn in your academic studies will confirm those truths.

I like the way the Doctrine and Covenants teaches this principle. It says, “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraces truth; virtue loveth virtue; [and] light cleaveth unto light.”[11]

Now, if you’re like most students, there will likely be times in the course of your studies or your browsing on the Internet, difficult questions will arise—questions that may seem to contradict, conflict, or challenge what you understand about the gospel. When such questions arise, you have a choice to make. You can let the question inform your faith, or you can let your faith inform the question.

Let me illustrate with an example from archaeology. The city of Jericho—you know the story—was brought down by Joshua. Archaeologists say that was supposed to have happened in the Late Bronze Age. The ancient city of Jericho was initially excavated by the famous archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon. At Jericho, she found the destruction level in the remains of a Middle Bronze Age wall that preceded Joshua and Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. But she did not find the remains of a Late Bronze Age wall contemporary with Joshua. And so she concluded that the Biblical account of Joshua conquering the city of Jericho in the Late Bronze Age was not true. Thus she let the question inform and weaken her trust in the Bible.

Later, another famous archaeologist, Yiguel Yadin, came around, and he looked at the same evidence and came to a very different conclusion. He said that the reason there was not a destroyed Late Bronze Age wall at Jericho is likely simply because the people at Jericho in the Late Bronze Age were still using the wall built in the Middle Bronze Age. He saw that the destruction of the Middle Bronze Age wall, which had clearly tumbled down, was clear evidence of a violent overthrow in the time of Joshua. Thus, Yadin let his trust and confidence in the Bible inform the question, and his trust and confidence in the Bible was strengthened by it.

Yadin’s reasoning makes excellent sense to me. If the Middle Bronze Age wall was still serviceable and in good shape in the Late Bronze Age, I find it difficult to imagine the people in Jericho saying, “Okay, folks. We’re now entering the Late Bronze Age, and we must now tear down our perfectly good Middle Bronze Age wall and replace it with a Late Bronze Age wall, so as not to confuse archaeologists should they happen to excavate our city 2,500 years from now, and so they won’t be confused about when Joshua destroyed the city, should that actually happen.”

Since Yadin and Kenyon, there have been a lot of other excavations at Jericho. A lot of information has come forth, a lot of different opinions. The dispute continues. Those who let the question inform their understanding of the Bible side with Kenyon; those who let their understanding of the Bible inform the question side with Yadin. Brothers and sisters, when similar questions arise for us, whether they be archaeological or historical or scientific or political or social or doctrinal questions, let’s make sure our faith informs the question. And if you do, your faith will eventually be confirmed and strengthened.

I think President Uchtdorf taught that principle in this last General Conference. He said, “It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry is often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious… questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen which are true.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”[12]

President Uchtdorf’s counsel reflected that given in a previous conference by Elder [Jeffrey R.] Holland. He said, “When problems and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your ‘unbelief.’ That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point. I am not asking you to pretend to have faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!

“… Honestly acknowledge your questions and concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.”[13]

Let me say this again. We should always let our faith inform our questions and doubts, rather than letting our doubts and questions inform our faith. As you do so, you will join the ranks of those who find their faith not only informed but also richly confirmed by their educational pursuits.

I want to close with one concern I have about what I’ve said today. I’ve spoken so much about the strong correlation between education and faith. I worry that some might think that, because they have the privilege of higher education, their faith is somehow better than those who do not have the same privilege. I hope you see the fallacy in such thinking. Surely you know there are millions of Latter-day Saints who don’t have the marvelous opportunity you have to have their faith regularly informed and confirmed by their education. But their faith, their devotion to the Savior, their commitment to the gospel, is deep and abiding. I suspect that many of them yearn to have the kind of opportunities that are offered to you to increase their education and learning. But perhaps family or social situation, illness, poverty, learning disabilities or other circumstances deny them that opportunity. I believe that God recognizes and rewards the desires of their hearts and blesses them with remarkable, wonderful testimonies and faith.

May we who do have the option and the opportunity for education demonstrate our gratitude for this wonderful option and opportunity by taking full advantage of it. As we do so, may we seek to assure that what we learn informs and confirms our faith, and may you use what you learn—not only to provide a livelihood for yourself and your loved ones but to bless and build the kingdom, to advance your disciplines, careers, and professions, and to bless the lives of individuals, is my hope and prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Stan L. Albrecht and Tim B. Heaton, in Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 293-314.

[2] Eyring, Henry J. Mormon Scientists: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, UT [2007],51-52.

[3] Fletcher, Harvey. “Science and Religion,” in Science and Your Faith in God (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 49. Quoted in Ball, Terry B. “Faithful Science,”

[4] Widstoe, John A. Gospel Interpretations (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1947), 56. Quoted in “Faithful Science.”

[5] “Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU Fireside, Sept. 30, 1984,

[6] “Truth,” BYU Devotional, June 13, 1978,

[7] Verse 118.

[8] Verses 78-79

[9] Verse 36.

[10] Verses 18-19.

[11] Doctrine and Covenants 88:40.

[12] “Come, Join with Us,” October 2013 General Conference,

[13] “Lord, I Believe,” April 2013 General Conference,


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