19) GOSPEL LIGHT: What does it mean to teach subjects in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

If on the Sabbath day, when we are assembled here to worship the Lord, one of the Elders should be prompted to give us a lecture on any branch of education with which he is acquainted, is it outside the pale of our religion? I think not. If any of the Elders are disposed to give a lecture to parents and children on letters, on the rudiments of the English language, it is my religion, it is part of my faith. Or if one Elder shall give us a lecture upon astronomy, chemistry, or geology, our religion embraces it all. It matters not what the subject be, if it tends to improve the mind, exalt the feelings, and enlarge the capacity. The truth that is in all the arts and sciences forms a part of our religion. [1]

Every art and science known and studied by the children of men is comprised within the Gospel. Where did the knowledge come from which has enabled man to accomplish such great achievements in science and mechanism within the last few years? We know that knowledge is from God, but why do they not acknowledge him? Because they are blind to their own interests, they do not see and understand things as they are. Who taught men to chain the lightning? Did man unaided of himself discover that? No. he received the knowledge from the Supreme Being. From him, too, has every art and science proceeded, although the credit is given to this individual, and that individual. But where did they get the knowledge from, have they it in and of themselves? No; they must acknowledge that, if they cannot make one spear of grass grow, nor one hair white or black without artificial aid, they are dependent upon the Supreme Being just the same as the poor and the ignorant. Where have we received the knowledge to construct the labor-saving machinery for which the present age is remarkable? From Heaven. Where have we received our knowledge of astronomy, or the power to make glasses to penetrate the immensity of space? We received it from the same Being that Moses, and those who were before him, received their knowledge from; the same Being who told Noah that the world should be drowned and its people destroyed. From him has every astronomer, artist and mechanician that ever lived on the earth obtained his knowledge. By him, too, has the power to receive from one another been bestowed, and to search into the deep things pertaining to this earth and every principle connected with it. [2]

Find a true philosopher and you find one who has the true principles of Christianity. He delights in them; and sees and understands the hand of Providence guiding and directing in all the affairs of this life. [3]

This people have embraced the philosophy of eternal lives, and in view of this we should cease to be children and become philosophers, understanding our own existence, its purpose and intimate design, then our days will not become a blank through ignorance, but every day will bring with it its useful and profitable employment. God has placed us here, given us the ability we possess, and supplied the means upon which we can operate to produce social, national, and eternal happiness. [4]

We, who believe in and have obeyed this Gospel, look forward with the anticipation of obtaining a great amount of knowledge and wisdom. When we embraced the Gospel, the spirit opened up to our minds the fact that the wisdom, the knowledge and the power of God would increase in the midst of the Saints. This is our experience, knowing for myself, what the Spirit of the Lord brings to the understanding, testify what it reveals to others. [5]

The religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn, and understand truth. [6]

It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church [7] to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, to mechanism of every kind, to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion. [8]

I will not say, as do many, that the more I learn the more I am satisfied that I know nothing; for the more I learn the more I discern an eternity of knowledge to improve upon. [9]

Every principle of true philosophy convinces a person who understands the spirit of the Gospel and has received the good word of life, that the darkness is in proportion to the light that has been forsaken. Rear a child in a cell which only admits a small glimmer of light, and the child will pass its time with some degree of satisfaction, when a person accustomed to the bright light of day could not at first see anything. And the greater the light bestowed upon an individual or upon a people, the greater the darkness when that light is forsaken. [10]

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, obey his doctrine, cease your warring and contention, beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks; make railroads, build colleges, teach the children, give them the learning of the world and the things of God; elevate their minds, that they may not only understand the earth we walk upon, but the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all the elements pertaining to the earth; and then search other worlds, and become acquainted with the planetary system, the dwellings of the angels and the heavenly beings, that they may ultimately be prepared for a higher state of being, and finally be associated with them. I wish we would do it; I pray the Lord to do it, but he will not, unless we help him. [11]

John Taylor

Here is the difference between us at the present time and the priestcraft and the kingcraft and the craft of the various systems among the nations. They have tended to befog, bewilder, bind down, and lead the masses into ignorance; but the principles of the gospel are calculated to expand the mind, enlarge the heart, unfold the capacity, and make all men feel their relationship to God and to each other, that we may all be partakers of the same blessing, that we may all be intelligent, that we may all be learned in the things of the kingdom of God, and all be prepared for the celestial inheritance in the eternal worlds. [12]

Another thing that has been referred to here—about our schools and education. God expects Zion to become the praise and glory of the whole earth; so that kings, hearing of her fame, will come and gaze upon her glory. . . 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. Educate your children, and seek for those to teach them who have faith in God and in his promises, as well as intelligence.

I was talking with Bro. Maeser, who is principal of the Brigham Young Academy, in Provo. I saw the students go through their various exercises in the several classes, and I was congratulating him upon the success, when he remarked—”There is one thing, Pres. Taylor, I will guarantee, that is, that no infidels will go from my school.” He would teach them the Gospel, and inculcate its principles, which are so far advanced of infidelity, that it would have to hide its hoary head in shame before the light, glory, and intelligence that comes from God, and that exist in all his works, and that fools do not comprehend. I am pleased to know that Pres. Young made arrangements before his death for the endowment of a college in this neighborhood, and the brethren acting as trustees in the matter are feeling interested, and are taking steps for the accomplishment of that object. And that object is, as I understand it, to afford our own children greater facilities to become learned, and that they also have the privilege to learn trades, and agriculture, and horticulture, and become progressive, intellectual and informed in regard to all these things, and that they may comprehend the earth on which we stand, the materials of which it is composed, and the elements with which we are surrounded. And then, by having faith in God, we might stand as far above the nations in regard to the arts and sciences, politics, and every species of intelligence, as we now do in regard to religious matters. This is what we are aiming at; and 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. [13]

Joseph F. Smith

The trustees of the Brigham Young University…unanimously resolved, ‘that no doctrine should be taught in the Brigham Young University not in harmony with the revealed word of God as interpreted and construed by the Presidency and Apostles of the Church; and that the power and authority of determining whether any professor or other instructor of the institution is out of harmony with the doctrines and attitude of the Church, be delegated to the presidency of the university.’ Philosophic theories of life have their place and use, but it is not in the classes of the Church schools, and particularly are they out of place here or anywhere else when they seek to supplant the revelations of God. [14]

Spencer W. Kimball

It is proper that every professor and teacher in this institution [BYU] would keep his subject matter bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel, and have his subject matter perfumed lightly with the spirit of the gospel. Always there would be an essence and the student would feel the presence.

Every instructor should grasp the opportunity occasionally to bear formal testimony of the truth. Every student is entitled to know the attitude and feeling and spirit of his every teacher. Certainly, a science instructor or a physical education teacher or a math or art teacher could find an opportunity sometimes to mention spiritual experiences or comment on the gospel truths. This would be in harmony with the spirit of Brigham Young’s charge to Karl G. Maeser, so often quoted:

President Young looked steadily forward for a few minutes as though in deep thought, then said, “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the spirit of God. That is all. God bless you. Goodbye.”

That statement has been used over and over but we must never forget it. If we begin to ape the world and forget this injunction, we are lost. [15]

Why cannot the students from here write a greater oratorio than Handel’s Messiah? The best has not yet been composed nor produced. They can use the coming of Christ to the Nephites as the material for a greater masterpiece. Our [LDS] artists tomorrow may write and sing of Christ’s spectacular return to the American earth in power and great glory, and his establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in our own dispensation. No Handel (1685-1759) nor other composer of the past or present or future could ever do justice to this great event. How could one ever portray in words and music the glories of the coming of the Father and the Son and the restoration of the doctrines and the priesthood and the keys unless he were an inspired Latter-day Saint, schooled in the history and doctrines and revelations and with rich musical ability and background and training? Why cannot the [Church] bring forth this producer? . . . It has been said that many of the great artists were perverts or moral degenerates. In spite of their immorality, they became great and celebrated artists. What could be the result if discovery were made of equal talent in men who were clean and free from the vices, and thus entitled to revelations? . . .

For years I have been waiting for someone to do justice in recording in song and story and painting and sculpture the story of the restoration, the re-establishment of the kingdom of God on earth, the struggles and frustrations; the apostasies and inner revolutions and counter revolutions of those first decades; of the exodus; of the counter reactions; of the transitions; of the persecution days; of the plural marriage and the underground; of the miracle man, Joseph Smith, of whom we sing, “Oh, what rapture filled his bosom, for he saw the living God!”; and of the giant colonizer and builder, Brigham Young, by whom this University was organized and for whom it was named.

The story of Mormonism has never yet been written nor painted nor sculptured nor spoken. It remains for inspired hearts and talented fingers yet to reveal themselves. They must be faithful, inspired, active Church members to give life and feeling and true perspective to a subject so worthy. Such masterpieces should run for months in every movie center, cover every part of the globe in the tongue of the people, written by great artists, purified by the best critics.

Our writers, our moving picture specialists, with the inspiration of heaven, should tomorrow be able to produce a masterpiece which would live forever. Our own talent, obsessed with dynamism from a CAUSE, could put into such a story life and heartbeats and emotions and love and pathos, drama, suffering, love, fear, courage, and the great leader, the mighty modern Moses who led a people farther than from Egypt to Jericho, who knew miracles as great as the stream from the rock at Horeb, manna in the desert, giant grapes, rain when needed, battles won against great odds. And the great miracle prophet, the founder of this University, would never die.

Take a Nicodemus and put Joseph Smith’s spirit in him and what do you have? Take a da Vinci or a Michelangelo or a Shakespeare and give him a total knowledge of the plan of salvation of God and personal revelation and cleanse him, and then take a look at the statues he will carve, and the murals he will paint, and the masterpieces he will produce. Take a Handel with his purposeful effort, his superb talent, his earnest desire to properly depict the story, and give him inward vision of the whole true story and revelation and what a master you have! [16]

Ezra Taft Benson

This quest for wisdom or intelligence, which the Lord defines as “light and truth” [17], is a glorious challenge. We have been assured by the Author of eternal life 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.” [18]

Thus intelligence, or light and truth, becomes a vital force in our eternal journey. It is the one attribute above all others that links us to our divine parentage, for if “the glory of God is intelligence,” intelligence is likewise the glory of His offspring-man [19]. [20]

Today the world is full of alluring and attractive ideas that can lead even the best of our members into error and deception. Students at universities are sometimes so filled with the doctrines of the world they begin to question the doctrines of the gospel. How do you as a priesthood leader help fortify your membership against such deceptive teachings? The Savior gave the answer in His great discourse on the Mount of Olives when He promised, “And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived” [21]. [22]

We must be wise as serpents [23]; for as the Apostle Paul said, “We wrestle against the rulers of darkness against spiritual wickedness in high places” [24]. We are going through what J. Reuben Clark, Jr., once termed the greatest propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read, and what we can believe is not all of the same value. We must sift. We must learn by study and prayer. [25]

Could it be that through the proper training of youth we are helping to serve America? Can we not contribute to America’s stamina and survival? We can teach reverence to God, unselfishness, love of country, and the fundamental principles of righteous living. We can try to train youth through men of character. We must urge a religious life; we must encourage good education; we must promote patriotism; we must emphasize honesty, trust—worthiness, loyalty, and many other fine attributes of good character. The opportunity is ours, and the need is great. One of the tasks is to rediscover and reassert our faith in the spiritual, non-utilitarian values on which American life has rested from its beginning. [26]

The Lord speaks to us in this question: “Unto what were ye ordained?” [27] He gives us the answer: “To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth” [28]. In the same manner He points out that if we speak in any other way than by the Spirit of truth, it will not be of God [29]. He also tells us that if the listeners receive by any other spirit than the Spirit of truth, it is not of God [30]. I am given comfort and hope that when both speaker and listener are given the power to speak and hear by the Spirit of truth, both are edified and rejoice together [31]. They taste of the heavenly light [32]. [33]

As you teach these children, remember this is our first obligation, to implant in their hearts a testimony of the divinity of this great work, in a period when the world, even the Christian world, is filled with doubt and insecurity, when it is groping, unable to see the future and to know where it is going. The youth of Israel must have in their hearts a firm conviction that God is directing this work, that His priesthood and power is here, and that this is His kingdom. They must have in their hearts a testimony that God lives, that He is watching over us as His children-that He loves us. [34]

Before you can strengthen your students, it is essential that you study the doctrines of the kingdom and learn the gospel by both study and faith [35]. To study by faith is to seek understanding and the Spirit of the Lord through the prayer of faith. Then you will have the power to convince your students. This is not just good advice; it is a commandment of the Lord. [36]

You are not “to intrude into your work your own peculiar philosophy, no matter what its sources or how pleasing or rational it seems to you” [37]. Your teaching should not be the “enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith [and the faith of your students] should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” [38]. [39]

When a teacher feels he must blend worldly sophistication and erudition to the simple principles of the gospel or to our Church history so that his message will have more appeal and respectability to the academically learned, he has compromised his message. We seldom impress people by this means and almost never convert them to the gospel. This also applies to our students. We encourage you to get your higher degrees and to further your education; but let us not forget that disaffection from the gospel and the Lord’s Church was brought about in the past by the attempts to reconcile the pure gospel with the secular philosophies of men. Nominal Christianity outside the restored Church stands as an evidence that the blend between worldly philosophy and revealed truth leads to impotence. Likewise, you teachers will have no power if you attempt to do the same in your educational pursuits and classroom teaching. [40]

I would hope that each morning before you leave your homes you kneel before the Lord in secret as well as family prayer. I also hope that before you go into the classroom you ask to be led by the Spirit. The most important part of your teaching preparation is that you are guided by the Spirit. [41]

Opposing Statements


Supporting Statements

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 335
  2. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 246
  3. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 245
  4. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 245
  5. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 247
  6. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 247
  7. Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head
  8. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 248
  9. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 250
  10. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 250
  11. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 251
  12. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 5: 260-261; September 20, 1857
  13. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:47; August 4, 1878
  14. President Joseph F. Smith, “Theory and Divine Revelation”, Editor’s Table., Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. XIV. April, 1911. No. 6
  15. Spencer W. Kimball, Education for Eternity, speech given at BYU Annual Faculty Conference, Sep. 12, 1967
  16. Spencer W. Kimball, Education for Eternity, speech given at BYU Annual Faculty Conference, Sep. 12, 1967
  17. D&C 93:36
  18. D&C 130:18-19
  19. D&C 93:36
  20. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; So Shall Ye Reap, p. 170
  21. Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:37
  22. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; “The Power of the Word,” Priesthood Leadership Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, 4 April 1986.
  23. D&C 111:11
  24. Ephesians 6:12
  25. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 58-59
  26. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 297-298; “Will America Be Destroyed by Americans?” Boy Scouts Banquet, Commerce, Texas, 13 May 1968
  27. D&C 50:13
  28. D&C 50:14
  29. D&C 50:17-18
  30. D&C 50:19-20
  31. D&C 50:21-22
  32. D&C 50:24
  33. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 314; Mission Presidents Seminar, Salt Lake City, Utah, 27-28 June 1974
  34. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 309; So Shall Ye Reap, pp. 35-36
  35. D&C 88:118
  36. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 309; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
  37. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “Charted Course,” p. 9
  38. Corinthians 2:4,5
  39. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.309; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
  40. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 308; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
  41. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 306; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
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