20) TEMPORAL/SPIRITUAL: Can temporal and spiritual education be separated?

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

When I speak of government, I mean what I say. I mean a government that shall rule over temporal and spiritual affairs. [1]

Brigham Young

There never was a prophet on the earth that dictated to the people, but he dictated their temporal affairs as well as spiritual. [2]

The Lord used to notice the very hairs of our heads that fell, and the sparrows; He took care of the ravens, and watched over the children of Israel, and supplied all their temporal wants; but we say now, He does not condescend to such small matters. [3]

You may say it is hard that I should dictate [to] you in your personal affairs. Is it not my privilege to dictate [to] you? Is it not my privilege to give this people counsel to direct them so that their labors will build up the Kingdom of God? [4]

Not only does the religion of Jesus Christ make the people acquainted with the things of God, and develop within them moral excellence and purity, but it holds out every encouragement and inducement possible, for them to increase in knowledge and intelligence, in every branch of mechanism, or in the arts and sciences, for all wisdom, and all the arts and sciences in the world are from God, and are designed for the good of his people. [5]

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. [6]

The idea that the religion of Christ is one thing and science is another is a mistaken idea for there is no true religion without true science and, consequently, there is no true science without true religion. [7]

We need constant instruction, and our great heavenly Teacher requires of us to be diligent pupils in his school, that we may in time reach his glorified presence. If we will not lay to heart the rules of education which our Teacher gives us to study, and continue to advance from one branch of learning to another, we never can be scholars of the first class and become endowed with the science, power, excellency, brightness and glory of the heavenly hosts; and unless we are educated as they are, we cannot associate with them. [8]

Let our teachers ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to bestow upon them and upon their scholars the Spirit of Wisdom and intelligence from heaven. [9]

John Taylor

It is good for men to be taught in the history and laws of nations, to become acquainted with the principles of justice and equity, with the nature of disease and the medicinal properties of plants, etc. But there is no need of their being without the knowledge of God, for in fact every branch of true knowledge known to man has originated in God, and men may become in possession of it from his word or from his works….All the intelligence which men possess on earth, whether religious, scientific, or political—proceeds from God. Every good and perfect gift proceeds from him, the fountain of light and truth, wherein there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. The knowledge of the human system has proceeded from the human system itself, which God has organized. [10]

We used to have a difference between Church and State, but it is all one now. Thank God, we have no more temporal and spiritual! We have got church and State together, . . . whether you are called to act in a religious, civil, or military capacity, it is all in the kingdom of God and the will of God is to be done upon the earth as angels do it in heaven. [11]

David O. McKay

Education to be complete must include spiritual growth. In this sense, youth need religion. I shall offer only three reasons this evening for giving proper religious training to youth.

First: Youth should have religion in order to stabilize society. Goethe has rightly said that “the destiny of any nation at any given time depends on the opinions of its young men under five and twenty.”

Second: Youth need religion to satisfy the innate longing of the soul. Man is a spiritual being, and sometime or another every man is possessed with a longing, an irresistible desire, to know his relationship to the Infinite. He realizes that he is not just a physical object to be tossed for just a short time from bank to bank, only to be submerged finally in the ever-flowing stream of life. There is something within him that urges him to rise above himself, to control his environment, to master the body and all things physical, and to live in a higher and more beautiful world.

Third: Youth need religion to comply properly with the purposes of creation. There is a purposeful design permeating all nature, the crowning event of which is man. Here, on this thought, science again leads the student up to a certain point, and sometimes leaves him with his soul unanchored. For example, evolution’s theory of the creation of the world offers many perplexing problems to the inquiring mind. Inevitably, a teacher who denies divine agency in creation, who insists that there is no intelligent purpose in it, undoubtedly impresses the student with the thought that all may be chance. [12]

Ezra Taft Benson

Sometimes gospel principles are written with such erudition that the gospel is hardly recognizable in them. Worldly phraseology and authorities replace the scriptures and the prophets. You institute teachers need to be aware of this in teaching courses such as Courtship and Marriage, and in giving counsel on child rearing. Be careful of blending your worldly training with the gospel courses you teach lest you be guilty of diluting the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and end up teaching the philosophy of men mingled with a few scriptures. [13]

Teach them to form an acquaintance with Nephi, Alma, and Moroni. Teach them to know the power of prayer, that they can reach out and tap that unseen power, without which help no man can do his best. Teach them the need for spirituality, whether they are in the classroom or employed. But above all, teach them to know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, that these two heavenly beings, our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, did in very deed appear to the boy prophet in the Sacred Grove. Teach them to know this, and it will be an anchor to them in all the days to come. [14]

Opposing Statements


D&C 29:34
Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

Supporting Statements

Henry B. Eyring

The leaders of the Church have always known that the drive for learning among our people must have a powerful spiritual component. That spiritual element, when it is effective, refines and uplifts the aims of our total education. The thirst for education that comes with the change the gospel brings can be a blessing or a curse, depending on our motives. If we continue to seek learning to serve God and His children better, it is a blessing of great worth. If we begin to seek learning to exalt ourselves alone, it leads to selfishness and pride, which will take us away from eternal life. That is one of the reasons we should always put spiritual learning first. [15]

The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does. We learn both the spiritual things and the secular things so that we may one day create worlds and people and govern them (see The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 386). All we can learn that is true while we are in this life will rise with us in the resurrection. And all that we can learn will enhance our capacity to serve. That is a destiny reserved not alone for the brilliant, those who learn the most quickly, or for those who enter the most respected professions. It will be given to those who are humbly good, who love God, and who serve Him with all their capacities, however limited those capacities are—as are all our capacities, compared with the capacities of God. [16]

Ernest L. Wilkinson

If most institutions of higher learning aspire to be only communities of scholars, we are privileged to be also a congregation of disciples…our roots spring Palmyra rather than Cambridge. We are men of God first and men of letters second, and men of science third and noted men fourth, men of rectitude rather than academic competence….Our academic training must be as impeccable as our lives.

Harvard, 1636

Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him (Proverbs 2, 3). Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein. 1

Yale, 1787

All the scholars are required to live a religious and blameless life according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, that fountain of Divine light and truth, and constantly attending all the duties of religion. 2

  1. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 292
  2. Brigham Young, History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 285
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 76, Sept. 11, 1853
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 59, June 16, 1867
  5. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 247
  6. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 335
  7. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, p. 52
  8. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 248
  9. Brigham Young
  10. John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 271
  11. John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 5:266
  12. David O. McKay, April 1968
  13. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 317; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message,” Religious Educators, Salt Lake City, Utah, 17 September 1976
  14. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 310; An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 303-304
  15. Henry B. Eyring, Education For Real Life, CES Fireside, May 6, 2001
  16. Henry B. Eyring, Education For Real Life, CES Fireside, May 6, 2001
  1. Harvard 1636, Student Guidelines
  2. Yale 1787, Student Guidelines
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