Latter-day Saints rely on both study and faith
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a deep and abiding belief in both reason and revelation.
One revelation given to bless the members of the church in 1830, at least a century prior to any awareness by medical science, was the "word of wisdom" encouraging healthy habits of diet and lifestyle. As a consequence LDS people, according to recent national studies, are one of the healthiest faith groups in the nation, along with Seventh-day Adventists. Our president, Gordon B. Hinckley, continues to travel the world and appear on national television programs like "60 Minutes," "Larry King Live" and others at a robust 96 years of age.
Latter-day Saints are also, on average, one of the most educated religious groups in the nation, revering higher education, especially language skills, with tens of thousands of young men and women spanning the globe as missionaries in more than a hundred foreign lands.
Is there a paradox in holding fast to both reason and prayer? On the contrary, we believe that the glory of God is intelligence and that mortals can draw nearer to deity as we pray, study and comport ourselves in a manner that would allow us to hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago I had the privilege to serve under Dallin H. Oaks, then chairman of the board of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Known for his keen intellect, Elder Oaks, now one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, had earlier served as a legal clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and later as a Utah State Supreme Court justice. In his book "The Lord's Way," he states, "Each of us must accommodate the mixture of reason and revelation in our lives. The gospel not only permits it but requires it." Both learning by study, the way of reason, and learning by faith, the way that relies on revelation, are pleasing to God.
To illustrate, I would like to share this personal experience. Many years ago, serving as a regional vice president for a major Hawaii bank, I was required to write a banking thesis in fulfillment of a professional degree at the University of Washington. As I pursued the assignment from a purely academic approach, I had a great stupor of thought, and nothing I wrote felt right. I persistently researched material without any real success until I also made it a matter of study AND prayer. In due time I received a good feeling about a subject never covered in the decades of the Pacific Coast Banking School classes, namely "decision-making in banks." After the spirit confirmed that subject to me, a wealth of research material gushed forth, and the words fairly jumped out of my mind and onto paper.
The thesis became one of the few retained in the school's permanent library and was later reprinted in one of the nation's more prestigious banking publications, the Banker's Magazine, in its 125th-anniversary edition in the spring of 1971, the first from a Hawaii author. This small recognition was not due to just hard work and reason, but to a definite personal revelation by way of prayer.
Study and reason also have an important role in learning the things of God. As Elder Oaks points out, "Seekers begin by studying the word of God, the teachings of his servants and trying to understand them by the techniques of reason. Reason can authenticate revelation and inspiration by measuring them against the threshold tests of edification, position and consistency with gospel principles."
He goes on to say that seeking the ultimate revelation, which is "to know God," comes by way of having faith, being humble, seeking by prayer, keeping the commandments, repenting of sins, doing good works and reading the scriptures. Thus we can invoke the blessings of both reason and personal revelation in our lives and in so doing bless our families.
Jack Hoag is public affairs director of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii.