Gain Spiritual Intelligence
Elder David A. Bednar
of the Quorum of the Seventy
(Ricks College Devotional, September 9, 1997)
Brothers and sisters, I love Sister Bednar very much and for a number of reasons. I am sure you could feel the power of her testimony today.
This is the first fall semester in 21 years that I have not been involved in teaching a class. I previously mentioned to the faculty that I view myself as a teacher who is now working as a president, not a president who used to be a teacher. As unusual as it may seem, what I would like to do today is transform this Hart Auditorium into a very large classroom. I need your help to do that.
First, you should have received the word to bring your scriptures. I would like you to hold them up if you have them.
Now, please put them on your lap. You may want to get a small piece of paper and a pencil or a pen to jot down some of the thoughts that will come to your mind and the feelings that may come to your heart.
Let's begin by turning to Section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I am going to ask you a number of questions. Obviously, this setting is not appropriate for you to participate orally and give an answer. But in your mind, I would like you to respond to the questions I will ask.
Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question--unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth. (D&C 50:13-14)
Question No. 1: What responsibility do you and I have as we teach a Sunday School class, or speak in sacrament meeting, or have any other opportunity to proclaim the gospel? It is to preach. If you and I preach by the power of the Spirit, who then is the teacher? Look very carefully in verse 14. The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, ultimately is the teacher to whom we should listen.
Brother and sisters, the vast majority of us assembled here today have made sacred covenants in the waters of baptism. We have had hands placed upon our heads by authorized servants of God and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. In this community of Saints, there is a tremendous opportunity for an outpouring of the Spirit. The messages that will mean the most to you today will not come from me or Sister Bednar, but from what you feel and the thoughts that come to your mind by the only teacher that really matters--the Holy Ghost.
Verse 22 of Section 50 describes what happens when the process of spiritual communication works well. And both you and I have a responsibility to make the process work. He or she who preaches must do so by the power of the Spirit. He or she who listens must listen by the power of that same spirit. And when the speaker and listener work together under the influence of the Spirit, a marvelous result occurs: "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:22). Three things occur when the process works: understanding, edification (which means spiritual uplift), and rejoicing together. That should be the result of occasions such as today when we come together to worship as a community of Saints.
In the scriptures there are many words that have multiple meanings. Today I want to discuss one of those words and one of its unique meanings. The word I would like to discuss with you is "intelligence." This particular word is highlighted in verses 18 and 19 of Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
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)
Question No. 2: Are knowledge and intelligence the same thing, or are they different? Some of you are nodding your heads in response to the question, "Are they different?" The answer is yes. One can accumulate knowledge in the form of facts, information, or data. Intelligence is the application of what we know for righteous purposes. That statement bears repeating. Intelligence is the application of what we know for righteous purposes. There is an element of action, an element of obedience, in true spiritual intelligence.
Let's dig deeper in verse 19. Look at the order in which knowledge and intelligence are presented--knowledge first, intelligence second. Follow along in the next line of the scripture and note the parallel between the terms knowledge and intelligence and the means by which they are acquired: "And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience . . . ." Now link knowledge and intelligence with diligence and obedience. How is knowledge obtained? Through diligence. And what is that? Hard work, perseverance, sticking with a task. How is intelligence acquired? Through obedience. Intelligence is the application of what we know for righteous purposes.
Verse 118 of Section 88 is a familiar verse. We have all read it many times, but I want to draw your attention to the sequence and pattern contained in it:
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. (D&C 88:118)
The sequence parallels what we find in Section 130. In fact, if we look at those two verses side by side, this is what we learn: Knowledge is obtained through diligent study. (Diligent comes from verse 19 in Section 130; study comes from verse 118 in Section 88.) Now make the connection. How is intelligence developed? Through faithful obedience.
Brother and sisters, if there is one point I would have each of us understand today, it is that you and I are here at Ricks College to increase in intelligence. I do not mean ACT scores. I do not mean IQ. I do not mean the mere accumulation of facts. I mean spiritual intelligence. The intelligence I am talking about is not an academic pursuit; it is a spiritual pursuit wherein we learn and apply what we know for righteous purposes.
Here are a few examples that highlight the distinction between knowledge and intelligence:
• You and I may know the right things to do--that is knowledge. But if you and I are intelligent, we will consistently do the right things. It is one thing to know what to do, but intelligence is consistently doing the right thing.
• It is important and good and necessary to know that the gospel is true. Intelligence is consistently being true to the gospel.
• It is one thing to know that in our lives principles of the gospel work. If you and I are intelligent, we will consistently work to apply the principles of the gospel in our lives.
• It is one thing to know and understand the importance of going to the temple. If you and I are increasing in intelligence, then the temple goes through us. It is not just a matter of going to the temple, but it is a matter of having the ordinances and covenants and the spirit of the temple go through us.
• We may know and understand that we should be active in the Church. Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the Church are active in us--an active part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, and what we think.
I want to draw your attention to several other verses that can help us better understand the distinction between knowledge and spiritual intelligence. Verse 78 of Section 101 reads:
That every man [and woman] may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. (D&C 101:78)
Please note the phrase "act in doctrine." Would you not normally think doctrine is something you study, something you learn, something you remember? It is interesting that the Lord in this revelation says doctrine is something you and I should act in. Ultimately, the Lord is interested not just in knowledge, but in spiritual intelligence--in applying what we know for righteous purposes.
Please turn to John 3 in the New Testament. We will begin in verse 19.
And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Now note in verse 21:
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
Would you normally think of truth as something you do? The message from the Lord in this revelation is that truth is something we should do. Doctrine and principle are things we should act in. King Benjamin instructed his people: "And now, if ye believe . . . these things see that ye do them" (Mosiah 4:10).
Brothers and sisters, you will find throughout the scriptures a pattern of knowledge being related to performing and doing and applying what we know for righteous purposes.
Passages in the New Testament teach us that the spirits who followed Satan know Jesus is the Christ. Yet they are not intelligent because they do not righteously apply what they know.
In Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Savior describes this church as "the only true and living church upon the face of the . . . earth (D&C 1:30). Have you ever thought about the word "living" in that description? What is it that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a living church? It is the gift of the Holy Ghost and the attendant spiritual blessings and gifts. A question each of us should consider might be this: Am I a living member of the living Church of Jesus Christ? Intelligence, as I have described it thus far, helps us become living members of that living Church.
Here are three summary points I want you to remember:
Point Number 1: You and I are here at Ricks College to increase in intelligence.
Many times young people think obedience is constraining and restricting. I testify that obedience to the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to ever be free. Sister Bednar is free to play the piano. Sunday night in our home she went into the front room, sat at the piano, and played beautiful music for a long period of time. She is free to do that; I am not. She has been obedient to the law of the harvest. She has prepared herself by practicing for many, many years. Now when she has the desire, she is free to play the piano. I am eternally constrained because I have not paid the price; I have not practiced. She is free; I am not. She is free because she was obedient to the requirements that brought freedom.
The freedom you and I desire--not the freedom the world portrays in glitter and false allure, but the ultimate freedom you and I desire--comes only through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Agency and obedience are the issue.
It is customary for the president of Ricks College to talk about the Code of Honor and the dress and grooming standards. I want to do so in a different way. The Code of Honor is only partially concerned with hairstyles and earrings and clothing. Primarily, it is about intelligence as I have discussed it today. It is about agency. It is about inviting the Holy Ghost into our lives through obedience. As the Holy Ghost comes into our lives and we experience its gifts, we become living members of the living church. That is what the Code of Honor is about.
I have been frankly puzzled as I have listened to members of the Church say: "I have my agency. I don't have to live the law of tithing or the Word of Wisdom. I don't have to be chaste." I would suggest such individuals do not understand the doctrine of agency. You and I exercise agency in the making of a covenant. When we enter into a covenant with God, we voluntarily surrender a portion of our agency. And the consequences that come from violating the covenant are not within our control. It is not simply a matter of freedom to choose; rather, it is a matter of becoming covenant breakers. Think of the song Choose the Right. It does not say, "Choose what you want when you will." Agency is linked to a course of choosing the right. That is why we have agency. What did the Father say in the premortal council? "And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all [emphasis added] things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abraham 3:25). Agency is to be used in choosing the right.
Brother and sisters, we have received a precious gift. Agency is available in our lives through the Savior's atonement. The only gift you and I can ever give Him is a voluntary surrender of our hearts through that agency. As we make covenants, we yield to Him a portion of our agency and basically say, "Precious Savior, dear Redeemer, do with me what you will." I testify that so doing brings happiness.
I want to conclude by emphasizing the unique character of this community of Saints at Ricks College. You and I have a series of responsibilities. Individually we enhance and improve our community of Saints through meaningful personal prayer and scripture study. Collectively, we improve our community of Saints as we properly worship together on occasions such as today. The issue is not one of sitting quietly and avoiding the wiggles. The issue is one of proper worship and reverence.
One week from today, we will have one of the presiding high priests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on this campus. Brothers and sisters, if you and I prepare for that visit from a prophet of God, he will feel our preparation (how we dress, how we act, how we prepare to worship) when he arrives here. The attitude we bring to the Hart Building, to the Kirkham Auditorium, and into the Taylor Building will influence what he can teach by the power of the Spirit.
Would you join with me this week in striving to better understand the doctrine related to worship and to reverence? And can we as a community of Saints, next week and on every occasion when we come together such as this, worship in that true spirit, feel the outpouring of the Spirit, and grow in pure intelligence?
Listen carefully to this statement from Elder Henry B. Eyring: "The effect of sincere prayer and careful scripture study is to always feel an urging to do things. Real spiritual sight comes to the heart softened by obedience. It takes time, but it is the sure way to see" (Henry B. Eyring, To Draw Closer to God: A Collection of Discourses by Henry B. Eyring, Deseret Book Company, 1997, pp. 151-152).
My dear brothers and sisters, with all the energy of my heart, I express my love to you. The weight of this responsibility has fallen upon our shoulders line upon line, precept upon precept. To see you assembled here today brings that responsibility to the forefront of our understanding in such a vivid way. Please do not hear just a trite statement, but feel the sincerity with which I say that Sister Bednar and I love you. We are honored to be here to serve you.
I testify that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. And I know the Savior directs the affairs of his living church through living apostles and prophets on the earth today. These things I know, and of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.