Today, I’m studying the talk Where is Wisdom?, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1992 General Conference.
One of my dearest friends and I have a self-help book idea titled, Duh. It will be filled with helpful entries like, “People don’t like jerks, so don’t be one. Duh.” or “When driving, watch where you are going. Duh.” Helpful stuff.
While this is a great idea for a book, it might not be all that…diplomatic.
President Nelson has a much nice way of putting it, though…Where is wisdom??? He quoted the following scripture:
“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of education. Since the organization of the church in the 1800s, the saints have instituted schools and universities. We believe in finding wisdom – secular and spiritual.
This subject means a lot to me. In my patriarchal blessing, I was instructed to seek the highest level of education that I could reach – that it would open me up for the future work I could do on this earth.
When I was in high school and college, I thought that meant going to college and graduate school until I received a PhD. Well, spoiler alert: I never went to graduate school. I earned a Bachelor’s degree, and upon my graduation from college, I was pregnant. I felt the impression to wait, so I did.
Four years after graduating college, I had another child, and I was going through a divorce. Thankfully, I had already gotten a college degree, and it helped me find a higher paying job than I would have found otherwise. I started working with a big pharmaceutical company. They had a program that would encourage its employees to gain more education. I started looking into getting an MBA from a nearby school – Villanova.
I started doing the paperwork for application, but as I really considered both the monetary cost and the time cost for an MBA AND the fact that I had two little girls who needed me, I realized that I needed to put it off until Panda was in school full time.
Well, a year before Panda would start attending school, I was married. Homey had received advanced education and was able to make an income that would allow me to stay at home with my children. Again, I knew that I needed to put off my formal education to be at home with my children. They had already gone without me around for a few years, and this time would be essential for their healing from life with a single parent. Plus, it would be good for me to be at home while Homey and I got used to family life all together.
I started to wonder when I would ever go back to school. Would I ever value education again? Thankfully, over time, Heavenly Father taught me that the pursuit of education doesn’t have to be accomplished formally, within university walls.
President Nelson stated:
“I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” – Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson gave this talk in 1992. I was in 7th grade. There was no such thing as the internet. In fact, I remember taking a computer class in 7th grade. The computers were these small boxes with black screens and either green or orange lettering.
These computers that we used in computer class back then didn’t even have Windows! (Windows did exist, but they didn’t seem to get commonplace for a few more years. Only the techiest and most advanced had windows – probably corporations or such. My school computers…no way. My home computer – I really only remember playing games on it – all pre-windows. Oh – and I’m diverting from the point. These computers didn’t even have windows – LET ALONE THE INTERNET!
I remember when I was in 10th grade or so, my dad got a new computer. We got a cd in the mail – from America Online. We followed the instructions, waited while our computer made these insane sounds, and then tada! we were online! I didn’t know what to do once I was online. At the time, the internet seemed to be chatrooms. It was not yet an information super highway.
But that would change quickly, and by the time I was in college, I was emailing, downloading mp3s from Napster, and “googling.”
Enter the information age.
I didn’t need to rely only on the library or school for education and learning, over time a new option was becoming available. The Internet was filling up with information, tools, and more that would teach me more than I could ever possibly know.
In 2007, when I was married to Homey, with two young girls at home, I wanted to go back to college one day, sure. But I knew I didn’t need to wait. I could research anything I wanted to online.
Next came youtube and instructional videos. I can learn how to install a washer and dryer, cut hair, or even code all on youtube.
And then came podcasts, blogs, websites like Kahn Academy and Masterclass, and more.
Back in 1992, only very few people could have imagined the information age. President Nelson’s words are true – individual desire is more influential than institution. If we want to learn and we have WiFi, then the world is available to us.
President Nelson counseled:
“So my counsel then—and now—is to continue your education wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity, however you determine you can best serve your family and society.” – Russell M. Nelson
Notice the phrase interest and opportunity, we are so blessed to live now – the opportunities are endless. We just have to determine our interest and then seek.
Beware of Unbalance
President Nelson states:
“Choose what you will learn and whose purposes you will serve. But don’t place all your intellectual eggs in one basket of secular learning.” – Russell M. Nelson
There is a danger in pursuing only secular learning and ignoring spiritual education. We need to remember that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19.)
President Nelson shared the following story. It is long, but really emphasizes his point:
“In the nineteenth century, health officials and others were concerned about pollution of the air, not by visible smoggy hydrocarbons of today, but by an invisible miasma that was blamed for almost any infection. In 1867, for example, Lord Lister indicted bad air as the chief cause of infection.4 Because of that, in 1869 Simpson from Edinburgh urged that hospitals be taken down and rebuilt every few years. Such an extravagant practice was also advocated by other experts.
Even Florence Nightingale, a living legend following her heroic efforts in the Crimean War, failed to recognize the transmission of infection from one patient to another—this despite her careful notations that wound infection accounted for 40 percent of postoperative mortality.
But others missed the connection, too. For centuries, lives of innumerable mothers and children were claimed by “childbirth fever”—infections unknowingly transmitted among the innocent by unwashed hands of attendants.
It was only a short century ago that the great work of Koch, Pasteur, and others proved that infection could be caused by bacteria in contaminated body fluids—or infected issues—passed from one individual to another.
With these highlights of history in mind, may I quote the word of the Lord recorded long ago in Leviticus, chapter fifteen:
“The Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.
“And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue. …
“Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.
“And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water. …
“And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water.” (Lev. 15:1–5, 7; emphasis added.)
Several verses follow which re-emphasize and illustrate those important principles. Then we read this conclusion:
“And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall … wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.” (Leviticus 15:13)
Thus, our loving Heavenly Father had clearly revealed principles of clean technique in the handling of infected patients more than three thousand years ago! These scriptures are in complete harmony with modern medical guidelines.9 But during those many millennia, how many mothers needlessly perished? How many children suffered because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to incorporate the word of the Lord?” – Russell M. Nelson
It’s important for us to cultivate our knowledge of both secular and spiritual things.
Even though I spent a lot of time just talking about the benefit of living in the information age, it also poses many challenges. We are bombarded with information – and not all of it is good.
This has been going on for ages…one example I can think of right off the bat is how “Doctors” used to say that smoking was good.
Another more recent example:
It can be so confusing! I know – for myself – I have researched and researched so much about healthy diets and exercise. I’ve gone back and forth on the pendulum. Meat is bad – it gives us cancer. We should eat plant-based. …then…Wait, grains are bad. They raise insulin. We need to eat more protein. … then … No, wait again. Too much protein results in gluconeogenesis, which will then raise insulin anyway, so we need to eat very low carb (fruit is evil!) and lots and lots of fats. Saturated fat is fine. Stay away from polunsaturated fat though. (ignore what was preached in the 90s. Saturated fat is not the enemy! Veggie oil is!!)
It can make your head spin. You might ask…Where is wisdom?
President Nelson taught:
“Wisdom is to be found in pure intelligence—in that divine light which can guide people in all countries, all climes, and all continents.” – Russell M. Nelson
The Lord is the fountain of all wisdom. I’m not saying that everything that we need to learn can be learned in only the scriptures or at church. That’s not the case at all. The Lord, Himself, taught us:
“… yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:118
Wisdom and education won’t just happen to us. We need to seek. We can find truth and light everywhere – as we observe the world around us, in a yoga class, while listening to a podcast, on instagram, from a blog, when we listen to our children, etc.
And though there are complications with living in the information age, we have a benefit – the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us to discern truth from error.
I, for example, don’t have to let myself get confused by all of the dietary and nutritional information that I have learned. I have the word of wisdom. It is an excellent guide, even if it doesn’t explain things like the effects of sugar on our hormones.
The Lord is the source of all truth and will help us to see the nuggets of truth as we seek more wisdom. There are a lot of good things that I have learned about health and nutrition – that weren’t included in the Word of Wisdom, but with the Word of Wisdom as a guide, I have been able to discern what is good and what is folly.
This is a long and rambling blog post. I’m sorry. I’ll finish with one last quote.
“Where is wisdom? It pulses and surges with the Lord’s light of truth! With that light He lifts us toward eternal life, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson
I’m so grateful to be living in the information age. I have learned so much from so many people – from experts with long pedigrees of formal education down to people who have put in time, effort, and experience to learn what they know. Though I haven’t pursued a formal education, I still have made every effort to obtain the highest level of education I can reach. This pursuit will continue until I take my last breath.
I’m also grateful to know that we are guided by an intelligent prophet who loves learning and light. I’m grateful that he has not only sought formal education, but that he learns on a daily basis. I’m grateful that he preaches that we each seek wisdom, learning, and light. I know that because of President Nelson’s choice to seek wisdom, we have all been greatly blessed.