Skip to main content

A different kind of religious education

When I was a young lad of seventeen, I attended BYU Idaho. No, I'm not from Idaho or even Utah. I was born and raised in California, where I still live. If you have been to Rexburg, Idaho in the dead of winter, you might wonder why anybody would want to leave the Golden State to obtain an education there. What is the attraction of this school in the Snake River valley?

My two oldest sisters are BYU Provo graduates while my brother, two other sisters and I each attended Ricks College, as it was called at the time. My academic experience at Ricks was not particularly stellar, but my parents said that their money was not wasted. I brought something back from Idaho after just one year that was far more valuable than a transcript.

I'm sure there was some anxiety in my mother's heart as she sent her children off to this church sponsored school so far away. What did she hope we would obtain there? She must have been disappointed that I did not stick it out to the end of the Spring semester, but I did not hear her complain. She sensed that something had changed in me and I think it pleased her greatly.

Seminary and Institute

In my high school days I went to early-morning seminary. Getting up between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning was not my favorite thing to do. But once I was in class, I appreciated the warm and comfortable spirit I felt there. I will be forever grateful to dedicated seminary teachers who sacrificed to teach the gospel and strengthen the testimonies of their young students.

In my later college years I participated in the Institute program. Seminary was an introduction to the basic sacred texts of the church. Institute classes brought in-depth study of the doctrines found in those scriptures. I enjoyed each of the classes I took, but my favorites had to do with church history. I was fascinated by the background story of the Doctrine and Covenants.

But there were some things about church history that I did not find in the official CES texts. I knew about them because my mother was a church history enthusiast. She had owned an LDS bookstore and had filled our house with all kinds of books that added to the official curriculum. Since mother was a teacher, I got more of my church history from her than from the classes.

Religious education in the home

When the subject of polygamy came up in the early morning seminary classes, I wanted to know more. I asked mother about it when I got home. After telling me a few simple facts, she handed me a book and said, "Here, you can read about it yourself." That's when I learned about Joseph's plural wives. I wondered to myself if the seminary teacher even knew about this.

My mother's attitude toward the whole issue of plural marriage was one of quiet nonchalance, as if it were no big deal and nothing to get all worked up about, so I didn't. Although mother was a convert, she had studied this and dozens of other controversial subjects out in her own mind. Because she was not bothered by what she discovered in church history, neither was I.

The next time the subject of plural marriage came up in class, I volunteered a few facts that I had learned and was a little surprised by the reaction of the teacher as well as my peers. The teacher was flustered and my classmates were open-mouthed in surprise. It was obvious that I had said something that they didn't know and had never heard before. I got quiet real quick.

A mother's loving instruction

The same thing happened when the subject of translating the Book of Mormon came up. When I asked mother about the Urim and Thummim, we discussed it and then she mentioned that Joseph also used seer stones or peep stones as they were called. She could see I was interested so once again, she handed me a book and said, "Here, tell me about what you find out."

Do you see the pattern? Mother would not overload me with information. She just answered a few basic questions at my level and then invited me to learn more on my own. I could tell that she knew more than she was sharing. As soon as I got to her level through independent study, we were able to discuss it openly and freely. Sometimes we reached the limit of her knowledge.

When that happened, mother would say, "That's all I know about it but I'm sure there's more. Why don't you take it to the Lord in prayer?" Now this didn't happen very often and at that point in my life I didn't really understand what mother was talking about so I didn't pursue it. I'm sure it frustrated mother and contributed to her desire to have me go to Rick's College.

My church school experience

Of course it is mandatory to take religion classes at church schools like BYU and Ricks. I didn't mind. In fact, my Book of Mormon class from Keith Sellers (1966-1995; B.S., M.S., Ed.D., BYU, 1959, 1962, 1965) precipitated some of the most awesome spiritual experiences of my young life up to that time. Dr. Sellers's enthusiasm for what he was teaching went straight to my heart.

Although attendance at the weekly devotional is not mandatory, it was because I went to these events that I can say that I obtained real and direct revelation for the first time in my life. As President Eyring sat on the stand, I listened in reverence and awe to Elder LeGrand Richards share his wonderfully enthusiastic testimony of the gospel to the students and faculty in 1974.

That night I knelt in my dorm room and prayed like I had never prayed before. I wanted to know what LeGrand Richards knew. I wanted to know what Keith Sellers knew. I wanted to know what my mother knew. The experience is too sacred to share in this format but I can say that I obtained a kind of knowledge that night that changed my life forever.

Revelation changes everything

So many things changed for me with that one experience. I knew that I loved the Lord. I knew that everything I had been taught by my mother about the church and the gospel was true. I knew that what I had been taught by my primary, Sunday School and seminary teachers was true. I knew I wanted to go on a mission. I knew I would only marry in the temple.

After that experience I understood why we don't share everything we know when we teach the gospel. It's not that we don't want to. It's just that we can't. The phrase "constraint of the spirit" found in D&C 63:64 suddenly made more sense to me. I found that I could not really talk about what happened that night with anyone who had not experienced it for themselves.

That was not the only time I have experienced direct revelation. There were several others just as powerful that were provided at a time when I was preparing for my mission. I spent a solid six months of intense daily personal study immersed in the gospel as found in the scriptures and supplemented by all those books mother had so thoughtfully provided over the years.

Summary and conclusion

If you look at my official transcript from Rick's college you might be tempted to say that my parent's investment in my education was wasted. But mother knew differently. Even though I felt like an academic failure, I carried with me a new sense of purpose and commitment that I did not have before I was taught by Keith Sellers and heard LeGrand Richards speak.

I still had much growing up to do. The mission changed my study habits and taught me the importance of paying the price of hard work in order to achieve something worthwhile. Marriage in the temple blessed my life with covenants that have led to my greatest happiness so far. Years of service in the church have only served to deepen that initial revelatory experience.

When I teach the gospel or speak in church I cannot share everything I know but I don't have to. When I prepare well and speak under the inspiration of the spirit of the Lord, the Holy Ghost carries the depth of what I can't say to the hearts of my students and listeners. It is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences to speak under the influence of that sacred spirit.


S.Faux said…
Excellent essay, and I enjoyed reading about the "failed" bookstore as well in the link that you provided.

Gospel education is the highest form of education, and I like your mother's approach. Allow the student to take small steps with assistance. Encourage the student to walk on his/her own when ready.

Ultimately, a testimony is a personal thing, something that takes hard work, personal study, prayer, etc. "Constraint of the spirit" involves true humility. Spiritual achievements are NOT discussed in the same manner as worldly achievements.

I did not have a mother who could coach me in spiritual issues like you. Consequently, it has taken me longer to learn spiritual serenity, especially when confronted by historical issues. The good news is that I have made significant progress on that dimension over the years.

My parents did teach me a version of Church history. Despite those teachings, I attended Church, which by the way, did not help me much on the history issues my parents raised. My parents were less active LDS, who slowly became more active after I left the house.

So, this is a long way of saying I am glad to have encountered your blog site, as I too have had "a different kind of religious education."
Unknown said…
Nice post, Tim. I like the approach your mother took to teaching you abut LDS history -- r actually giving you the resources to teach yourself.

Popular Posts

Facebook Discussion Group for Latter-day Commentary

At the request of my bishop, I have created a new space for those who wish to discuss posts from this blog on a closed Facebook group rather than in the comments below. You can find it at this link: I hesitated a long time before creating this group. I feel strongly such a move should not have been necessary. If you are LDS and are even halfway awake you should be interested in learning more about the mysteries of the kingdom and discussing them. But apparently the "tone" of my posts has upset too many people. Best Vacation I've Ever Enjoyed I just returned from two Denver Snuffer lectures in Las Vegas and St. George, then spent three days at the Salt Lake 2014 Sunstone Symposium. This was absolutely the best vacation I have ever enjoyed. I can't remember the last time I was able to take two weeks off without having to put out some sort of IT fire at work every night from the hotel via Remote Desktop. Some people l

Do This in Remembrance of Me

  On that fateful Passover night in the Meridian of Time before Gethsemane , the Savior instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Sacrament was a change from the way His disciples were used to observing the Passover. Therefore, the Messiah gave them a commandment to do the things which they had seen him do, that is, break bread and partake of wine “unto the end.” In the Book of Mormon, the Lord gave  another commandment to his disciples, “that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily … if ye know that a man is unworthy … ye shall forbid him.” Thus, in our modern Church Handbook of Instructions, we find the same injunction. You also find there the restriction of the sacrament as a punishment. I would like to investigate the idea of restricting a man from partaking of the sacrament as an appropriate inducement to change his way of thinking. Frankly, I disagree with this idea, and have taken many opportunities to counsel bishops with whom

Cry Mightily Unto the Lord

The Brother of Jared took sixteen small stones to the mountain . We know they were small because he carried them in his hands. They were certainly smaller than an egg. Perhaps he had eight in each hand. When he came down from the mountain he had eighteen stones. The Lord gave him two more to be used by future prophets to read and translate the words the Brother of Jared would write of the Savior. After the Brother of Jared cried unto the Lord in a prayer of great faith and sound reasoning, the Lord touched the stones one by one with his finger. The record does not say the Brother of Jared placed the stones on a rock in front of him as we see depicted in the painting by Arnold Friberg. I like to think he held them in his hand as he cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer saying, “Lord, see these stones…” Assuming he held the stones in his hands, I wonder what that would have felt like as the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched them one by one. The Brother of Jared would have felt the

What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated

If you’re drawn to this blog post by the title, I ask you to look past that to the subtitle. It is “The Believing Mormon’s Guide to the Coming Purge.” Although this will be a review of Rock’s book , I hope it will also provide background and detail on why long-time members of the LDS Church would be willing to lay it all on the line in defending an idea that many find shocking. The idea is this: The LDS Church is in a state of apostasy and has been since before the death of Joseph Smith. The first time I posted about Denver Snuffer , I invited dialog on his teachings. I certainly did receive it – from both sides. One comment in particular stuck with me. I have been pondering it for years, wondering if it represented an accurate summary of Denver’s message. This is the comment: “Snuffer’s position can be summed up as follows: I was personally visited by Christ who made my calling and election sure, told me I was part of the true church within the dead church, that he would soon call oth

Concluding Testimony at my Disciplinary Council

I shared my testimony in our regular monthly testimony meeting this morning. I wanted to make sure the Bishop and a member of the Stake Presidency present - he’s also in our ward – heard me say I sustain the general authorities and local authorities of the church. Of course these words were in addition to sharing comments reflecting my love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior. Covering All the Bases Carol asked me afterward if I did that to offset whoever it was that complained about my blog a few months ago. I assured her I was sincere, but yes, I wanted the whole ward to know of my feelings for those who lead this church. I continue to sustain them with my prayers and with my money. Yes, I know my tithing is used to pay their salary. It also helps pay my sister’s salary. Follow the Bishop’s Counsel As far as I know, I’m not under any priesthood leader’s watch list for an impending disciplinary council, but a few of my friends and fellow bloggers have been surprised, so I’m being care

A Mormon Reviews The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

Storytelling in a Non-Fiction Book The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan is a wonderful book. I give it five stars. One of the Amazon reviewers said she read the 191 page book in 90 minutes. It took me about three hours. I had to stop often to wipe away the tears. The book was an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster. Thank you, Annie for that superb and captivating storytelling in a non-fiction book. Messages From the Spirit World The book extends three challenges to its readers: First, is it fiction or fact? Annie didn’t have to expend a great deal of effort and energy to persuade me it really happened. I was convinced right away by the down-to-earth, day-to-day events of Annie’s life as she dealt with the loss of her older brother Billy to a tragic accident. I have no doubt Billy came to her to share his transition. Traditional Heaven and Hell Missing Second, you will need to re-examine what you know about the after-life, especially if you have accepted traditional heaven

Cut Off From Among My people

When one is excommunicated from the LDS Church, he is provided instructions by the Bishop or Stake President as to what he can and cannot do. Given that the church just severed the relationship with the individual excommunicated you would think the instructions provided are no longer applicable. It is assumed they are given with the intention of helping the individual make their way back to baptism again within a short period of time, even as little as one year. Instructions Provided When Excommunicated It has been my sad duty over the years to write and deliver the notice to appear, then to write the summary of the disciplinary council for the report sent to Salt Lake, and the instructions given to the individual who has been the subject of church discipline. Frankly, I have found it a difficult process. It requires that I listen intently and take copious notes so as to capture the essence of what transpired, what was considered, what was decided and finally, what instruction was

The True Order of Prayer

I’m not sure if I can write the things I feel in my heart right now. I am simply overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve asked the Lord’s permission to share this and He said yes. It’s a sacred experience to me. I hope the spirit bears witness. I’ll give you a little bit of background first, share what the Lord allows me and conclude tomorrow with what He asked me to write on a different subject. A Forty-Year Search On Sunday, I culminated a forty-year search for understanding of The True Order of Prayer. Yes, I was seventeen when I first learned about this, even before I was endowed. You see, my parents were both incredibly active in Temple service. Mother ’s life work was to do her family history. I have her patriarchal blessing where it’s stated it was her calling and election. She made it sure. My Mother’s Calling and Election Before she died, mother published multiple books of family history, genealogy and research on some 25,000 ancestors. She and my father personally did most of the ordi

A Dialogue About the Devil

I spent way too much time on this dialogue about the devil to not share it publically. I know. It's a terrible subject to contemplate. Why are we discussing these ideas when there are so many other areas of light that would be more worthy of our time and attention? You can skip this if you want. We all have to be selective about where we spend our time and energy. I open it up for public discussion, or more likely, for public correction. See if you can spot and correct any false doctrine here. Hello Brother Malone, I have no scriptural reference for my thoughts I share with you regarding Lucifer but wondered if in your studies and readings you have heard this scenario before. We are taught Lucifer was esteemed as per the Savior in the pre-existence before his apparent fall. Is it possible he did not fall and that like the Savior he chose to accept the calling of being Satan as Jesus accepted the calling of being Savior, that the great council was more about a communal and loving di

Keys of the Kingdom Revisited

Carol and I have had a running conversation since Sunday about the succession crisis at the death of Joseph. To me, it has become the crux of the matter when considering the legitimacy of the LDS Church as the Kingdom of God on the earth. We have both been taught all our lives that Brigham had the Keys of the Kingdom and therefore nothing was lost when Joseph was killed. Before I present anything may I remind everyone that this is the blog of a private member of the LDS Church and in no way represents the official viewpoints or doctrines of the LDS Church. For that, go to where you can read the official narrative of how the succession between Joseph and Brigham took place. I won’t review it here. I assume you are familiar with the story. Second point: if my writing about this bothers you, please don’t read it. I am simply trying to understand our history more perfectly. If the history of our Church is not something that has anything to do with your faith or your willingness t