Imagine for a moment being asked by Heavenly Father what you would desire of Him. What would you ask for? The return of a loved one? Great wealth to accomplish good works and meet all of your needs? How about perfect health all the days of your mortal life? Perhaps you would like to be honored throughout the world for your charitable acts or contributions to the public good?
Such was the Old Testament story of Solomon, the son of David. One day he went to the high place that was at Gibeon where the tabernacle of the congregation of God was present (2 Chronicles 1:2). There he offered a thousand burnt offerings to honor the Lord.
Later that night, God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask what I shall give thee” (vs. 7). Solomon responded, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?” (vs. 10).
God’s response to Solomon’s request was incredibly generous: “And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked for riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee neither shall there any after thee have the like” (vs. 12).
The Guide to the Scriptures found on LDS.org explains that wisdom is “the ability or gift from God to judge correctly. A person gains wisdom through experience and study and by following God’s counsel. Without God’s help, man does not have true wisdom.”
Some people upon the earth today are deceived by an intellectual superiority complex, but over time many of the ideas and concepts of the world’s best intellects have been proven false. This was noted by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 1992 general conference.
“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,“ Elder Nelson said. ”In 1867, for example, Lord Lister indicted bad air as the chief cause of infection. 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 post-operative 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” (“Where is Wisdom?”).
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish” (2 Nephi 9:28). Attributes of faith, teachability, humility and a desire for true knowledge are crucial for the traveler through mortality.
As children of God we are commanded to seek wisdom and knowledge. “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
Elder Franklin D. Richards, a General Authority Seventy, said, “One of the great challenges facing us today is to develop sufficient wisdom, understanding and inner strength so that we can live happily and successfully in our complex and difficult world and not be caught up in the mad scramble for the material things and pleasures” (“Seek Not for Riches, But for Wisdom,” April 1976 general conference).
Countless are the personal and scriptural stories of those who have humbled themselves before God, sought wisdom, received inspiration and followed through to accomplish great and marvelous things. Joseph Smith, Nephi, Rachel, Moses, Sarah, Mary the mother of Jesus, Job, Alma, Enos and many others applied this pattern to great effect.
If we desire the wisdom to endure trials joyfully, we should identify our immediate need, humbly draw closer to God and then ask Him in faith to meet that need. All of us will encounter things in our lives that we don’t have the ability to overcome on our own. We are dependent on God’s wisdom. We must become proficient in the principles of tapping into this wisdom.
In general conference 2009, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “I bear solemn witness that as you pray with all the fervor of your soul with humility and gratitude, you can learn to be consistently guided by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life. I have confirmed the truthfulness of that principle in the crucible of my own life. I testify that you can personally learn to master the principles of being guided by the Spirit. That way, the Savior can guide you to resolve challenges of life and enjoy great peace and happiness” (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance”).