What does it mean to learn by faith? Here are 7 quotes from Church leaders to help explain D&C 88:118

In Kirtland, Ohio, in January 1833, a group of priesthood holders followed the Lord’s command to meet together in what was called the School of the Prophets. As they prepared to preach the gospel throughout the earth, the Lord taught them how to be edified through the Spirit. 

“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,” the Lord instructed them. 

Principles found in the Lord’s counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 are still applicable today. Here is what President Russell M. Nelson and six other Church leaders have taught in general conference about what it means to seek learning by study and faith. 

Increasing faith

“Just as the physical foundation of the Salt Lake Temple must be strong enough to withstand natural disasters, our spiritual foundations must be solid. … The Lord taught us how to increase our faith by seeking ‘learning, even by study and also by faith.’ We strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ as we strive to keep His commandments and ‘always remember him.’ Further, our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him. That is what learning by faith means.”

— President Nelson, “Embrace the Future With Faith,” October 2020 general conference

Don’t limit the pursuit of truth

“The methods of science lead us to what we call scientific truth. But ‘scientific truth’ is not the whole of life. Those who do not learn ‘by study and also by faith’ limit their understanding of truth to what they can verify by scientific means. That puts artificial limits on their pursuit of truth.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, “Truth and the Plan,” October 2018 general conference

Not a passive reception

“Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental and physical exertion and not just passive reception. … Learning by faith cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration or an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself.” 

Elder David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” October 2007 general conference

Complete picture

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord has repeatedly told us to ‘seek learning even by study and also by faith.’ We can receive light and understanding not only through the logical reasoning of our minds but also through the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. … 

“In my 31 years as a member of the Church, I have experienced many times that if we rely only on our rational mind and deny or neglect the spiritual understanding we can receive through the whisperings and impressions of the Holy Ghost, it is as if we were going through life with only one eye. But figuratively speaking, we have actually been given two eyes. Only the combination of both views can give us the true and complete picture of all truths and of everything we experience in our lives, as well as of the whole and profound understanding of our identity and purpose as children of a living Heavenly Father.”

Elder Mathias Held, “Seeking Knowledge by the Spirit,” April 2019 general conference

Faith and reason

“If, because of unbelief or doubt, you find your faith wavering, remember that even the ancient Apostles implored the Lord to ‘increase our faith.’ Bearing in mind that faith and reason are necessary companions, consider the following analogy: Faith and reason are like the two wings of an aircraft. Both are essential to maintain flight. If, from your perspective, reason seems to contradict faith, pause and remember that our perspective is extremely limited compared with the Lord’s. Do not discard faith any more than you would detach a wing from an aircraft in flight. Instead, nurture a particle of faith and permit the hope it produces to be an anchor to your soul — and to your reason. That is why we are commanded to ‘seek learning … by study and also by faith.’”

Elder Marcus B. Nash,By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled,” October 2012 general conference

The best books

“Questions about our Church history and beliefs do arise. Where we turn to find the correct answers requires great care. There is nothing to be gained in exploring the views and opinions of the less informed or disenchanted. The best counsel was given by the Apostle James: ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.’ … 

“Asking of God is to be preceded by careful study, for we are under scriptural mandate to seek ‘out of the best books words of wisdom’ and to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith.’ There is a rich abundance of these books, written by heaven-inspired Church leaders and recognized, safe and reliable Church history and doctrine scholars. With that said, none surpass the majesty of the revealed word of God in canonized scripture. From those thin pages thick with spiritual insights, we learn truth through the Holy Ghost and thereby increase in light.”

Elder Ian S. Ardern, “Seek Ye Out of the Best Books,” October 2017 general conference

Added light to learning

“We learn by faith as we diligently gain spiritual knowledge through prayer, scripture study and obedience and as we seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of all truth. If you do your part to gain knowledge, the Holy Ghost can enlighten your mind. As you strive to keep yourself worthy, the Holy Ghost will give direction and added light to your learning. …

“I testify from personal experience that if you will seek learning not only by study but also by faith, you will be guided in what ‘the Lord … will need you to do and what you will need to know.’”

Sister Mary N. Cook, “Seek Learning: You Have a Work to Do,” April 2012 general conference