Message from the Deans' Office

"Seek Ye Out of the Best Books"

Richard E. BennettRecently, while visiting family and friends in Canada, I met with a middle-aged couple who are fine members of the Church. They shared the sad news that all three of their children are no longer active, a heavy burden for these good parents to carry. The children had drifted away because of high school and college secular influences, the choice of friends with differing values and contrasting belief systems, and the lack of a seminary and institute program in their far-distant branch.

My mind immediately reverted to Doctrine and Covenants 88:118: “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.” Faith is a precious commodity, a marvelous gift that the world delights in trampling upon. As Church educators, we are commissioned and commanded to nurture faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in the rising generation through living the gospel ourselves and studying the writings and experiences of others. We cannot teach what we do not know, and the Lord expects us to be readers and sharers, teachers and scholars. We are encouraged, if not mandated, to study, to research—or in scriptural terminology—to “seek . . . diligently . . . out of the best books.”

Our colleague Professor Larry Dahl once wrote of this artful combination of teaching and scholarship and how each complements the other. “I believe scholarship and teaching are inextricably intertwined,” he wrote in the lead article of the very first volume of the Religious Educator, published ten years ago. “Although there may be some unusual examples of acknowledged scholars who do not communicate their learning effectively in the classroom and popular teachers who may not fit easily into the category of ‘scholar,’ I am persuaded that the very best teachers are also good scholars, and that good scholars are, for the most part, good teachers.”[1]

I echo that sentiment. In assuming my new responsibilities as associate dean of Religious Education, I intend to continue the wonderful example of my predecessor, Kent P. Jackson, in pursuing and encouraging rigorous gospel scholarship on the one hand, and excellent teaching of our students on the other. These twin pillars of our profession are not incompatible; rather they are “a compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11). Scholarship is neither a drudgery nor a deflection but an invitation to enthusiastic discovery and widespread dissemination, inspiring a yearning to share what we find in a classroom of learning in the household of faith.

Richard E. Bennett
Associate dean of Religious Education

Note

1. Larry E. Dahl, “Gospel Scholarship and Gospel Teaching,” Religious Educator 1, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 2.