How many of the things we own come with a lifetime warranty? Maybe a nice set of knives, a kitchen table, or a toolset if we are lucky. Now, which of our possessions has an eternal warranty? Joseph Smith taught that "whatever principle of intelligence we attain in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection," meaning the things we learn now will stay with us, and benefit us, even after our mortal lives end (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18). God expects all of us to gather as much knowledge as we are able—at school, at work and on our own. Doing so will help us through the challenges of this life, bring us closer to Him and prepare us for the life to come.
Imagine how imbalanced a musician would be if she only studied one type of music. We grow and develop more quickly when we balance our spiritual study with rigorous education and work, just like Jesus Christ did when he went out in the world, observing nature and learning the carpenter's trade. We would do well to follow His example by "[increasing] in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52).
Mormons are urged to learn about the secular as well as the spiritual. Secular knowledge, you could say, deals with the things we learn in school—math, science, history, literature, languages, music and so on. Spiritual knowledge is what you learn through scripture study, prayer and church attendance—things like our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness, Jesus Christ's Gospel, and how to build faith. Both kinds of knowledge help us to know how to work through our individual challenges in a balanced approach.
We come to earth according to God's plan, so that we can learn and experience all the wonderful and challenging things the world has to teach us, and we have to be good students to make the most of our time here.
Secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge can complement each other. Because God created the earth and the things that inhabit it, studying geology, physics and biology teaches us more about the greatness of our Creator. Authors and poets can write with heavenly inspiration, so reading their work can give us insight into the nature of our souls and what it means to be human. Sometimes listening to a piece of music can help us feel God's love. Both secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge benefit from dialogue. Both require observation, work, and practice. So although we sometimes think of secular and spiritual as opposites or even as contradictory, a true knowledge of God and the world He created shows us that understanding one helps to understand the other.
Literacy is fundamental to understanding the things of God and the things of the world. We need to know the things in the scriptures and other good books because we progress more quickly, both temporally and spiritually, the better educated we are. Literacy centers are one of the many services offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it also donates money to promote other international literacy initiatives.
A good education and the ability to read help us gain knowledge and wisdom, which enable us to discern truth from error and make good choices. Education and literacy are also keys to personal growth, preparation for employment, building strong families, service in the Church, and making a meaningful contribution to the society in which we live. The ability to read and the opportunity to go to school help us to be better citizens, better family members, better employees and better children of God. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Church's First Presidency said, "Please encourage your families… to learn and become better educated. If formal education is not available, do not allow that to prevent you from acquiring all the knowledge you can. Under such circumstances, the best books, in a sense, can become your 'university'—a classroom that is always open and admits all who apply." Joseph Smith taught "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance" (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). Fulfilling our duty to learn as much as possible will allow us to contribute to the world around us and prepare to meet our Heavenly Father.
In 2001, the Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, Gordon B. Hinckley, announced a "bold initiative" to help youth in developing countries get an education they couldn't afford on their own. The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) is a program that allows Mormons without other financial resources to borrow money to fund professional training or advanced education. With this assistance, they can then find good jobs to help themselves and their families out of poverty. Once they are established, they pay back their loan into the fund so that other students can use the money in the same way. "Education is the key to opportunity," said President Hinckley. In the past nine years, 40,000 men and women in 40 countries have been given access to this opportunity. The program is funded through contributions of Mormons and others who support its mission.
Because we believe spiritual learning can and should happen alongside secular learning, the Church has set up seminaries and institutes of religion in 142 countries around the world.
Seminary is a place where secondary school-age students—both members of the Church and others—can attend free religious classes during the week. Most of these students meet early in the morning before their school begins. Institutes of religion provide similar programs for 18-30 year olds, usually taken concurrently with college classes. These institute classes address a variety of topics, including the scriptures, eternal marriage, preparing for missions and many others. Last year, more than 700,000 students enrolled in seminary and institute.
Students today have to work hard to meet high scholastic standards, but many find that taking a seminary or institute class actually helps them deal with the stress of their other schoolwork. We believe that when we apply the spiritual dimension of faith to our study—even of temporal things—we can amplify our intellectual capacity. "If your eye be single to [God’s] glory, your whole [body] shall be filled with light, … and [comprehend] all things" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67).