Recent conversations online and in “real life” have been replaying in my mind this week. For my readers who may not know, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was born and raised in the Church and am still an active member. While homeschooling is not particularly common within our faith, I live in an area where most of the homeschoolers I encounter happen to also be LDS. The reasons LDS families choose to homeschool are as varied and individual as the reasons any other family would choose to do so, but I feel somewhat…unsettled by the LDS homeschoolers I encounter who homeschool in large part because they fear secular knowledge or influence.
A scripture has been playing through my mind since Sunday afternoon (D&C 109:7):
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;
Most of the “best books” full of “words of wisdom” were written by non-LDS authors. Many “best books” were written by non-Christians. Western civilization draws heavily upon Greek and Roman philosophies and discoveries. While there may be aspects of these ideas that conflict with Christian beliefs, the vast majority of them are secular. In other words, they have no religious component that would threaten spiritual beliefs. As a parent who has chosen to direct my children’s educations personally, I feel that it is my duty to help them learn both spiritual and secular wisdom. One cannot as easily and effectively navigate the world without an understanding of humanity’s past and potential future. I see the principle of eternal progression in the growth of humanity over the past thousands of years. If we accept this concept, we see that we need the wisdom of previous generations to further our own.
The Sunday School class I attended last week got into an interesting discussion about wisdom when we were talking about Paul’s visit to Corinth, and we concluded that worldly knowledge isn’t necessarily evil. Certainly it’s possible to steep oneself in secular wisdom only while shunning the divine. I suppose that this is what some LDS homeschoolers fear–that too much familiarity with secular ideas will cause their children to stumble spiritually. However, if children grow up suspicious or afraid of “worldly” knowledge only to discover as adults that there is little to threaten their faith, I wonder what negative impact this would have on spiritual strength. Agency is only possible when one has knowledge of one’s options. Deliberately choosing the right is more meaningful than blind obedience. The cost of intentionally restricting a child’s education is also a high one because limited education limits one’s future options.
Another scripture comes to mind (D&C 109:8):
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
It’s possible to create a house, or a homeschool, that incorporates both faith and (secular) learning. You can teach God’s involvement in the creation of the world and evolution. You can teach your religious beliefs and expose your child to belief systems that may differ greatly from your own. I like how the mission statement of Brigham Young University (a private university run by the Church) explains why to meld the spiritual and the secular:
Because the gospel encourages the pursuit of all truth, students at BYU should receive a broad university education. The arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of such an education, which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity.
In order to foster an education that is celestial, one that furthers the growth of ourselves and our children and glorifies God, we need an intelligence comprised of both spiritual and secular wisdom (D&C 93:36):
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Truth, both secular and spiritual, is worthy of pursuit.