Friday, June 10, 2011

Will This Be On The Test?

In my (so very many) years of education and as a teaching assistant, the question most frequently asked regardless of the course subject was "Will this be on the test?"  This question nearly made my head explode.  Why should it even matter?  Are we not in school to learn? Should we not just want to know? Or, is it really all about the grades?  Well, to many students, it IS just about the grades.  But, ask me how many times I heard a professor say, "No, I'm just running my mouth up here for my own amusement." Not once. 

This sort of reminds me of the oft-given answer to "difficult" questions one might ask about church history or doctrine. "It's not pertinent to your salvation."  Well, fuck me, but I'm the 'A' student sitting in the front of the classroom frantically writing notes then spending hours studying and trying to make connections and understand concepts.  Are we supposed to be worrying only about our salvation, or are we supposed to be preparing to be gods/goddesses ourselves? Does Heavenly Father waste His time?  Or, are we meant to actually understand all of the given knowledge pertinent to eternity?  I'm adding this to the list of mixed messages the Church is so keen on giving.  Seek knowledge and drink your milk.

"We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him." Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:8.


  1. I just wanted to say that this is a great little juxtaposition. Do you think that the same sorts of people who ask in a school setting, "Will this be on the test?" are the ones who propagate (and accept) responses in church like, "It's not pertinent to your salvation"?

  2. Yes. I think people are of two types: those who seek knowledge out of genuine curiosity and those who are only interested in knowing what they MUST to get by. I think the correlated Church caters to the later and therefore utterly fails to meet the needs of the former.

  3. I actually do think you can find some of the higher level thinking within the church, but I do think that, like a classroom setting, the Sunday meetings aren't often the most optimal place for these discussions. I know that a lot of you academic and intellectual exploration of school subjects was extracurricular. It's not that teachers were teaching to the test, but they did have requirements to reach in terms of what students had to learn, so I've always taken it for granted that the classroom is supposed to be only the beginning for learning.

  4. Also, forgive any weirdness in that last comment, because I'm typing on an onscreen keyboard.

  5. Oh, I definitely think there are some intellectual Mormons. I never met any until I left the Church, but they do exist. I think that Sunday meetings SHOULD be the optimal plan for more in-depth discussions. I got the impression that outside group study (like scripture circles) were discouraged.

    In the classroom, I think that if a teacher/professor has or makes the time to cover "extra" interesting material, students should be keen on learning it.

  6. I think that some of the "it's not pertinent to your salvation" attitude stems from the somewhat common interpretation of Mormon doctrine and culture that once we die and go to heaven all knowledge will be given to us. I think a lot of people believe that this means that they will just sort of know everything instantaneously (like opening a downloaded file). So, if everyone will be on equal footing in the next life, it's perfectly reasonable to remain uninformed and ignorant in this life and just wait until knowledge will sort of happen TO them later.

    I've personally never understood the doctrine in that way. Rather, I understood that we are supposed to seek out knowledge now. Whether the purpose of this is to better our lives and the lives of others on Earth or whether the purpose is to be better prepared to receive further knowledge in eternity, I don't know. But, I always had a conceptualization that we learn line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept and never supposed that the process of learning and gaining knowledge would be different in the next life. We also had this idea that knowledge was all that we can take with us after we die (aside from eternal familial relationships), which would be a moot point if gaining knowledge here does not provide some advantage after death.

    I've heard both interpretations. I suspect that the belief that knowledge is just "given" and not earned, is correlative with, if not causal of, the it's not pertinent mentality.