Relief Society Lesson 22: Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths

by Deborah

Yeah!  This lesson includes my very favorite Joseph Smith sentiment: ““Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth.”  My father, a man of faith and of science, had me memorize that phrase.  It was a bit of a mantra for him – a way to reconcile searching for truth “by study and also by faith.”  He saw God in geological strata and drosophila DNA.  Only a religion big enough to include all Truth was worth his time. That’s what he taught his daughters (and sons). If I had a chance to teach this lesson this week, I would dedicate it to his memory.


I’d place several books on the table – Bible, Book of Mormon, a geology textbook, To Kill a Mockingbird, a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, The Chronicles of Narnia, a cookbook, etc.  I’d then write on the board, “The glory of God in intelligence, or in other words Light and Truth” (D&C 93:36)  Ask for reflections about that scripture.  What is light? What is truth?

I’d then summarize the “From the Life of Joseph Smith” section, including George Cannon’s reflections on how much Josoph loved learning.  Sometimes we play up the idea that he was uneducated – but the Prophet was a voracious learner.  He loved languages, loved study, loved to learn from others.  He actively sought out people who had training in areas he did not – he hungered for knowledge.  Are we hungry to learn more?

Section 1: The gospel of Jesus Christ embraces all truth

“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men.”

Read this twice, and then ask for reflections.  This is an expansive definition of “Mormonism” – it invites opening ourselves to truth, opening ourselves to God. How do we determine “truth?” Where can we look for it?  Have you had the experience of learning something new – something that had nothing seemingly to do with religion – and experiencing a spiritual insight? (Here is where I would bring in To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. – but then, I’m an English teacher – others might find such insight while studying gardening or physics).

“I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day Saints … are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time. . . . .I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes [limits], and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’ [Job 38:11]; which I cannot subscribe to.”

What is  “creed?” Why was Joseph Smith wary of creeds?  How does this quote fit with your understanding of the gospel?

“I have always had the satisfaction of seeing the truth triumph over error, and darkness give way before light.”

This reminds me a lot of Martin Luther King Jr.’s saying:  “The arc of the universe is long and bends toward justice.”  It’s a supremely hopeful sentiment and tells us something about Joseph Smith.

Section II: Gaining knowledge of eternal truths is essential to obtaining salvation.

“Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness , , , knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge; and hence He knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all.”

“Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing” [see 2 Peter 1:5].

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”16

Again, ask for reflections.  Relief Society manuals used to include lessons on art, music, literature, etc. – which seems very much in keeping with this sentiment.  But that was a different era.  Women today often lead very busy lives, What can we do to  nurture our intellects? How do we find time to study and learn?   This is a good opportunity to bring in the 13th Article of Faith – and provide a forum to share practical ideas!  (Also a good chance to plug enrichment activities that are learning oriented? Or to brainstorm new enrichment groups? Or to share books that have helped increase your understanding of the scriptures? Or to promote the virtue of library cards, continuing education, and reading to children?).

Section III: We obtain knowledge of eternal truths through diligent study and prayer.

“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! …:

This passage seems to promote not just prayer but pondering and meditation and exploring.  How can study enrich our relationship with God?

Section IV: We gain knowledge of eternal truths a little at a time; we can learn all things as fast as we are able to bear them.

“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

This is the “comfort quote” – the reminder that we have to start where we are, and that we are all somewhere on the ladder . . . . a nice way to close.


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Carina says:

    D–this is a fantastic lesson! I wish I could hear you give it.

  2. Linda says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this lesson. I am also an English teacher, so I especially liked your placing the books on the table and discussing what can be learned from such books that is “truth.”
    A quote I plan to use at the beginning is from Stephen Covey’s book, The Divine Center: “The Lord defines truth as ‘knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.'”
    D&C 93:24. In other words, truth = a knowledge of things, Covey says.
    A song I plan to use in my opener is from the Saturday’s Warrior cd: “Line Upon Line.”

  3. Tammy says:

    I wanted to thank you for the lesson help and the comments made. I am teaching in RS now and I have no idea why. I feel totally inadaquate for this calling. There are so many intelligent and wonderful women in our RS and I love them all dearly. I am just so totally over my head in trying to teach them anything! I have a great deal of difficulty communicating what I know to be true verbally. So I am expecially thankful for finding a sight that can help me in my efforts to learn from and teach, adult women! It’s pretty scary to me!

  4. Rebekah says:

    What a great boost to my lesson ideas! Thank you! I am teaching this lesson tomorrow, and one of the first things that came to my mind after first reading the lesson in the manual was the book “The Lesson” by Carol Lynn Pearson. It marries really well with the ladder analogy. It starts out reading as if it is about a child in the first grade learning sums, and as the book progresses you see it’s really about gaining knowledge in life and ends with the man dying and ‘moving up to the next grade’, showing that search for knowledge does not end when we die. I am undecided as to whether I will read the book in the lesson or not.

  5. ricky says:

    i echo tammy’s comments (except i teach our ward’s EQ). your thoughts and insights are most helpful. thanks for posting them! i especially like your ideas on the multiple sources of “truth.”

  6. Lisa says:

    Thanks for your thoughts and insight into this lesson. I love googling the lesson title and seeing what comes up. I really appreciated how you seemed to focus an down to earth principles and applications of this lesson. I plan on incorporating some of your ideas into my lesson, thanks again.

  7. mindy says:

    Sigh, I am still struggling with these lessons. I do much better with games and refreshments. I enjoy reading everyone’s ideas, but for this lesson, I am leaning towards doing an “Are you smarter than a Beehive” format and having the Beehive class come in to help. I’ll ask relevant questions about Church history/geography and also questions from the lesson like “1n 1833 the Prophet Joseph Smith trained priesthood holders to work in the ministry and to prepare them to preach the gospel. What was this unique opportunity to study the gospel called?” Answer: The School of the Prophets. I’ll also put in quotes throughout the game from the lesson. You all seem much more comfortable with these high-brow lessons…I can only hope they will send me to primary where I belong and soon…

  8. Deborah says:

    Mindy: It can be really intimidating to teach a room full of peers! But based on your comment, you sound really dedicated to your calling.

    For those feeling likewise overwhelmed, here’s a good rule of thumb I’ve learned from my years of teaching that may help.

    Five to seven OPEN-ENDED questions is enough to fill an entire class period.

    You really don’t need to talk much (which might feel like a relief). Read a quote and ask for reflections . . . one thing about a group of adult women — we know how to talk! We want to share — if the teacher invites it. So when Joseph Smith tells us to spend our lives seeking knowledge and “every good thing?” — well, were do you (the audience) find the time? What do you wish you had time to study? Based on the 13th article of faith, what books/music/knowledge have you found outside of church that has helped you grow spiritually? Then let the conversation role. An occasional, “Does anyone want to respond to that idea or build upon it?” can help a lull in the conversation.

    Here’s my other suggestion for those feeling overwhelmed: Call two sisters in advance. Give them a quote from the lesson and ask them to come ready to stand up and share their story/reflections about the topic. Again, it allows for an open sharing without you having to do all the talking! It also gives space for more women’s voices.

  9. Emily says:

    I love this site. For my lesson I am going to arrange all the seats in a circle and have a standing, 6 foot ladder in the middle of the circle. On each step of the ladder there will be a box. Each box will contain a visual aid for each section of the lesson(except for a surprise box that contains treats!).Box #1 will have a variety of types of books and a copy of a quote from the manual representing Section I. A wonderful listing of books have been mentioned earlier, like a Physics textbook, a novel, a bible,etc..). Box #2 will contain rice crispy treats and a quote from the manual. Box #3 will contain a flash light and a quote to represent Section II (I will have the parts of flash light taken apart representing how all religions have a portion of truth but when parts are put together it is the whole truth). Box #4 will contain a crown and quote representing Section III (from page 267 “let pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our thoughts”). A picture of someone praying or reading the scriptures could also work.

    I will give a small ball to someone in the circle and tell them that when the music plays they must pass the ball clockwise.
    When the music stops the person with the ball will stand up in the middle of the circle and pick a box starting from the bottom of the ladder. She will open it and choose someone else to read the quote to begin the discussion for the particular section. We will continue until all the boxes have been opened.

    I will begin and end the lesson explaining how learning the principles of exaltation are similar to climbing a ladder (page 268).

  10. Brittney says:

    Wow, so many great ideas. Thanks guys! It used to be so easy for me to give lessons before I got married and started my family. But now my hours of studying and praying are non-existant and have been replaced with changing diapers, feeding kids, laundry, and cleaning. This site has helped me a ton! You guys rock!

  11. JJ says:

    any suggestions for teaching an RS lessson from the Ensign — Pres uchdorf’s talk about hope & Elder Hollnad’s talk about angels?

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