It is common for people to say that they love with their hearts, but what of their minds? John W. Welch explores what it means to love God with our mind.
This speech was given September 30, 2003.
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"Today I would ask: What does it mean to you to love God with all your mind? We feel what it means to love Him with our heart, but what does it mean to love Him with our mind? I have asked many people this question. I get many different answers. What would your answer be?
At the outset, let me turn to a passage in Mark 12, which I find terribly important. A highly educated scribe (their equivalent of a college graduate) who had overhead Jesus reasoning with some Sadducees, asked the Savior, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus answered: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”
“And,” Jesus added, “this is the second: Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
To this the scholar responded, “Teacher, you speak very well and in truth, for to love God with all one’s heart and all one’s understanding and all one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is more advantageous than all burnt offerings and sacrifice.”
Seeing that this person spoke with keen intelligence, Jesus declared, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (See Mark 12:28–34; author’s translation in part.)
This brief encounter is deeply interesting to me. Since Jesus was dealing with a craftsman of words, let me mention some notable vocabulary in their conversation. When Jesus stated the prime commandment, He carefully included the mind. The Greek word used for mind is dianoia, meaning with all your “way of thinking” or your “perception of things.” In his response the scholarly scribe used an even more dynamic word, synesis, meaning “understanding, getting things all together, comprehensive comprehension, synthesis, and insight.” And then, escalating a third step, Jesus told this man that he was not far from the kingdom because he spoke nounechos, literally “having nous,” the highest term in some philosophical pantheons for true, even divine, intelligence. These three words regard the mind highly, the last being especially strong.
How many lessons can we draw from this inspiring exchange between the Savior and this educated individual? Let us not pass lightly over this stunning scripture; divine declarations often come without much elaboration yet are laden with profound implications. I would speak today of seven dimensions of loving God with our all our mind, drawn from words in this account.
It Is Possible
First, we learn with assurance that it is possible to get near to the kingdom of God while having intelligence. This smart man was close to the mark, and Jesus congratulated him for it.
Likewise, we on the faculty congratulate and welcome you. At this university and in this religion, you don’t need to check your brains at the door. To be a gospel scholar, you’ll need all the brilliance you can muster, for we have the double challenge of knowing not only the ways of the world but also the ways of the Lord—and then, getting the two together. In this sense the world actually has the lighter assignment. Of course, in another sense, our task is the easier. Because of modern scriptures and the temple, we have more pieces in life’s puzzle, as well as the picture on the box.
I hope you are excited and humbled to be at Brigham Young University, where we boldly affirm that “the glory of God is intelligence” and that “to be learned is good,” so long as we avoid the vainness, the frailties, and the foolishness of men and also “hearken unto the counsels of God” (D&C 93:36; 2 Nephi 9:29). Ancient and modern prophets offer role models of highly intelligent people who have loved the Lord with their minds. Until only recently, President Hinckley has enjoyed reading the classics in Latin and Greek, which he learned in college. Isaiah was a brilliant writer, and Paul was amazingly articulate. Alma went head-to-head against the stubborn issues of his day. As Limhi promised his people, “If ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind . . . , he will . . . deliver you” (Mosiah 7:33; emphasis added). Thus it is indeed possible to get near to the kingdom of God with intelligence."