Through the Atonement, the human intellect can be transformed into an instrument for loving God.
A highly educated scribe once 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 sacrifices.” 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.)
What does it mean 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?
Intelligence and the Kingdom
This scripture teaches us 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.
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. At BYU we boldly affirm that “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36) and that “to be learned is good” (2 Ne. 9:29), so long as we avoid “the vainness, . . . the frailties, and the foolishness of men” (2 Ne. 9:28) and also “hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Ne. 9:29). 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).
Here at BYU you can specialize in learning how to love God with all your mind and as an integrated soul. We see no irreconcilable conflict between the heart and the mind. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ exquisitely harmonizes the traditional paradoxes of life, embracing both study and faith, reason and revelation, truth and goodness, thought and action, spirit and mind. The one is not without the other in the Lord. The gospel strives, above all, for the fullness of eternal life, not just either half of it.
Jesus cares very much about our minds. Just as He noticed that the scribe answered with great intelligence, He notices and cares what we think, write, and teach. I know that God watches over our intellectual endeavors. And I know that God will support us as we strive to love Him with our mind.
An All-Important Commandment
Jesus makes it clear that we are commanded to love God with all our mind. Pondering this, I realized that I should approach this as a responsibility, not just as an opportunity or privilege. I wondered:Do I think of this commandment when I partake of the sacrament or when I answer the recommend question about striving to keep the Lord’s commandments?
The word all is all important here. Keeping this commandment requires genuine, dedicated completeness. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has spoken often about discipleship, submissiveness, and consecration, especially in intellectual settings. He has sensitized us to the dangers of what he calls “holding back,” of not loving God with all the mind that we could. He has said: “We usually tend to think of consecration in terms of property. . . . But there are so many ways of keeping back part and so many things we can withhold a portion of besides property. All things [including our minds] really ought to be put on the altar” (“Discipleship and Scholarship,” BYU Studies 32, no. 3 [summer 1992], p. 7). Minds must bend, as well as knees. An idea is often the last thing we are willing to let go of.
Many Ways to Love
We love God with our mind by being observant of the things He has created—by appreciating the amazing things that He has given us in the worlds of chemistry or geology, scriptures or linguistics. Elder Howard W. Hunter once said, “He loves God with all his mind who . . . sees God in all things and acknowledges him in all ways” (Conference Report, April 1965, p. 58).
We love God with our mind by caring about the problems He cares about. We love God with our mind by embracing His work, giving it the best of our planning, research, and problem solving. Figuring out what you can do as a home teacher to motivate someone to repent is truly a challenging intellectual task and a way to love God with your mind.
When we love God, we want to be like Him. It takes careful thought to internalize all that we can know of Him. It takes mental effort to forgive other people as He does, for that begins by thinking nonjudgmental thoughts about them and seeing them as He does.
Loving God also means loving His words. We can love God with our mind by memorizing scriptures. The conversation between Jesus and the scribe was possible because both of them knew that scripture by heart.
We love God with our mind by asking good and righteous questions. We are commanded to ask, seek, and knock (see Matt. 7:7). Our scribe in Mark asked Jesus a good question, much better in fact than the unlikely hypothetical one posed by the Sadducees about a supposed seven-time widow who had remarried six of her husband’s brothers (see Mark 12:18–27). We need to spend more time discerning between good questions and bad ones. It won’t do to be knocking on the wrong door.
If you love God, you will think of Him often. You will want to share with Him every day and every night, everything you have thought, said, and done. You miss Him and hope to see Him again.
You will think kind and loving things about Him. In the face of any type of inconclusive uncertainty, love gives the benefit of the doubt. Although you cannot talk yourself into loving God or anyone else, it is possible to talk yourself out of love, so give heed to what you think.
A Breakable Commandment
We break the commandment to love God with all our mind when we think contrary to the degree of knowledge we have received. We break this commandment when we promote ideas that injure other people, for with knowledge comes power and with any power comes duty and accountability.
We break this commandment when we harbor in our minds excuses that deny the existence, love, power, or knowledge of God. As a bishop, I’ve heard people say: “Everyone is doing it.” “I couldn’t stop.” “It’s my life.” “Every point of view is equally valid.” “No one will notice.” But where do these mental mistakes leave God? Is God doing it? Couldn’t God help you stop? Is it really your life? Does God’s view count? Doesn’t God notice everything, including your thoughts?
We break this commandment whenever we believe Satan, the enemy of all righteousness. Satan is a good liar. Take the lie of pornography. Satan tells us we will find satisfaction by staring at pornography. Can we love God with all our mind if even part is filled with this pollution? When I came to BYU in the ’60s, we were just beginning to worry about environmental pollution. We had foolishly believed that the oceans could absorb an endless amount of garbage and waste. We learned that pollution doesn’t just go away.
Similarly, some people foolishly think that the human mind can absorb an endless amount of filth and violence. You have been blessed with an amazing brain, with incredible retentive powers. Mental pollution sticks; there are no teflon brains. Just as it is true that “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18), so, too, whatever degree of unrepented smut or cynicism we attain unto, it will rise with us as well.
Minds Perfected in Christ
Moroni says, “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; . . . and love God with all your might, mind and strength” (Moro. 10:32). It says, “Be perfected in him.” We cannot perfect our minds without His help. We know the effects of the Fall on our bodies, but our minds are also in a fallen state. Our minds must also be redeemed. This happens by repenting of our bad or erroneous thoughts and submitting to the mind and will of Christ.
We must overcome our rebellious thoughts every bit as much as our disobedient actions. We must pray, “Lead us not into intellectual temptation,” as much as from any other kind of temptation (see Matt. 6:13). We must feel godly sorrow for our mental sins. Like Zeezrom, we must suffer spiritual migraines over our intellectual mistakes (see Alma 15:3, 5).
Through the Atonement, the human intellect can be transformed into an instrument for loving God. Has your mind been sanctified by the atoning blood of Christ? Has your mind “yield[ed] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19)? Do you have “no more disposition to [think] evil” (Mosiah 5:2)? Have you been “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2)?
If so, the Lord will light up your mind, as He did King Lamoni’s (see Alma 19:6). He will cause your mind to expand, as Alma promised (see Alma 32:34). He will write His covenants upon your mind, as Jeremiah guaranteed (qtd. in Heb. 8:10; see Jer. 31:33). He will bless your heart and mind with peace that passes all understanding, as Paul assured (see Philip. 4:7–9).
And in the end, if you love God with all your mind, you will be fit for the kingdom. If you “worship him with all your . . . mind,” the scriptures say, “ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Ne. 25:29) and “the hope of his glory and of eternal life [shall] rest in your mind forever” (Moro. 9:25).
John Welch is the editor in chief of BYU Studies and the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at BYU‘s J. Reuben Clark Law School. This article is drawn from his Sept. 30, 2003, devotional, “And with All Your Mind,” the full text of which can be accessed at more.byu.edu/welch.