Learning to Love Learning

Based on a talk by Elder David A Bednar found in the February 2010 Ensign.

Life is like a laboratory – we are constantly conducting experiments and learning from the results of these tests – good or bad. Elder Bednar in his talk gives three aspects in our lives as to why it is important to love the process of this learning experience. There are different categories of students in this laboratory – those who are there, eager to learn what new concept will be addressed today, note pads ready. Unfortunately, there are also those that are there just to go through and get the grade at the end, with as little effort or learning as possible. The three aspects of our lives that learning to love learning develops are:

1. Learning to love learning is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Throughout the scriptures , we are advised and commanded to learn. We are told to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118) One of the ordinances we receive as members of the Church is the confirmation – or to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This precious gift of God has many roles and purposes, but one is to facilitate learning. Numerous scriptures talk about this role of the Holy Ghost – “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) “But the Comforter…he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) are just a couple. The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolves around learning “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ…” (John 17:3) – how can we learn of God and of Jesus Christ if we do not learn? We cannot! It takes a lifetime of learning to even begin to know them, therefore we have to be learning now!

As the scripture said – the most important thing that we can learn in this life is about our Heavenly Father. There is priority to what we can learn in this life and we need to be able to discern what in life we can learn that is of eternal importance. The Apostle Paul prophesied that people in the latter-days would be “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) – there are those people who spend their time pursuing knowledge of the world (which in itself is a good thing) but sacrifice learning which will propel them to celestial glory and returning to their Heavenly Father – we need to learn and apply gospel principles to our lives.

2. Learning to love learning is vital to our ongoing spiritual and personal development

If there was a model of someone who loved to learn, it was President Brigham Young. Repeatedly, he would emphasise life being a learning experience and how important it was to learn and love doing so. Here are a couple of things he said on this topic – “The religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn, and understand truth.”, “We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it: never, never.” (President Brigham Young). As we develop through our life, and life after, it will be hard to avoid learning, especially if we desire to make it back to dwell with our Heavenly Father! As we learn how to truly learn – we will see ourselves develop spiritually and personally. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36) – how can we expect to gain what God has gained without gleaning intelligence from this life?

3. Learning to love learning is an absolute necessity in the world in which we do now and will yet live, serve and work.

Elder Bednar remarked about how the BYU has a motto saying “”Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” This expression certainly does not imply that everything necessary for a lifetime of meaningful service can or will be obtained during a few short years of higher education…” (Elder David A Bednar). He is making the point that – although university is a place solely set aside for learning, it really is a place where people go to learn to love learning. During life, at least once, we will come across a situation or task that we haven’t faced, compelling us to learn something new to rise to the task. Elder Bednar puts this point across even further by saying “For example, the US Department of Labor estimates that today’s college graduates will have between 10 and 14 different jobs by the time they are 38 years old. And the necessary skills to perform successfully in each job assignment will constantly change and evolve.” Fortunately, in today’s world we have many resources at our fingertips to assist us in our quest to learn and to overcome life’s puzzles. However, we must be careful to not “trust in the arm of flesh,” (2 Nephi 4:34) and not remember the Lord our God. If we do that, we will become like Zeniff and his group of people. They wanted to possess the land of their forefathers and journeyed to do so. However, he records “we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.” (Mosiah 9:3). If we ever feel the world is above us in wisdom, remember these words “…if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost…They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities.” (President Brigham Young).

As we learn to love learning and then use what we learn to serve diligently in the world and the Kingdom of God – we will see great blessings and treasures of knowledge.

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Recognising Personal Revelation

Personal revelation comes as a result of many things. They are very rarely visions of angels and things of a glorious appearance. It is also rarely a distinct voice heard from beyond the veil – all circumstances we see in the scriptures. So how can we know how to discern a voice of revelation that ‘speaks’ to us? Elder Dallin H. Oakes taught in the March 1997 Ensign “Visions do happen…I know this. But these experiences are exceptional…Most of the revelation that comes to leaders and members of the Church come by the still, small voice or by a feeling…” Therefore we need to have an understanding when these  feelings are from God, when and how we will receive them and what they mean.

  1. He enlightens our mind.
    The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that revelation can come as ‘a sudden stroke of ideas’ that come into our minds as ‘pure intelligence’ or it could come as peace to our minds. In D&C 6:23, the Lord states to Oliver Cowdery “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” Here, Oliver Cowdery was asking for a further witness that Joseph’s calling and work were divine and the Lord tells him he’s already had peace spoken to his mind – his mind was enlightened.

2. He may come as a burning in the bosom.
This is often regarded as the only way someone can ‘feel’ the Holy Ghost teaching them or bearing witness – maybe because it is a well known scripture or a more common occurrence. However, it is certainly not the only way one can feel the Spirit. In the October 1994 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer explained “This burning in the bosom in not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.” Elder Dallin H. Oakes further emphasised the point in the March 1997 Ensign, saying “Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity.” So, the feeling of the Spirit isn’t necessarily this burning and by ‘burning’ we are meant to understand the feeling is a peaceful, comforting feeling – not s literal burning sensation of fire in our heart.

3. Often, revelation is revealed ‘line upon line, precept upon precept.
We receive revelation according to how prepared we are and even then, we may well not receive a complete answer to our problems initially, rather, part of the answer. We may need to listen carefully to the Spirit’s response, act on it and then ask ‘Is that all?’ – then more light will be revealed to us.

Now, it is important that we have some cautions with talking about about personal revelation.

  1. It is the Lord’s will.
    In D&C 109:44, the inspired dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith says “But thy word must be fulfilled. Help thy servants to say…Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours…” meaning that we should be willing to act on the answer – even if it’s not the answer we desire.
  2. In the Lord’s own time and way.
    In speaking about this principle, Elder Dallin H. Oakes in the March 1997 Ensign said “Many people do not understand this principle. They believe that when they are ready and when it suits their convenience, they can call upon the Lord and He will immediately respond…We cannot force spiritual things.” Just like we cannot force a plant to grow faster or into the type of plant we desire by shouting at it, spiritual answers come in the Lord’s time and in His own way.
  3. We don’t receive revelation out of our stewardship.
    The Lord’s house is a house of order, and so, if we think we receive revelation out are our area of responsibility – we can be sure it is not of God.
  4. We should discern whether the revelation is of God or not.
    How can we know? Simply, the First Presidency stated “When…inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of it’s constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know it is not of God, no matter how plausible it appears…” This is the base test to see if a revelation is not of God. Any other prompting that leads to ‘good’ can be recognised as by the Spirit.

I am so grateful to know that we can indeed receive and recognise this personal revelation as it really can, and does, guide our lives. To know that God doesn’t change and still loves us by giving us guidance if we will but ask, is life-changing.

Personal Revelation

Recently, whilst studying a Sunday School lesson on personal revelation, it hit me just how vital this amazing opportunity is from God – to receive personal, customised guidance from Him!

In the Bible Dictionary pg 762, it says:
“…Continuous revelation from God to his saints…makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom…Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.”
We all need revelation in our daily lives to help guide us. It’s fantastic having a living prophet who can receive direction for the whole Earth, but he can’t give each of us revelation individually everyday – that would be impractical and impossible!

How do we ensure we are receiving this vital revelation? We can learn from the example of Joseph Smith’s study in JSH 1:8-17. First, his “mind was called up to serious reflection…[his] feelings were often poignant…[he] attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.” (v8) Here we see that he thought deeply and actively about a problem he wanted answered – to know which Church to join himself to. He then was “…one day reading the Epistle of James…” (v11) – he searched the scriptures! Elder Dallin H. Oakes in the Jan 1995 Ensign said:
“Scripture reading may…lead to current revelation on whatever [subject] the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at the time. We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assess each of us to receive personal revelation.”
This is why it is so important that we read the scriptures everyday – they are a conduit to allow the Holy Ghost to speak to us.

Continuing with the experience of Joseph Smith, he must have recognised the power of what he felt and read because he then said “…I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God.” (v13) He made a conscious decision to act and that can often be where we fall – not having the real intent to act when we receive an answer. For example, when teaching investigators on my mission – the first struggle was to help people feel comfortable to pray to ask God if the Book of Mormon was true. The second stumbling block was the investigators intention. Those who were sincere seekers of truth and wanted to change if it were true invariably got an answer (not in the same ways or times but an answer they did receive). A handful of investigators simply prayed merely for educational or general knowledge about the Book, and they often struggled to receive a clear answer. Joseph Smith had real intent – even when all powers combined against him to stop his efforts. He recalled he “…was exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me,” (v16), in other words he didn’t give up when things got (extremely) difficult! And then, finally, he received his personal revelation…and what a revelation it was!

Now, in Joseph Smith’s story, we see Satan trying to stop him from receiving this personal revelation. Note where Joseph Smith went to receive his answer. “I retired to the woods to make the attempt…to the place I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God.” (v14-15) He was in a quiet woodland which he had planned to go to beforehand. Today we see – physically and mentally – that Satan is making the world a louder and louder place to be in. Elder Boyd K. Packer in the October 1991 General Conference told us that:
“This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention…is not coincidental…The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.”
Don’t forget this was declared in 1991! Satan uses these loud distractions even more so today to jam our ability to receive quiet, calm and peaceful revelation from God. He is crafty and this is working. Set some quiet time aside. Plan to go to your own Sacred Grove and listen! The Lord wants to – needs to – guide us (for our own sake). Open your ears, mind and heart and he will speak to you.