“Continual Learning: A Joy and a Duty for Everyone”
My dear brothers and sisters, I feel so privileged to be with you today. I am also grateful for the warm welcome from President and Sister Kusch. They are a wonderful couple, and I know they bless both the LDS Business College as an institution and each one of you individually.
Today I would like to introduce you to a special guest and a dear friend of mine. Nicolas, would you please stand up so that everyone can see you? Nicolas Giusti – just stay here, until I tell you that you can’t – is a pianist and he is a conductor recognized throughout the world. He was born and has lived for the greater part of his life in Pescara, Italy. We share the same passion for music, but he is a musical maestro while I am only a simple amateur. Thank you so much, Nicolas – you may be seated.
I wanted to tell you a little bit more about Nicolas. I met Nicolas at a stake conference in Rome nearly ten years ago. During the Saturday evening session of the Conference, I invited those in the congregation to ask me questions. After several minutes of silence, a very distinguished man sitting with his family on the front row stood up and asked the first question. I can still hear his words, expressed with great enthusiasm and with a huge smile: “My family and I were baptized just a few months ago. Before my baptism, I had a million questions in my mind, but since meeting the missionaries, all of my questions have been answered. I feel completely satisfied, and I no longer have any questions. Is that okay?”
Well I’m not certain I gave the best answer that night. Nicolas’s question concerns all of us, and it has continued to run through my mind for all these years. Today I would like to give him a more complete answer. But before I do so, let me start where Nicolas started. He was a very good man living in Italy, though not a member of our Church, he was pondering important questions in his mind. Such pondering is an essential foundation for learning, regardless of whether or not a person is a Latter-day Saint.
In 2 Nephi chapter 28, the prophet Nephi gave this solemn warning: “Wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!”[i] I am always surprised to observe how many people in our day, even after having been introduced to the gospel, do not find the truth simply because they feel no particular need or desire to learn more about it.
Religious indifference is one of the evils of our day. In ancient times, religion never left people indifferent. In fact, it often stirred up heated debate and even conflict. Just think about the religious zeal that existed at the time of Joseph Smith. Today, opposition is expressed in a much more subtle manner. We are more likely to face indifference and mistrust than open hostility or ideological confrontation.
The reaction many people have to the Book of Mormon is evidence of this attitude. Each time I read or study the wonderful book of Mormon, I marvel. Anyone who seeks truth with real sincerity cannot help but be touched. The historical narratives, the cultural and geographic details, the complex literary style, the depth and the remarkable consistency of the spiritual teachings, and, above all else, the marvelous spirit that touches the heart on every page and in every verse cannot leave the reader indifferent.
But in spite of all of this, people set aside the book—not because they’ve read it or because they didn’t feel anything, but rather because they will not take the time and effort to read it, to study it, or make inquiries to the Lord about it.
In addition to indifference, some people affirm that “no one can really know” what is true. Others deliberately choose not to seek additional knowledge, maintaining they are satisfied with their current beliefs. They take refuge in the comfort of the status quo, saying, “I already have my religion, or I am too old to change.” Additionally, some are afraid to know. They fear that discovering the truth will require them to make disruptive changes in their lives and end their easy-to-accept illusions. For many, it seems easier and more gratifying to believe what the rest of the world believes, or to do what everyone else is doing, than to ask the hard but important questions.
These attitudes remind me of some of the kings in ancient times who put to death the bearers of bad tidings. One day, a legendary king of Lombardy, full of confidence in the strength of his army, sat down to a fine meal while his army engaged in a battle nearby. He commanded one of his servants to climb to the top of a tree to see what was happening and to announce victory as quickly as possible. The king threatened to cut the servant’s head off if he dared to announce that the king’s army was retreating. The servant in the tree quickly observed that the king’s army was, in fact, losing the battle, but he reported back to the king that his soldiers were fighting valiantly. Finally, after all of the king’s battalions had turned to flee, the servant cried out in a loud voice, “Woe unto ye, great nation, for thou hast incurred the wrath of God.” The astonished king replied, “What? Have my soldiers fled from battle?” His servant replied, “’Tis not me, Sire, but thee who hast so said.”[ii]
Like this king, some people may be caught up in their own world view. But not wanting to know the truth does not change the reality of things. The vital need for all individuals to find happiness should inspire them to seek the truth continually.
A second time in 2 Nephi 28, Nephi repeated the warning for our times: “Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”[iii]
These are very strong words. I believe Nephi was addressing not only those not of our faith, but also us—members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—who have already received so much. So back to my response to the question Nicolas posed at stake conference.
Those of us who are members are greatly blessed. We may feel satisfied in our current level of understanding and gospel knowledge. I can easily relate to this feeling. Discovering the restored gospel and receiving long-awaited answers to life’s questions can produce deep feelings of joy, wonder, and fulness.
The word fulness is a term used in the scriptures to describe the abundance of knowledge that the gospel provides. Our day is often described as the dispensation of the “fulness of times,” because many truths “which never have been revealed . . . but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, [have been and] shall be revealed.”[iv]
The word fulness is also often associated with joy. The expression “a fulness of joy” describes the state of pure and perfect heavenly joy that will be ours on the day of our salvation and resurrection. It also describes the happiness that is felt by all those who have received a firm testimony of the Savior and His marvelous plan of redemption. After teaching His disciples the doctrine of the Kingdom, Jesus said unto them, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”[v] This gospel knowledge is our greatest source of joy, satisfaction, and hope in this life.
But just because we have received the fulness the gospel brings, does it mean that we know everything? No, it does not. Does it mean that an answer has been supplied for all the questions we may have in the future? No, of course not. Are there still questions for which we do not have answers? Yes, absolutely. Likely there are many of them.
The word fulness doesn’t imply that we have received all knowledge. God’s intelligence is so vast and infinite that “it is impossible that man should find out all his ways.”[vi] However, it does mean that we have received everything necessary to accomplish the purpose of our existence, or in other words, to obtain our eternal salvation and exaltation. The Lord has made the following promise: “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you.”[vii]
Nevertheless, just because we have been blessed with that which is essential, it doesn’t mean that all has been revealed and that there are no more truths to be received.
Since 1820, when that important question was asked in a grove of trees by a young farm boy named Joseph Smith, this dispensation of the gospel has been founded on the principle of continuous revelation. This principle applies to the Church as a whole, as well as to each one of us in our individual lives.
Thanks to the Prophet Joseph, we know that the heavens are not sealed. We believe in the principle of a living prophet who receives divine revelation for our times. The fundamental doctrine and principles of the gospel do not change and will not change because they are eternal. Nevertheless, the Lord has given a portion of His knowledge to each dispensation of the gospel based upon its unique challenges and mission. Because our dispensation is the most challenging, and because its purpose is to prepare for the Savior’s Second Coming, more revelation is available in our time than at any other time since the creation of the earth. I hope each of you, like me, feel excited and grateful for the marvelous blessing it is to live in these days.
I am awed by the resolute, forward-looking spirit of our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. He just celebrated his 94th birthday. Ninety-four years! That is exactly half of the 188 years that have passed since the restoration of Christ’s Church here upon the earth. At his age, President Nelson could be a man turned toward the past. However, he is the one telling us to look forward to the future. On several occasions I have heard him say that the things awaiting the Church in the decades to come are more marvelous and even greater than all that has transpired since the Restoration. With his visionary nature, President Nelson is an example for all of us of confidence and optimism about what lies ahead. He is a marvelous example of one who is dedicated to the pursuit of continual knowledge and revelation.
You who are still young should expect an abundance of prophetic revelation in the years to come. God’s people will need it in order to overcome the trials of these latter days and prepare for the return of the Lord. Revelation should also be a core principle in your personal lives. I encourage you to continually seek to increase your spiritual knowledge and understanding. Do not make the search for gospel truths a simple object of curiosity—it is an extremely important quest.
The glory of God is intelligence. We believe that each of us has the right to receive a significant portion of this intelligence, which includes both sacred and secular knowledge. Education is an important element of our eternal progression. I was recently moved as I read this profound thought from Shakespeare, engraved upon the walls of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, it says: “Knowledge [is] the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”[viii] In other words, as we increase in knowledge, we get closer to our Heavenly Father.
The Church’s commitment to education, both as a principle and as a practice, is evident in our beliefs, in our teachings, and everyday activities. That is why the Church has invested and will continue to invest a sizable portion of its resources to promoting both the religious and secular education of its members. LDS Business College and other Church institutions of higher education, seminaries and institutes, and other educational programs of the Church are all integral parts of our pursuit of this sacred objective.
I would like to continue reading from the writings of Prophet Nephi, when recorded this magnificent promise from the Lord: “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; . . . for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”[ix]
This scripture reminds me of the inspiring message contained in the parable of the talents. Knowledge isn’t a right, it’s a gift. It is a talent that God gives to us, and like any talent, it needs to be cared for and nurtured in order to grow, flourish, and multiply. If we are negligent in our education, we risk losing that which we have already received, just as the slothful servant lost the talent he buried in the ground.
We, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, should hunger and thirst every day after spiritual knowledge. The gospel provides a fountain of knowledge that never runs dry. There are always new things to learn and feel, new ideas to explore, new joys to discover each day of our lives. Please do not be content to rely solely on the testimony and knowledge you received at the time of your baptism or your mission—some 5, 10, or 15 years ago. The gospel is like a delicious feast, and we all understand that yesterday’s meal is never sufficient to meet today’s needs.
Furthermore, please do not hesitate to learn from all spheres of knowledge possible—and not solely about religious or spiritual matters. The Lord gave counsel to the early leaders of the restored Church and He said: “study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.”[x] Don’t be afraid of science or literature or other secular subjects. Remember that ultimately, all truths are part of the gospel. That which Latter-day Saints should seek after is light and truth, wherever it may be found.
Develop your knowledge in and understanding of topics and matters about which you are passionate! I have a friend who is passionate about Italian cuisine, this is not Nicolas, this is someone else, but passionate about Italian cuisine. At the age of 60, he plans to enroll in a highly acclaimed culinary institute to become a “gelato maestro.” Why not? Push yourself to the very heights of your desires and abilities.
I invite you to always have several good books on your nightstand or electronic device. First, of course, should be the Book of Mormon and other standard works, but you should also have other books that will inspire, enlighten, and enrich your life.
Today, I would like to leave you with four friendly pieces of advice that I hope will help you at this very important time in your life. First, always remember that the knowledge of gospel truths comes from a spiritual witness and not from the intellect. We may, at times, experience periods of spiritual doubt. However, these doubts are rarely resolved by a search for rational explanations. Although certain scientific or intellectual discoveries may occasionally comfort us and strengthen our testimonies, spiritual knowledge cannot be proven by logic or by tangible means. Use the gift of the Holy Ghost that you have received! Use it without restriction! If you will always cultivate faith and humility and seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, new horizons of knowledge will open up before you and your spiritual learning will have no end.
As Paul said to the Corinthians, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. . . . But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”[xi]
Second, your spiritual learning should not be motivated by doubt, but rather by a sense of awe and wonder for the truths of the gospel. We should be like a lover of art who visits a museum and admires the beauty of a magnificent work of art and the talent of the artist—without paying too much attention to the cracks in the canvas or the poor lighting in the museum.
Third, beware of being fascinated by the sensational or of intellectualizing spiritual concepts. The gospel is made of plain and simple truths, which even a child should be able to understand. Rejection of the principle of simplicity and clarity has been the origin of many apostasies. In the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Jacob denounced those who “despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it.”[xii]
Finally, choose your sources of information with great prudence and wisdom. The invasion of technology in our society has impaired spirituality and resulted in a great deal of confusion. With the advent of the Internet, an uninterrupted avalanche of extreme opinions and often insignificant pieces of information has invaded our daily lives. This information overload can often become disconcerting and paralyzing. How can one distinguish between truth and error? How many people are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it”?[xiii]
Recent studies have shown that the younger generations, of which you are a part, depend mainly on social media to form their opinions about current events and societal issues. I encourage you to use only those sources of information that are recognized as reliable and to avoid foraging through those social media sites that offer no guarantees of accuracy and might only serve baser instincts and passions.
Be willing to consider differing, well-considered opinions about the issues of our day. I make a point of availing myself of several reliable local, national, and international news sources that represent a wide variety of thoughtful views. The broad perspective provided by these information sources gives me a good foundation upon which to form my own opinions.
My young friends, in summary I invite you to do the following things:
- Read, study, and ponder the scriptures—in particular the Book of Mormon—and the words of the modern-day prophets every day, regardless of your time constraints. This should be a nonnegotiable part of your daily routine.
- Always have at home or on your mobile device one or several well-chosen books that you can read.
- Base your search for knowledge on recognized and reliable sources of information rather than on the hodgepodge of content often found in social media. Expose yourself to a wide variety of thoughtful, reasoned opinions to provide you with an understanding of different points of view and enable you to make quality decisions for yourself.
- And finally, cultivate faith, humility, and simplicity, and seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
I would like to tell Nicolas that the question that he asked me many years ago in Rome was very inspired. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it states, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”[xiv]
I feel great joy in knowing that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even though we have received a fulness of essential gospel, we can still continue to ask questions and learn every day of our lives. Thanks to personal revelation that we can receive, we have access to an ever-increasing flow of spiritual and secular knowledge and understanding. In fact, seeking light and truth should be a necessity and a duty for every one of us. I invite you never to stop quenching your thirst for knowledge at the fountains of truth.
Recently, Nicolas composed several arrangements of hymns for two pianos, and he did me the great honor of inviting me to play with him today. Since we have two Steinway grand pianos in this beautiful Assembly Hall, I would like to conclude my remarks by leaving you my testimony through music. We will play a hymn that perfectly expresses the joy and the happiness I feel to be a member of this Church:
“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.”[xv]
I know that our Savior lives and that He is the source of all truth, light, and peace in our lives. The more we learn of Him and the great truths with which He is willing to bless us, the more we will experience darkness turning to day as the joy of gospel shine fills our souls. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Piano—“You Can Make the Pathway Bright”
[i] 2 Nephi 28:27
[ii] See Paul the Deacon (Paulus Diaconus), History of the Langobards (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974), 36.
[iii] 2 Nephi 28:29
[iv] Doctrine and Covenants 128:18
[v] John 15:11
[vi] Jacob 4:8
[vii] Doctrine and Covenants 88:64; emphasis added
[viii] William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, act 4, scene 7, line 74
[ix] 2 Nephi 28:30
[x] Doctrine and Covenants 90:15
[xi] 1 Cor 2:10, 14
[xii] Jacob 4:14
[xiii] Doctrine and Covenants 123:12
[xiv] Doctrine and Covenants 42:61
[xv] “You Can Make the Pathway Bright,” Hymns, no. 228