The Importance of Being a Confident Learner
It’s good to be here. I was very shocked when Craig Nelson called me about a month and a half ago and asked me to speak. I work up in the accounting office, and you just don’t get assignments like that very often when you work in accounting. But I’m grateful for the opportunity. I have worked a good amount on this presentation, on this address, and I’ve thought a lot about what would be applicable to students in your shoes and things that I think have been a great help in my life thus far. As the president said, you are amongst one of your own. I graduated from here; I still work here. I can’t quite get away from here yet. So I pray that this will truly have an effect on you, to benefit you in your life.
I also have to apologize for my little blemish here. I do a little cage fighting on the side as well. I didn’t put that in there, but that’s what it’s from, if you are wondering. And also, Mr. Dane, he is a wonderful boy, but if there is a little weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as he leaves the room at some point in time, it’s OK. We’ll be all right. He tends to get a little excited every once in a while. He’s got a lot of spirit to him.
I’d like to ask you guys a question to start off, and keep this in consideration throughout this meeting we’re having. How confident are you in your abilities to fulfill the mission the Lord has in store for you? Just think about that. Do a little self-inventory, if you will. For that’s what I’ll be speaking on, and this is derived from the College mission statement: “LDS Business College provides a distinctive educational experience rooted in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We work together to cultivate a nurturing environment, teach practical skills, and develop confident and skillful learners. We enlighten minds, elevate hope, and ennoble souls to strengthen individuals, families, communities, and the Lord’s Church.”
The president actually invited us to ponder on the mission statement and cultural beliefs about it—I can’t remember how long ago it was—so I did. What I found myself really pondering on was this part within the mission statement, about developing confident, skillful learners. And it stuck with me when I was asked to give this devotional talk, it came back to me. And I believe that it is a subject very worth addressing and one I feel is in constant need of attention in our lives.
Additionally, Chad Webb gave a devotional talk in October of 2010, a year ago, and in that he mentioned something that really stuck with me that I think makes this even more applicable. He stated that when they surveyed students within the Church Education System that they found there was a disparity in answers between two different kinds of questions, and that is the confidence level, or the belief level I should say, when students were asked questions. For example, “Do you believe that people can receive a remission of their sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ?” However, when it was worded, “Do you believe that you personally can receive remission of your sins through the Atonement of Christ,” then the confidence level on those questions was about half as much. One student throughout that devotional actually said, “I think it all comes down to the confidence we have in ourselves.” And I think he was very right.
Additionally, I have noticed that our level of confidence has a huge impact on how successful you are, your happiness. So here we are. I’m not alone in thinking this is an important subject. Jeffrey R. Holland, in a talk titled “Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts Unceasingly” that he gave back in October 2007—it was in the New Era if you would like to look it up; it’s a great talk. I can recommend it. He said, “[I recently read an article that said that] the most common illness among young people today is not diabetes or heart disease or cancer.” He said those kinds of problems are usually reserved for people of his age. “No, the illness that those in their teens and twenties suffer from most, it was reported, is self-doubt, fear about the future, low self-esteem, and a general lack of confidence in themseles and in the world around them.” ( https://lds.org/new-era/2007/10/let-virtue-garnish-thy-thoughts-unceasingly?lang=eng)
The most common illness—that’s a big deal. Now, why should we have confidence in ourselves? Why is that important? Actually, who would like to respond to this? Someone raise your hand who is feeling confident today.
Comment: One thing is it would be difficult to learn if we don’t have confidence in ourselves, because if we aren’t afraid to make mistakes or afraid to be embarrassed and we have confidence in ourselves to learn, we’ll actually progress and become more like the Savior or whoever you want to be.
Brother Knight: Excellent. Exactly right. He said, if no one else was able to hear, that if we don’t have confidence we’re not able to learn, because we’re not willing to take chances, and sometimes you look like an idiot if you make a mistake, which happens. Anybody here ever try to learn a new language? Yeah, you feel like a big idiot when you’re first trying to do that. But it’s necessary. After a while, you learn, and then you feel better.
Comment: If you don’t love yourself, or if you don’t see yourself as God sees you, then it’s harder for you to see that in others. If you don’t have confidence, it’s hard to reach out to others and love them as well.
Brother Knight: Perfect. But there’s a couple of scriptures in here. For example, Alma 26:12: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak.” What about that? Doesn’t that mean that we shouldn’t have confidence? That means we’re being cocky, right?
Comment: We thank God in all things, His work and everything, and recognize that we are nothing as compared to God, but we are His creation . . .
Comment: If you don’t have any confidence in yourself or the world around you, you really have no reason to live. . . .
Comment: When we were talking about thanking God in all things, I kind of had the thought that the gospel, as we live it, helps to bring confidence in our lives. The plan of salvation helps me to have confidence, saying that we know our purpose, so we can go on in life with confidence to go on. And knowing the gospel, we can be strongly confident.
Brother Knight: Good. OK. There is also another scripture I’d like to mention, Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Now it seems like all you guys get this very well, so I’m not going to ask any more questions. But the key to these scriptures, which it looks like you already perceive very well, is that it is with God that your confidence resides. The actual word confidence comes from the origin of confidere—a Latin word that means “to trust,” and to trust is also similar to having faith in something or someone that is true.
What is the source of all truth? Well, that would be God. So confidence is based in your faith in God, really when it breaks down to it. Confidence is not, if you will, a kind of by-yourself, selfish item. It’s not egotism. Perfect.
There’s also another talk I’d like to reference here. It’s by Elder Glenn L. Pace of the Seventy. It’s found in the January 2005 issue of the Ensign. “Too often, we wallow in our weaknesses so much that we do not allow ‘weak things’ to ‘become strong.’ Our condition is frequently misdiagnosed as humility, when in reality it is lack of confidence.” (“Confidence and Self-Worth,” https://lds.org/ensign/2005/01/confidence-and-self-worth?lang=eng) So it’s very important that we discern between those two. It’s not for us to go around and be depressed and that means you are humble. No. We’re here to be happy, to be confident, to go do things.
You see, “to lack confidence is to have feelings of low self-worth. We are preoccupied with our weaknesses, and we lack faith in the Lord’s ability to use those weaknesses for our good. We do not understand our inestimable worth in the eyes of God, nor do we appreciate our divine potential. Ironically, both pride and a lack of self-confidence cause us to focus excessively on ourselves and to deny the power of God in our lives.” (Glenn L. Pace, “Confidence and Self-Worth.”
Interesting. When we have a sense of pride or low self-worth feelings, we’re focusing too much on ourselves. That’s the main problem. And here’s a very insightful quote by Dr. Thomas Harris: “Most people never fulfill their human promise and potential because they remain perpetually helpless children overwhelmed by a sense of inferiority. The feeling of being OK [or we could say confident in this case] does not imply that the person has risen above all his faults and emotional problems. It merely implies that he refuses to be paralyzed by them.” (Quoted by Marvin J. Ashton, “Proper Self-Management,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 84.)
There are a lot of things in this world that can drive us to be paralyzed. It’s important that we don’t let those happen. Even if we’re constantly struggling with certain weaknesses or challenges in our life, we must not let them paralyze us from doing things that we need to do.
And here’s a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley: “I believe in myself. I do not mean to say this with egotism. But I believe in my capacity and in your capacity to do good, to make some contribution to the society of which we are a part, [and] to grow and develop…. I believe in the principle that I can make a difference in this world, be it ever so small.” (Quoted in Elder Pace’s article, from “President Hinckley Shares Ten Beliefs with Chamber,” Church News, Jan. 31, 1998, 4.)
Okay. Additionally, President George Q. Cannon said this: “There was a period when we, with Jesus and others, basked in the light of the presence of God and enjoyed his smiles. We are the children of God, and as his children, there is no attribute we ascribe to him that we do not possess, though they may be dormant, or in embryo. The mission of the gospel is to develop these powers and make us like our Heavenly Parent.” (Quoted in Elder Pace’s article, from Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist (1974), 3.)
How many of us really believe that to the extent that we should? There is great power in those words. I felt it as I was preparing this. Can you guys feel it now as you hear them? Can you feel the seeds of divinity within you stir as you read those words? Because you should. They are there. I know they are.
We hear a lot of these things quite often, but it is important that we really do connect with them and allow them to empower us.
A good example of confidence that I would like to share, a very common one, is that of the shepherd David, when he was put up against Goliath. No other man in Israel at the time was willing to stand up to the giant. I can’t say that you can blame them. I think that just about any of us would be truly intimidated by the physical stature and the seemingly intense skill Goliath would have had.
But David showed no fear. He was extremely confident. He even thought it was ridiculous that nobody else had stood up to him yet. “What are you guys doing? Fine, I’ll go there.” So he went out, and of course he was met very respectfully by Goliath, right? “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? … Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” (1 Samuel 17:43-44) Are you kidding me? Who is this little shrimp you’ve got here. Is that it? Is that all Israel has? You’ve got to be kidding me.
It didn’t stir David at all. Then David said to him, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
“This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
“And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47) Amazing.
There are many other examples we could find in scriptures. How about the prophet Elijah when he called down the fires from heaven? Spectacular story; one of my favorites. He said, in effect, a similar thing: “And we will see today whose God is God.” We need to have such confidence as we go about our day. Believe in yourselves. Believe in your abilities, because God believes in you. God has enough confidence in you that he put you down on an earth that He created. He’s willing to give you children that are His own, and he thinks you’re actually going to do a good job with it. And if God’s willing to do that, then we should do the same, for we definitely don’t know any better than God does.
Why are we at times not confident like David and others that we know? Fear of failure I’d say, of course, is a big one. People don’t like to fail. We tend to get very intimidated by it. Although, lots of times, failure is what teaches you some of the best lessons in life. Talk to some of the many entrepreneurs out there and that seems to be kind of their credo: Failures are wonderful. Brother Wyn Dunford said that very thing in his devotional address just a little bit ago. But also—perhaps, could it also be that we are afraid of success? That we truly are somewhat intimidated by our abilities?
There was someone who thought so. Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992, pp. 190-191)
That’s true! I love this quote. I like it a lot, and I think we would do well to remember it. I think a lot of times we have a tendency to be like, “Oh, I do enough. I’ll just kind of sit back and watch other people.” That’s all right, right? Well, maybe sometimes it is, but if you do it too much, you never do anything. So it’s important that we carpe diem. Seize the day. Make the best out of your day, whenever you can.
OK, so what are some ways we can help our confidence. What’s a good way for us to remember confidence?
Comment: [Audience member offers a thought about memorizing.]
Comment: Jump in!
Brother Knight: Jump in! Sure! Worry about what happens later. Clean up the mess or whatever—we’ll take care of that later. Not bad. Sometimes that is exactly what we need to do.
Comment: Focus on the positive.
Brother Knight: Good. Some things that I’d like to mention, when I was preparing this: Remember, relearn who you are. A good way to do that is to read your patriarchal blessing. If you don’t have one, go get one soon. They help. They really do. I know that some people think theirs is not quite as spectacular as others. Don’t compare that, please. Recognize the blessings in there for what they are, and really try to find in there what God is trying to tell you. There is a reason we get those.
But truly, each one of us is here for a specific reason. We have way more potential than we know, and we’ve been told ever since we were younger that, you know, we are the generations that were saved to come here. You are amazing. You don’t know how wonderful you are. You hear that all the time, right? Well, it’s true. I know that sometimes it gets kind of mundane and even sort of normal, but it’s the truth. Figure out what it is that makes you so special, because there’s something. It may take you a while, but you’ll find it.
Here’s something that I found. You tend to be confident when you know what you have to do, how you are going to do it, why you are doing it. All right? Because then you have pretty much all of the motivations involved, the background…it’s kind of like those three main questions the gospel answers very well—where you come from, why you’re here, and where you are going. It’s essential for you to know the answers to these questions. If you don’t, find out! And then when you have it, your confidence will be increased.
In doing so, you will find out your relationship with God. And we’re taught that that’s how we obtain happiness, is we find out about God, His will for us, and then our relationship to that will, to Him. And as we live according to that, we obtain peace and happiness. Take the time to be with the Lord. Our lives are extremely busy, extremely busy nowadays. It only seems to get worse. And as you get married and get older, it gets worse. If you have some kind of idea that all of a sudden you’re going to reach a “coast” stage, it doesn’t exist. Am I right? So don’t expect it. Just prepare for the increase that you’re going to have to be able to do. But that’s OK, because you have more fun as you get older as well.
In so doing, do not neglect your relationship with God. Take time. There are some things that I would do fairly frequently, [like] go take a drive somewhere, just sit in my car and really just try and pray and talk with God. Have kind of an interview with Him. It helps. It works, and you feel better afterward. You remember who you are. You will feel it. He will remind you. Then I’d like to read something, because we have a lot of things that can get in the way of us receiving revelation and being confident.
This is found in the book The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. It says: “Though the veil of mortality, with all its thick obscurity, may shut the light of the divine presence from the sinful heart, that separating curtain may be drawn aside and the heavenly light may shine into the righteous soul. [And] by the listening ear, attuned to the celestial music, the voice of God has been heard declaring His personality and will; to the eye that is freed from the motes and beams of sin, single in its search after truth, the hand of God has been made visible; within the soul properly purified by devotion and humility, the mind of God has been revealed.” (Pub. 1982, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 298)
I shared this because I read this one morning and I envisioned these things happening. As these obstructions, as these veils are pulled from your spiritual eyes, what increases your confidence a huge level in my opinion is your ability to see spiritually, to have the amount of revelation you need to live your life. They are tied to each other: Confidence helps bring you revelation, and revelation brings you more confidence. As you are able to see more ahead of you, you have more confidence in walking that path. Revelation does that for you.
Additionally, there is a very common scripture that was found in my study of the subject, and that is Doctrine and Covenants 121. I don’t think that’s too surprising, specifically the last two verses. And these last two verses give to us two main elements for us to have confidence. It says:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith.” Charity, for basically everybody. “And let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul, as the dews from heaven.” (v. 45)
And with these two things, I can see how that would help you. If you love everybody around you and have a pure charity, you have confidence around them. Have you ever noticed that? People who you truly know or at least have grown to love, you don’t feel intimidated by them. You don’t feel threatened by them. You aren’t worried that they’re going to see you in a different light that’s unfavorable. You trust them. And as you love them, you have confidence to be yourself. So as we grow in love for others, our confidence increases. And as virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly, all of those motes and beams and veils that are caused by sin or distractions or whatever it may be, they’re gone. If we constantly have virtue within our thoughts, we can receive revelation almost incessantly.
And of course, verse 46 gives us more of the benefits: “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”
Throughout all of this, I think there is something that can happen to all of us, regardless of your level or situation. Discouragement. It happens, doesn’t it? Quite a bit. It’s really easy. So I’d like to share with you kind of a little story or a fable or whatever it may be, I’m not sure. I originally heard this down in Brazil. It was from a temple president, and he told this story in a district conference meeting. And I took it to heart, and I share it whenever I think it’s appropriate. And I’d like to share it with you.
What happens is, the devil has his companion with him all the time. His name is Discouragement. And it’s always on his shoulder, right here, as he walks around. What he does is the devil goes in and finds a congregation, not unlike this one, and then he sits, and he surveys everybody in the room. And when he finds the person, he says, “That one right there.” And then Discouragement goes to the shoulder of that person. Discouragement sits on their shoulder, waits for the perfect moment, and then he says in their ear, “You’re discouraged.”
And then the person says, “I’m discouraged.”
And then Discouragement goes to the next person. “You’re discouraged.”
And the person says, “I’m discouraged.”
And he goes around to every person in the room, until they are all discouraged, and then he goes back to the shoulder of the devil. And the devil asks him, “Hey, how was it?”
And he says, “They’re all discouraged.”
So they move on to the next congregation. They go around discouraging people left and right, all the congregations, and pretty soon everybody is discouraged. And it didn’t take much, did it?
But then one day the devil went into a congregation just like he had done before. He looked around until he found the right person, and he said, “It’s that one.” Discouragement went to the shoulder of the person, and Discouragement waited as usual for just the right moment, and then he said, “You’re discouraged.”
The person looked around. No. Nothing. It’s all right. And Discouragement was shocked. What’s going on? You can’t do that. You wait. So he waited just a little bit longer, for the right time. “You’re discouraged.”
The person looked around. “No, I’m not discouraged. I’m fine. I’m good.”
Discouragement said, “Who does he think he is? He doesn’t understand. Well, I’ll show him.” So he waits a little bit longer, this time even more patiently and intently. He’s determined, Discouragement is. And then finally at the right moment, “You’re discouraged.”
And the person looks straight at Discouragement and says, “I’m not discouraged, you’re discouraged.”
So then Discouragement left the shoulder and went back to the shoulder of the devil. The devil asked him, “So how was it?”
And Discouragement said, “I’m discouraged.”
Isn’t that a great story? But what’s to be learned from this lesson? That is, kind of in summary form if you will, it’s easy to be discouraged, but it’s just as easy not to be. It’s pretty much a decision. You just kind of have to say, “I’m not discouraged; you’re discouraged.” And then move on. So let us remember that. I think this is a fun little story that helps us lighten it and I think helps us remember the important part about it.
Now with revelation, I’d also like to share another story that actually I originally read in the book The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball. But I think it applies to us. I’ll tell it to you:
“The story is told of a vessel stranded off the coast of South America whose Captain signaled to a passing ship to share their water with his passengers as they were suffering from thirst. The passing ship signaled back telling him to let down his bucket into the water in which they were floundering, because they were in the mouth of the Amazon River and the water was fresh.” (Bookcraft, 1969, p. 147)
So how can this be applied to us? How often do we flounder when everything we need is right around us, for us to gain the strength to go on, for us to gain the revelation we need to proceed. We don’t have to go climb some high mountain to receive it. The Lord is ready and willing at all times. The Spirit can be our constant companion, like we read before, and that we can drink heavily of the revelations that are ready for us, because they are there. I think it’s important for us to really look around us and do the small things that help us let down our buckets into the water and pull up the revelations, the feelings, the enlightenment, the encouragement, the confidence that we may be lacking at that time. Because we will have times.
Now the president mentioned something earlier, that if you learned that, it wouldn’t really matter what else I said. Because I think one of the areas that is lacking in confidence to a large degree nowadays, is people seem to be scared to have a family, to get married. “No. I want to travel. I want to do things. I need to finish my education. I’m not rich enough.” There’s any kind of reasons you can come to. But let me tell you—life is so much happier when you have a family. It all comes to us at different times. Just do your best. Don’t be afraid of it. Have confidence that you can raise a righteous family, because you can. I know you can. I bear you my solemn testimony, you can. The Lord will open doors that you never thought possible. I will tell you that right now.
And if you don’t want to get married, you don’t want to have a family, repent! Because, like President Richards said, that’s really what it’s all about. Travel the world after you have a family. Traveling is a lot more fun when you’ve got kids. You have adventures. Big adventures. Right, Sweetie? So don’t worry. Go forward with faith.
And I want to share with you my love. I’m very grateful for all of the many blessings that I have, and one of the greatest ones is that I love being around people, and I’m just really thankful for all of the blessings we can receive from those around us. Do not neglect the opportunities you guys have at this College to glean from your fellow students, from your instructors, from administrators, from everybody who is here. There is something to be learned. Don’t leave this college experience thinking that you didn’t really learn much, because if you didn’t it’s your own fault.
This is a giant pool of fresh water of revelation you are sitting in, OK? Let down your buckets. Pull in that water and drink deeply. OK?
Again, I’m grateful for the opportunity. I bear you my testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom here on the earth. I know that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and I feel the power that is within this Church. I go to church because I need it, and it’s the way I will find happiness. It’s the way that I will be what I want to be, and I hope that we all remember that. And this I share with you, with gratefulness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.