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Van Norman

Hard Work and the Spirit Accelerate Our Learning

            When I was baptized, ordained a deacon and called on my mission, President David O. McKay was the prophet of the church. And he said the following: “The purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature,” (General Conference, April 1954). Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, those who are baptized, the bad become good, and then all of us join with them in a lifelong process of changing, bit by bit, line upon line, precept upon precept, until ultimately our very natures are changed and we are prepared to return to our Father in Heaven. All of this through the power of Jesus Christ’s redemption. And so, in the gospel, in our experiences in the Church, we are continually invited to become a little better—to change so that we might progress. Today I’ll both explicitly and implicitly invite some changes in your school experiences. And hopefully the Spirit will prompt you individually as to what you might do.

            Those of you who are returned missionaries certainly remember the experiences of teaching an investigator, knowing that the presence of the Lord is there, His spirit is being felt by you and the investigator, and then inviting the investigator to come unto Christ. And the investigator chooses not to accept the invitation. What a sad day, and what a sad day for us, when we are invited to change, and we make no progress. Real progress only occurs when we change our behavior.

            So let me begin by quoting from President Eyring, who speaking to the faculty and staff at the Business College said these words, “If we,” and by 'we' he meant the staff in the Church Education System, and the employees and instructors at the Business College, “If we can conduct ourselves in such a way that we invite the spirit of God, then we work our hearts out, our students”—you—“if they do the same, will learn at rates that the world will be just amazed,” (“Circle of Honor,” LDS Business College Devotional, June 2012). I think all of us would love to learn at a faster rate.

            Our rates improve one of two ways, right? We can learn more in a fixed amount of time, or we can take less amount of time to learn a fixed amount. That’s a great promise that President Eyring made. There are two parts, right? He says, “If we live so that we invite the spirit of God, and we work our hearts out, then we will learn at amazing rates.” Notice that those two ideas closely parallel the Doctrine and Covenants, where it says, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith,” (D&C 88:118). Accelerated learning requires real work and is enhanced by the presence of our Father in Heaven.

            What does it mean to “work your heart out”? Before answering this question, I’d like to pose another. Why does God spend sacred tithing dollars on your education? Have you ever thought about that question? There are probably many answers to this question. But one that occurs to me is that God has some plan for you. And He needs you to become better qualified with more skills to help Him build His kingdom. And so I ask this question: How would your approach to your learning change if instead of being admitted to the Business College, you were instead called to learn all you could learn? Those of you who are returned missionaries certainly know what it means to be called to give your all in the service of the kingdom. Working your heart out, it seems to me, is akin to giving your all in learning all you can. God has given you a gift. He’s paying partly for the gift, you pay for some, the tuition. But it seems to me that He expects you to do all that you can to learn all that is available for you, that you might accomplish His purposes in your lives.

If you are really to want to learn all that you could, it seems to me your approach to your classes would be someone different. You would get a copy of your syllabus via BrainHoney before the class even started. You’d read it carefully before you came to that first class. You’d be prepared to ask questions about what was going to be taught, so that you could align yourselves with the purposes of the class. You’d use all the resources that are available to you. Your name would be well known in the library, you’d use the tutors, you’d meet with your classmates so that you could learn all that you could by teaching one another. You’d also cease to procrastinate. I have an interesting story about not procrastinating. A few weeks ago I was over at LDS Hospital for our Sunday services. I’d been assigned to bless the sacrament, so as I was up in front behind the sacrament table, just as the meeting was about to begin, I looked, and down the center of the aisle Elder Oaks was walking down the aisle with his wife. He put his wife into the audience, he came and shook everyone’s hand on the stand, came over and shook my hand, and then attended our sacrament services. And then, [he] stayed for the priesthood lesson, and it was that Sunday in the month where a conference talk was going to be presented, assigned by the stake presidency. Well, the talk for that day was Elder Oaks’ last April conference talk on the priesthood. The teacher stood up and said, “Elder Oaks, would you like to give today’s lesson?”

And he said, “Oh, no. I’ll just participate as a member of the quorum.”

And so he made a number of wonderful comments, one of which went something like this, he said, “Let me tell you about the origin of this talk.” So this was given in April Conference. He said, “When October conference six months before was ending, I began to prepare my talk for April Conference” six months early. And he said, “I prayed as to what I should speak about, and I felt impressed to speak about the priesthood. And so by Christmastime my talk was in pretty much final form.” A prophet of the Lord teaching us something about procrastination. You have assignments in your classes, you don’t want to leave them until the night before. You want to prepare early. Clearly one who is desirous of learning all that he might learn is going to have to reduce some of his play time, some of his recreational time. You’re going to get more serious about your education as you work your heart out in learning all you need to learn.

Why should you live so as to invite the Spirit of our Father in Heaven into your lives? In John we read, “The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance,” (John 14:26). To be taught by the Holy Ghost is to be taught by the great teacher. In the temple, as an ordinance worker, we’re always instructed when a patron, when a member of the Church in the temple comes to ask a question about the temple ceremonies, our response is to be, “The ceremonies were given by revelation, and are best understood by revelation. Please go and pray about the question you have.”

I particularly like that phrase in John, “Bring all things to your remembrance.” As students, what a great blessing, right? To have all things brought to your remembrance. As someone who’s somewhat advanced in age, and whose memory is not as good as it once was, I like that phrase. It reminds me of an old joke, right? There are three things you lose as you get older. Number one is your memory, and uh, I don’t remember the other two. To live as to invite the Holy Ghost means that we live keeping our covenants. We repent, we partake of the sacrament. At the hospital every Sunday one of the assignments is to make sure every member of the Church inside the hospital has the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. So in the last year and a half I have blessed the sacrament more times than I have done in all the rest of my life. The great promise of the sacrament really is that as we consider how we are living, and if we desire to be better, we can be as if we were just baptized. We can be forgiven of everything as we partake. And so, students, wouldn’t it be great for you to do that process in your own sacrament meeting, such that on Monday morning you were fully worthy to have the presence of the Holy Ghost in your life?

The Holy Ghost speaks to us, to our hearts and our minds as the scriptures say, in a still small voice. This means that as we study, we ought to avoid distractions. Let’s do a little mental experiment together. Let’s say that we all have tickets to this upcoming October conference. We all have tickets together for the Sunday morning session. We’re going to go over as a group and we’re going to sit right in front of the pulpit there on the lower level. And President Monson is going to stand and begin to address us and the Church. But when we’re there, there’s a slight change. As he begins to speak, we hear the choir behind him begin to softly hum the notes of “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” Do you think that will ever happen? It won’t. It will not. Why? Because conference is designed so that we might feel the Holy Ghost in our lives, right? So we listen to the words, and as we study, we get rid of the ear buds that are in our ears. It’s not only in conformance with the way the Church works, but it’s in conformance to science. There have been many scientific studies that talk about multitasking, the ability to do things at once. All of the research says it doesn’t work. Listening to music and trying to study reduces your ability to learn. Take the ear buds out. Turn off your cell phone as you study. Close the tab or the window that has Facebook open. Prepare yourself to hear the still small voice.

I know that as we work hard, as we live so that the Spirit might influence our studies, we will learn at faster and faster rates. It’s my prayer that we all might do so, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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