Participation invites the Spirit

All too often a teacher’s relation to a student is one of giving counsel with little or no interaction. Often there is no explanation of the reasons why there are commandments, rules, and standards. The teacher becomes just a talking head.

…In your classroom, you can teach by the power of the Spirit. Such communication begins by your encouraging each one you teach to participate rather than being a passive listener. In this way you can assess their understanding of what is taught, create a feeling of ownership, and also learn from them. More importantly their decision to participate is an exercise in agency that permits the Holy Ghost to communicate a personalized message suited to their individual needs. Creating an atmosphere of participation enhances the probability that the Spirit will teach more important lessons than you can communicate.

That participation will bring into their lives the direction of the Spirit. When you encourage students to raise their hand to respond to a question, while they may not realize it, they signify to the Holy Ghost their willingness to learn. That use of moral agency will allow that Spirit to motivate and give them more powerful guidance during your time together. Participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize and feel what spiritual guidance is.

Elder Richard G. Scott, “To Learn and To Teach More Effectively.” BYU Campus Education Week Devotional, August 21, 2007


Investment and involvement required to gain knowledge

In my judgment, so much effort and personal investment is required to gain and use worthwhile knowledge that one cannot sample from every fascinating area of life but must select carefully the few vital areas where focused energy can be applied to bless our lives and those we serve. My personal experience confirms that to gain knowledge of great worth requires extraordinary effort through personal involvement. This is particularly true when our desire is to gain spiritual knowledge.

President Kimball said it this way:

The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones–but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them. . . . Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life. The knowledge of things in secular life are of time and are limited; the knowledge of the infinite truths are of time and eternity. Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God: his existence, powers, love, and promises. [Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389-90]

Elder Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge.” BYU Devotional, 17 August 1993.

Here is a similar quote from Elder Scott:
Don’t judge yourself by what you understand of your potential. Trust in the Lord and what He can do with your dedicated heart and willing mind (see D&C 64:34). Order your life more effectively and eliminate trivia, meaningless detail, and activity. They waste the perishable, fixed, and limited resource of time. Choose to emphasize those matters that have an eternal consequence.
Elder Richard G. Scott, “Making the Right Choices.” BYU Devotional, 13 January 2002.

Solutions come by revelation

Life is made of not only daily problems but also daily solutions. The solutions of problems are always found in the resources that are available to us and that come from a loving God. He gives us divine knowledge about our nature and our destiny. He gives us answers about our behavior, what to do. An example is the prophet Micah teaching, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

Solutions always come by revelation, and revelation becomes reality in our lives when we put it into action to become a testimony. A testimony is the assurance of the reality, the truth, that comes by divine personal confirmation from the Holy Ghost. That personal revelation is usually the confirmation in your mind of what you already know in your heart.

Elder Charles Didier, “Our Spiritual and Temporal Foundation: Scriptures and Revelation.” BYU Devotional, 21 September 2004.

Our finest hours, our darkest hours

For the faithful, our finest hours are sometimes during or just following our
darkest hours.

With an understanding of God’s plan of salvation, we know that the rejoicing, the striving, the suffering, the tutoring, and the enduring experiences of life all play their part in an intelligible process of helping us, if we will, to become, as the Savior beckoningly invited, “even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)

Neal A. Maxwell, “The Great Plan of the Eternal God,” Ensign, May 1984, 21

Righteous in the dark

We never know who might be watching us, or needing us at a time when they may feel left alone, in a test of their faithfulness and obedience.

Once when President Brigham Young was asked why we are sometimes left alone and often sad, his response was that man has to learn to “act as an independent being…to see what he will do…and try his independency—to be righteous in the dark.” That becomes easier to do when we see the “gospel glow…radiating from . . . illuminated individuals (Neal A. Maxwell)”.

James E. Faust, Ensign, November 2005, p. 21. Brigham Young’s quote comes from his Office Journal, Jan. 28, 1857.

Understanding the whole requires knowing opposites

Brigham Young said it so succinctly: “What can you know, except by its opposite?” He said it in context of a discourse on death and resurrection, a topic that hit home yesterday as I attended and spoke briefly at the funeral of Joycelyn Wimmer and learned of the death of Keith Black, my friend and neighbor whom I home teach with my son. Here is the full paragraph from which Brigham Young’s quote is drawn:

What can you know, except by its opposite? Who could number the days, if there were no nights to divide the day from the night? Angels could not enjoy the blessings of light eternal, were there no darkness. All that are exalted and all that will be exalted will be exalted upon this principle. If I do not taste the pangs of death in my mortal body, I never shall know the enjoyment of eternal life. If I do not know pain, I cannot enjoy ease. If I am not acquainted with the dark, the gloomy, the sorrowful, I cannot enjoy the light, the joyous, the felicitous that are ordained for man. No person, either in heaven or upon earth, can enjoy and understand these things upon any other principle. (Journal of Discourses, 8:28)

My uncle’s brother, Leland Wimmer, spoke at Joyceln’s funeral. He shared a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley that I had not heard before:

What a wonderful thing is death, really, when all is said and done. It is the great reliever. It is a majestic, quiet passing on from this life to another life, a better life. I’m satisfied of that. We go to a place where we will not suffer as we have suffered here, but where we will continue to grow, accumulating knowledge and developing and being useful under the plan of the Almighty made possible through the Atonement of the Son of God (funeral services for Robert G. Wade, Salt Lake City, Utah, 3 Jan. 1996; see Ensign, October 1996, p. 73).

Brother Wimmer also shared a Thorton Wilder quote that I liked: “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning” (from Wilder’s 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Bridge of San Luis Rey, p. 107).

On the idea of opposites being important, Wilder said it this way: “When God loves a creature he wants the creature to know the highest happiness and the deepest misery. He wants him to know all that being alive can bring. That is his best gift. There is no happiness save in understanding the whole.”

The scriptures teach that God’s “best gift” is eternal life, and Brigham Young was right: no person can enjoy and understand eternal life unless they taste opposition. As in all things, Christ is our example. He “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6)

The mark on that tiny central self

C. S. Lewis wrote about the cumulative effect our choices have upon us, “the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure–or enjoy-for ever.” The end result of those choices is worth our constant consideration:

every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 4: Morality and Psychoanalysis.