The truth we share is greater than our differences

Henry B. Eyring …I am seeing more and more skillful peacemakers who calm troubled waters before harm is done. You could be one of those peacemakers, whether you are in the conflict or an observer.

One way I have seen it done is to search for anything on which we agree. To be that peacemaker, you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in a strong position we take, there will be elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share. That truth they share is always greater and more important to them than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that common ground if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.

That same principle applies as we build unity with people who are from vastly different backgrounds. The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose difference from me was just the help I needed. That has been the Lord’s way of adding something I lacked to serve Him better.

Henry B. Eyring, Our Hearts Knit as One, General Conference, November 2008

[Those] who learn well together always seem to me to have great peacemakers among them….It is the gift to help people find common ground when others are seeing differences. It is the peacemaker’s gift to help people see that what someone else said was a contribution rather than a correction.

Henry B. Eyring, “Learning in the Priesthood,” General Conference, April 2011

I, the Lord, remember them no more

One final story—once again from when I was a bishop. One night, while I was in a sound sleep, the doorbell rang. I stumbled to answer it and found a young member of my priests quorum at the door. I knew him well, well enough to have gone on outings with him, to have prayed with and about him, and to have taught him. I knew him as well as a good bishop knows any active eighteen-year-old priest, which was well enough for me to ask what he was doing at my front door in the middle of the night.

He said, “I have to talk to you, bishop. I’ve just done something serious, and I can’t go home.” He was right. It was serious. I invited him in, and we talked. He talked and I listened, then I talked and he listened, until dawn. He had many questions. He had committed a terrible sin. He wanted to know if there was hope. He wanted to know how to repent. He wanted to know if repentance included telling his parents. He wanted to know if there was any chance of his going on a mission. He wanted to know many other things. I didn’t have all of the answers, but I told him there was hope. I told him the way back would be difficult, but it was possible. I explained what I knew about the process of repentance and helped him see what he must do. I told him if he really wanted to go on a mission that that decision could only be made in the future after he had repented. Then I told him to go home, and he did.

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What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

  I would like to project your thinking forward to a future April or August commencement day, your own graduation day. I should like to ask, at this early day, What will you take with you when you finally leave BYU?

First is intellectual discipline. I hope that while you are here you will develop a degree of mental acuity that finds its expression in a mind that is alert, that is orderly in its processes, that is hungry for more of the kind of thing it has been fed while here….

Be a man or a woman with a mind and a will and a bit of discipline, with a zest for learning that will be cultivated in this institution while you are here and that will be expanded through all the years to come….

Second, I hope you will develop a spirit of fellowship, a social ease, the capacity to mix and mingle with people wherever you meet them, of low caste or high caste, recognizing their strengths and powers and capacities and goodness….

A vibrant personality that comes of the capacity to listen and learn, that comes of the ability to contribute without boring, that comes of a talent for mingling and mixing with people in a constructive way is something very precious, indeed, that can come as a part of your life on this campus. The cultivation of such will keep you from the moral traps that catch so many….

Develop the social ease that gives you the capacity to mingle with others and talk with others in a stimulating and uplifting manner. Social grace is so important a quality–it can be developed on campus and will bless you throughout your life.

Third, when you walk out of this hall, with your diploma in hand, I hope you will take with you an unassailable spiritual strength….How marvelous a thing in the human character is a certain and solid assurance that God our Eternal Father lives. How richly blessed is that young man or woman who knows that he or she can approach the Almighty in quiet and humble prayer. How enriched is the individual who, as he or she goes out into the world, knows that all men and women are sons and daughters of God, each endowed with a divine birthright. How beneficial to come to the realization that, since we are all children of God, we all are brothers and sisters in a very real sense….

None of these things that I have spoken of will be mentioned on the diplomas you carry from this institution on graduation day. But they are all implicit in the purposes and design of this university. If you carry them with you, your lives will be blessed. Your experiences will be challenging, but they will be sweet and enriching, and you will become the means of bringing good to all whose lives you touch.

Teaching: the dance of the spiraling generations

Parker J. Palmer  Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.

Parker J. Palmer, “The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life,” p. 26

Learning by faith is no task for a lazy man

l to r: N. Eldon Tanner, Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Dallin H. Oaks, 1971, at President Oaks' inaugural

…perhaps I can impress upon you again what I have said to you before, especially some things that I said at the inauguration of President Dallin Oaks in 1971. The First Presidency had previously declared that because of its unique combination of revealed and secular learning, Brigham Young University is destined to become a leader among the great universities of the world. If that lofty goal is to be obtained, it must be based upon the extraordinary efforts of the students of Brigham Young University, as well as the dedicated and skillful instruction and research of faculty and staff of the university. And I added at that inaugural exercise,

“The acquiring of knowledge by faith is no easy road to learning. It will demand strenuous effort and continual striving by faith. In short, learning by faith is no task for a lazy man.” Someone has said, in effect, that, “such a process requires the bending of the whole soul, the calling up from the depths of the human mind and linking the person with God. The right connection must be formed; then only comes knowledge by faith, a kind of knowledge that goes beyond secular learning, that reaches into the realms of the unknown and makes those who follow that course great in the sight of the Lord” (President Brigham H. Roberts).

Harold B. Lee  in “Be Loyal to the Royal within You,” 1973 BYU Devotional and Ten-Stake Fireside Address, 1973
Photo: l to r: N. Eldon Tanner, Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Dallin H. Oaks at President Oaks’ inaugural, November 12, 1971.

Compare this statement from President Kimball:
As previous First Presidencies have said, and we say again to you, we expect (we do not simply hope) that Brigham Young University will “become a leader among the great universities of the world.” To that expectation I would add, “Become a unique university in all of the world!”

Spencer W. Kimball, The Second Century of Brigham Young University, 10 October 1975

Gathering the inherent genius of children

I dropped the idea that I was an expert whose job it was to fill the little heads with my expertise, and began to explore how I could remove those obstacles that prevented the inherent genius of children from gathering itself.

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down, p. xxxiv

Our goal is not so much the imparting of knowledge as the unveiling and developing of spiritual energy.

Maria Montessori

Learning skills: “the constant interplay of agency and action”

Andy Gibbons Skilled performance is a very important manifestation of human knowledge. It is a kind of knowledge that improves with use. We begin learning as a novice and gain new capability every time we exercise a skill. What can we learn about skill by recalling how we learned the skills that we use every day? Let me suggest several things:

First, skill is learned through multiple attempts, over a period of time….

Second, skill learning requires much practice. Not just any kind of practice will do: it must be practice in which the learner can find out how well they did after each attempt….

Third, you can’t learn a new skill just from being told, unless you already possess other very similar skills….

Fourth, the learning of a new skill requires the integration of skills you already possess….

Fifth, skilled performance consists of more than robotically repeated procedural actions. This is where the topic of skill begins to become more interesting.

A skill is performed slightly differently each time we perform it. This is because the circumstances surrounding the performance change. Skill is the type of human behavior that allows us to adapt our actions to changing circumstances. The next pitch in a baseball game usually depends on the previous pitch, among other things. The pitcher who throws the same pitch every time doesn’t win games, as demonstrated in this last World Series.

Sixth, it is important to notice that the exercise of a skill is often the very thing that changes the circumstances.

Skill requires the exercise of judgment, decision making, agency, and problem solving. When we exercise our agency to act righteously, it changes the world around us, setting up new conditions that we then continue to respond to….

…no matter how automatic the performance of skill subroutines becomes, skilled performance always follows the same pattern: it is a pattern of action followed by decision making….

Skill is more than just thinking about something: it involves doing, then judging how we did, and then deciding what to do next. It involves knowing when to start, when to stop, what to do, how much to do, and what not to do. It involves judging how well we are doing and how effective our actions are in practice. Skill is the constant interplay of agency and action….

Andrew Gibbons, “The Skills of a  Saint,” BYU Devotional, 25 January 2011.