Learning from the Lord

If we listen to the Spirit, it will teach us when to lay our books aside and learn in the laboratory of life. The Lord is the Master Teacher, and he does not restrict his instruction to formal learning situations.

My feelings about learning have changed through the years. When I was a university freshman, I wanted to store up as many facts as possible, fearing that when I left college my intellectual progression would cease. I remember sitting in a philosophy class with tears in my eyes, realizing that someday I would no longer be a student. I worried that if I couldn’t sit in a classroom and listen to a professional instructor, I couldn’t learn.

Now, years later, I understand better what real learning is. The most valuable things we learn are not textbook facts but the principles that will give us what Paul called “the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16.)

The universe is a classroom, and the Lord is our instructor. He is teaching us at every moment how we may become as he is and share in his joy and glory. Money and time are not requirements for obtaining this saving knowledge; we may learn as much or as little as we choose. What regulates the amount of light and truth we receive is the degree of our adherence to the truth we have been given, for we are told that “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” (D&C 93:28.)

Learning from the Lord requires repentance. The word repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means “a change of mind.” When the Lord communicates truth to us, our minds become more like his.

This process takes time; the faithful receive knowledge line upon line, while those who harden their hearts against truth’s implications will eventually have taken away even that which they had. If we can learn to recognize the ways the Lord teaches us and to do all things that he directs, we can be assured that we will eventually learn all he would have us know.

Knowledge from the Lord can come in many ways. But whether it comes in a dramatic way or through the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost, we may know of its truth if it is accompanied by feelings of “rightness”—peace, joy, and love.

When we have these feelings, we are learning to see as the Lord sees. He has told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (See Matt. 11:30.) If our options seem restricted, if life seems long, if work and service seem to demand too much effort, we do not have the mind of Christ. Repentance, or the change of mind, is the key to learning to see the universe as it really is—a glorious training ground of endless opportunity.

Prayer, pondering, and disciplined, diversified study can help us attain the mind of Christ. They can be the catalysts to open the channels of revelation from the Lord. If we seek the Spirit, it will clarify confusing concepts, open avenues of application, and reveal unsuspected relationships between ideas. I remember praying about a particularly difficult chemistry problem. As I sat down to the problem again, I saw it from an entirely different perspective; the means to its solution were then obvious.

If we have the mind of Christ, we will be able to see the knowledge we gain through formal study from a divine vantage point. The Lord will teach us how we may integrate a seeming conflict between faith and scholarship and see truth as he does—whole and undivided. In him, the dichotomies between secular and sacred dissolve. All truth is his to dispense.

He will teach us not to be unduly impressed by our own fledgling wisdom or by the creeds and methods of men. He will remind us that ultimately it is those who love and fear him to whom all mysteries will be revealed. He will teach us to regard our knowledge as a responsibility given to us to benefit others. And if our eye is single to his glory, we will speak and teach as the Spirit directs us, uninhibited by selfishness, pride, or fear.

He will teach us to distinguish between the true and the false as well as between the eternally important and the merely pressing. His time-transcending perspective will enable us to avoid sacrificing the things that matter most to the things that matter least. The key to terminating a treadmill existence and accomplishing all we need to is to adopt the Lord’s agenda.

He will teach us which books to read and which to leave alone. He will teach us when to lay our books aside and learn in the laboratory of life. He is the Master Teacher, and he does not restrict his instruction to formal learning situations. He wants us to learn from every experience how we can magnify the good and overcome the evil through faith on his name.

He is the source of our sudden impulse to call a lonely friend, to kneel down and hug a crying child, to bow our head in a moment of private prayer. He is the source of our renewal when we prayerfully partake of the sacrament and of our remembrance when we look at the stars and think about our first home.

He helps the puzzling scripture to suddenly become clear. He teaches the student who is torn between academic study and church work that his study is also a sacred opportunity, and that his church calling is an opportunity to apply true principles he has learned. The young mother whose feelings toward her crying children change from irritation to love and from resentment to deep gratitude has been taught by the Lord. So has the wife who realizes that the “beam” is in her own eye and not in her husband’s, as she had supposed. The Lord teaches bitter enemies that they are brothers, and he fills their hearts with love.

Now, after years of college education, I have both more answers and more questions than I ever had before. But I also have the knowledge that the Lord lives, that he loves me, and that he is always watching over me. I no longer fear the time when my formal education will end, for I know that although the setting may change, the Teacher remains the same.

[illustration] Illustrated by Stephen Moore

Lisa Nicolaysen is currently serving as a full-time missionary in the Taiwan Tapei Mission.