As a youth I read extensively. I learned that I could understand a broad variety of concepts and discovered a special interest in science. The gift I was given for my life’s work as a science teacher at Brigham Young University (BYU) was the ability to put complex thoughts together and present them to others so that the thought could be readily understood. Although I have now been retired for over 20 years, I can still read and understand a complex science article or listen to a serious lecture on such subjects.
I have noticed, however, that I now have many episodes of forgetfulness. It is not unusual for me to pick up a past issue of the Ensign or a book and start reading before I realize I have already read it.
In his April 2013 general conference message, President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recited a poem he wrote that includes the following lines about his experience growing older:
The signs of aging can be seen.
Those things will not get better.
The only thing that grows in strength
With me is my forgetter.1
The message from President Packer, who turned 90 in September, reminded me of something as I also approach my 90th year—I still should keep learning, even though I forget some things. Why? Because I know that “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18).
Yes, our mortal bodies get old. Our brains can lose the capacity to function efficiently. Our spirits, however, don’t ever wear out. I know that when we die, our spirits will carry with them perfect knowledge of everything we ever knew. I recognize at this stage of my life that my spirit can still learn. The challenge is to keep learning—even though our “forgetter” may be getting better.
I am now writing my personal history, and I find that the Holy Ghost helps me by bringing “things to [my] remembrance” (John 14:26). I have sometimes been surprised by a special memory I had forgotten that suddenly comes into my mind as clear as if it were yesterday. I have also discovered that some things are really still in my brain but just don’t always come out when I want them to. A memory I might have been puzzling over might come to me in the wee hours of the morning.
In Doctrine and Covenants 130:19 we learn that “if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” I believe this revelation is teaching us that we are better off continuing to learn throughout our lives.
But what if I cannot remember what I heard or what I studied so intently years ago? Do I have cause for great alarm? I feel the answer is found in a quote I often used as a teacher at BYU: “Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.”2
Though my “forgetter,” like President Packer’s, is getting better, my testimony continues to grow and deepen. I love the gospel. I am grateful that my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, know who I am, and I feel a deep and special love for Them. I believe these words of Nephi: “If ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).