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What is the role of agency in learning the gospel?

Heavenly Father created us as agents who act, not as objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). This principle applies to all aspects of our mortal lives, including our efforts to learn the gospel. We each must learn the gospel for ourselves—no one can learn it for us. Learning the gospel is meant to be an active experience, not a passive one. When we exercise our agency to diligently seek truth, the Lord blesses us with increased light and knowledge.

Prepare yourself spiritually

Study the resources below. What passages or examples can you use to help the youth understand what it means to actively participate in learning?

John 7:17 (We must do Heavenly Father’s will to know His doctrine)

James 1:22 (Be doers of the word, not hearers only)

1 Nephi 10:19 (If we diligently seek truth, we will find it)

2 Nephi 2:26 (We are to act, not to be acted upon)

D&C 50:24 (When we receive truth and act on it, we receive more truth)

D&C 88:118 (We seek learning by study and by faith)

David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 61–68

Make connections

During the first few minutes of every class, help the youth make connections between things they are learning in various settings (such as personal study, seminary, other Church classes, or experiences with their friends). How can you help them see the relevance of the gospel in daily living? The ideas below might help you:

  • Invite the youth to make a list of things they have learned in seminary, sacrament meeting, their personal study, or other settings. Discuss as a class how all of these things relate to the plan of salvation.
  • Invite the youth to tell about a favorite lesson in which they actively participated (for example, in family home evening, a home teaching visit, a Sunday School class, or Primary). What did they do to participate? How did their participation help them learn better? What are some other ways to participate in learning? (You might point out that making comments in class is not the only way to participate.)

Learn together

Each of the activities below will help inspire the youth to become actively involved in learning the gospel. Following the guidance of the Spirit, select one or more that will work best for your class:

  • Encourage the youth to share some examples in the scriptures of people who actively sought to learn about the gospel (see, for example, 1 Nephi 2:14–16 [Nephi], Doctrine and Covenants 138:1–11 [Joseph F. Smith], and Joseph Smith—History 1:10–18 [Joseph Smith]). What principles of learning the gospel can the youth discover as they read about these examples? (For example, Nephi heard what his father taught, had desires to know for himself, and acted on those desires.) What do the youth want to learn about the plan of salvation? How can they apply these principles to guide their learning?
  • Invite the youth to read the section titled “Learning by Faith: To Act and Not to Be Acted Upon,” from Elder David A. Bednar’s article “Seek Learning by Faith.” Ask them to look for things Elder Bednar suggests they can do to take more responsibility for their gospel learning. What will they do to apply his counsel to their own efforts to learn about the plan of salvation? 
  • Write the scripture references from this outline on the board. Invite each class member to select one to read, looking for answers to this question: What blessings come from participating actively in learning? Ask the youth to share what they find. Invite them to individually complete the following sentence: “I plan to be more actively involved in learning the gospel by ...” Ask a few youth to share their plans with the class.
  • Invite the youth to read Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–28, looking for ways the Lord’s counsel might apply to their role as gospel learners. Ask them to list some choices they must make as students (such as whether or not to make a comment in class or how to prepare spiritually for class). What are some of the consequences of these choices?

Ask the youth to share what they learned today. Do they understand the role of agency in learning the gospel? What feelings or impressions do they have? Do they have any additional questions? Would it be worthwhile to spend more time on this doctrine?

Invite to act

  • What can the youth do to apply what they learned as they study the plan of salvation in their other Church classes? How can you support them in their efforts to become active learners?
  • Share your testimony of the blessings that come from diligently seeking to learn.