James D. Gordon III, assistant to the president for Planning and Assessment, emphasized to students that life is not only a test but also a school, at a devotional Tuesday in the Marriott Center.
Speaking about the joy of education and lifelong learning, Gordon said, “The Lord has invited us to seek learning. He said, ‘Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
“Three reasons we should learn are to develop personally, to increase our ability to serve others, and to be prepared in all things,” Gordon said.
He quoted President Monson, saying, “Your talents will expand as you study and learn. You will be able to better assist your families in their learning, and you will have peace of mind in knowing that you have prepared yourself for the eventualities that you may encounter in life.”
Gordon reminded students of the great opportunity it is to be a student at BYU and suggested some ways to better pursue an education. He encouraged students to do their best in school, do things to enrich their education, give service, make friends, attend devotional and forum addresses and other events, and enjoy their university education.
Of the college experience, he said, “It’s exciting, fascinating, challenging, and fun. The secret to happiness is not to look forward to some future time when all your problems will be solved. The secret is to be happy today.”
Yet, “Learning can also be challenging,” Gordon said. “When we are acquiring new knowledge or skills, we may feel uncertain, and we may make mistakes. However, being stretched means that we are growing. If we ask Heavenly Father in prayer, He will increase our ability to learn and help us to overcome our challenges.”
Speaking of college as a foundation for lifelong learning, he quoted the Aims of a BYU Education statement: “a BYU degree should educate students in how to learn, teach them that there is much still to learn, and implant in them a love of learning by study and also by faith.”
He also spoke of the importance of spiritual learning through prayers and scripture study. “Studying the scriptures also invites the Holy Ghost, which guides our decisions and helps us to learn,” Gordon said.
Furthermore, “regardless of one’s opportunities for formal education, a person can engage in lifelong learning,” Gordon said.
Gordon spoke of his grandfather, a Scottish immigrant, who learned on his own even when formal educational opportunities were limited, and who continued learning in an ever-changing world.
“Your world will change, too. Many of the changes will be positive and exciting. Others may present challenges. Will you be prepared to meet the challenges that will arise during your lifetime? We need to continue to learn throughout our lives,” Gordon said.
So, “how can we make time to continue learning?” Gordon told of his own experiences throughout his lifetime, reading a wide variety of books and looking up and learning new words.
“I believe in consistent, incremental progress—small steps over time. For example, a person doesn’t learn to play the piano in a single day. One must practice daily for several years. After many small increments, one can eventually play hymns, popular songs, or classical music. Lifelong learning is just like that. We need to schedule some time each day to study the scriptures. We can also read a little in other books regularly. We learn line upon line and precept upon precept,” Gordon said.
He encouraged students to be humble. “Humility opens our hearts and minds to learning,” Gordon said.
He also told students to remember that eternal truth is not limited, but our understanding of it is not complete when it seems that human knowledge and the gospel appear to conflict. “After this life, if we are worthy, we will understand all truth. Meanwhile, we seek answers to faithful questions. We study, ponder, pray, and have patience. We exercise faith in God. He blesses us with greater knowledge, understanding, and peace in our lives,” Gordon said.
Gordon also reminded students to put the gospel first in their lives. “Jesus said, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’”
Closing with his testimony, Gordon said, “This is a wonderful time to be on the earth. There are so many opportunities for lifelong learning. If we do our best and seek Heavenly Father’s help, He will strengthen us beyond our natural abilities and help us to learn. That learning will enable us to develop personally, will increase our ability to serve others, and will help us to be prepared in all things.”
To read the talk in its entirety, visit speeches.byu.edu. The devotional will also be rebroadcast on BYUtv. Check byutv.org for schedules, as well as on demand availability.
Writer: Stephanie Bahr