"Learning to love learning is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ," said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve during BYU's spring commencement exercises April 24.
The school awarded 6,276 degrees before a larger-than-expected audience that filled the Marriott Center despite intermittent snowfall throughout the day.
Stressing the point that learning does not end with the completion of a degree, Elder Bednar told graduates a love for learning "is vital to our ongoing spiritual and personal development and is an absolute necessity in the world in which we do now, and will yet, live, serve and work."
He added, "The overarching purpose of Heavenly Father's great plan of happiness is to provide His spirit children with opportunities to learn."
A love for learning, he said, is central to the gospel because "the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the agency afforded ... are divinely designed to facilitate our learning. The Savior said, 'Learn of me, and listen to my words; and walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me"' (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).
Elder Bednar said all learning is not equally important. Some things are interesting to know, some are helpful and even useful when applied. "The type of learning I am attempting to describe," he said, "is not merely the accumulation of data and facts and frameworks; rather, it is acquiring and applying knowledge for righteousness."
When the scriptures refer to the glory of God being intelligence (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36), most assume it refers to an "innate cognitive ability or a particular gift for academic work," he said. "In this verse, however, one of the meanings of 'intelligence' is the application of the knowledge we obtain for righteous purposes."
Using President Brigham Young as an example, Elder Bednar said, "Although President Young had only 11 days of formal schooling, he understood the need for learning both the wisdom of God and the things of the world."
He then shared the following quotes by President Young on education:
• "The religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn and understand truth" (Discourses of Brigham Young, Selected by John A. Widstoe, 1941, 247).
• "Put forth your ability to learn as fast as you can, and gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith you possibly can, and then distribute your knowledge to the people" (DBY, 247).
• "This work is a progressive work, this doctrine that is taught the Latter-day Saints in its nature is exalting, increasing, expanding, and extending broader and broader until we can know as we are known and see as we are seen" (DBY, 90).
• "We are in the school of (mortality) and keep learning, and we do not expect to cease learning while we live on earth; and when we pass through the veil, we expect still to continue to learn and increase our fund of information. That may appear a strange idea to some; but it is for the plain and simple reason that we are not capacitated to receive all knowledge at once. We must therefore receive a little here and a little there" (DBY, 91).
Elder Bednar said, "Much of the data and knowledge obtained through a specific major or program of study rapidly may become outdated and obsolete. The particular topics investigated and learned are not nearly as important as what has been learned about learning."
Elder Bednar said there is a test to measure one's capacity to learn and love of learning: "When you and I do not know what to do or how to proceed to achieve a particular outcome when we are confronted with a problem that has no clear answer and no prescribed pattern for resolution, can we discern and learn what to do?"
He then used Nephi's experience with building a ship as an example and said, "Nephi was commanded and instructed to build something he had never built before in order to go someplace he had never been before....
"Each of us will have our spiritual and learning capabilities tested over and over and over again. The ever-accelerating rate of change in our modern world will force us into uncharted territory and demanding circumstances."
There is a balance that must be kept, said Elder Bednar, between using "our God-given abilities to the fullest" and seeking the Lord's help knowing "our mortal best is never enough."
Elder Bednar concluded by reminding graduates that they represent "the Savior," their "family," "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and from now on, "remember that you represent Brigham Young University."
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