Sermoncitos, a family tradition


Ignite and Nurture a Spirit of Learning

Yesterday was my last graduation at WNMU as regular faculty. As I prepare for retirement, forgive me for reflecting on the journey. In the 1960s I taught music lessons and church lessons to people who wanted to know. I was so enthused as I saw lives change (those who practiced their instrument or read and applied the scriptures), that I decided on teaching as a career. In the lives of many I saw the Lord “ a burning like the burning of a fire” (2 Nephi 20:16).

In the 1970s I did my military service, then immersed myself in a trade. Enlistees who trusted their officers and reported for duty had a good military experience. Those who chose to be resentful of their call to serve were miserable for their whole term. You are warmed by the fire only if you are willing to be by the fire. “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost...” (3 Nephi 9:20).

My big church assignment in the 70s was to train Sunday School officers and teachers throughout Maine, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. I would teach them correct principles and leave; they had to govern themselves. That worked well as long as they would apply the principles every day. “And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words” (Helaman 5:45). Just like the pianos I tuned. Those who let me set the schedule of tunings would soon have a piano that sounded good between annual tunings. Most pianos sound bad all the time because of neglect.

In the 1980s I did classroom teaching. I learned to adjust my teaching based on the reaction of the students. My goal became to teach so that every student would learn. The only students who actually did learn were those who believed that what I had to offer would benefit them and their families. I could give a great lesson, but learning is changing the student, not teaching the lesson. What I had to offer only benefited those who chose to hear me. “Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:36).

Starting in 1986 I specialized in “distance education”. I would travel to a gathering place far from my home to teach teachers. The sacrifice they made to gather was part of their preparation for learning. The method shifted from travel to video teleconferencing. Some thought of it like watching TV, however, those who interacted with me on screen would ignite a spirit of learning. In the past 10 years I have done most teaching on line. At the end of the semester I mourn with the procrastinators, but I am flooded with compliments from those who read and applied. You can be blessed with the fire of the Holy Ghost as you humble yourself and give heed (3 Nephi 12:2).

Lately I have been spending a lot of time creating new compositions for the musicians I know, then having to spend day and night changing the arrangements as people find excuses to not come to practice. I am astonished and gratified in the rehearsals. Working together we create harmonies that uplift the heart. Each log in the fire keeps burning only if it stays close to the other burning logs. If you take a stick from the fire it goes out. After igniting the spirit of learning we must nurture it by coming together often ...”bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Let’s help each other ignite and nurture the Spirit of Learning.

Wisdom and Understanding

Alone in the motel, just trying to recuperate from my surgery and gain strength to endure the conference, I turned to the Gideon bible in the bed stand. The first page that fell open in the Old Testament reminded me that the concept of redemption has given hope to our ancestors as it does to us. Twenty eight generations before Christ, David saw Christ’s coming and knew of our salvation.

David claims that wisdom and understanding are more precious than any earthly treasure, as no one can purchase that which is most needed. “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me” (Psalm 49: 6, 7, 8, 15).

David offers the conditions of accepting this gift that we cannot purchase: “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Psalm 50: 14, 15, 23).

Yet David recognizes that we are not even capable of entering this path without help, yet we must do our part: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51: 10, 12, 17).

In the days of his misery, Job’s friends tried to reason with him, that his suffering must be a punishment for some shortcoming. However, their sophistry could not generate wisdom, and their prosperity could not bring understanding. “But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:12, 14, 23, 28).

We learn from Job to listen to the Lord in order to accept the atonement, but we should also teach one another. “As all have not faith, 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” (D&C 109:7).

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). We must come to an understanding that we cannot save ourselves, we must learn to learn to listen to the Spirit that teaches us how to follow God and accept His Grace. “And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness” (Alma 38:9).