Music Faculty Member
Bio not available.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, it is a great privilege to be with you and to address you this afternoon. It is also a great responsibility, and I pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost that we all may be edified during this hour together.
When a young man or woman in the church reaches the age of eight, it is their opportunity to enter the waters of baptism and become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptisms are celebratory events, and are eagerly anticipated. After the baptism, however, there is a second ordinance that is performed, one, which often receives much less attention. In this ordinance, a newly baptized person is confirmed a member of the Church and, significantly, is given an instruction that is a wonderful invitation: "Receive the Holy Ghost."
The Holy Ghost is "the unspeakable gift."1 It is the right to receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. However, it does not mean that the Holy Ghost is automatically with us every moment of our lives following confirmation. It is a gift that must be sought after, cultivated, and merited by obedience to the commandments of God and personal worthiness.
In April Conference 2010, President Packer gave a landmark address on the Priesthood, and suggested that, while the authority of the priesthood had been widely distributed, the power of the priesthood has not kept pace.2 I think that the same could be said of the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is widely distributed; every confirmed member of the Church has been given the right to enjoy this gift. But because its enjoyment is predicated on obedience to the commandments, I think the gift is not as fully used as it could be.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said it this way:
"I fear that some members of the Lord's Church "live far beneath our privileges" with regard to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some are distracted by the things of the world that block out the influence of the Holy Ghost, preventing them from recognizing spiritual promptings...
Some are spiritually deadened and past feeling because of their choices to commit sin. Others simply hover in spiritual complacency with no desire to rise above themselves and commune with the Infinite.
If they would open their hearts to the refining influence of this unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, a glorious new spiritual dimension would come to light. Their eyes would gaze upon a vista scarcely imaginable. They could know for themselves things of the Spirit that are choice, precious, and capable of enlarging the soul, expanding the mind, and filling the heart with inexpressible joy.3"
The purpose of my address today is to suggest ways that we as students and scholars might more fully utilize the gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives - specifically in our quest to gain learning, knowledge, and understanding while in this remarkable university setting.
The Holy Ghost is a teacher and testifier of truth. All missionaries are familiar with this passage from the final pages of the Book of Mormon:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
And then this telling declaration: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."4
In context, this passage refers to receiving a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. But that final verse teaches us that the Holy Ghost conveys the truth of all things - "things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms...."5
Consider these words from the Gospel of John: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."6
Alma, in teaching the saints in Zarahemla, declared, "Now the Spirit knoweth all things...",7 and Ammon, in teaching King Lamoni, taught that "a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God."8
One of my favorite teachings about the ministry of the Holy Ghost comes from Parley P. Pratt, one of the first apostles of this dispensation:
"The gift of the Holy Ghost...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."9
Clearly, the Holy Ghost is a desirable companion in our quest for all knowledge - both sacred as well as secular. However, we would do well to remember that the influence and voice of the Spirit is still and small, and that he must be invited into our lives in order to minister to us. Remember the injunction at our confirmation: Receive the Holy Ghost! We must be obedient, shutting out anything in our lives that would offend the Spirit, and then carefully and actively listen for his gentle guidance.
I would now like to share some basic principles that, if followed, will invite the Spirit to help us as we "seek learning, even by study and also by faith."10 None of these principles will new to you; however, they are worth remembering and implementing.
Principle 1: Seek Learning
The Lord taught the early Saints: "And 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."11
Before we can learn anything, we have to believe that learning is important! We have to hunger and thirst after knowledge. Effective learning requires the prerequisite of desire. We must realize the importance of learning as one of the purposes of mortality.
President Hinckley taught, "This is a time of great opportunity that you will never have again as long as you live. Make the most of it right now. What a wonderful thing to go and learn of all the accumulated knowledge of all of the centuries of time. Take advantage of every opportunity that you have because the Lord has laid upon you a mandate through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning not only spiritual learning but secular learning. Yours is the responsibility, and you can't afford to waste your time. There is so much to learn. Be smart. Give it the very best you have."12
Brigham Young has declared, "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. 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."13
To seek after learning requires a believing heart and an open mind. Part of a university education involves examining ones prejudices and assumptions and setting them aside when necessary. It involves learning ideas never before considered, and often raises more questions than it answers. It is unsettling to discover that the world doesn't always work the way we thought it does. Don't automatically hold on to old ways of thinking and shy away from new information!
Consider these scriptures that illustrate the roadblock that an unbelieving heart can raise against the light of learning:
Mosiah 8:20: O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!
Mosiah 26:3: And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
Doctrine and Covenants 93:39: And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
Brothers and sisters, please do not be unbelieving! Seek learning with open minds and hearts. Be willing to learn new things in new ways. Be willing to acknowledge that we don't know everything. Often, the things we reject as wrong seem so only because we don't understand the laws upon which they are built and the premises upon which they operate.14
One of the classes that I teach examines the theory behind 20th and 21st century music. There is always resistance at the beginning of the semester to the music as it is introduced because it sounds so weird. In the minds of students, because the music is not organized around the major-minor tonal system so familiar to us, it is considered not worthy of study - or worse - it is branded as somehow "evil." But once the students understand the theory behind the music - the way it is constructed - the music suddenly makes sense, and becomes listenable (sometimes even enjoyable)! Seeking learning with an open, eager mind enables learning, and enables the Holy Ghost to direct and validate that which we learn.
Principle 2: Put First things First
In our learning, both the sacred and the secular are important and divinely mandated. However, it is important to keep an eternal perspective on what knowledge is truly important to our eternal salvation, and to put that learning first. President Kimball taught this best:
"Youth, beloved youth, can you see why we must let spiritual training take first place? Can you see that the spiritual knowledge may be complemented with the secular in this life and on for eternities but that the secular without the foundation of the spiritual is but like the foam upon the milk, the fleeting shadow?"Do not be deceived! One need not choose between the two but only as to the sequence, for there is opportunity for one to get both simultaneously; but can you see that the seminary courses should be given even preferential attention over the high school subjects; the institute over the college course; the study of the scriptures ahead of the study of man-written texts?"Can you see that the ordinances of the temple are more important than the PhD or any and all other academic degrees?"15
There is a reason why religion classes are so central to the curriculum at this university and why Church attendance and participation is expected. These are essential for keeping a proper balance; for putting God and his kingdom first in our lives. With this foundation securely in place, we can then learn all else the Lord desires us to learn, with the Holy Ghost facilitating that learning because we have our spiritual priorities straight!
Principle 3: Care for your Physical Body
One of the primary purposes of our coming into mortality is to obtain a physical body.President Boyd K. Packer has taught that "our physical body is the instrument of our spirit."16 It is the physical body that allows us to act as learners, and not merely to be acted upon.17 As we act in the learning process, and then act on what we have learned, we will gain additional understanding.18
In order to optimize the power of our physical bodies in the learning process, we must care for them. This is what the Word of Wisdom is about. This great revelation teaches us to avoid those things that harm the body (for example, alcohol and tobacco) and to use those things that are good for the body in moderation (herbs and fruits in the season thereof, etc). And then comes a remarkable promise:
"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."19
What a marvelous blessing! Not only are we promised physical health, but intellectual health as well. Wisdom and great treasures of knowledge are the rewards of obedience to the commandments!
There are many suggestions that could be made here. Clearly, abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs of any kind is essential for all Latter-day Saints.
Proper nutrition is also important. May I suggest that the best nutrition comes from eating real food; that is, food that has not been overly processed, laden with preservatives, or manufactured from chemicals. The revelation mentions herbs and fruits, grain and meat. Twinkies and Snickers are not staples in this plan! Learn to prepare and eat real food; your body and mind will thank you!
Consider this apparently hidden scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 88:124:
"...cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."
Eight hours of sleep between 1 and 9 AM is not the same as eight hours of sleep between 10 PM and 6 AM! The later I go to bed at night, the less invigorated I am the next day - just like the Lord said!
Proper rest is essential for the mind and body to function properly. I find that ideas flow more freely in the morning hours; I get far more out of scripture study when it happens early in my day rather than in the evenings. The Lord says, "He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken."20 So, get up early! Study early! Seek the Lord early!
Exercise is also essential to our physical and mental well-being. If the Word of Wisdom promises that we shall "run and not be weary, and walk and not faint,"21 that suggests then that running and walking are desirable things to do. There exists a myriad of opportunity to participate in physical activities of all types and levels on this campus. When I see cars pull out of Sunrise apartments and pull into the Snow lot (they are across the street from each other) - it causes me to wonder! Do your bodies and minds a favor and get moving!
Principle 4: Dig Deeply
Given our divine mandate to learn all we can about both spiritual and secular matters, it is important to make that learning count! Dig deeply in your quest for knowledge and work hard to make it your own.
It is possible for a student to read a chapter, attend class and even take some notes without actually learning much. Now, of course, reading textbooks, attending class and taking notes are essential. But the more important issues are: how much have I learned? Do I understand what I have read, heard or written? Could I teach this material to another person if called upon to do so?
President Monson has counseled:
"In academic preparation, I found it a good practice to read a text with the idea that I would be asked to explain that which the author wrote and its application to the subject it covered. Also, I tried to be attentive in any lecture in the classroom and to pretend that I would be called upon to present the same lecture to others. While this practice is very hard work, it certainly helps during test week!"22
It is easy to go through the motions; it is harder to actually dig into the material and master it!
I have found an analogy that is helpful in demonstrating the value and importance of thorough academic work, and it has to do with construction. Now, I am hardly an expert on construction management, but in the eight years that I have lived in Rexburg, I have seen many buildings built from the ground up, including most recently the BYU-Idaho Center and the Rexburg Temple.
In every instance, there is a festive groundbreaking, where speeches are given, prayers are offered, and an artist's rendering of the completed structure is displayed. There is a great sense of excitement and anticipation for the building that is to come.
But then an interesting thing happens: seemingly nothing! At least, it appears that nothing happens. But work is going on. Rocks and debris are cleared; the land is smoothed and graded. Trenches are dug deeply. Rock is sometimes blasted out, and then wooden planks are lowered into the trenches. It is hot, dusty, dirty, messy work. It is unglamorous, and bears little resemblance to what the final product will look like.
After the wooden forms are in place, then concrete is poured into the forms and the foundation is laid. Once the concrete has cured, the forms are removed and then repositioned to form the foundation walls. Concrete is again poured and cured to form the foundation walls. This takes a long time, and happens under ground level, out of sight. Up on the surface, it looks as if the project has stalled.
Not until this preliminary foundation work has been laid does the form of the building begin to take shape. First, structural steel is anchored to the foundation walls, outer walls go up, a roof goes on, and we begin to see the result of all of the preparatory work. At this point, the project moves quickly with windows and doors, siding and landscaping, and the building looks much as it did in the artists' conceptualization. When the building is completed, it is dedicated and put to use. If the preparation work was done carefully and correctly, the building will stand solidly for many, many years.
It is much the same way with a musician learning a new piece of music. Initially the student is excited to learn a new piece and be able to play it like the masters. But first there is real work that needs to take place. Hours upon hours of time must be devoted each day to the process of learning the piece. Fingering must be written into the score; bowings, phrasings, articulations must all be determined and practiced. Left hand, right hand, and (in the case of organists) feet need to be coordinated. Like laying the foundation of a building, this is very slow, tedious, time-consuming work that is done out of sight in the practice room. It is not at all glamorous or particularly exciting. It is very exacting labor. But eventually patterns and scale figurations are learned, the piece eventually comes together, and, if the preparation was adequate, it can be polished to performance standard relatively easily. The better and more thorough the preparation, the better the final performance will be, and the longer the piece of music will stay with the performer.
The same is true with all learning. When we enroll in a new class and attend on the first day of the semester, there is (hopefully) excitement in the air. We look forward with anticipation to the process of learning a specific skill or subject and long for the day at the end of the course when we will have mastered the requirements of the curriculum. But in between these two points is where real work must happen. The textbook must be read, notes taken and understood, class and group discussions prepared for. Time is spent in the library and research begins for papers. It can be tedious and is time consuming. But if this action is undertaken with discipline and enjoyment - if the student digs in deeply with dedication - then the Holy Ghost is more apt to join the process and true, deep learning can occur. I encourage all of us to dig deeply into our studies to make them a part of us.
Principle 5: Live the Gospel
I find it significant that in the verses immediately preceding his instructions to "teach one another, and seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom,"23 the Lord tells the early saints that "you must assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean...."24 Only then are we ready to receive knowledge through the power of the Holy Ghost. Spiritual preparation precedes this spiritual power.
Joseph Smith taught that "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And 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."25
Can you see how the Honor Code at BYU-Idaho is a blessing to all of us as we embark on our divinely-mandated task of teaching and learning? The Honor Code helps us to be obedient; to keep our covenants; and prepares us for the ministration of the Holy Ghost as we seek learning.
Having a temple in our midst is also a great blessing to us. Temple worship draws us closer to the influence of the Holy Spirit, for it is a source of divine light and power. Light and truth obtained in the temple forsake the evil one26 and help us forsake the evil one as well, thereby increasing our communion with the Spirit. Attend the temple as often as possible to serve, to learn, and to access the power of Heaven in your life.
In conclusion, I would like to reference two stories that illustrate the power of the Spirit as a teacher. One comes from a living Apostle, the other from early Church history.
In the April 2003 General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson related an experience he had regarding his work as a heart surgeon in pioneering a new surgical technique. He used the illustration as an example of the power of prayer (which it is). However, I commend it to you as an example of how proper academic and spiritual preparation can allow the Spirit to teach us.
Dr. Nelson's patient had two faulty heart valves. While one could be helped surgically, the other could not. An operation was not advised, but the patient persisted: "Dr. Nelson, I have prayed for help and have been directed to you. The Lord will not reveal to me how to repair that second valve, but He can reveal it to you. Your mind is so prepared. If you will operate upon me, the Lord will make it known to you what to do. Please perform the operation that I need, and pray for the help that you need."
After fervent prayer, Dr. Nelson agreed to operate, even without knowing what he would be able to do. However, during the surgery, impressions on how to solve the leaky valve were impressed upon his mind. Then a picture came to view, showing how stitches could be placed to accomplish the desired objective. The repair was completed according to the diagram shown to Elder Nelson's mind, and the operation was a success. Notice that Elder Nelson had prepared himself spiritually as well as academically, and then acted in faith. Then came the revelation on how to help his patient.27
The second story comes from Amanda Smith, a pioneer who traveled from Kirtland to Missouri. While at Haun's Mill, mobs attacked the Saints settled there, and Amanda Smith's husband and one of her sons were killed. Her youngest son, Alma, was wounded by the gunfire, and his entire hip joint had been shot away. His mother did not know what to do; all around her were only dead or dying men and lamenting women.
In anguish of spirit, she prayed, "Oh my Heavenly Father, what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh, Heavenly Father, direct me what to do!"
Then a voice spoke to her and directed her to take ashes from the fire, make a lye and put it directly into the wound. She was then directed to make a slippery-elm poultice for the wound "as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me."
Pouring balsam into the wound, Amanda asked her son, "Alma, my child, you believe that the Lord made your hip?" "Yes, mother." "Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don't you believe he can, Alma?" "Do you think that the Lord can, mother?" inquired the child, in his simplicity. "Yes, my son," I replied, "he has showed it all to me in a vision."
After five weeks, Alma was miraculously recovered - a living testament of the power of God to heal; and of the power of the Holy Ghost to teach a grieving but determined mother how to care for her child.28
As Nephi closed his record, he gave this instruction: "If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do." (2 Ne. 32:3, 5).
Brothers and Sisters, may we not neglect this gift that is with us! I testify that the Holy Ghost is real, and that he is a testifier and teacher of truth. He can and will teach each of us all we need to know if we will but access his power in our lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Thomas S. Monson is his prophet on the earth today. I know these things are true, and pray that we may all more fully turn to the Holy Ghost to guide us in our journey.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 D&C 121:26
2 Boyd K. Packer, "The Power of the Priesthood" April 2010 General Conference
3 Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Unspeakable Gift" April 2003 General Conference
4 Moroni 10:4-5
5 D&C 88:79-80
6 John 14:26
7 Alma 7:13
8 Alma 18:35
9 Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 9th ed. (1965), 101
10 D&C 88:118
11 D&C 88:118
12 Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, volume 1, page 395-6
13 Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 194
14 see D&C 88:36-47
15 Spencer W. Kimball, "Beloved Youth, Study and Learn", in Life's Directions: A Series of Fireside Addresses , 190
16 Spencer W. Kimball, "Beloved Youth, Study and Learn", in Life's Directions: A Series of Fireside Addresses , 190
17 see 2 Nephi 2:14-16
18 see John 7:17
19 D&C 89:18-20
20 D&C 88:83; see also Proverbs 8:17; Hosea 5:15; Isaiah 26:9; Psalm 63:1; D&C 54:10
21 D&C 89:20
22 Teachings of Thomas S. Monson, p. 97
23 D&C 88:118
24 D&C 88:74
25 D&C 130:18-19
26 see D&C 93:37
27 Russell M. Nelson, "Sweet Power of Prayer," General Conference, April 2003
28 This story is related in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 2, p.792-796.