“Being Teachable,” Ensign, May 2002, 31–32
True disciples of the Master are teachable. In just a few words, Abraham gives us much insight into why he was so greatly blessed. He lived a life “desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God.”1 “Desiring to receive instructions” is more than a willingness to listen. When our desire to receive instruction is a greater force than our comfort in remaining as we are, we become teachable.
President Brigham Young taught our “first and foremost duty [is] to seek the Lord until we open the path of communication from God to our own soul.”2 Shortly after his death, the Prophet Joseph Smith appeared in a dream to Brigham Young and instructed him: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the Kingdom.”3
How do we ignite this power of divine instruction in our lives? First, we need to start with a willingness to be instructed. While many naturally hunger and thirst after righteousness, others may be compelled to be humble.4 Some of us, rather than follow instructions or change ourselves, would simply like to change the rules. Naaman certainly wanted to be rid of his leprous flesh but went away in a rage when told by the prophet’s messenger to simply wash seven times in the River Jordan. It was inconvenient, a little thing, and he felt that the rivers in his land were better than the Jordan. But his leprosy was cured as he listened to his servants, changed his mind, and did “according to the saying of the man of God.”5 He was dramatically shown that there was a prophet and a God in Israel. We too must realize that God has governing laws6 and that His wisdom is greater than our own. Even Moses observed, after seeing God’s majesty and workmanship, “Man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”7
Second, we need to put ourselves into a proper frame of mind and heart. This comes by prayerful pondering and laboring in the Spirit.8 This labor is real labor. It includes the very active steps of seeking, hearkening, and studying the scriptures. When humbled and stripped of pride, our heart is softened and now we can focus on heavenly counsel and instruction. Lamoni’s father, the powerful Lamanite king, made just that change in focus, even prostrating himself to the earth, demonstrating his great commitment to know God. He declared, “I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.”9
Third, we must be obedient to the instruction we receive. Alma said, “Experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith.”10 Nephi simply said, “I will go and do.”11 What a wonderful attitude of submission and obedience as he accepted his father’s counsel in getting the brass plates and in being told where to hunt, and the Lord’s counsel in building a ship.12 In each case he proceeded with trust, moving forward, “not knowing beforehand the things”13 that he should do or the outcome. But since we are free agents, life can sometimes be a difficult journey of applying our hearts and minds to the truths of God. Nevertheless, as President Thomas S. Monson said, “The Lord expects our thinking. He expects our action. He expects our labors.”14
Becoming teachable is a process of learning line upon line. In this process we convert thoughts and feelings into actions. But what a reward for this exercise of our faith as we open the path of communication with the Lord. The Lord said, “Blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom.”15 And He also said, “Every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.”16
Some years ago I remember asking my father-in-law, a seasoned bishop, about a three-by-five-inch card he always carried in his shirt pocket. His reply was that at times he felt impressions or promptings. He then liked to pull out that card and write down those feelings, whenever they came. And then he tried to act upon them as quickly as possible. It is humbling to consider that the still, small voice is always there for us, teaching us what to do and where to go. The Lord tells us that when the promptings are heeded, often more are given. If we do not follow them, the promptings eventually diminish.
As a result of being teachable, we gain an even greater testimony of our Heavenly Father’s care for us. We gain the security and certainty that our course in life is according to His will.17 We even have reasons to be good, reasons to be moral, and reasons to change our behavior. By being teachable, we activate the full force and blessings of the Atonement in our lives. We become sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit so that the righteous principles taught by the prophets and the truths from the earth can place Christ deeply into our lives.18 We become His true disciples.
It is by loving these truths with all of our heart that an affinity develops between us and the Source of truth itself, “for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; [and] virtue loveth virtue.”19 Hence, we shall discover that the things we value and appreciate the most are those that we personally learned from the Lord.
I testify that through the Prophet Joseph Smith we have received countless revelations of truth, bearing testimony of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Being teachable we will more clearly see, hear, and adhere to those revelations continuing even today through our living apostles, prophets, seers, and revelators. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.