Growing Closer to God through Lifelong Learning
April 2023

Digital Only

Growing Closer to God through Lifelong Learning

Education is an eternal goal because becoming like God is an everlasting pursuit.

running man surrounded by planets, a book, and a lightbulb

Graduating college was a struggle for me. Not because of all I had to sacrifice to stay in school, but because of the part of myself I had to give up by leaving. Every fascinating lecture that pushed the week forward or successful completion of month-long research projects made each second of schooling worth it in the end. Yet I’ve learned that my education—and yours—doesn’t have to end at graduation.

If we already obtained a degree decades back or have a job we already excel in, we can and should keep learning, because there’s more to education than we might think. When President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, studied physics and mathematics in college, he felt overwhelmed. His discouragement led him to stop studying and to think about quitting school.

But one night, he recounted that “help came as a voice, an actual voice in my mind. It was not my voice. It was a soft and loving voice—but firm. The words voiced were these: ‘When you realize who you really are, you will be sorry that you didn’t try harder.’”1

This insight led President Eyring to finish college, pursue graduate school, and later become a teacher. We may be content with where we are in our education or career, but God can see a potential in us that even we can’t always see. We lose nothing and gain everything by engaging in lifelong learning.

Our Responsibility to Learn

Lifelong learning is not just something we could engage in. President Russell M. Nelson said, “Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility.”2

Why might becoming more educated be a religious responsibility? In Doctrine and Covenants 88:79–80, we are taught to be educated on many subjects so “that ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” We can and should use our knowledge to bless others and help build God’s kingdom.

Plus, God loves us so much that He wants to see us progress. As our Heavenly Father’s spirit children, we have a capability unlike any other creature on earth—to become like Him. We learn from the scriptures that God “is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16), and so our aim to become perfect should include striving toward a more perfect knowledge.

The For the Strength of Youth booklet says: “You have both temporal and spiritual reasons to seek and love learning. Education is not just about earning money. It is part of your eternal goal to become more like Heavenly Father.”3 Education is an eternal goal because becoming like God is an everlasting pursuit.

The principle of lifelong learning is not an opportunity limited only to those who can pursue university education. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “If formal education is not available, do not allow that to prevent you from acquiring all the knowledge you can. Under such circumstances, the best books, in a sense, can become your ‘university’—a classroom that is always open and admits all who apply.”6

Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 instructs: “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” The “best books” include holy scripture and teachings of living prophets. And to learn other skills and knowledge, we often also need insights from other sources, such as library books from trusted experts, community college learning tools, online educational sites, news publications, local culture festivals, and so on. Of course, not all resources contain truth, so daily study of the word of God can help us discern truth in other studies. And we can seek the Spirit and use wisdom in determining which sources to learn from and what from them is true.

Become curious about the world by asking questions. Look for the intricacies and beauties of daily life. President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife Kristen said: “Lifelong learning … includes artistic endeavors. It also includes experiences with people and places: conversations with friends, visits to museums and concerts, and opportunities for service. We should expand ourselves and enjoy the journey.”7

In all of our learning and scholarship, we must seek direction from Heavenly Father, for His guidance will make our education efforts more profitable. President Eyring said, “There is nothing that is true that you cannot learn, because He knows all truth.”8 Have faith that God (1) knows everything and (2) wants to share that knowledge with us.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, our Heavenly Father “is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams,”9 and this includes our dreams in education. Trust that God can help us succeed and that He will direct us to the people and resources we desire and need at the right time as we seek and act on revelation.

There is no age at which we stop learning. There is always something more that God wants to teach us. We can be humble enough to realize there is more we don’t know, and we can be grateful for the opportunity to be His students.

Our Responsibility to Serve Others with Our Knowledge

One way to show God our gratitude for the ability to learn is by using that gained knowledge to bless others. There is always someone who can benefit from our knowledge and experience, whether that be a worldwide audience over social media or a struggling family next door or a family member at home.

“God wants us to educate our minds, improve our skills, and perfect our abilities so we can be a better influence for good in the world, provide for ourselves, our family, and those in need, and build God’s kingdom.”10 Let God work blessings through everything you’ve learned and are continuing to learn.

The Savior told a parable about a master giving three of his servants talents before a journey away. The servant with five talents and the one with two talents each doubled their talents before the master returned. However, the third servant “went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money” (Matthew 25:18).

When the master returned, he praised the two faithful servants while reproving the slothful servant: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:29).

No matter how much knowledge we’ve gained throughout our lives, there is always a higher purpose we have to bless others with this knowledge. President Nelson taught, “Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help them.”11 As we use what we’ve learned to strengthen our brothers and sisters and keep ourselves open to gaining more knowledge, our own knowledge will broaden and our experience will enlarge. However, if we hide our knowledge and keep it for ourselves, it will not aid us in becoming more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

There are many ways we can pursue lifelong learning. We can study more about current events in our community or country to take positive action as necessary. If someone we minister to is struggling with an illness we know little about, we can research it to better provide support and empathy. We can use our knowledge of the gospel and our testimony of Christ to brighten a friend’s day over text. If younger family members are struggling with a school subject, we can take time out of our schedule to tutor them.

In addition to striving to learn throughout our lives, we can also support others in doing the same. Helping others in their journey of lifelong learning doesn’t have to mean becoming a schoolteacher. It could simply mean inspiring others to continue learning through our enthusiasm in doing so. It could mean learning a new skill with a family member because it’s something they’re interested in, even if we wouldn’t naturally seek to learn about that subject ourselves.

It could mean looking for a need around us and learning with others how to help resolve it. It means learning as the Savior did and seeking to continue in that learning throughout our lives because “that which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

President Nelson invited us to “continue your education … however you determine you can best serve your family and society.”12 No two earthly experiences or educational journeys are the same, but as we continue to learn and grow throughout our lives, we can make a unique impact that no one else can.