The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. For this reason, when we study the gospel, we’re not just looking for new information; we want to become a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means relying on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us change our hearts, our views, our actions, and our very natures.
But the kind of gospel learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miracle of conversion doesn’t happen all at once. It extends beyond a classroom into an individual’s heart and home. It requires consistent, daily efforts to understand and live the gospel. True conversion requires the influence of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost guides us to the truth and bears witness of that truth (see John 16:13). He enlightens our minds, quickens our understandings, and touches our hearts with revelation from God, the source of all truth. The Holy Ghost purifies our hearts. He inspires in us a desire to live by truth, and He whispers to us ways to do this. Truly, “the Holy Ghost … shall teach [us] all things” (John 14:26).
For these reasons, in our efforts to live, learn, and teach the gospel, we should first and foremost seek the companionship of the Spirit. This goal should govern our choices and guide our thoughts and actions. We should seek after whatever invites the influence of the Spirit and reject whatever drives that influence away—for we know that if we can be worthy of the presence of the Holy Ghost, we can also be worthy to live in the presence of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. (From Come, Follow Me)
Making Your Life a Soul-Stirring Journey of Personal Growth By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Learning, living, and teaching the gospel are at the heart of growing toward our divine potential.
Editors’ note: In this article written for the Ensign, Elder Holland shares the powerful principles of conversion that serve as a foundation for the Church’s new Come, Follow Me curriculum.
What a thrilling time it is to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! When I think about recent developments in the Lord’s kingdom, it seems obvious that God is taking us on a soul-stirring journey with hills and vales and vistas so stunning we can scarcely imagine them until we climb a little higher and there they are before us.
In the past year alone, we’ve bid farewell to a beloved prophet and lovingly sustained a new one. We’ve taken a new approach to Relief Society and Melchizedek Priesthood quorum meetings, with greater emphasis on counseling together to accomplish the Lord’s work. In that same spirit, we’ve seen the Lord bring high priests and elders together in one quorum and witnessed a seismic shift in the way priesthood holders and sisters minister to God’s children. If that’s not enough to take your breath away, consider the First Presidency’s recent announcement about new resources to support personal and family scripture study, with corresponding changes to Primary and Sunday School materials—to say nothing of ongoing advancements in the areas of missionary work, family history research, and temple work.
And surely there is more to come. As our ninth article of faith declares, “We believe all that God has revealed”—that’s often the easy part. It takes a special kind of faith to “believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom,” and then to be ready to accept them, whatever they are. If we are willing, God will lead us to places we’ve never dreamed we could go—as lofty as our dreams might already be. His thoughts and His ways are certainly much higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8–9). In a sense, I suppose we’re not unlike those in Kirtland to whom the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “You know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap.”1
He Wants to Change Our Hearts
Even so, as we look back on where we’ve been, I hope we can see more than just modified policies, new programs, and revised manuals. The Lord’s work has always been ultimately about people, not programs. Whatever changes He directs in an organization or a schedule or a curriculum, what He’s really hoping to change is you and me. He wants to change our hearts and enhance our future.
No, we can’t yet see those great and important things that lie beyond the next bend in the trail. But we do have some idea about the ultimate destination:
“It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
“What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).
“You shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:20).
I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a long journey—and an exhilarating one! Such a divine goal, lofty though it is, is at the heart of what makes the restored gospel so attractive and inspiring. Deep in our souls is an echo—a memory—that tells us this is why we came to earth. We accepted our Father in Heaven’s plan first and foremost because we wanted to become like Him. We knew that it was a staggering goal that would never be easy to achieve. But we simply couldn’t be satisfied with anything less. Our souls were created to grow, and we were stirred then and now to make the journey.
Learning and Becoming
Teaching, learning, and living the gospel are key principles at the heart of growing toward our divine potential and becoming like our Heavenly Parents. Sometimes we call this process eternal progression. Sometimes we call it conversion. Sometimes we simply name it repentance. But whatever we call it, it involves learning. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, … by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one. …
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation.”2
So let’s talk about learning. As a teacher at heart, I love the word and the idea, though I do think we should define it a little better than we usually do. For gospel purposes I don’t just mean the accumulation of knowledge, though that is part of it. I also don’t just mean passively listening to a lecture or memorizing facts. I mean learning in the sense of growth and change, of insight leading to improvement, of knowing the truth, which in turn leads us closer to the God of all truth.
President Russell M. Nelson tied together learning and this converting change of heart when he taught that as “the Holy Ghost gives conviction to the earnest seeker of truth,” it fosters faith, which “promotes repentance and obedience to God’s commandments.” These essential ingredients of conversion turn us “from the ways of the world to … the ways of the Lord,” which “brings a mighty change of heart.”3
This isn’t about knowing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel or diagramming the allegory of the olives trees, as useful as such exercises may be. This kind of learning is about changing ourselves, about being different (better) because we know more of what God knows.
You can see that the kind of learning I’m talking about is far too big to fit into a classroom or to be wrapped up in a 50-minute lesson. Scriptures, prophets, parents, sunshine, rainy days, spiritual promptings, and the everyday curriculum of life itself all provide opportunities for us to learn about God and His plan, for surely “all things bear record” of Him (Moses 6:63). Eventually we all discover that He is willing to teach us not only at church but anywhere and anytime—in informal moments with our children and our friends, our neighbor or our workmates, the man or woman we see on the bus or the employee who helps us at the market—wherever and whenever we are willing to learn.
But all these truths God is trying to teach us each day are only so many seeds sown in rocky soil or among the thorns to be burned up or choked out unless we take Alma’s counsel to nourish them by experimenting on the word, or as James says, to be doers of the word and not hearers only (see Mark 4:1–20; James 1:22; Alma 32:27–43). As we learn truth and choose to act on it, our testimonies grow (see John 7:17). Then, as we make the truth a part of us by striving to live it consistently even in the face of challenges, it changes us and we become more like the Father of truth.4
Gospel Learning Is Centered in the Home
This is why we say that gospel teaching, learning, and living must be “home centered and Church supported.”5 First, the home is where we spend most of our time—certainly more time than we spend at church (overworked bishops notwithstanding). We wouldn’t expect our physical bodies to survive long on one meal a week—even if it is a very good meal. Similarly, if a one-hour Church class, even an excellent Church class, is the main setting for our “feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), then we are in danger of spiritual malnourishment.
Second, the home is both classroom and lab, where learning and living the gospel are so seamlessly combined that they are almost indistinguishable. This living laboratory experience simply can’t be recreated in the classroom alone.
Perhaps most important, the home is—or can be—an echo of heaven, a reminder of the eternal goal we came here to pursue. As President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, put it: “Though earthly families are far from perfect, they give God’s children the best chance to be welcomed to the world with the only love on earth that comes close to what we felt in heaven—parental love. Families are also the best way to preserve and pass on moral virtues and true principles that are most likely to lead us back to God’s presence.”6
Have I frightened you parents? I hope not. This emphasis on teaching, learning, and living at home is not meant to be an added burden for individuals and families. Quite the opposite, actually—we hope that by acknowledging and supporting your efforts at home, we can in some way lighten the burden you carry there. Or, better yet, perhaps we can strengthen you to “bear [it] with ease” (Mosiah 24:15).
Hymns and Children’s Songbook
Sacred music invites the Spirit and teaches doctrine in a memorable way. In addition to the print versions of Hymns and Children’s Songbook, you can find audio and video recordings of many hymns and children’s songs at music.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and in the Sacred Music app.
The Friend, New Era, Ensign, and Liahona magazines provide stories and activities that can supplement the principles you are teaching from Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families.
Book of Mormon Stories
Book of Mormon Stories can help children learn the doctrine and stories found in the Book of Mormon. You can also find videos of these stories in the Gospel Library app and at medialibrary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Seminary and Institute Manuals
Seminary and institute manuals provide historical background and doctrinal commentary for principles and accounts found in the scriptures.
Artwork, videos, and other media can help you and your family visualize the doctrine and stories found in the Book of Mormon. Visit medialibrary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org to browse the Church’s collection of media resources, including the Book of Mormon video collection, which depicts events in the Book of Mormon. The Media Library is also available as a mobile app.
At topics.ChurchofJesusChrist.org you can find basic information about a variety of gospel topics, along with links to helpful resources, such as related general conference addresses, articles, scriptures, and videos. You can also find Gospel Topics Essays, which offer in-depth answers to gospel questions.
True to the Faith
If you need additional help understanding basic gospel principles, consider looking in True to the Faith. This resource consists of an alphabetical list of gospel topics explained in simple terms.