Tips for Talks and Lessons #13: Lifelong Study and Preparation

The best students of the gospel become the best teachers of the gospel

I am sometimes asked, “Brother London, how long did it take you to prepare your talk?” I answer, “About 50 years.” Powerful speaking and teaching requires lifelong ongoing study.

We are commanded to engage in an ongoing lifelong study of the gospel

You cannot teach what you do not know. The Lord proclaimed: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word….” (D&C 11:21)

The Lord has commanded that we diligently engage in an ongoing lifelong study of the gospel. “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)

Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34)

We are commanded to study the gospel and secular subjects “diligently”

We are commanded to learn and to teach “diligently”  “the doctrine of the kingdom,” and “things both in heaven and in the earth … 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—” (D&C 88:77-79)

Gordon B. Hinckley observed: “I love to learn. I relish any opportunity to acquire knowledge. Indeed, I believe in and have vigorously supported, throughout my life, the pursuit of education—for myself and for others. … From my point of view, learning is both a practical matter and a spiritual one.”

Ignorance is not compatible with the gospel and the plan of happiness

 “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6)

When God began this work, he never thought of raising up a society of ignoramuses, but of man and women of intelligence, of the first intelligence, or intelligence as high as human nature was susceptible.” (Sidney Rigdon, “To the Saints Abroad,” Elder’s Journal, Aug. 1838, The Joseph Smith Papers)

Lasting testimonies require serious gospel study

 “I am impressed with the testimony of the man who can stand and say, “I know the gospel is true.”  But what I would like to ask is, “But, sir, do you know the gospel?”  It is one thing to know the gospel is true and another to know what the gospel is.  To retain a testimony and to be of service in building up the Lord’s kingdom requires a serious study of the gospel and a knowing of what it is.” (Hugh B. Brown, personal correspondence with Robert J. Matthews, dated 28 January 1969; see Matthews, “Using the Scriptures,” BYU devotional, July 14, 1981.)

The gospel should be studied more intensively than any other subject

It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons.  The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject.  They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless.”. (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 16-17)

We will mourn hereafter if we have not seriously studied the gospel here

Knowledge and intelligence are progressive here and hereafter.  Some have supposed that it would make little difference whether they learned much or little… This is a mistaken idea and will cause every soul to mourn who embraces and practices it.  When those souls arrive in the hereafter, they will realize, to their sorrow, that God required not only obedience to his revealed will, but a searching after his purposes.” (Brigham Young)

Follow the example of general authorities and church officers in gospel scholarship

The general authorities and church officers are prime examples of dedicated ongoing gospel learning.  They have set a very high standard of study and scholarship.

In sum, we have learned by experience that the best students of the gospel make the best gospel teachers.

The Iceberg Principle

I believe in the iceberg principle of speaking and teaching. What you share should be just the tip of the iceberg of your gospel knowledge.


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