Recently, the Church announced a new approach to worship, with an emphasis on making gospel learning more self-reliant and family-focused. As with any change, we can become overwhelmed at first. So to help make this change just a little easier, here are a few techniques on how to be a self-reliant learner.
Why Do We Need to Be Self-Reliant Learners?
The emphasis on being self-reliant makes sense because, though by grace we are saved, our deeds determine which heaven we return to. In the past, it was easy to just go to church and listen to the lessons to gain knowledge and commit to principles. Now, we are more responsible than ever to instigate those lessons in our homes by ourselves. How can we learn to do this?
There are two ways to be a self-learner: (1) to be self-aware and (2) to have empathy. Self-awareness is the ability to see personal strengths and weaknesses in ourselves and understand the impact these have upon our lives and others. To become self-learners, we must consider how our actions and comments affect others. How do they affect our own life?
According to Josh Misner, PhD, we have four types of selves:
1. The Known Self, things we know about ourselves and others know about us.
2. The Hidden Self, things we know about ourselves that others do not know.
3. The Blind Self, things others know about us that we do not know
4. The Unknown Self- things neither we nor others know about us.
Any one of these selves can be used for good or harm in our personal situations and our relationships.
How well do you know yourself? Ask a close friend, spouse or family member to share one thing that annoys them about you. Nothing is off limits. This is a time for you to become the best “you” possible. Do not try to defend yourself, let this be a profound learning moment and just listen. What did you learn about yourself?
The more you know about yourself, the more you are open to learning and to understanding how others learn.
Empathy opens our minds and hearts to view things in a humble and charitable light. We are willing to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. The scriptures are full of people learning—some from mistakes and some not—but with empathy, we can learn to be more Christlike as we study the scriptures. I love the following story, which illustrated the principle of empathy.
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the four pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving that last nail into the posters, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”
“Well,” said the farmer as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, “These puppies come from the finest parents and cost a good deal of money.” The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then, he reached deep into his pocket, pulled out a handful of change, and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got 39 cents. Is that enough to take a look?”
“Sure,” said the farmer. And with that, he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.
Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly, followed by four more little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain-linked fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly, another little ball appeared, though this one was noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up.
“I want that one,” the little boy said, pointing to the runt.
The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”
Without a word, the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so, he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg and attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”
With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and handed the little pup to the boy.
Like the little boy in the story who could imagine what the littlest puppy was feeling, as we study the scriptures and practice thinking about situations from the perspective of others, we can begin to understand them better and be better learners, teachers, friends, and ministering brothers and sisters.
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Learning Is More Than Absorbing Facts
We often think that when we graduate from school, we are done learning. In reality, that is when the real learning begins.
The 13th Article of Faith states:
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there us anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
It is important for us to learn how to “seek after these things.”
In order to practice finding the uplifting things mentioned in the article of faith, when studying, try these suggestions. You will be amazed how easy it is to learn and be spiritually guided in your studies.
1. Mark the scriptures or other gospel materials. Mark all principles you find in red and mark all struggles, evil, or sins in blue.
2. Take breaks often during study time and ask the following questions: Why did what I read about happen? What was the outcome? How does this apply to me? Have I contributed to a similar problem or solution? From my learning, what is the most important service I can do today?
This study approach is detailed and requires you to work slowly, but in time, you will realize you retain a lot more and make many more connections found in the scriptures than you previously realized. As it becomes a habit, it also becomes more enjoyable and satisfactory. These techniques are a good lifetime practice, because when you stop learning, you stop progressing.
All of these practices and principles, from self-awareness and empathy to regular study habits, will be a great way to start off your new year as a more self-reliant learner.
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