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Learning and Knowledge

Learning and Knowledge — this talk was given by someone named Alyson.  I must have obtained a copy of the talk because I liked it so much.  I have forgotten who ‘Alyson’ is or was.

I was given the topic of knowledge and learning.  Both are necessary to allow us to progress throughout our lives.  Knowledge as defined in the dictionary is the acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension: awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time: the sum of what is known:   Learning on the other hand is the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill. To include the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience. In fact real learning is manifested in changing behavior. 

How do we begin the process of learning, our brains are wired when we enter this world with just the capacity they need to survive and to grow and learn.  When we hold a new baby we see the potential of the universe.  Babies are born with around a 100 billion brain cells, but only a small number of neurons are actually connected. By three years of age a child’s brain has formed about 1,000 trillion connections, about twice as many as adults have. Simpler neural connections and skills form first, followed by more complex circuits and skills.  In the first few years of life, 700 to 1,000 new neural connections form every second. But then the brain uses a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to strengthen the most used circuits and  become more efficient.  The early years are the most effective period for establishing these connections,  more importantly, the connections that form early provide either a strong or weak foundation for the connections that form later.  A major ingredient in this developmental process is the serve and return interaction between children and their parents and other caregivers in the family or community. In the absence of responsive caregiving—or if responses are unreliable or inappropriate—the brain’s architecture does not form as expected, which can lead to disparities in learning and behavior. Ultimately, genes and experiences work together to construct brain architecture.”

Studies show that a baby’s brain at 8 months has already been wired to the unique sounds, annunciations and nuances of their home language.   At this age there is the pruning back of the general information on language and the very specific to their circumstances are strengthened and are faster so as to make the acquisition of language a more proficient process.  This is just one example of a million ways that babies and early childhood lay such a strong foundation for a person’s life.   God in His omnipotent wisdom set in motion a plan that would allow every human being to be able to adapt to the circumstances, culture and environment that they were born into.  He also in His wisdom allowed us to have the opportunity to parent. Parents and caregivers are essential to a baby’s brain development.  It is within the context of a consistent, predictable and reliable loving relationship that we learn at a very young age who we are and how we matter.  It is upon the basis of this information that we are able to form secure attachments and allow our brain to build to its highest functioning ability.  

I work with parents all the time and I have had moms and dads say to me that they just feed and bathe and diaper a baby, but it is within the context of the ongoing consistent caregiving that a human learns to become independent and free thinking.  It is ironic that it is the dependency and the appropriate response to the dependency that can build a human’s ability to learn and grow.    When you say your prayers tonight, and you were blessed with caregivers at such a young age, remember to thank God for those that cared for you at a time when you were so dependent and so vulnerable and laid a foundation for your life.  And for those who may not have had this care, pray that we may be instruments in God’s hands to help others understand that there is a perfect and loving parent that is always willing to help. 

Our learning continues our whole lives but I wanted to include this foundational understanding because it displays the wisdom of God and the importance He places on the role of relationships.  The Lord told Enoch, when Enoch questioned why the Lord was weeping:   Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;   33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

Jeffrey Holland , last conference stated  “the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life.  President George Q. Cannon once taught: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. … He will [always] stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them.”  Understanding the nature of God helps us to understand and learn about Him.  He is our caregiver and he teaches us every day in life through His very watchful care.  

As adults we learn through a variety of methods, but about 85% of adult learners learn best when material is presented in a see, hear and touch format.  At the time of the creation, God stated in Abraham 3:24, 25 “ And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;   And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;”  and during the creation it was stated: 


As I thought about this subject I thought of a few key learning experiences in my life and how I learned:   Childhood: I was not a very good student as a child; I think I was just too busy and too energetic to be able to sit still.  It has taken about 50 years and some knee issues for me to be able to sit still. I didn’t receive a lot of accolades in school but what I did have was a father and mother that made the dinner table a time of rich and deep discussion.  We talked about history, astronomy, life, philosophy, relationships, communication and of course politics and religion.  It was a time when we as a family were able to really share ideas, exchange opinions and learn from my parents how to think through issues and problems and determine a good approach.  I have often thought as I have met so many talented and bright people that my real education was at this table where I learned that ideas were delicious and developed an appetite to learn.  All this is learned within the context of a relationship. 

My Mission: When  I served a mission I began to realize that this was an opportunity of a lifetime to observe how the Savior worked on behalf of those in our stewardship.  I learned through observation that it was so very important to know and understand the needs of others to be able to teach them and to learn from everyone that I interacted with.  The Savior taught me this immature, naïve, very proud young missionary within the context of our relationship. 

At the birth of our first child: My father wrote this advice and I often have reflected on the profound words he shared with me: 

Alyson- You are God’s miracle bestowed upon your parents.  Be certain that they will love, guide, protect and teach you.  Equally, you by your presence teach them: Love, patience, humility, empathy, and understanding as well as the meaning of dedication, loyalty and self-sacrifice.  And so the three of you together have already set forth upon a great journey, a magnificent adventure, that is unique and personal for each one of you and yet in a way common to you all.  It is a journey that begins upon this earth, follows many different pathways and ends in Eternity with the family bonded by love in the presence of God.–Bon Voyage!”

I have learned and continue to learn that parenting is a multifaceted learning and teaching experience.  We learn so much more than we could ever teach our children.  We learn as my father so beautifully stated : love, patience, humility, empathy and understanding. As well as dedication, perseverance, loyalty and self-sacrifice. We learn to love our children for who they are and to accept them and ourselves as humans.  To look forward to brighter days and to treasure the good times, and we learn all this within the context of a relationship.  It is a brilliant plan. 

My husband’s death: I learned that the words of the gospel were not just words.  I think Sister Burton’s talk reminded me of the lessons I learned at this time:  “We believe that this Church is more than just a good place to go on Sundays and learn how to be a good person. It is more than just a lovely Christian social club where we can associate with people of good moral standing. It is not just a great set of ideas that parents can teach their children at home so they will be responsible, nice people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is infinitely more than all of these things.

We also believe that this priesthood power makes it possible to make covenants and receive ordinances in holy temples that will someday enable us to return to the presence of God and live with Him forever. We also claim that, through this power, families can be bound together for eternity when couples enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in sacred buildings that we believe are literally the houses of God. We believe that we can receive these saving ordinances not only for ourselves but also for our ancestors who lived on the earth without having the chance to participate in these essential saving ordinances. We believe we can perform ordinances for our ancestors by proxy in these same holy temples.”  All of these learnings occurred within the context of a relationship, with parents, siblings, friends in the gospel, with children, with my husband and with my Savior and Heavenly Father. 

Learning is a lifelong process that when engaged we can become the person our Heavenly Father wants us to be.   When we think about knowledge and the role it plays in our eternal progression the scriptures teach us that there are many principles to remember in acquiring knowledge.


  • The Lord is a God of knowledge: tree of knowledge of good and evil; be as gods, knowing good and evil
  •  Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
  • A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.
  • For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
  • Knowledge is a gift that God has given us
  • It is our choice to pursue
  • We need to use much discretion in the knowledge we acquire.
  • Knowledge is the key to understanding God 
  • Knowledge is shared in multiple ways 
  • Knowledge is shared and truly embedded within the context of a relationship 

I want to finish with a story that my sister experienced many years ago with her family.  They would often travel from Provo to Phoenix with their four small children to visit my parents.  Her husband is a farmer and a true environmentalist; he loves the earth and admires continually its beauty.  They were traveling late at night and all their children had finally fallen asleep.  My brother in law pulled over the car and told my sister to wake up the kids and bring them outside.  My sister was thinking “ what for, they just got to sleep and there is finally peace, but she did and when they stepped out of the car the sky was lite with millions of stars and they were able to see the Milky Way.  My sister said it was one of the most beautiful sites of her life and still is.  When they got to Phoenix, my sister asked my dad if he had see the Milky Way, he proceeded to tell her of his readings and the many pictures he had seen of the Milky Way, but she persisted, yes Dad but have you seen the Milky Way and he said no he never had. 

We can acquire all the knowledge and learning but never truly see God’s hand if we are not engaged in the work He wants us to do.  It may be in parenting or caring for a parent, it may be in our profession or in our community, it will be in callings that He extends to us through His servants, but we have to be involved and develop relationships to learn the true meaning of religion. Knowledge and Learning is so essential but without works we can never acquire wisdom, God’s wisdom.

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