Enter to Learn--Go Forth to Serve
There is a sign at the main entrance to Brigham Young University that reads: “Enter to Learn--Go Forth to Serve”. As a student at BYU this theme was an important goal for each of us. We were there to do more than obtain a degree. We were to learn as much as we could about a variety of subjects so that when we left the university we not only were qualified for a career in our chosen fields, but that we would be contributing citizens of our cities, states and countries. We were also there to increase our knowledge of where we had come from, why were here in mortality and where we were going after we die. We were to learn how to be contributing members of the Kingdom of God on the earth and qualify for life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Although only a few students attend BYU, we all are on a journey in this life that did not start when we were born. We have all been sent here by our Heavenly Father to learn and then go forth to serve.
Abraham was shown in vision of the spirits in the premortal life and their purpose in this life:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
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 they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Abraham 3:22-26)
We lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ before we were born here on this earth. They created this earth for us to come and prove ourselves worthy to return back to live with them again. One of the principles that we are to learn here in this life is to obey God’s commandments. Speaking of the importance of our preparation to meet God again after we die the Book of Mormon Prophet Alma said:
Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. (Alma 34:31-33)
One of the difficulties in our preparation to meet God again is knowing where to look to learn the way back. Elder L. Tom Perry speaking to a group of BYU students said:
Without waiting to find out the true meaning of life, many young people jump to conclusions and embark on their life journey unprepared. They follow the traffic without a road map, and, not surprisingly, all they find along the way is disappointment. What do you need to learn before you go forth to serve?
The scriptures tell us that “it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (D&C 131:6). This principle is greatly misunderstood. Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote:
There are of course many kinds of knowledge; some of lesser, some of higher value. When Joseph Smith said that a man cannot be saved in ignorance, he meant naturally ignorance of the laws which all together lead to salvation. Such knowledge is of the highest value. It should be sought after first. Then other kinds of knowledge may be added to support and amplify the more direct knowledge of spiritual law. [Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987), p. 224]
What he inferred is there must needs be an order to our learning, the same order indicated by the Savior’s teaching: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Learning about sacred things should come first, providing a context and a need for secular learning. If we want to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence, our first priority should be to learn about his ways and his plan.
The world might fool you into believing there is insufficient time to engage in both spiritual and secular learning. I warn you not to be deceived by these philosophies of men. Your learning about sacred things will facilitate, even accelerate your secular learning. (“Enter to Learn—Go Forth to Serve”, Elder L. Tom Perry, BYU Fireside, March 5, 1995)
Once we have learned what we need to do to return to our Heavenly Father and be worthy to live with him as eternal families, we are then responsible to teach others how to fulfill their earthly mission. Elder Perry continued:
After we learn all we can about the course we must follow and have proceeded on the path to gain eternal life, we have an obligation to others of our Father in Heaven’s children who need help. . .
There are those among us today that preach the doctrine of “me-ism.” They declare that we should think of ourselves first and foremost and above all else. History, however, has taught that selfishness has never brought happiness. An important part of life is serving and sharing. Certainly the soul-satisfying joy of life is leaving a legacy of love and service for others to emulate and enjoy. Bryant S. Hinckley said this about service:
Service is the virtue that distinguished the great of all times and which they will be remembered by. It places a mark if nobility upon its disciples. It is the dividing line which separates the two great groups of the world—those who help and those who hinder, those who lift and those who lean, those who contribute and those who only consume. How much better it is to give than to receive. Service in any form is comely and beautiful. To give encouragement, to impart sympathy, to show interest, to banish fear, to build self confidence and awaken hope in the hearts if others, in short—to love them and to show it—is to render the most precious service. [Quoted by Steven R. Covey, First Things First (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), p. 306] (“Enter to Learn—Go Forth to Serve”, Elder L. Tom Perry, BYU Fireside, March 5, 1995)
King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon taught the importance of service when he taught:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? (Mosiah 2:17-18)
The Savior speaking to his disciples emphasized the importance of service to others when he said:
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed or thirsty, and gave drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took in? or naked, and clothed
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me. (Matthew 25:34-40)
I know that as we follow the example of the Savior and lose ourselves in serving others and helping them learn what they need to do to return with honor to our Heavenly Father we are fulfilling the Lord’s promise to Abraham that if we keep this second estate and we will qualify for eternal life.
By entering this life to learn and then going forth to serve we fulfill this challenge and live with our families eternally.
Your comments and questions are welcome.