The root of the word "learn" is furrow, track, footprint, follow the track or to last, meaning to endure or to go on.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "learn" as "to acquire knowledge of a subject or skill in an art as a result of study, experience or teaching." "Learn" also means to receive instruction, to be acquainted with or informed of something, to find out or to discover.
"Learn," or "learning," is used a number of different ways in the scriptures. For example, sometimes it is used simply to mean learning some fact or becoming aware of something you didn't already know. Sometimes the term is used with respect to learning wisdom. For example, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon is urged "to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity ... a wise man will hear and will increase learning" (Proverbs 1:2-5). We also read from Proverbs that "the fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).
There is in the scriptures, however, a much deeper sense of the word learn. Generally, this scriptural sense of learning means coming to know the Savior and understanding the Atonement and our individual obligations.
This type of learning has at least two components. First, there is no learning without desire, effort, persistence and prayerful consideration. Second, genuine learning requires meekness and teachability. For we cannot learn if we think we already know. For example, we discover that Lamoni's father "was greatly astonished at the words which (Ammon) had spoken, and also at the words which had been spoken by his son ... therefore he was desirous to learn them," and was willing to "give away all (his) sins to know (God)" (Alma 20:27; 22:18).
Of course, we are taught regularly that learning requires us to ask, seek and knock. In other words, learning requires action and effort on our part.
In Matthew 11, the Savior commands, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."Taking upon us his yoke is uniquely related to the word "learn." As noted, "learn," among other things, means to dig a furrow or to follow a track. When we take his yoke upon us, it is as though we are pulling a plow and digging a furrow. That is, we are learning by virtue of being meek and pulling forward in the yoke just as oxen plow fields.
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News.