PROVO — Those who are wise about seeking knowledge throughout their lives are concerned about improving themselves and helping others, rather than gaining acknowledgement or accolades.

Underscoring the importance of spiritual knowledge in addition to secular learning, Elder Robert D. Hales told thousands of Latter-day Saints that courage, faithful desire, humility, patience, curiosity and a willingness to share what they learn are necessary to effective lifelong learning.

Speaking Tuesday at the opening devotional for Education Week at Brigham Young University, Elder Hales — a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve — said those who seek to constantly improve their knowledge and ability don't dwell on the accomplishments of the past, but they continually look to the future for new ways to better their abilities and the world around them.

He noted that Olympian Michael Phelps shaved a full minute off the gold medal winning time in 1904 for the 200-meter freestyle event not by resting on his previous accomplishments, but by building on his previous times for a better future performance.

"Just as wise coaches can improve anyone willing to pay the price, in like manner, Heavenly Father is eager to bless us with the drive and desire to become lifelong learners if we are willing to pay the price," he said.

It is easy to "dwell in the comfort of our educational strengths and avoid overcoming our educational weaknesses. Thus, our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses. We may dwell in the security of the past, unwilling to venture into the future because of the fear of our ignorance. ... We need the courage to take a long step of faith into a fearful darkness, not knowing how deep the education cave is that we are about to enter."

He related a personal story about watching the wisdom of one general authority regarding the use of computer technology play out over the course of 30 years, vastly improving the ability and ease with which church members can now do family history work.

In the 1970s, Elder Theodore H. Burton presented the concept of computers being used for family records and research. "He was even bold enough to teach and proclaim that the computer technology was given to man for his use to hasten the day of family history, genealogy and temple work."

His proclamation was met with reservations about the size and expense of computers for personal use and how few Latter-day Saints would be able to afford or operate them. Other concerns were the complexity of how to make them compatible with temple records.

"All seemed to be reasonable reservations for their time," he said, yet "today, we are embarking on a new era of family history computer technology."

The coming release of a new system — already available in half of the temple districts around the world — will allow members to "prepare and submit names of our ancestors for temple work from our homes," and to "see easily which ancestors need proxy temple ordinances and print a summary page with a bar code that, when scanned in the temple, will print out a card for use in a temple session. After an ordinance is complete, a record of the completed ordinance is typically available on this secure Web site within 24 hours."

The lesson in that story is simple, he said. "Never dwell or hold on to the past or attempt to protect your comfort zone against the inevitable changes that will be required to meet future advancements. ... Our endings only usher in our new beginnings. The ending of one era ushers in a new era. Lifelong learners do not dwell on the past.

"Past learning creates a valuable foundation of experience upon which to build, not a comfortable place to dwell for a lifetime."

He urged women, in particular, to see motherhood as "the ideal opportunity for lifelong learning," noting that both mother and child learn and mature together and the span of knowledge becomes wide as each child has varied and far-reaching needs.

"My dear sisters, don't ever sell yourselves short as a mother or as a woman," he said. With emotion in his voice, he said it "never ceases to amaze me that the world would state that being a mother is a form of servitude, which does not allow a woman to develop her gifts and talents."

"Nothing, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. ... Do not let the world define, denigrate or limit your feelings of the lifelong learning values of motherhood in the home, both here in mortality and eternally."

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