Quick to Observe
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 18, 2015
Steven C. Wheelwright
At this long awaited and wonderful time of “commencement” Sister Wheelwright and I extend to you our congratulations and our love.
During your time at BYU–Hawaii, you have had many wonderful experiences and learned much about the Savior and His atonement, and about language, culture, art, science and numerous other disciplines. Most importantly, we hope that you have learned how to learn, or as the Lord taught Nephi, our hope is that you have learned “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” And we also hope that you have “hearkened unto those precepts” that you have gained “wisdom” so that you will qualify to “receive more” and thus continue to learn throughout your life. (2 Nephi 28:30)
As I have thought about the habits that lead to life-long learning, I’ve been struck by a phrase that was used to describe Mormon as a 10-year-old boy. You will recall that Mormon was born about 300 years after the Savior’s birth, at a time when the Nephite nation had fallen into apostasy and the Lord’s prophet, Ammaron, had been instructed to hide the sacred records so that they might be preserved. When Mormon was only 10 years old, the prophet Ammaron came to him and said: “I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe.” He then told Mormon about the sacred records and that he, Mormon, was to go and get those records and add to them when he was 24 years old. (Mormon 1:2-3)
Today, I would invite each of you graduates to consider this unique characteristic attributed to Mormon – that of being quick to observe. This is what made Mormon a life-long learner, and it can do the same for you. If you will be quick to observe over the coming months and years, your life will be filled with all the blessings a loving Father and His Son have in store for you. Let me explain why that is the case.
In the scriptures, the word “observe” has two primary uses. One use denotes “to look” or “to see” or “to notice”. Thus, when we observe, we see what is really going on around us. I was reminded of this a week ago when we visited Shark’s Cove with some of our family. It was a bright calm morning and when we arrived, there was only one other family there. They were just leaving and I asked their five-year old daughter if she had seen many fish. Her reply was, “Oh yes, they are everywhere.” Indeed, as we walked carefully around the tide pools, keeping the water calm and the sand settled, there were fish everywhere.
Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced, multi-tasking world, many get distracted and fail to observe what is going on around them – both temporally and spiritually. As prophets have foretold, “the foolish have eyes and see not” (Jeremiah 5:21) because “Satan blinds their eyes” (3 Nephi 2:2). But when we are quick to observe, then “by the power of the Spirit our eyes [can be] opened and [our] understanding enlightened” (D&C 76:12) and “if [our] eye be single to [God’s] glory, [our] whole [body] shall be filled with light” (D&C 88:67).
What special promises exist for those who are willing to focus and look by being quick to observe. But, the scriptures also have a second way in which they use the word “observe.” This second usage means “to obey” or “to keep”. Thus, this second use of observe relates to keeping covenants and keeping the commandments of God. Even at age 10, the prophet Ammaron could tell that Mormon could see things that others might miss and that Mormon would obey the truths and commandments he received.
When we are quick to observe, like Mormon, we focus our vision on what’s important, and then apply what we learn that is true and good. As a result, we grow in our ability to discern right from wrong, our ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant, and our ability to distinguish the important from the unimportant. This is indeed what the Lord was teaching Nephi when he referred to learning line upon line and precept upon precept, promising that if he would apply what he learned, he would be given much more.
Let me just highlight one other scriptural reference that further elucidates the importance of being quick to observe – both in seeing what is going on and then acting appropriately on that knowledge. This example comes from a well-known parable. It was given by the Savior early in His ministry and is referred to as the parable of the sower. After describing how some seeds fell by the wayside, some on stony ground, some among thorns and some on good ground, the Savior concludes by saying, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance, but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Matthew 13:12).
This is the exact same message the Lord taught Nephi about learning line upon line. If we are quick to observe – both by seeing and understanding what is given to us, but also by obeying and following its implications – we will receive more. That is the blessing of being a lifelong learner. It involves being that “good ground” where when the seeds of knowledge are planted, they are nurtured and bring forth good fruit, “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:8).
This is our hope and prayer for each of you. That you may continue to be quick to observe – both in seeing what the Lord desires to teach you and obeying what you are given, so that “your eye [may] be single to [His] glory, [and] your whole body filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67).
Today you become part of a worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood of alumni of this great university. I testify that as you continue to put the Savior and His teachings at the center of your life and are quick to observe in all you do, He will bestow great blessings – blessings beyond measure – on you and your posterity. May you feel of His love and divine guidance as you go forth on this next chapter in your life, is our prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.