As Abinadi began to teach the priests of King Noah, he explained to them that their lack of knowledge was a result of their own lack of effort. “Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding,” he said; “therefore, ye have not been wise” (Mosiah 12:27).
Versions of this phrase appear six times in the Old Testament:
- “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:21).
- “Incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding” (Proverbs 2:2).
- “Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge” (Proverbs 22:17).
- “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 23:12).
- “I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things” (Ecclesiastes 7:25).
- “I applied mine heart to know wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 8:16).
What does it mean to apply your heart to understanding? Here are a few thoughts:
- Learning begins with desire, which leads to effort. If we don’t really want to understand, then we won’t do the work required to gain knowledge. Specifically, every time we ignore a question and neglect the sources of knowledge available to us, we miss an opportunity.
- Learning involves change. We have to be open to new ideas. We have to be prepared to adjust our paradigms as we come into contact with new information. That’s why King Benjamin opened his sermon by urging his people to open their ears, hearts, and minds to be able to understand his words.
- We gain knowledge “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). The Holy Ghost speaks to our mind and to our heart, and He will help us in the learning process if we are willing to listen.
Elder Walter F. Gonzalez reminded us of the importance of being attuned to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, even in our secular learning:
Today, surrounded by so much information, we might think that navigating millions of web pages will give us all that we need to know. We can find good and bad information on the web, but information alone is not enough. God has given us another source for greater knowledge, even knowledge sent from heaven. Our Heavenly Father can give us such knowledge when we navigate the celestial web in our hearts and minds. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that he had “the oldest book in [his] heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
We access this celestial source when we do things such as reading the scriptures, hearkening to the living prophet, and praying. It is also important to take time to be still and feel and follow the celestial promptings. When we do this, we will “feel and see” things that cannot be learned with modern technology. Once we have some experience in navigating this celestial web, we will discern the truth, even when reading secular history or other topics. The honest seekers of truth will know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost.
(“Learning with Our Hearts,” General Conference, October 2012)
Today, I will apply my heart to understanding. I will make an effort to learn, be receptive to new information, and listen for the quiet promptings of the Spirit of the Lord.