• Tiffany Miller

BLOG: (May 16-22) Deuteronomy 6–8; 15; 18 "To prove thee, to know what was in thine heart"

I happen to be a person that has LOTS of thoughts and opinions about education. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty passionate about it. I would suggest that the Lord is pretty passionate about it as well. This Plan was created so we could learn and grow - education! Everything He does is for our benefit and learning. He’s put (and continues to put) a lot of time and energy into our education. We’re commanded to study and learn in several places throughout the scriptures. Even to learn about history, government, economics among others - see the Doctrine and Covenants if you don’t believe me!

The Israelites had much to learn too. They needed to learn how to govern themselves, how to build a community, how to build a nation, how to build an economy, etc. They had been told what to do and how to do it for so long in Egypt that they struggled with their freedom. They were learning and experiencing so many new and interesting things. More importantly though, they needed to learn how to love God, obey Him, and remain loyal to Him. Moses spent a prodigious amount of time helping them to learn these three things and I’m sure in that order. In order to have any significant influence and impact in our lives, we first need to love God. He of course loved us first (1 John 4:19). What’s the first great commandment? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind” (Matt 22:37). It’s easy to love God when we first experience and feel His love for us. God was showing the Israelites His love for them through His interactions with them. Moses helped them understand that.

If I wanted someone to experience something, I wouldn’t start with an explanation of the components, I’d first try and touch their hearts so they could feel the difference and come to love it themselves. For example, I have a deep and abiding love for chocolate cake. (I’m totally eating some right now while writing this!) If I wanted to share my love of chocolate cake with someone, I would let them experience it; I’d let them try it and taste its goodness for themselves. I wouldn’t bore them with an explanation of the ingredients and process of making it - that’s not going to help them develop a love for chocolate cake. Trying it first and tasting of its goodness will! Then, if they’re ready we can discuss flour, eggs, and so on at a later date, after they’ve already developed a love for it. I am thankful that my mother didn’t turn me away from chocolate cake with boring lessons and explanations, she just let me experience it first. After my love for it was firmly established, then I learned how to make it for myself. I learned that the work that goes into making it yields some delicious fruits. The Lord does this with us. He first helps us feel and experience His love for us and then He asks us to follow Him and make covenants. Think of the songs we sing in primary: “I am a Child of God,” “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” By feeling and experiencing His love for us, this helps us desire to do the actions that yield that fruit. Think of Lehi’s dream.

One thing that all Israelite children came to know by heart was the Shema, pronounced Shma, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-6;

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.

Shema means hear, listen, or pay attention. This was the very first and most important religious principle that a child in their culture was taught. The Lord sought to gain their hearts first, knowing that doing so would provide lasting change. Deeper understanding of doctrine and Divine Law would come later. The Israelites were still children spiritually and needed a bit of hand holding to help them see and understand.

The Lord helped the Israelites feel His love through the miracles He gifted them. He provided a pathway to gain freedom, food, water, health. They experienced the parting of the Red Sea, the brass serpent, the manna, and so forth. He didn’t go into the mechanics of how He was going to part the Red Sea or where the manna came from or how their bodies would be healed by gazing on the brass serpent. He helped them feel His love through His miracles. His goal again is for us to be like Him. He’s perfect and He knows that the best way for us to have success in following Him is to gain our hearts first. He led the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness “to humble [them], and to prove [them], to know what was in [their] hearts” (Deut 8:2). Their hearts needed to be His before they were ready for the promised land. He curated their experience in the wilderness to help them get to that point. He does the same for us! Then Elder Eyring taught that “Your life is carefully watched over, as was mine. The Lord knows both what He will need you to do and what you will need to know. He is kind and he is all-knowing. So you can with confidence expect that He has prepared opportunities for you to learn in preparation for the service you will give” (“Education for Real Life”).

As one who homeschools my own kids, I think about curriculum probably a fair amount more than the average adult. Curriculum is used to bring about the ultimate goals in education. One of my favorite quotes about education is by Charlotte Mason, “True education is between a child’s soul and God.” God’s ultimate goal is to bring to pass our immortality and Eternal Life. He has created a curriculum for us. Not just any curriculum. He has tailor made it for each of us individually. Yes, there are parts of it that are applicable to all, and Jesus was pretty clear about those parts. But, each of us is unique and we need some specific help to get us to where we need to be. Like Elder Eyring said, “He has prepared opportunities for us” to learn and grow. Perhaps the opportunities in my day’s curriculum are ones that would require me to practice patience or an opportunity to be empathic or maybe an opportunity to change my thought patterns to reflect Heavenly Father’s will instead of my natural man’s. Regardless of the opportunities I have throughout the day, I can trust that the Lord knows me. He knows His sheep and we are numbered (3 Nephi 18:31). He knows my weaknesses and has a plan for me to overcome them and for me personally to come unto Him.

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