David A. Bednar said, "The overarching purpose of Heavenly Father's great plan of happiness is to provide His spirit children with opportunities to learn." (Increase in Learning, page 1)
If learning is the purpose of God's plan, then what is the purpose of learning?
Is learning simply to accumulate as many facts as we can? Facts are great. But principles are even better. Principles are nuggets of truth that can inspire and invite us to take higher action that before, that invite us to change and become more like Christ. When learning is just about secular knowledge it feels sort of lifeless to me.
But as soon as I can start finding principles or life lessons, light bulbs start turning on and learning becomes fun, inspiring, and meaningful. When I make a commitment to myself or to God to apply that principle in my life in an inspired way, learning is powerful and purposeful. This way learning is helping me change into what God needs me to become.
Richard G. Scott said to "find ways to learn basic principles about your field of interest." (21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit, page 21) This applies to gospel topics such as faith or personal revelation or getting more from scripture study.
And it also applies to other topics like health, finances, painting, writing, decorating, time management, government, gardening, using technology wisely, composing music, or getting organized.
It's also fun to find spiritual principles for topics that may seem like only secular learning. For example, while studying science topics like light, water, or natural disasters, we can relate our studies to the light of Christ, the living water of Christ, or how God wants us to be prepared for disasters and then serve others during times of trial.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “One of the most important things you can do...is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles.” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, emphasis added)
Here are three people who have taught me much about the value of finding principles and ways to apply them in my life.
1. Richard G. Scott
- "Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances."
- "A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances."
- "It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle.” (Ensign, Nov. 1993)
I highly recommend Elder Scott's book 21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit.
2. Audrey Rindlisbacher
These ideas are from Audrey's video below called "From Opinion to Principle." It's worth watching.
Audrey offered several characteristics of true principles.
• Foundational idea upon which behavior is based (it’s not an application)
• True for all people, all the time
• Creates greater freedom for the individual and society
• Enlightens the understanding, enlarges the soul, expands your mind, brings new connections and ideas
• Empowers and gives hope
• Increases desire for good—in thoughts, behavior, environment and relationships
• Generates growth, enlivens
• Increases health and wholeness
• Creates win/win situations
Audrey’s principle checkpoints:
• God and/or Natural Law
• Your scripture or standard of truth
• Common sense
• Your experience—long term
• The experience of others—long term
Ways to obtain evidence to create faith in and want to embrace a principle:
• Spiritual experience
• Study & experience of others
• Watching the results from living the principle (exercising consistently made that group of people fit and thin)
3. John Hilton III
These ideas are from Hilton's book Please Pass the Scriptures: From Reading to Feasting, chapters 9-10.
Principles can be easier to find and apply when you write them in an “If ....then” statements.
If you ask “What is the author trying to teach?” it can help you find principles.
Rewriting principles in your own words helps you find, remember, and apply them. A great place to write principles you find is in the margin of your scriptures or other books. Sometimes I like to type a list of related principles about a certain topic, along with the scriptures and quotes I learned from, and print them on a page to glue into my scriptures. Here's a picture where I pulled a principle from the Book of Mormon in Alma 7:7. I wrote the principle in the top margin and then drew a line to show in which verse that principle is found.
Here is an example.
Three years ago I wanted to gather a list of true principles about finances. I wanted to know how God sees money and how God wants us to see and use money. I did this three years ago for my scripture study time off and on for several months. It was a delicious experience. I studied scriptures, Church leaders, and reputable sources who have helped themselves and others succeed with money, like Dave Ramsey. Of course gathering principles doesn't have to take several months, but when it's a topic you're very interested in, it's a great way to study topically scriptures and words of the prophets. It can also be a one-sitting experience to see what basic principles you can gather about a given topic.
Click here to see the eleven main principles I found about money, with scriptures and quotes to back them up.
Please don't think you have to find eleven principles with six pages of scriptures and quotes! There aren't very many topics I've taken this much time to study in depth. Most often I just find principles as I go along, noting them in the margins of my scriptures or books.
I invite you to go on a treasure hunt for principles too! Click here for quotes about finding principles.