Hugh Nibley on Teaching

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While reading Hugh Nibley’s Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Part 1 (on page 167) I came across this very important truth.

“The interesting thing we find out from Nephi very soon is that all preaching is to yourself. You are preaching to nobody but yourself. If I preach, I preach only to myself. You can see how that is here [in 1st Nephi]. Others may pick it up, as far as that goes. That’s like teaching the point; that’s all you do. You can’t teach a person; that’s not a transitive verb. You might hit a person or see a person, but you can’t teach a person. What do you do when you teach a person? Well, the word for teach is touch, tactile, didactic. That’s when you point to something. Teach is the same word as touch. It just means point the finger. All I can do is point. You look and then you see for yourself. I don’t go directly from one person to another that way. So the teacher is just didactic. He teaches and points so others may pick it up. Nephi goes on preaching too, and later on he tells us in 2 Nephi that it’s just himself he has been talking to all along anyway.”

Why is this important? Why is this true? Being taught (implying learning) requires the listener to actually listen and to be changed by what they hear. This change comes not from the teacher but from within. Even the Holy Ghost cannot teach us anything without our willingness to be taught, to learn. No person will be forced to heaven. No person will be forced to learn anything they are not willing to learn.

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