Seek Learning: You Have A Work To Do

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Mary N. Cook, Second Counselor Mormon Young Wo...
Mary N. Cook, Second Counselor Mormon Young Women General Presidency (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Today’s reading is entitled “Seek Learning: You Have A Work To Do” by Sister Mary N. Cook, First Counselor in the Young Women Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This talk was given on March 24, 2012.

**Fun Fact: Mary N. Cook spent many years living in Mongolia and throughout Asia doing missionary & humanitarian service with her husband. She has a degree in special education, and worked for many years as a school teacher.**


In this talk, Sister Cook speaks specifically to the Young Women of the church about the importance of getting an education, and to continually seek knowledge through life-long learning.

“God gave you moral agency and the opportunity to learn while on earth, and He has a work for you to do. To accomplish this work, you have an individual responsibility to seek learning.” – Sister Cook

I loved this talk! Sister Cook’s message is timely and profound. It is an exciting topic to me because I have such a strong personal belief in the importance of education. Instead of simply summarizing Sister Cook’s talk, I am going to let you read it on your own (it’s brilliant, I hope you will!) and I want to share a personal story that illustrates Sister Cook’s message.

I was born to a remarkable mother who raised me with a passion for learning. She read to me from the time I was born, and I fell in love with books. She taught me to read long before I entered public school, and spent countless hours listening to me and answering my endless questions. When I was 5 years old, my mother found herself suddenly divorced with three small children (ages 5, 2 & infant). This devastating circumstance was certainly not part of Mom’s “happily ever after” plan! In today’s world, being a divorced mother is a rather common circumstance. It’s accepted by society as a part of life. But, in the early 1970s divorce was still a rare thing, and nearly unheard of within the LDS Church. Therefore, being a divorced woman with three small children carried many negative stigmas. At times my mother was the victim of cruel prejudice, or painful ostracization. But, rather than succumbing to emotions such as anger/bitterness/self-pity, or withdrawing from society, or becoming completely dependent upon the financial and emotional support of her parents – my Mother rose above her difficult challenge and moved forward in faith.

great challenges accompany great opportunities” – Sis. Cook

My mother is a woman of great faith. She approached this challenge by praying continually, pleading for God to direct her path and help her to know what to do. I was too young to comprehend the fear and sorrow she must have been suffering. My memories from that time period are very happy. I felt loved and secure. Mother made sure that my brother and sister and I were well cared for physically, emotionally and spiritually. I remember attending church together, and I was wearing dresses that she hand sewed just for me (with a matching outfit for my dolly). I remember Family Home Evenings every Monday night, and playing games and learning gospel principles. Mother always looked for ways to teach and guide her children. Meanwhile,  she continued to fast & pray, attend her church meetings and study her patriarchal blessing for personal guidance.

As you stay on the path that leads to eternal life, the Holy Ghost will guide you in your decisions and in your learning.

I testify from personal experience that if you will seek learning not only by study but also by faith, you will be guided in what “the Lord … will need you to do and what you will need to know.” – Sister Cook

One day, my mother received a prompting that she should return to college and get a degree in Elementary Education. I remember the day she told me that her prayers had been answered, and explaining that I would be changing schools because we would be moving into student housing near the University campus. I remember how excited my mother was for her new adventure, and determined to succeed.

TYPEWRITER (Photo credit: HeavenlyCabins)

I watched my mother work harder than anyone I knew to care for her children, clean the house, attend all of her classes, and (somehow) still do all of her homework. I fell to sleep each night to the rhythmic tap*tap*tap*tapping of the metal keys of Mother’s manual typewriter (I wish she’d held onto that – it would be an classic antique now!) Through all of her long days and nights and the stress and suffering that she must have endured as a single Mom and full-time student, my memories are such joyful ones. Mother would sometimes take me to her college classes, and I felt so much excitement and wonder every time I walked on the large University campus. I was in awe of the library filled with so many important books and so many glorious things to learn about! There was never any doubt in my mind that I would grow up and attend a University. I couldn’t wait! By her example, my mother was instilling the same important message that would be taught years later by one of our beloved prophets (also quoted by Sister Cook in her talk):

You must get all of the education that you possibly can. … Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of [this] world. … Train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives.” – Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, Seek Learning, 2007

I truly believe that there is nothing that will contribute more to our success and happiness in this life than getting a good education, and having a life-long love of learning.  We never know what will happen to us in this life, where our path will lead us, or what we may be required to do. But, we don’t have to be afraid of the unknown if we live by faith and diligently seek learning.

Because of my Mother’s strong work ethic and determination she accomplished her goal and became a school teacher. She was able to support her children and build a comfortable life. She eventually was blessed to meet and marry a good and loving man who has been a devoted husband and father for our family. Mother went on to teach in the public school system for over 30 years, influencing the lives of thousands of children, and inspiring countless numbers to love learning, and to “rise up” from their circumstances to become the best they can be. My mother embodies the principles that Sister Cook addresses in this Conference Talk. Mother gave me and my family a legacy of life-long learning. She taught us by precept, and by example how to “hunger and thirst” after truth.

“Like the stripling warriors, who “had been taught by their mothers,”you will be the most important teacher your children will ever have, so choose your learning carefully. Bless your children and your future home by learning as much as you can now.” –  Sister Cook


Watch Sister Cook’s Talk


  1. Thank you so much for the story of your mother and her miraculous strength. I respect her and all women forced into those circumstances. She definetely raised an upstanding daughter of God. I am sure it is also the same for your siblings. What an amazing testimony. Tell her I said thank you for not giving up.


  2. I think your Mother’s story epitomizes Sister Cook’s admonition to our young women!! Thank you for sharing it. I have added it to my collection of gospel-in-action stories for future reading and reference. If you’ve not already done so, might I recommend you also send it directly to Sister Cook? I believe she would love it. 🙂 I’m particularly touched by the matching outfits for you and Miss Doll. Godly mothers never do stop at providing essentials. Even if they and their hands are bone-tired; they go on to bring as much joy as possible to their children under the most straightened of circumstances. Your Mother’s example reminds me that it is still true that, with God’s help, adversity only serves to refine the pure in heart: when the going gets rough, they only work the harder to bless others! Please extend to you Mother my delight and sincerest compliments.


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