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Reading shapes Church members' understanding of the Savior and His plan - no matter their age or understanding, said Elaine L. Jack, speaking Oct. 19 to more than 600 people attending BYU's 25th annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium on the scriptures.

During her keynote address, the general Relief Society president spoke about the symposium theme, "The Doctrine and Covenants: A Book of Answers," as it applies to the Church's literacy effort."The Lord commands in the Doctrine and Covenants: `Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith (D&C 88:118),' " said Pres. Jack, asking the audience what it means to seek learning.

She explained that Church members have covenanted to learn truths from the Author of all knowledge, who asks them to "learn of me." (D&C 19:23.)

Spiritual knowledge, she said, is the base upon that which Church members build their learning.

"The Lord has given us a curriculum to follow for His course on eternal life," Pres. Jack said. "It embraces truth and `knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come' (D&C 93:24). His syllabus makes it clear: `Study my word' (D&C 11:22); `Give heed unto my word' (D&C 6:2); `search these commandments' (D&C 1:37); `let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures' (D&C 26:1); and this admonition, `I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written . . . by my power you can read them one to another,' (D&C 18:3,35.)"

Pres. Jack said reading scriptures to one another is what the Sperry Symposium is about. "All of us share an earnest desire to learn and understand," she said. "But what if we were among the 950 million people in the world who can't begin to understand - because they can't read?"

Pres. Jack said that there is no question that to "give diligent heed to the words of eternal life" (D&C 84:43), Church members must be able to read them.

"In Relief Society we are stressing literacy to help perfect the Saints," she explained. "This is a bold action we are taking, and we are seeing success, one person at a time."

The literacy effort instituted four years ago has two purposes, Pres. Jack explained. First, to teach basic gospel literacy skills to those who cannot read or write and second, to encourage Church members to study the gospel and improve themselves and their families throughout their lives.

"Society, the Church, the ward, the neighborhood, the family - all need the power of the word to give form to this mortal experience, to give meaning to life," she continued. "Testimonies increase, commitment builds, families draw together and missionary work surges forward when the word of the Lord, as given in His scriptures and through His prophets, is read, absorbed and honored."

Pres. Jack explained that she focused on literacy at the Sperry Symposium - where those who attend probably all are literate - because literacy is more than being able to read. "It is reading regularly, thoughtfully and prayerfully," she said.

"Literacy is the foundation of learning."