Goal of learning to read: to expand the horizons of gospel understanding

Reading affords the opportunity to everyone - the poor, the rich, the humble, the great - to spend as many hours as he wishes in the company of the noblest men and women that the world has ever known. No matter how bashful, how reserved, or how poorly dressed the reader may be, he will feel right "at home" in the presence of these greatest leaders and thinkers of all time! - President David O. McKay.

Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, has often quoted this statement by President McKay from his book, Pathways to Happiness, when she talks about literacy and the need to read.But, she explained during a Church News interview, literacy is more than just reading books. "In a way, it's expansive; it's not just reading and writing. It's inclusive of many other ways of learning."

"Inclusive" is an apt description of the Gospel Literacy Effort, implemented by the Relief Society in 1992 as the capstone to the Relief Society sesquicentennial celebration. (Please see Church News, Jan. 30, 1993.) According to the guidelines for the literacy effort, the purpose of the Gospel Literacy Effort is two-fold:

"To teach basic gospel literacy skills for those who cannot read or write.

"To encourage Church members to study the gospel and improve themselves and their families throughout their lives."

This quest for not only basic reading and writing skills, but also for knowledge and truth was the emphasis of a video shown during the General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 24. (Please see related articles on page 3.)

On the video, several success stories were portrayed. In addition, members of the Relief Society general presidency took turns explaining the literacy effort. Pres. Jack opened: "For most people, it's hard to imagine the frustration suffered by those who are unable to read - those who see the written word only as a jumble of symbols with no meaning."

Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the general presidency, said: `Our sisters have redoubled their efforts in recent years to improve reading and learning among our Heavenly Father's children - those who are members of the Church, and others in the communities where they live."

However, Pres. Jack emphasized: "The ability to read is more than just an earthly skill. It's important to our eternal progression as well. If we're going to bring souls to Christ, they must be able to understand the basic commandments and gospel principles that are in God's word - the scriptures.

Chieko N. Okazaki, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, added: "The Gospel Literacy Effort goes beyond basic literacy, or the ability to read, write and do basic mathematics. It includes encouraging people to study and take advantage of all kinds of opportunities to gain more knowledge."

In the 21/2 years since the implementation of the Gospel Literacy Effort, many Church members have reached out to teach others to read and write, and have sought lifelong learning themselves. On this and the facing page are several vignettes that depict what can result from seeking learning and knowledge.

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