Episode 49. January 2, 2017. I want to wish a very Happy New Year. May 2017 be a year of reflection, commitment and total obedience to the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ for all of us. Today I want to talk about why studying the scriptures everyday is so very important to us.
Whenever I think about how reading, studying and pondering the scriptures blesses my life, the very scriptures I think about are found in Mosiah, Chapter 1 in the Book of Mormon. It is in this chapter that Mosiah teaches his sons the language and prophecies of their fathers and how the records kept on the various plates had preserved their religion.
There are three phrases from this chapter that I want to talk about today. Here they are, chronologically arranged as they appear in the chapter.
Number 1: “were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.”
Number 2: “were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief.
Number 3: “remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby”
Let’s start with the first phrase “suffered in ignorance not knowing the mysteries of God”. It is found in verse 3. As I have pondered on this, I have concluded that the very nature of mortality is that suffering will be a significant part of it. No one escapes suffering, no one. Not even the Son of God.
In an address at Brigham Young University in Feb 2005 titled “The Love of God: Suffering Tribulation in the Redeemers Name”, Elder Gene R. Cook said this: “Our trials can either end up hardening our heart or humbling us. How true the saying that suffering in life is inevitable, but misery is of our own making. In other words, because of the plan that we all agreed upon in the premortal life, we are going to suffer, whether we want to or not. However, if you can find how to suffer that tribulation in the Redeemer’s name, you will bear it well and perhaps even do it with an understanding, happy heart.
In the October 1997 General Conference, Elder Maxwell adds this: “Even though our experiences do not even begin to approach our Master’s, nevertheless, to undergo this mortal experience is why we too are here! Purposefully pursuing this “cause” brings ultimate meaning to our mortal lives. And we are greatly helped if we enter with faith that pavilion of perspective—the plan of salvation. Then the search for meaning is ended, even though further and resplendent discoveries await us.”
In other words, it is the gospel, the Plan of Salvation that gives perspective to our suffering. Without that perspective, we are completely ignorant to the important role that suffering plays in our development. And it is that ignorance that often turns to misery, anger and resentment.
Scott Ferguson, a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies at BYU Idaho further clarified this in a talk at BYU-Idaho in 2009. “To persistently resist the enticing of the Holy Ghost only worsens pain and suffering. A soft heart helps me welcome pain as a teacher, friend, and forerunner to joy. Soft hearts—or broken hearts—give suffering a purpose; our pain becomes a divine sacrifice, an offering preparatory to joy.
The importance of suffering in knowledge (verses suffering in ignorance) is articulated in the following three quotes. The first is by Orson F. Whitney.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
The second is from the April 1991 general conference where Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this statement: “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences, which made Thee what Thou art! Then, let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’ “
And the third is from the Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. “Being human, we would expel from our lives sorrow, distress, physical pain, and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort. But if we closed the doors upon such, we might be evicting our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education.”
The second phrase “even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief” is found in verse 5. The tone of this statement from King Benjamin reinforces that their fathers, referring primarily to Lehi and Nephi, were extraordinary men with great spiritual insights and priesthood power, but without the brass plates, even these great men would have dwindled in unbelief. This to me is an amazing statement and speaks to the important of the scriptures in our own lives.
In the April 2010 General Conference Elder D. Todd Christopherson explained the importance of studying the scriptures. His explanation helps us to understand how the scriptures build our faith and why NOT spending time with the scriptures will result in our own dwindling in unbelief.
“The central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ—faith that They exist; faith in the Father’s plan for our immortality and eternal life; faith in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which animates this plan of happiness; faith to make the gospel of Jesus Christ our way of life; and faith to come to know ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.'”
The interesting thing is that we can be active church-goers and professed believers, but unless we are studying the scriptures, our faith will decrease over time and we will find ourselves in trouble spiritually. If it is true for prophets like Lehi and Nephi, it will certainly be true for us.
The third and final phrase: “search them diligently that ye may profit thereby” is found in verse 7.
In a talk by Elder David A. Bednar published in the April 2006 Liahona titled “Because We Have Them Before Our Eyes”, Elder Bednar explains the importance of the scriptures and how we can profit by studying them.
“The scriptures, in essence, are a written “recording” of the voice of the Lord– a voice we feel in our hearts more than we hear with our ears. And as we study the content and feel the spirit of the written word of God, we learn to hear His voice in the words we read and to understand the means whereby the words are given to us by the Holy Ghost.
In our process of coming unto Christ, hearing and feeling the voice of the Lord and knowing His words are essential. … Thus, hearing His voice precedes properly following Him, “for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7). Truly, we can receive instruction from Him and follow Him. And the spiritual capacity to hear, to feel, and to follow is available to every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–and that capacity is strengthened through diligent study of the scriptures.
Why is studying the scriptures so important? Sincere study of the scriptures helps us progress in the process of coming unto Christ and becoming more like Him. Through daily feasting, we can gain a testimony of the gospel truths for ourselves and learn to hear and follow the voice of the Lord.”
In my own life, I feel I have greatly profited through my study of the scriptures. From the time I was a new missionary up until I was called as a Bishop I never really understood how church leaders and other scriptorians could add meaning to verses in ways that simply were beyond the words written on the printed page. I marveled at how they could possibly come to know the things that many would often write and speak about. And then I came to know for myself. When I got serious about studying the scriptures rather than just reading them, it was as though I had my own Urim and Thummin. As I would read, ponder, ask myself questions and then write down my thoughts, I would find wisdom beyond my own understanding. Truly it was exactly as Elder Bednar stated. I began to understand the voice of the Lord and the Holy Ghost would allow me to see beyond the words into their application specifically for me. It continues to be a marvelous and sacred experience to study the scriptures and hear the voice of the Lord teach me.
In closing, I want to add one final quote by President Spencer W. Kimball. This was a talk from a fireside to the Santa Monica Stake on November 18, 1973. The title of his talk was “See His Face” and he spoke extensively about the scripture found in D&C 93:1. Here is a short quote from that talk.
“And then we come to number four: “… and obeyeth my voice …” Let’s read down to there again. It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins, who cometh unto me and who calleth on my name, who obeyeth my voice … shall see my face and know that I am.” The Lord doesn’t need to lock any doors and say, “Well, I’m going to see these that are the stake presidents, and these that are in the bishoprics, and these that are in the high places. He doesn’t say that. He says, “every soul” of every nation, of every race — every soul, without exception. “I’ll come to see him. I’ll talk to him. I’ll give him these blessings.” Every soul who doeth these five things, only four of which we’ve mentioned so far. This last one was: “who obeyeth my voice …” What is His voice? Here is His voice — the four standard works — the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price.“
The scriptures are a powerful and important part of our mortal journey. It is no wonder that the Lord, in Lehi’s vision, referred to them as the Iron Rod. May we all hold fast to it by studying the scriptures every day so that we will learn to hear and understand the voice of the Lord as we make our way to the Tree of Life; and in so doing avoid suffering in ignorance and dwindling in unbelief and instead profit greatly thereby.