I was asked to speak about scripture study on Sunday. I always love speaking, ok... not really the speaking part of it because I stumble over myself, but the studying and preparation part are my favorite. I love refining my thoughts and listening to the quiet impressions about what to say, how to say it, etc. If you have read the blog for very long some of the thoughts might be some that I have already expressed here, I'm not really very original in my insights. It was nice to pull quotes togther, the primary reason for adding it here to the blog.
Also, right as I was printing off the talk I stumbled upon some wonderful scripture study pdf documents that someone put together. I thought I would include the links here, because they are filled with great quotes (cited references, which is important to me) and nicely organzied. Simple and packed with information; a great resource.
"When I was a very young mother, going to school and trying to manage all that life required, I found that it was impossible to get everything done that was needed. (If I knew back then what was in store for me today I would have enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of our lives.) I attended a church meeting, I don't remember the speaker, I don't remember the context of the meeting. I only remember person only testified that if I would read my scriptures first thing before I did anything else, I would be able to do all that was required of me. I remember thinking that this would never happen, my "to do" list was a mile long and getting longer each day, but I decided to give it a try.
The following day, I got up and studied. I went about my day and by two o'clock in the afternoon the mile long "to do" list was completed. I was so exhausted from getting everything done I was ready for the day to end and I still had hours left to fill. I can't tell you how many times I have put this experiment to the test and every time it works.
Over the years I have come to learn more about this beautiful promise:
Elder Ballard explained: ”As I think about your schedules and the pressures you face at this time in your lives, I can understand why scripture study can so easily be neglected. You have many demands pulling at you… But I plead with you to make time for immersing yourselves in the scriptures. Couple scripture study with your prayers. Half an hour each morning privately studying, pondering, and communicating with your Heavenly Father can make an amazing difference in your lives. It will give increased success in your daily activities. It will bring increased alertness to your minds. It will give you comfort and rock-steady assurance when the storms of life descend upon you." (M. Russell Ballard, "Be Strong in the Lord, and in the Power of His Might" [CES fireside for young adults,] March 3, 2002)
Elder Hilberg adds to this by saying, "When we invite the Holy Ghost to fill our minds with light and knowledge, He “quickens” us, that is to say, enlightens and enlivens the inner man or woman. As a result we notice a measurable difference in our soul. We feel strengthened, filled with peace and joy. We possess spiritual energy and enthusiasm, both of which enhance our natural abilities. We can accomplish more than we otherwise could do on our own. We yearn to become a holier person." (Keith K. Hilbig, "Quench Not the Spirit Which Quickens the Inner Man", General Conference, Oct. 2007)
The Lord was taking my small moments of devotion and enlarging them to help me accomplish near super human feats each day or so it seemed. Now you might conclude now that I have found the key to peace, happiness, and efficiency, I lead a life carefree and without struggles. Well, you would be mistaken because I forget… with all that I know, sometimes days pass without remembering to fill my soul with the sustenance my spirit needs. Perhaps this is why I was given this new calling, because I more than anyone am in constant need of reminders of how much I love the word of God and how essential it is in my life.
Elder Asay said: “I fear that many of us rush about from day to day taking for granted the Holy Scriptures. We scramble to honor appointments with physicians, lawyers, and businessmen. Yet we think nothing of postponing interviews with Deity— postponing scripture study. Little wonder we develop anemic souls and lose our direction in living.” (Elder Carlos E Asay, "Look to God and Live" General Conference, October 1978)
Elder Scott in this last conference warned: “Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of your Faith Your First Priority”, General Conference, October 2014)
More important than sleep…thankfully he didn’t say food. for someone who doesn’t get enough sleep this was a huge warning bell that I need to reprioritize my life.
Now back to the challenges, because we all have them and they are not going away any time soon. Reading the scriptures will not make our trials go away, they will however enable us to endure and find joy and peace in our turmoil.
As I was starting the Book of Mormon over this week, I nearly skipped the book of Nephi. How many times have I read it and reread these first stories of Lehi and his family? Perhaps more than I care to admit, for I always start at the beginning with my new goals to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover and then I get distracted and lose my place as I study other topics. When I finally remember my goal great lengths of time have passed since I started and I can’t remember where I left off and then I decide to start over. I don't think I'm alone in this, at least I hope I am not.
So I was thinking, is it a coincidence that the first and probably most read story in the Book of Mormon is about an imperfect family? About brothers who try to beat and kill their younger brothers (1 Nephi 7:16-22). They would be considered dysfunctional by today’s classification.
1 Nephi is about a mother who in her fear and sorrow complains (1 Nephi 5:2-3). It's about hardship and trials, faith and hope. It would probably not be the stock photo that we see on the covers of our publications: the perfect family sitting around quietly listening and learning, (Our FHE experiences that look more like a WWF match). Yet, Lehi’s family is on the covers and in the pages of our publications. Sermons have been preached and beautiful art has been created about this flawed family. Scholars have even spent time studying these experiences and relationships.
I have to wonder what Sariah must think about all her "dirty laundry" being aired for all the world to see and pick apart. I overshare, our blog is a prime example of that, but I don't really want you to know all of my mistakes. Perhaps all our trials are the reason so many of us are drawn to this first scriptural family (Adam and Eve’s was no different). God knew that we would need this family's experience to help guide us through life such, that He had Nephi not only write it once, but twice (1 Nephi 9:5). He knew we would need strength when we or our children made unwise choices. He knew we would need to be buoyed up when we are feeling depressed and low. He knew we would need strength so He has sent angels to walk with us and and lead us through the darkest moments and places (1 Nephi 8:5-8).
Elder Christofferson in April conference 2010 talked about William Tyndale who helped bring the Bible to the people of 16th- century England. He asked “What did they, who paid enormous sums and ran grave personal risks for access to a Bible, understand that we should also understand?” He then said, “Consider the magnitude of our blessing to have the Holy Bible and some 900 additional pages of scripture, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Then consider that, in addition, the words of prophets spoken as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in settings such as this, which the Lord calls scripture (see D&C 68:2–4), flow to us almost constantly by television, radio, Internet, satellite, CD, DVD, and in print. I suppose that never in history has a people been blessed with such a quantity of holy writ. And not only that, but every man, woman, and child may possess and study his or her own personal copy of these sacred texts, most in his or her own language. How incredible such a thing would have seemed to the people of William Tyndale’s day and to the Saints of earlier dispensations! Surely with this blessing the Lord is telling us that our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time.” (Elder D. Todd Christofferson,“The Blessing of Scripture”, General conference,April 2010)
Elder Oaks asked this question:
“How much time does a family allocate to learning the gospel by scripture study and parental teachings, in contrast to the time family members spend viewing sports contests, talk shows, or soap operas? I believe many of us are overnourished on entertainment junk food and undernourished on the bread of life.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Focus and Priorities”, General Conference, April 2001)
This year as the Bishopric has asked us to Read the Book of Mormon together as a ward family, to have the theme by “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3). Let us remember that “Feasting upon the word of God means more than just nibbling at the banquet table. Feasting upon the scriptures means studying the scriptures individually and together as families. It means pondering and praying about what we read. It means using the scriptures as the basis for our teaching, likening the scriptures—their stories and counsel—to our own lives, that they “might be for our profit and learning” (1 Ne. 19:23). It also means using the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, in our missionary work. Because the scriptures contain the words of Jesus Christ, they are vital in bringing people to a knowledge of the truth.
“Feasting denotes pleasure or joy. Feasting upon the word of God means developing a love for the scriptures and for studying them. “(“Study My Word”, Ensign, Mar. 1998, 70)
President Benson promised saying, “There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance. ... [You will also enjoy] increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, [and] increased spirituality and righteousness. These promises, are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God” (Ezra Taft Benson, "The Book of Mormon- Keystone of Our Religion", General Conference, October 1986)
Elder Scott added his witness this last conference, “I add my voice with this promise: as you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world.” (Elder Richard G. Scott “Make the exercise of Faith Your First Priority”, General Conference, Oct 2014)
So as we make a conscious effort this year to read The Book of Mormon let us remember when time is short, when our children are… well being children we are not alone in our journey. I have always loved and appreciated Elder Bednar’s frankness and stories about his sons (in the chaos of our home it gives me hope). In October 2009 he said his home was probably a lot like ours as his sons were growing up. He said they often wondered as parents if their efforts to do anything spiritual were worthwhile. “Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.”
He continues by saying that he doesn’t think that his sons would be able to identify one particular prayer or specific instance of scriptures study that was especially meaningful. They would say that they remember the consistency and outcome they had not considered in the day to day antics. He goes on to say,
“In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes—none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.
Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.” (Elder David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home”, General Conference, October 2009)
So when one of my son’s describes how he feels after eating school lunch with this scripture, "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace" (Jeremiah 4:19).
Or another child clearly asleep during family scripture study, finally in a sudden burst of "wakefulness" popped out of the blanket, with eyes still closed, no scriptures near him and started, "And it came to pass..." and 10 seconds later is was fast asleep once again. I have new hope because I know something is sinking in.
So to reason the I am standing before you, which is certain not because of my vast scriptural knowledge, we as a ward are like that beautiful canvas. We are part of a greater effort. As we study and encourage one another as we read The Book of Mormon we find added meaning and love for the scriptures. As we bear witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, using the technologies available to us we will contribute to a growing floor of truth and righteousness.
Elder Bednar said, “Imagine the impact we can have as hundreds of thousands and millions of members of the Lord’s restored Church contribute in seemingly small ways to the rising floodwaters. May our many small, individual efforts produce a steady rainfall of righteousness and truth that gradually swells a multitude of streams and rivers—and ultimately becomes a flood that sweeps the earth. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).” (Elder David A. Bednar, "To Sweep the Earth as a Flood", BYU Education week, August 2014)
May our love for the scriptures be evident to all with whom we associate and may our testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ fill others with hope of His great redeeming love. He lives. I know He lives."