And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. – 1 Nephi 19:23
Elder L. Tom Perry said, “The Scriptures that are never read will never help us” (Ensign, May 1985, p.23). Franklin D. Richards stated, “Knowledge received from studying the scriptures assists us in making correct decisions in all areas of life’s activities and helps us to know God and understand his purposes” (Ensign., May 1981, p.51). And J. Richard Clark commented, “Brothers and sisters, you don’t have to be a natural student to read the scriptures: you just need to love the Lord” (Ensign, November 1982, p.15).
For as long as I can remember the scriptures have always been a part of my life. I will always be grateful for a loving mother who took the time to introduce the scriptures to each of her children at an early age and taught them not only through words, but also by example, just how important the scriptures are and the impact that they can have on our lives. Growing up as a Baptist boy, I can remember that there were always one or more copies of the Bible in our home and my mother taught my brother, sisters and I to have a sincere respect and love for the Word of God.
That early exposure to the Scriptures has had a lasting effect on my life. As I grow older, my love and appreciation for the Scriptures grows deeper. At the age of 55, I have been blessed to read the Bible in its entirety 9 times and I am now engaged in the 10th reading of the blessed volume. Daily Scripture reading is an intimate part of my life. I have found that there is no greater joy in my life than to feast daily at the banqueting table of God’s Word. It is through the study of the Scriptures that I find joy, peace, happiness, comfort, and most of all, a deeper love for my Savior. Christ taught us in John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 15:4 taught us “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
It was my love for the Scriptures and my yearning to know more about the truths of the Gospel that sent me on a quest to find those truths. I began investigating the Church back in 1980 before enlisting in the United States Navy. I met with missionaries on several occasions and enjoyed the gospel discussions that we had. Once I left for boot camp, I lost all contact with the missionaries and did not pursue investigating the Church any further until 17 years later when I was stationed in Keflavic, Iceland. It was while I was stationed there that I decided to investigate the Church once more and contacted the Church News about a subscription to the Church newspaper. One of the editors of the newspaper, Mr. Doug Osborn, contacted the missionaries on my behalf and my quest for truth was begun once again. I met with many missionaries over the course of about a year. As I listened intently to the lessons that they taught about the doctrines of the gospel I began to wonder why I had not been taught some of the things that they were discussing with me before then. I became very interested in reading the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price as well.
To make a long story short, I told the missionaries one evening that I would not make a decision about being baptized until after I had read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price each in their entirety. Through the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit I was able to develop a 40-day reading schedule for all three standard works and for the next forty days I spent all of my spare time reading and studying those blessed Scriptures. I knew as I read and pondered those pages of Scriptures that what I was reading was true and more importantly I gained a testimony that this is the Lord’s true Church and that I could not afford to miss out on the blessings of becoming a member of His Church. So, on 10 March 1998, almost 16 years ago, I was baptized and the rest as they say is history. Since becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have been blessed to have now read the Book of Mormon 9 times in its entirety and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price 13 times each in their entirety.
I would like to share with you several key steps that can help us in applying the Scriptures to our daily lives. These steps can also be used when preparing to teach the Scriptures.
Step 1: Read and meditate upon the Scriptures daily.
President Ezra Taft Benson in an address to educators in Salt Lake City on 17 September 1976 said,
Always remember, there is no satisfactory substitute for the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. These should be your original sources. Read and ponder more what the Lord has said, and less about what others have written about what the Lord has said.
Joshua 1:8 give us concise instructions for meditating upon the Scriptures daily. We read these words,
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
I testify to you that daily Scripture reading will have a major impact on your life. Knowing that the Scriptures are true and that they testify of a Savior who loved me enough to die for me, gives me hope and courage to face the challenges that I must face. The Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Concerning this subject President Brigham Young taught,
The Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants. . .are like a lighthouse in the ocean or a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the fountain of light. . .That is what these books are for. They are of God; they are valuable and necessary; by them we can establish the doctrine of Christ (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool, England: Albert Carrington and others, 1853-1886], 8:129).
One of the last gifts that I bought for my mother was a Bible. Each day she would spend time reading a portion of the scriptures. When she was too sick or too weak to read the scriptures on her own she would have my younger sister read to her or she would listen to the scriptures being read to her via cassette tape or CD. In addition to reading the scriptures, my mother also kept a notebook where she would write out her favorite scripture passages. No matter what, she always spent a part of each day reading and studying the scriptures and I will forever be grateful for her example, and for her testimony of the truthfulness of the scriptures.
Reading God’s Word is a very important part of communicating God’s Word to God’s people. Public scripture reading was a regular part of the worship services in Israel and in the early church. Today we are blessed above all people in history because we do not have to depend on someone reading the scriptures for us. There are enough copies of the scriptures readily available that each person can have their own personal copy and read and study the scriptures for themselves. Here are a few suggestions to aid you in receiving the greatest benefit from reading the scriptures:
- Read the scriptures prayerfully – Ask the Holy Spirit to meet your heart’s need as you read (Psalm 119:18).
- Read the scriptures thoughtfully – Think about the meaning and applications of what you are reading. Don’t just read the words printed on the page. Ask yourself how what you are reading may apply to you in your own particular situations in life.
- Read the scriptures carefully – Take careful note of not only how words are used in a particular passage of scripture but how does that word or words relate to the overall meaning of the particular passage. One thing that I have found to be helpful when I am reading and studying the scriptures is to have a note pad near by where I can record any questions that I may want to research later, or any passages that have significant meaning to me.
- Read the scriptures repeatedly – The more that we repeat something, the more that it becomes a part of us. I am convinced that no one can read the blessed pages of the scriptures repeatedly and not have their lives changed in some way.
- Read the scriptures extensively – Sometimes it may help to read large portions of the scriptures at one sitting. If you choose to do this, do it at a time when you are most alert and are not likely to be disturbed by outside distractions. I have found that reading the scriptures first thing in the morning work best for me. I make it a daily practice to begin each day by reading 5 to 6 chapters before I leave for work. I have found that this helps to set a more positive tone for the day ahead.
- Read the scriptures regularly – Set up a Scripture reading schedule and stick to it. One of my personal goals is to read the Bible in its entirety once each year and to read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price each in their entirety at least twice a year. Therefore, my reading schedule is based on that goal. Each of you must choose a schedule that works best for you. The whole ideal is to begin reading the Scriptures regularly.
- Read the scriptures faithfully – Don’t get discouraged if you get behind in your reading schedule. Faithfully resume reading where you left off.
- Read the scriptures obediently – Because the Scriptures are God’s Words written to us, it is essential that we are obedient to what is written there.
Step 2: Begin your scripture reading with prayer.
Dean L. Larsen once said,
There is a special power in the scriptures. Scripture study, combined with daily, powerful prayer, can provide much of the resolution that is necessary today to offset the influences so prevalent in the world that leads us into forbidden ways (Ensign, November 1989, p.63).
He also said,
I am going to give more time and attention to study and pondering of the scriptures themselves, rather than to commentaries and criticisms that others have written about them. In doing this, I am going to be open as I can be to the Spirit of the Lord so that I can understand these things for myself (Ensign, November 1987, p.12).
Before we begin our daily Scripture reading we should first seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us understand what we are about to read. Even after reading the scriptures as many times as I have, I have found that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, no matter how many times I have read a passage of scripture, there are always new things that I can learn. How true it is as I once heard someone say, “The scriptures are always fresh each morning, they never grow old.” Trying to understand the scriptures with our finite minds can be a real challenge, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, reading, studying and pondering the scriptures means so much more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith exhorted,
Search the scriptures – search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to his glory, nothing doubting, he will answer you by the power of his Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation . . .For when men receive their instruction from Him that made them; they know he will save them . . .. Again we say, Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you (TPJS, pp. 11-12)
Step 3: Memorize scriptures.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119:11 declared, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” We should all strive to memorize portions of the scriptures. Start by memorizing some of your favorite passages. As we begin to memorize scriptures they become a living part of us. In times of distress and trouble, the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance those scriptures that we have learned. Memorizing scriptures also helps us to strengthen our testimonies. We are able to share with others those things that we know from the scriptures. The more scripture we memorize the more ready we will be with a defense against those who attack our beliefs.
Reuben Clark, Jr. in a fireside address on 11 December 1960 said: “Read your Scriptures, read them early and read them late, read them in your youth and do not abandon them when you get older.” President Ezra Taft Benson said,
This is the answer to the great challenge of our time. The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of the living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life (Ensign, May 1986, p.80). And it was Ardeth G. Kapp who said,
We live and will one day die. And when we do, we will know our Savior, for we have searched the Holy Scriptures and felt his nearness as He walks with us on our journey home (Ensign, November 1985, p.95).
May we develop the attitude of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who “. . . .were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”