Prior to being baptized and becoming a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 10 March 1998, I told the missionaries who were teaching me that I would not make a decision about baptism until after I had read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price each in their entirety. I sincerely believe that the Lord’s hand was at work in the matter as I was inspired to develop a 40-Day Reading Schedule to carry out the task at hand.
Believe it, or not, there are some who have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints their entire lives and have never read either of these volumes of Scripture in their entirety. It is my hope, my sincere prayer, that once they read them for perhaps the first time in their entirety, they will gain a thirst to want to read them again and again. I have now in my 17 years as a member of the Church read the Book of Mormon 9 times in its entirety, and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price each 13 times in their entirety. I find that each time I read them I learn something that I did not learn before. I have also read the Bible 9 times in its entirety.
Oftentimes when I am reading and studying the scriptures, I like to use other resources that I have available in my library and look up certain portions of the Scriptures that I am reading or may have questions about for clarification. This proves to be very beneficial especially when I am preparing a talk for Church or writing an article such as this one. Each of us have our own methods of reading and studying the Scriptures. Please understand that I am not in any way saying that one method is better than another, or that a particular method is wrong and another is right.
With that being said, in my humble opinion, I do believe that sometimes we can, if we are not careful, spend more time pondering over what has been written about the Scriptures by others, than actually reading the Scriptures themselves. After all, it is the Word of God, which stands firmly on its own, that is the greatest and last authority. Sometimes I fear that people can get too caught up in becoming concerned about what someone has written about a subject than they do about the real subject at hand. In short, what I am saying is, there needs to be a delicate balance. Again, the Word of God itself should always be our final authority.
I particularly like what President Ezra Taft Benson taught us about this. He 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 concerning what the Lord has said.” (Address to educators, Salt Lake City, September 17, 1976.) Those are great words of counsel.
I also agree with the strong counsel of President Romney given to a group of Seminary and Institute coordinators in 1973. He told them:
I don’t know much about the gospel other than what I’ve learned from the standard works. When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it. … I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says. … You ought to read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants; and … all the scriptures with the idea of finding out what’s in them and what the meaning is and not to prove some idea of your own. Just read them and plead with the Lord to let you understand what he had in mind when he wrote them.” (Address delivered at Coordinators’ Convention, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, 13 Apr. 1973.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us this great admonition in 1832. He said:
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 how He will save them. … Again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 11–12.)
The beauty of reading the Scriptures is just as J. Richard Clarke once said, “Brothers and sisters, you don’t have to be a natural student to read the scriptures; you just need to love the Lord.” (J. Richard Clarke, “My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures,” Ensign, November 1982, p.15.)