Archive for the ‘Scripture Study’ Tag

Searching the Scriptures

Reading: “The Blessing of Scripture,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 2010 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session

In 1536 William Tyndale was put to death for publishing and English version of the bible. Today, the bible is available in almost every language and anyone can obtain a copy for not very much money. Modern media outlets such as television, magazines, and the internet make it possible for us to hear an unprecedented amount of information from our spiritual leaders. However, today fewer and fewer people are interested in hearing the word of God. Elder Christofferson says,

Scripture tutors us in principles and moral values essential to maintaining civil society, including integrity, responsibility, selflessness, fidelity, and charity. In scripture, we find vivid portrayals of the blessings that come from honoring true principles, as well as the tragedies that befall when individuals and civilizations discard them. Where scriptural truths are ignored or abandoned, the essential moral core of society disintegrates and decay is close behind. In time, nothing is left to sustain the institutions that sustain society.

For the past few days I have been listening to an audiobook about the recent subprime mortgage loan crisis. This was largely caused by banks giving loans to people who could not afford them so that they could then sell those loans to others for a profit. As a result, many of the recipients of those loans went bankrupt, as well as the companies who bought the loans, and our entire world financial system was shaken. It seems to me that it is through a lack of scriptural truths, which teach respect and love for your neighbor, that our financial institution was wounded. As our society continues to disregard scriptural truths we can only expect such deterioration to continue.

The scriptures have been a great source of help in my life. Through the scriptures I have learned how to make choices that will make me happy in the long term, instead of choosing instant gratification that will lead to trouble eventually.

Can you think of any other examples of society problems being caused by a lack of scriptural truths? How can you personally better build your life on the foundation of the scriptures?

Cyclical History

Reading: “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, April 2009 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session

Lately my fascination with learning about history has blossomed, largely thanks to this great podcast. As I learn about past wars, past plagues, past drama, past historical figures it becomes more and more apparent that history repeats itself.  The phrase that has been stuck in my head from a recent popular TV show is “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.”  While many like to think that modern technology and modern ideas will protect us, as a student of the scriptures it is only more apparent that as we approach the second coming of Christ that the great stories of history will happen again right before our eyes.

In this talk Elder Ballard teaches us that it is important to learn from those who have gone before in order to protect ourselves from the cycles of men, but that such learning is useless unless we take it into our hearts.  He says,

And so it returns, as it always does, to your own personal faith and testimony. That is the difference-maker, my young brothers and sisters. That is how you know. That is how you avoid the mistakes of the past and take your spirituality to the next level. If you are open and receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in your lives, you will understand the lessons of the past, and they will be burned into your souls by the power of your testimonies.

As a student in high school I remember learning all kind of fascinating stories about history, yet I took very few of them to heart, and neither did my fellow students.  Sometimes I would stand back and think to myself, “How can we read these stories and continue to live as we do?  We aren’t really learning anything.”  I hope that the same thing does not happen when I study the scriptures.  As much as we can learn from history, the scriptures are full to the brim of knowledge that will help us through any trial, but only if we take it into our hearts.

Today I am going to think about some of the stories I have read in the scriptures that apply to our current society and write about the parallels in my journey.  The story of the Nephites’ rise and fall prior to the first coming of Christ is the first that comes to mind, but I’m sure I can think of some other good ones.

Can you think of any parallels in the scriptures to our current day and age? What about on the personal level – are there any stories in the scriptures that contain knowledge that can help you personally right now?

Longest Chapter in the Book of Mormon

Reading: Jacob 5, 1 Nephi 19:23

Sunday evening I got out my scriptures for my evening scripture study and read a handwritten note at the top of the chapter, “Longest chapter in the Book of Mormon.”  The chapter, of course, was Jacob 5 containing the allegory of the olive tree.

Now, I have gone through the different meaning of the allegory of the olive tree several times in seminary, sunday school, and on my own.  I know that it is a story about the gathering of Israel, and that each trip to the garden is symbolic of different dispensations of the gospel.  That doesn’t make it any easier for me to read.  It’s like reading the daily log of a farmer’s work: lots of repetition, not a lot of excitement. Even with all that education I have a hard time figuring out what the allegory is supposed to mean.

However, if there’s anything I’ve learned from my in-depth study of 2 Nephi 2 it is that a close study of scripture can yield great results.  So, I don’t want to to just put away Jacob 5 without gaining anything from it.  Nephi also tells us that although Isaiah’s writings can be hard to understand, we can gain from them if we apply it to ourselves.  From 1 Nephi 19:23:

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.

So, the following is a list of the doctrines I can glean from Jacob 5 that actually mean something to me, personally:

  • God works with prophets (the servant) to accomplish his work on Earth.
  • God is determined to do all he can to raise up a righteous group of people (the good olive tree & fruit).
  • Although it is hard for us to see where the gospel will prosper, God knows his people (the garden) and knows what to do to yield the greatest results.
  • God loves his people (the garden) so much that he weeps at the losses, and waits many times to see if some good would come even though he could have destroyed it.
  • A day of harvest is coming where God will “reap the fruits” and we will all be judged.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of this story is this: that God loves his people and is doing all he can to bring them home.  In Jacob 5:47 it says:

But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh.

When I think about Jacob 5 from this perspective it gives me hope that God is working to help me overcome my own weaknesses and to be worthy to return to live with him someday.

Today I am going to work on reading Jacob 5 again, but this time highlight every time there is some evidence of God’s love for his people.

What do you think about Jacob 5 and the allegory of the olive tree?  Is there some part of the story that touches you or that illustrates some important doctrine especially well for you?

Small Things to Confound the Wise

Reading: Alma 37:6

This past weekend I have been struck by the many small things that, working together, are making a big difference in my life.  I am reminded of the scripture Alma 37:6, which says:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

One such small thing is a commitment to daily prayer and scripture study.  Although I usually spend only 5-15 minutes a day on my personal scripture study, that effort has helped me to learn more about myself and the scriptures and to find answers to bigger problems.

Another small thing is making an effort to be more patient.  Although I already had a great relationship with my husband, as I made little efforts each day to be just a little bit more patient I have grown even closer to my husband.  I also find myself relating much easier to the people around me.

Another small thing is a commitment to heed even closer small promptings of the spirit.  Sometimes those promptings are very small indeed, and sometimes I am not 100% sure they are a prompting, but as I act on those promptings the best I can I find answers to many problems and my days go much more smoothly than before.

Today I am going to brainstorm some ways to help me be more sincere in my prayers, since this is one “small” thing I can definitely improve on. Although I am doing much better at praying every morning and night, I sometimes find it hard to really be sincere and awake as I pray.

What small things are you doing that are making a big difference? Have you ever had an experience where you were surprised by the effect some small thing could have?

Sum Up of 2 Nephi 2

Reading: 2 Nephi 2

Yesterday I finished my survey of 2 Nephi Chapter 2, so today I thought I would sum up the thing I learned and talked about.

Here are some of the important themes of 2 Nephi 2:

  • God will consecrate our afflictions for our good
  • God has a plan for this Earth
  • The fall of Adam and Eve was an important part of that plan
  • Without our agency, or ability to choose, we would be nothing but mindless animals
  • With agency we have the ability to choose good or evil
  • Adam and Eve had to choose to break a law in order to fall, God could not do it to them
  • If Adam and Eve hadn’t fallen they would not be happy or sad, but mindless without choice
  • If Adam and Eve hadn’t fallen they would not have had any children
  • Through the Atonement the Savior saves us from the affects of the fall which are:
  • The affects of the fall are mortality and a separation from the presence of God
  • Through the Atonement everyone is resurrected, but only those who repent will return to live with God
  • Satan wants us to be miserable like him, and so entices us to sin through lies
  • It is up to us to choose liberty and Eternal life through obeying the commandments of God or misery and condemnation through disobeying the commandments of God.

I’m glad that I went through this chapter because it is so full of important concepts that we must know to have a firm testimony of the Gospel.  I also now have a deeper knowledge, and this knowledge has already helped me in several situations. I also would like to think that maybe somebody looking through the interwebs might find here an answer to a question they might have about the plan of salvation.

Today I am going to go to bed earlier and then have a more meaningful scripture study.  Lately I’ve been staying up too late so that by the time I get to my scripture study I’m rushing to get to bed instead of reading more thoroughly.

Do you have a favorite chapter in the scriptures that seems packed full of great doctrine?  Or, maybe a special story that has helped you in your life?

Gospel Knowledge Accessible For Everyone

Reading: “Even a Child Can Understand,” Elder Gerald Causse of the Seventy, October 2008 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session

Even the smartest, most spiritual person you know will spend their whole life learning more about the gospel.  Some scholars, such as teachers at BYU, devote their whole life’s work to learning new things about the gospel, especially historical and linguistic interpretation.  This may make the more ordinary of us feel like we could never gain a good understanding of the gospel.  Elder Causse assures us that this is not the case.

Elder Causse, in his talk, points out that even children can understand the most basic principles of the gospel.  And while they may not be able to go into deep theological discussions, the things they understand are the most important parts of the gospel. He says,

The Bible has probably been the subject of more interpretations and philosophical debates than any other book. However, a child reading this book for the first time will have at least as much, if not more, chance to understand the doctrine as the majority of those doctors of the scriptures. The Savior’s teachings are adapted to everyone. At eight years of age a child can have sufficient understanding to enter the waters of baptism and make a covenant with God with complete understanding.

He also encourages teachers to keep this in mind while they teach their lessons:

The quality of a lesson is not measured by the number of new pieces of information that you give your students. It comes from your capacity to invite the presence of the Spirit and to motivate your students to make commitments. It is by exercising their faith by putting into practice the lessons taught that they will increase their spiritual knowledge.

I really loved this talk because it helped me to remember that the most important things I need to learn in the gospel are things that I probably already know in my head, but need to really learn and embody in my heart.  I have definitely found this to be the case as I write in this blog.  There is very little “new” that I have learned, but by trying to really apply what I already know to my life and by trying to practice it to a higher degree, my spiritual “knowledge” has greatly increased.

Today I am going to write in my journal and try and write down several simple gospel themes that have either helped me a lot lately or might help me with current or upcoming challenges.

What simple gospel truths are special to you?