Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Scripture Study in My Life - The talk I gave last Sunday
Last Sunday I received a call from Brother Franzen. He, like many faithful bishopric members before him, had the much maligned assignment to ask ward members to speak and to assign them topics. After determining that he did not want me to speak in two hours, but instead in seven days, I asked him what my topic was. His response, The Blessing of Scripture, came as a welcome topic.
I know a lot about scripture study. One of my resolutions this year is to have daily scripture study, and I have a record of about 90% so far. Besides, it is a topic that was recently covered in General Conference, and almost every conference since the church was organized. Every month in fast and testimony meeting members share sincere testimonies of the effects of the gospel in their lives, and invariably the scriptures are mentioned as a blessing, sent from Heavenly Father for our benefit.
As I spent more time this week thinking about what to talk about, I came up with a number of quotes from prophets throughout the ages on the importance of scripture study. I was prepared to share the story of Nephi obtaining the plates of brass, and talk about the benefits to the Nephite nation that came from the gospel contained on those plates. I was going to talk about how the Book of Mormon was written for our day, and that as we study the things in the Book of Mormon, we gain an even stronger testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible.
Then, as I was putting together my outline for that talk, the Spirit whispered another direction for me to go. The Spirit whispered to me, as if talking directly to me,
“There is no one in the meeting you will be speaking to who doesn’t know that scripture study is important or an expectation that our Heavenly Father has. Anyone who is not involved in scripture study on a regular basis is not doing it because they don’t’ know they should, they are not doing it because they can’t picture how regular scripture study is going to fit into their own lives. Please share how you do it, paint a picture of what is working for you, so that others may feel the promptings to find ways to paint it into their lives.”
At first that seemed fairly presumptuous. After all, I am not a master scriptorian, and until the last few years, I was extremely irregular in my scripture study habits. I would read faithfully for a week or a month, and then it would fall by the wayside, becoming a part of my life that would happen occasionally, especially if I couldn’t sleep at night, but was not studying, it was simply reading. I hope that the thoughts and ideas I will be sharing with you will be taken in the spirit in which I intend to share them. I intend only to share a weeks worth of my journey, as a daughter of God trying to come closer to my Heavenly Father through studying the words of His prophets, and applying them as best I can.
Sunday night I was studying the Book of Mormon. This year I am using a missionary copy of the Book of Mormon, so that I can write thoughts that come to my mind as I read. There is a non-member friend of the family who has said he is interested in having a copy of the Book of Mormon, and so I highlight the things I think are important, or that I feel inspired may be important for him. Concurrently I am studying the Book of Mormon student manual that institute of religion students use when they take Religion 121 and 122. I ordered them for Michael and me for Christmas last year. I decided that the first time I read through it I am not going to mark anything, just let the lessons come as they will. I intend to reread the Book of Mormon, after I finish this reading, and mark that new Book of Mormon and the manual that time.
On Thursday we received the Ensign containing the General Conference addresses from last month. I have always considered the talks given at General Conference to be scripture, and so when we get a new Ensign, I take a “week off” from my regular scripture study program to read and reread the talks that were given. I try to read all of the talks twice, the first time just reading them, and then the second time highlighting anything that seems especially important. Thursday and Friday night I read all of the Priesthood session talks, since I didn’t get to hear them when they were given.
It is always amazing to me how many things I read that apply directly to what I am experiencing in my life. Sometimes it is the actual words on the page that apply, but more often it is the witness of the Spirit what helps me to understand how a struggle that is described in the scriptures is spiritually similar to something I am struggling with. At a time in my life where I was a little more mystical, I used to think that life was timed perfectly so that the exact scripture I needed was magically put in front of me. As a teenager I liked to let my scriptures flop open and then read and find answers. While I believe that works, I also believe that scripture study that is orderly and follows continuous verses and chapters will still bring the same insights. The “magic” is not in which verse you are reading oftentimes, but in the heart and mind that are reading it. The struggles that all of us go through in mortality are similar to the struggles that all of Heavenly Father’s children have always gone through in mortality. It is not that we are more or less special, or more or less different than anyone else, but that we are all spiritual beings having physical experiences. The prophets of all times and dispensations have been sent to teach us how to navigate the difficulties that come through being spiritual children learning physical things.
In explaining what being a disciple of Christ is, Elder L. Tom Perry said,
“The word disciple comes from the Latin [meaning] a learner. A disciple is one who is learning to be like Christ – learning to think, to feel, and to act as He does. To be a true disciple, to fulfill that learning task, is the most demanding regimen known to man. No other discipline compares….in either requirements or rewards. It involves the total transformation of a person from the state of the natural man to that of [a] saint, one who loves the Lord and serves with all of his heart, might, mind and strength.”
There are certainly specifics to each dispensation and time that require us to have prophets on the earth. The scriptures help us to find broad answers to our specific problems, but they do not contain direct revelation to each of us. Instead, as we rely on the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are able to apply the broad answers of the gospel to our specific situations. I would like to share two examples form my scripture study this week.
Within my group of siblings there has been a lot of contention lately. Some of it has been hurtful to certain siblings, but especially to me, and has caused difficulties for us and for our parents as we try to negotiate turbulent words, emotions and sticky family situations. As I was reading in 3 Nephi 11: 28-30, it talks about avoiding contention. Then, as I was reading page 300 in the Book of Mormon Student manual, which is the companion section, I read a story President Monson shared about the blessings that come from avoiding contention. I would like to quickly read it to you now.
“Let me conclude with an account of two men who are heroes to me. Their acts of courage were not performed on a national scale, but rather in a peaceful valley known as Midway, Utah.
Long years ago, Roy Kohler and Grant Remund served together in Church capacities. They were the best of friends. They were tillers of the soil and dairymen. Then a misunderstanding arose which became somewhat of a rift between them.
Later, when Roy Kohler became grievously ill with cancer and had but a limited time to live, my wife Frances and I visited Roy and his wife, and I gave him a blessing. As we talked afterward, Brother Kohler said, “Let me tell you about one of the sweetest experiences I have had during my life.” He then recounted to me his misunderstanding with Grant Remund and the ensuing estrangement. His comment was, “We were sort of on the outs with each other.”
“Then,” continued Roy, “I had just put up our hay for the winter to come, when one night, as a result of spontaneous combustion, the hay caught fire, burning the hay, the barn, and everything in it right to the ground. I was devastated,” said Roy. “I didn’t know what in the world I would do. The night was dark, except for the dying embers of the fire. Then I saw coming toward me from the road, in the direction of Grant Remund’s place, the lights of tractors and heavy equipment. As the ‘rescue party’ turned in our drive and met me amidst my tears, Grant said, ‘Roy, you’ve got quite a mess to clean up. My boys and I are here. Let’s get to it.’ ” Together they plunged to the task at hand. Gone forever was the hidden wedge which had separated them for a short time. They worked throughout the night and into the next day, with many others in the community joining in.
Roy Kohler has passed away, and Grant Remund is getting older. Their sons have served together in the same ward bishopric. I truly treasure the friendship of these two wonderful families.”
As I read this story, I had the Spirit whisper to me that I have no control over the feelings, opinions or actions of my siblings, but I do have control over my own. I know that there will be a time when I will have the chance to serve one of my siblings. They will need the service, but not feel able to ask me for it. I will have the chance to perform that service, and if I do it without rancor, I will be able to help mend the rift that was started by others. I honestly have no idea how long it will be before that happens, but I find peace in knowing that Heavenly Father will provide that opportunity, if I sincerely pray for and desire the chance to have the rift mended.
The second experience came as I was reading the two talks from the Priesthood session of conference one called “Healing the Sick,” and the other called “Continuing in Patience.” I have been struggling with liver problems for a number of months. Some days are good and I have an almost normal level of energy and am able to complete all of the things I would like to during the day. Other days I can barely get out of bed because my energy level is so low and my pain level is so high. Often times the bad days come in a group.
The last portion of the talk on healing the sick focuses on the Will of the Lord, and how important that is to the outcome of any blessing of healing. Dallin H Oaks says in the talk,
“The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and faith means trust. I felt that trust in a talk my cousin gave at the funeral of a teenage girl who had died of a serious illness. He spoke these words, which first astonished me and then edified me: “I know it was the will of the Lord that she die. She had good medical care. She was given priesthood blessings. Her name was on the prayer roll in the temple. She was the subject of hundreds of prayers for her restoration to health. And I know that there is enough faith in this family that she would have been healed unless it was the will of the Lord to take her home at this time.” I felt that same trust in the words of the father of another choice girl whose life was taken by cancer in her teen years. He declared, “Our family’s faith is in Jesus Christ and is not dependent on outcomes.” Those teachings ring true to me. We do all that we can for the healing of a loved one, and then we trust in the Lord for the outcome.
In President Uchdorf’s talk on patience he says,
“The children of Israel waited 40 years in the wilderness before they could enter the promised land. Jacob waited 7 long years for Rachel. The Jews waited 70 years in Babylon before they could return to rebuild the temple. The Nephites waited for a sign of Christ’s birth, even knowing that if the sign did not come, they would perish. Joseph Smith’s trials in Liberty Jail caused even the prophet of God to wonder, “How long?”4 In each case, Heavenly Father had a purpose in requiring that His children wait. Every one of us is called to wait in our own way. We wait for answers to prayers. We wait for things which at the time may appear so right and so good to us that we can’t possibly imagine why Heavenly Father would delay the answer.”
As I was praying to have the energy to handle the busy activities of the Webelos family campout that was held at our home this Friday, I received the sweet assurance that the Lord has a plan for me, that the Lord’s will is being done, and that the Lord wants me to be patient in waiting for the healing that I may, or may not receive. I need to be able to say that no matter what the medical outcome may be, that my faith in Christ is not dependent on that outcome. I need to learn ways to cope now, and while I hope I won’t need them forever, I am sure I will need the flexibility, love, patience and hope that I am strengthening as I move through this trial with faith.
I bear my testimony that there are answers to prayers that the Lord wants to give you, and that those answers are waiting in the scriptures. I challenge each of you to think of ways to expand what you currently do for scripture study. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.