16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Nephi 4: 15-16)
Spencer W. Kimball said:
“I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.
The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48.) Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment (see 3 Ne. 23:1–5); and we must let them govern our lives and the lives of our children…”
Why do we read the scriptures? In essence we read them to gain knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, have vicarious experiences and gain empathy. The knowledge we gain is the mind of God. The commandments He has given us, because he loves us, are there for our eternal benefit and understanding. Can you imagine receiving a letter from your parents, whom you had not seen in very long time, telling you of their undying love and offering words of wisdom, with promises of great blessings? That is what the scriptures are to us.
Ardeth G. Kapp said: “The holy scriptures are like letters from home telling us how we can draw near to our Father in Heaven. He tells us to come as we are. No one will be denied. He loves everyone.” (See 3 Ne. 9:14, 17–18.)
We are commanded to study them, as they are an important part of our spiritual, cultural, and historical heritage. They take us back to the roots of many peoples, depicting lives and times far from our own. They take us from our limited experiences and place us among heroes, villains and consequences in the context of the eternal laws of the gospel. They record profound experiences of the prophets, the beauty of the commandments and the mercy of the forgiveness. They not only stir our souls, but our emotions and individual experience. These scriptural experiences we compare to our own.
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. (1 Ne. 19: 23)
As I read the scriptures, the narratives contained therein let me experience decisions and feelings that I would not otherwise have in my life. I feel the power of the priesthood when Elijah confronts the priests of Baal. I feel the forgiveness of Joseph as his brothers come to Egypt, searching for food. I feel the obedience of Mary as she accepts the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Son of God. I feel Nephi’s depression when he sees the final downfall of his people. I feel Moroni’s sorrow as he understands that his people are past feeling. I feel the Apostle Paul’s clean spirit as he experiences forgiveness of his sins. I feel the desperation of Joseph Smith as he huddles in the Liberty Jail. I experience the desire to comfort the Savior as he atones in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When a Pharisee asked Jesus,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Empathy is the beginning of compassion, which, with the pure love of Christ, is the root of charity.
In a revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to his brother Hyrum Smith, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, the Lord said,
D&C 11:22 “…study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men…”
How often should we study his holy word? Sister Ardeth G. Kapp says:
“I ask you, will you open your scriptures and read them every day? Why? Because the glorious promises will then be yours. You can have a sure testimony of our Father in Heaven’s love for you. You can know the gospel plan and the blessings that come through obedience and right choices. The verses you mark will become anchors to cling to when the voices of the world try to confuse you or discourage you. They will lift you up in spirit when you’re down, and you can experience the feeling of being close to our Father in Heaven.”
Henry B. Eyring said:
“The Holy Ghost confirms to us the word of God when we read it. That confirmation, repeated often, strengthens our faith. And it is by faith that we overcome obstacles and resist temptation
When I am in situations where I break out of the pattern, it’s hard on me. Once you get used to regular scripture study, you miss it if you don’t have it. It’s like food—you have to have it. I know that I need the scriptures like I need food. I don’t miss a regular meal, and I don’t miss regular scripture study.”
Sister Kapp continues:
"Learning to study the scriptures is like learning to walk. When you first begin reading them, you feel unsure; you’d much rather read something familiar, like a favorite story. But I can tell you from my experience, if you will try reading the scriptures every day, just as you kept trying to walk, these precious records will become as important to you as being able to walk. In fact, I believe more so. Every day will go better for you. Your confidence will grow, and you will find the strength to resist temptation and discouragement. But you have got to begin."
I’d like to close with another quote from President Kimball, this time summarizing a story from the scriptures about the scriptures.
‘… the story of King Josiah in the Old Testament is a most profitable one to “liken … unto [our]selves.” (1 Ne. 19:24.) To me, it is one of the finest stories in all of the scriptures.
Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign in Judah, and although his immediate progenitors were extremely wicked, the scriptures tell us that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kgs. 22:2.) This is all the more surprising when we learn that by that time (just two generations before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c.) the written law of Moses had been lost and was virtually unknown, even among the priests of the temple!
But in the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah directed that the temple be repaired. At that time Hilkiah, the high priest, found the book of the law, which Moses had placed in the ark of the covenant, and delivered it to King Josiah.
When the book of the law was read to Josiah, he “rent his clothes” and wept before the Lord.
“Great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us,” he said, “because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.” (2 Kgs. 22:13.)
The king then read the book before all the people, and at that time they all made a covenant to obey all the Lord’s commandments “with all their heart and all their soul.” (2 Kgs. 23:3.) Then Josiah proceeded to clean up the kingdom of Judah, removing all the idols, the groves, the high places, and all the abominations that had accumulated during the reign of his fathers, defiling the land and its people. He also held a solemn passover, and “surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah.” (2 Kgs. 23:22.) All this that he “might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.
“And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.” (2 Kgs. 23:24–25.)
I feel strongly that we must all of us return to the scriptures just as King Josiah did and let them work mightily within us, impelling us to an unwavering determination to serve the Lord. Josiah had the law of Moses only. In our scriptures we have the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness; and if a taste is sweet, in fulness there is joy.’
And of course, we read the scriptures to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ, our redeemer. I learned myself that sweet testimony by reading the scriptures while investigating the church. The Holy Ghost witnessed to me that Jesus is the Christ. At that point I had my mother’s King James Bible and a missionary copy of the Book of Mormon. Today I have standard works that come with a dictionary, topical guide, maps and cross references. How blessed we are to have the word of the Lord in our lives. I ask you, as the prophets have asked us, to study the scriptures diligently, because in them we have eternal life. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Henry B. Eyring, “A Discussion on Scripture Study,” Ensign, Jul 2005, 22–26.
Gordon B. Hinckley, “Feasting upon the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec 1985, 42.
Ardeth G. Kapp, “The Holy Scriptures: Letters from Home,” Ensign, Nov 1985, 93.
Spencer W. Kimball, “How Rare a Possession—the Scriptures!,” Ensign, Sep 1976, 2.
MacKean, Ian, Studying English Literature: http://www.english-literature.org/essays/studying.html.