This is a completely different lesson than the previous 7. The lessons so far have been a collection of works brought together for this manual, however, this lesson is a single discourse, given originally to the Priesthood leadership, then delivered to the rest of the church. It is in the lesson manually, as far as I can tell, word for word as it was presented in 1986 at a special priesthood leadership meeting and the message is just as powerful and if anything, needed even more in today’s world. So I will focus less on reading from the talk (while encouraging them to read it WITH their families) and lead the discussion in how to do the things it suggests.
This talk is fascinating in how ETB uses the scriptures (with 30 different references) and quotes from different leaders. This is exactly how we should be teaching all lessons, based on the scriptures and our leaders. As I will explain to the class, anywhere it says members or saints, I will replace that with a reference to our families for this particular discussion.
The 2 videos provided on the churches website associated with this lesson could easily be used as part of the lesson. The first one, “The Blessings of Scripture” , is a video retelling of the story Todd Christofferson told in his April 2010 conference talk. I will certainly refer to this during my discussions, especially the point that many early religious figures gave their lives to bring the Scriptures to the people, and now the Bible merely collects dust for many, if not most people.
The second video, “What the scriptures mean to me“, is a nice collection of various experiences different members have had in reading the scriptures. It is helpful to remember that those that study the scriptures all do so differently. There is no right or wrong way to read them. The key is to do it regularly. Since I don’t use video very often, I won’t be using these videos in the lesson, but if the discussion veers towards how to study the word of God, I might refer to this video in highlighting the different methods that have worked for different people.
The main quote from the lesson is worth focusing on:
“The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of 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.”
Naturally, this lesson will focus on reading the scriptures and conference talks, but I will make an effort to stress the personal revelation part of this quote. In many ways, our journals, if the revelations we receive are recorded, become another source of the word of God. This is why our leaders stress the need to keep journals, so that they can become our personal addition to our set of scriptures.
I plan on opening this lesson with a personal story, of sort. However, in no way do I think it is unique, but I will find out as I share the story. As a parent, there were times, as the kids got older, where we communicated via a written note. My wife and I would go out somewhere, in a perfect world, it might have been Date Night, but often it was something as mundane as shopping. If we planned on having dinner while we were out, we’d leave a note for the kids regarding what they should have for their meal and any other things we’d need them to do. Invariably, the phone would ring while we were gone and imagining the worse, we’d scramble for our phone to see what the emergency was. When it turned out to be a simple question about something that was on the note, we’d experience frustration, and dare I say it, annoyance at times. This makes me wonder how our Heavenly Father reacts to prayers on subjects he has already left instructions for us. Of course, I have do doubt he handled it better than I did, but I also cannot imagine him rushing to give us answers to prayers when we already have the answers available to us in our scriptures and through our leaders. I would tell my kids to read the notes before they called, and in some ways, I feel this is the subject of today’s lesson, the Lord asking us to read his notes to us before we pray.
From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson
I will breeze through this section without reading anything from this section directly, but given the length of this section compared to previous lessons, I do believe this is exactly what the church had in mind when creating this lesson.
This lesson opens with a comment from President Monson regarding ETB’s ability to quickly receive inspiration regarding the decisions he was asked to make as a Prophet. He was able to cut through the detail and get to the heart of the issues. This is exactly what this talk does, it cuts through all the distractions, rationalizations and reasons we give for not studying the scriptures and clearly outlines why we need to just do it.
1 – As we face the great challenges of our time, we need to hold fast to the word of God.
There are numerous challenges listed in this talk directly from the scriptures. I do not plan on reading them, but it has been nearly 30 years since this talk was given, I will lead the discussion as to what has changed? Is there anything listed that does not still apply? Are things better? worse? why? If the discussion wanders, I will read any one of the scriptures listed in this section and ask how that particular threat is still with us. For example, ETB mentions the forbidden paths as described by Lehi and asked the brethren then if pornography was a forbidden path. Is it more widespread now than it was 30 years ago? I will end this discussion with the quote which is the last paragraph of section 1 in the manual.
My dear brethren, this is an answer to the great challenge of our time. The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of 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.
2 – When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures, other aspects of Church activity automatically come.
Satan has flooded the earth with distractions and temptations all designed to urge people away from the word of the Lord. Where is our Ark today? What will carry use past the temptations, minimize the distractions, and find happiness and Joy? ETB gives us this answer clearly, through immersing ourselves in the daily study of the scriptures. This message has been repeated time and time again.
In recent years, time and again we have counseled you that certain activities bring greater spiritual returns than others. As early as 1970, President Harold B. Lee told the regional representatives:
“We are convinced that our members are hungry for the gospel, undiluted, with its abundant truths and insights. … There are those who have seemed to forget that the most powerful weapons the Lord has given us against all that is evil are His own declarations, the plain simple doctrines of salvation as found in the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 1 Oct. 1970, p. 6.)
In a First Presidency message in 1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball said:
“I am convinced that each of us, at least 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.” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, pp. 4–5.)
In April 1982, Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke to the regional representatives about the priority the scriptures should take in our labors. He said: “We are so wound up in programs and statistics and trends, in properties, lands and mammon, and in achieving goals that will highlight the excellence of our work, that we have ‘omitted the weightier matters of the law.’ … However talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in the worldly things—they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)
That same day, Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke to the stake presidents and regional representatives. He said: “Buildings and budgets, and reports and programs and procedures are very important. But, by themselves, they do not carry that essential spiritual nourishment and will not accomplish what the Lord has given us to do. … The right things, those with true spiritual nourishment, are centered in the scriptures.” (In Meeting with Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)
I add my voice to these wise and inspired brethren and say to you that one of the most important things you can do as priesthood leaders is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein. There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling. There are few other ways to gain greater inspiration as you serve.
This message hasn’t changed. More recently,In his conference talk in April of 2014, Elder Richard G. Scott said:
I add my voice with this promise: as you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world.
I do not declare that your life will cease to have challenges. Remember when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were free from challenges, yet they were unable to experience happiness, joy, and peace.7 Challenges are an important part of mortality. Through daily, consistent scripture study, you will find peace in the turmoil around you and strength to resist temptations. You will develop strong faith in the grace of God and know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all will be made right according to God’s timing.
Given more time we could probably find quotes from every current general authority stressing the need to read the scriptures daily. Yet, collectively, we still fail to do this. Such a simple thing with such great promises, but we cannot find time, or we get distracted, or we are tired. I cannot help but to wonder, what new knowledge would we get if our leaders did not have to repeat themselves over and over again? If the church was overwhelmingly following this counsel, what new revelations would we get?
3 – As we study God’s word, we receive guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul, and power to avoid deception and resist temptation.
Discussion question, How do the scriptures give us guidance in our daily lives?
We live in the days of Google Maps, which gives us easy to follow (mostly) directions to get us where we want to go. People tend to want all their guidance to come via a Youtube video instead of taking the time to read and understand how the Savior lived his life.
Discussion question, how do the scriptures heal our souls?
I absolutely love the phrase, healing of the soul, from this section heading. We often look to the scriptures for guidance and to avoid temptation, but as a way of healing our souls? As I think about it, I know it is true, but it just not something I had spent much time thinking about. When we are troubled by sin or burdened with worry regarding our troubles, there is no better time to bury ourselves into the scriptures and revive our souls.
Discussion question: How can the scriptures help us avoid temptation?
One of the most common excuses for sin today is the worn out phrase, “everybody is doing it”. When all we read is the news and what is published as fiction, our view on what everyone is doing is skewed. As we read the scriptures, we learn of others who chose the better path, and we can no longer fall back on this rationalization for sin.
Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul—these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. Does the Lord promise and not fulfill? Surely if He tells us that these things will come to us if we lay hold upon His word, then the blessings can be ours. And if we do not, then the blessings may be lost. However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life.
4 – The word of the Lord is a valuable gift, and we must not treat it lightly.
ETB closes his talk powerfully, I will have most of this section read.
And if we ignore what the Lord has given us, we may lose the very power and blessings which we seek. In a solemn warning to the early Saints, the Lord said this of the Book of Mormon: “Your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
“Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
“And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
“And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.” (D&C 84:54–57.)
Oh, my brethren, let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them. Then prayerfully and in counsel with others, seek every way possible to encourage the members of the Church to follow your example. If you do so, you will find, as Alma did, that “the word [has] a great tendency to lead people to do that which [is] just—yea, it [has] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which [has] happened unto them.” (Alma 31:5.)
Don’t let our scriptures become like those notes kids routinely ignored. Read them, Study them, Know them. In doing so we will become closer to the Lord, we will be more resistant to temptation, we will receive guidance from the Lord, our souls will be healed, we will find peace, our faith will increase, and we will find joy. Instead of wondering how we will find time to read the scriptures, we need to be thinking, how will I make it through the day without the blessings of daily scripture study offer.
Other Resources (even though there is very little reason for other resources in this particular lesson).
Elder Richard G. Scott’s conference talk is here.
LeadingLDS has some good notes as well as a great video featuring Elder Bednar’s scriptures, in case you have wondered how one of the Apostles marks his scriptures. This can be found here.