Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Power of the Word

As I've said now and then, I sometimes substitute for the regular teacher in Sunday School or Relief Society (the women's auxiliary of the LDS Church).  Today was one of my days to have a captive audience!  Lesson material was drawn from an April 1986 General Conference address by Ezra Taft Benson, his first Conference as President of the Church.  He was addressing the Priesthood session but the concepts hold value for all of us still today.

He noted, "We live in a day of great challenge.  We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, "peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion."  (D&C 1:35)  Those words were spoken 29 years ago.  Think about how much has changed in that time.  Both good and evil have grown stronger.  There's less "gray area."  President Benson continued, "...while many of our members are remaining faithful and strong, some are wavering.  Some are falling.  Some are fulfilling John's prophecy that in the war with Satan, some Saints would be overcome. (Rev. 13:7)

Besides John the Revelator, prophets such as Lehi and the Apostle Paul spoke about this same condition in our days.

Learn more about this picture and the artist, Dr. Steven L. Neal, here:
Lehi saw that many people would wander blindly in the mists of darkness, which symbolized the temptations of the devil.  He saw some fall away "in forbidden paths," others drown in the rivers of filthiness, and still others wander in "strange roads," (1 Nephi 12:17 and 8:28,32)  Paul described a time when such things as blasphemy, dishonesty, cruelty, unnatural affection, pride and pleasure seeking would abound. (2 Tim. 3:1-7)  Such grim predictions by prophets of old would be cause for great fear and discouragement if those same prophets had not, at the same time, offered the solution.  In their inspired counsel we can find the answer to the spiritual crises of our age.  Lehi wrote of an iron rod and when his older sons, Laman and Lemuel, asked what it meant, the answer was "It was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."  (1 Nephi 15:23-24)  Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries.

Several weeks ago when Katelyn McLeod spoke in Sacrament Meeting she said, "Conversion is a choice you make every day not something you get to decide once and then move along with your life."  At the time I saw it as a great comfort and contrast to a troubling sentence that had stuck with me from a blog post I'd read sometime earlier.  That blog, and I've forgotten both the author's and blog's name now, was written by an active LDS woman and in that particular post she was talking about current church events and some sadly high profile excommunications.  Overall the post was well done and positive, except the last sentence... She said that "leaving the Church was not beyond the realm of possibility in [her] future."  That bothered me.  And it made me sad.  It also caused me to reflect on my own commitment to the gospel and what I'm doing about keeping it strong. I resolved to focus more on the basics: church attendance, prayer and scripture study.

Spending quality time in the scriptures is the 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.

Photo from
President Benson referred to an earlier meeting giving instruction to Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives in 1982. At that meeting, Boyd K. Packer 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."  And it's true, none of those activities can be ignored and laid aside, but they are not the most important thing you can do.  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."

Each of us must, at some point in our lives, discover the scriptures for ourselves -- and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.  We filter what we are reading by the sum of our experiences and since we are living and experiencing every day, each time we read a scripture we have the potential to see it in a new way because we now understand differently.  "The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for 'unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. (Luke 12:48)  Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord's commandment and we must them govern our lives. (3 Nephi 23:1-5)

During our last Stake Conference, Elder Kopischke spent a great deal of time talking about how Councils work.  He was specifically talking about Ward Councils but noted that the principals apply to Stake Councils, General Councils and even Family Councils.  He instructed our leadership to consider what is the best for an individual over what is in the interests of the auxiliary organizations of the Church.  When we care for the people, the auxiliary needs will be better met than when we put them first.  That same idea also applies to us as individuals.

If YOU do this:                                                  The whole Ward benefits with:
Immerse yourself in the scriptures                     Increased activity levels
Search them diligently                                       Testimonies will increase
Feast on the words of Christ                              Commitment will be strengthened
Learn the doctrine                                              Families will be fortified
Master the principles                                         Personal revelation will flow

Bend your efforts and your activities to stimulating meaningful scripture study!

The Prophet Joseph Smith said that "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and they keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."  (Book of Mormon, Introduction)  To get nearer to God... Isn't that what we all want?

We want it individually and collectively.

In the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew, during the Savior's great discourse on the Mount of Olives, He promises "And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived."  (JST Matthew 1:37)  Sisters, when we pick up the scriptures we hold a treasure in our hands.  Do we treat them as a treasure?  They are filled with guidance for our lives...

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  (Psalms 119:105)

Nephi promises that feasting upon the words of Christ "will tell you all things what ye should do."  (2 Nephi 32:3)

They are also there to pull us back when we go astray.

"Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil."  (Helaman 3:29)

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.  The word of the Lord is a valuable gift, and we must not treat it lightly... but treasure it.  Spend time in the scriptures.  Learn to hear God's voice for yourself.  Immerse yourself in a relationship with Him.

What a treasure!

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  (Matthew 6:21)

No comments: