This article is adapted from a talk given in a sacrament meeting of a Mormon young single adult ward. The talk was given by Colleen on July 26, 2009, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
My parents divorced when I was eight years old, so, every other holiday, a miniature version of myself had to board a plane and travel across the great state of Texas to visit my dad and siblings. On one of the first of these now innumerable trips, a huge storm was brewing while we were in the air. I was terrified. We couldn’t make it to our destination and we couldn’t make it back, so we were to land at some mysterious airport. The experience was too intimidating for a child on her own.
I had recently received my first set of scriptures and remembered I had them in my backpack. Some primary teacher must have put it in my head that the scriptures have a calming influence, so I got them out and opened them up. Yes, this is one of those miracle stories you hear in church that seem too good to be true. I opened right up to Alma 26:6 in the Book of Mormon and started reading:
“Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.”
The Lord keeps his promises! Indeed, I wasn’t driven whithersoever that enemy aircraft listed to carry me—I made it back home that night. That scripture spoke directly to my eight-year-old mind in a way that I would understand, and it truly was a miracle—the only thing that could settled me in that moment. So began my love affair with the scriptures.
We all know that we’re supposed to read the scriptures in the Mormon religion or any Christian religion in order to learn the Mormon doctrine. But, there is so much more to it than simply fulfilling a commandment. In fact, it is really quite… well, fulfilling. Nephi counseled that likening all scripture unto us yields our profit and learning. In Second Timothy 3:16 and 17, we read about the scope of scripture:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Yes, sometimes unfortunately, all the reproof, correction, and instruction bits are for us. I like going through Alma Chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon doctrine every once in a while as a sort of spiritual health check-in:
“Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith? Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ? Behold, are ye stripped of pride? Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions”?
Alma was counseling the people with these words about 80 years before Christ first came to our world, and the advice still holds true today. So awesome. I know it can be overwhelming to think that we somehow have to digest all the correction and instruction in these books. Every chastisement might be for us individually, but so is every blessing.
For example, God truly means it when he says that if I acknowledge him, he shall direct my paths. The promise made to Helaman, in Mormon belief, is also made to me: If I counsel with the Lord in all my doings, he will direct me for good. If I end my day in tune with the Lord, He will watch over me in my sleep. And if I rise in the morning with a heart full of thanks unto God, I will be lifted up at the last day.
We all will. Isn’t that brilliant? If we’re full of charity and faith, and virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly, then our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God and the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion. Who couldn’t use that? These are some seriously spectacular blessings.
The scriptures give us ways to understand God’s personal relationship to us and his counsel for each one of us individually. I feel God’s love best when He speaks of his love for me and his guidance for my life. Most of the extraordinary lessons I have learned have come out of the lessons others have learned and what God has told them. These things are recorded in the scriptures:
Dispute not because ye see not! Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father to render to him all that you have and are.
“Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold the Lord comforted us, and said… bear with patience thine afflictions and I will give unto you success” (Alma 26: 27).
Colleen, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
“And I knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ… Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1: 6, 8).
I couldn’t ask for more personally-tailored words and they’re all right here in this leather-bound delight! The Mormon religion is an open invitation to all to experience joy. Making the scriptures relatable to my life also helps me feel less alone. Whenever I am feeling like the scum of the earth, whether it be from sin, rejection, or just moodiness, I automatically get into this mindset that there is no one on the planet who understands what I’m going through; no one will ever love me. But then, I can stumble upon Nephi’s words:
“My heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! My heart sorroweth. My soul grieveth. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily best me. And when I desire to rejoice my heart groaneth because of my sins” (2 Ne. 4: 17).
If Nephi, arguably one of the most put-together Book of Mormon characters, can feel this way, certainly there are other people out there that feel this way. I can’t possibly be alone. Additionally, he moves right from feeling pretty crappy to praising God:
“Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions. He hath filled me with his love. O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever” (2 Ne. 4: 19).
So, what do Mormons believe? Well, one thing Nephi’s words, for example, help me believe is that this kind of faith is truly possible; while I can be in the midst of feeling terrible, I can still retain hope. The wonderful thing about likening the scriptures unto us is that it is not that much of a stretch. These people really are like us. Just like Nephi, I have family that can sometimes be punks. I need repentance just as much, if not more, than Enos did. Christ can heal me just as he healed the physical ailments of those he met on the streets of Jerusalem. This holds true for every single one of us.
I haven’t had any miraculous open-your-scriptures-up-to-exactly-what-you-need situations since that scary evening I endured as an eight-year-old, but I can honestly tell you that when I make a habit of plowing through a couple of pages every day, I feel God in my life. For that, I am so grateful.
Thank you for your testimony, Colleen. The scriptures are the way I most often receive answers to my prayers. It is so true—the prophets of the Book of Mormon (and all scripture) really are like us. They are constantly trying to convince us that they, too, have flaws, because they know it’s in our nature to think the spiritual experiences we read about in the scriptures must be reserved for prophets only. But even Moses dismissed this notion: “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)
Ironically, we have to believe they’re not so different from us for us to realize that we, too, qualify for all the blessings of the gospel. Great talk—thank you.