Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Group Therapy Sessions

A few years ago I was studying the Old Testament and I cam across this verse in Psalms that jumped out at me and taught me a very powerful lesson:

"Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother (sister); 
thou slanderest thine own mother's son."
(Psalms 50:20)

A trusted voice immediately started teaching me by bringing to my mind all the times my friends and I would have our "Group Therapy Sessions," which involved us sitting around and discussing our friends plights. 
We were not cruel or malicious, we were just concerned friends 
who could see our friends wayward ways and we knew best how to set them right.

As those sessions ran through my mind I found myself trying to justify our actions; but my excuses were feeble and hollow.  I then began to realize that even though we were not being cruel or malicious we were still "Sitting and Speaking" against our sister. and were "slandering" our mother's daughter,  It was a very bitter pill for me to swallow.
Being raised a Latter-Day Saint I had sung primary songs, "I'm trying to be like one another as Jesus loves you....Try and show kindness in all that you do.."  "As I have loved you, love one another...this great one another as I have loved you."  
 I felt smaller and smaller as those lyrics ran through my mind and I realized that I was not showing kindness in all that I did and I was not loving my brothers and sisters as Jesus loves you when I was participating in my "group therapy" sessions.  
In fact I was doing the exact opposite; 
I was slandering my own mother's daughter.

I shared my teaching moment with my truest friends who were part of our "Group therapy" group and was amazed that they too had a light bulb moment.  
Needless to say that from that day on we dismantled our "Group Therapy" group. 

Year later President Uchtdorf gave a conference address which addressed our group therapy sessions.  
I loved the two strong words he used:  "STOP IT!"  
As I listened to his address I found myself smiling and thinking back to those many years before when one little verse from a daily bible study jumped out at me and quietly whispered, "Stop it!"

I have placed a copy of President Uchtdorf's talk here for those who would like to read his insightful words.

"The Merciful Obtain Mercy

Second Counselor in the First Presidency

When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving.”
My dear brothers and sisters, not long ago I received a letter from a concerned mother who pleaded for a general conference talk on a topic that would specifically benefit her two children. A rift had grown between them, and they had stopped speaking to each other. The mother was heartbroken. In the letter she assured me that a general conference message on this topic would reconcile her children, and all would be well.
This good sister’s sincere and heartfelt plea was just one of several promptings I have received over these last months that I should say a few words today on a topic that is a growing concern—not only for a worried mother but for many in the Church and, indeed, the world.
I am impressed by the faith of this loving mother that a general conference talk could help heal the relationship between her children. I am sure that her confidence was not so much in the abilities of the speakers but in “the virtue of the word of God,” which has a “more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than … anything else.”1Dear sister, I pray that the Spirit will touch your children’s hearts.

When Relationships Go Bad

Strained and broken relationships are as old as humankind itself. Ancient Cain was the first who allowed the cancer of bitterness and malice to canker his heart. He tilled the ground of his soul with envy and hatred and allowed these feelings to ripen until he did the unthinkable—murdering his own brother and becoming, in the process, the father of Satan’s lies.2
Since those first days the spirit of envy and hatred has led to some of the most tragic stories in history. It turned Saul against David, the sons of Jacob against their brother Joseph, Laman and Lemuel against Nephi, and Amalickiah against Moroni.
I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment.

The Doctrine

Of course, we know this is wrong. The doctrine is clear. We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him. Christ’s Atonement is infinite and eternal. Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions. We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others. Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin”3 and “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”4
Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.
But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin.5Refusing to forgive is a grievous sin—one the Savior warned against. Jesus’s own disciples had “sought occasion against [each other] and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.”6
Our Savior has spoken so clearly on this subject that there is little room for private interpretation. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,” but then He said, “… of you it is required to forgive all men.”7
May I add a footnote here? When the Lord requires that we forgive all men, that includes forgiving ourselves. Sometimes, of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive—as well as perhaps the one who is most in need of our forgiveness—is the person looking back at us in the mirror.

The Bottom Line

This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
Stop it!
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?

The Love of God

Is this difficult to do?
Yes, of course.
Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart. But there is good news. This “mighty change”8 of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives.
How is it done? Through the love of God.
When our hearts are filled with the love of God, something good and pure happens to us. We “keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”9
The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.
As always, Christ is our exemplar. In His teachings as in His life, He showed us the way. He forgave the wicked, the vulgar, and those who sought to hurt and to do Him harm.
Jesus said it is easy to love those who love us; even the wicked can dothat. But Jesus Christ taught a higher law. His words echo through the centuries and are meant for us today. They are meant for all who desire to be His disciples. They are meant for you and me: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”10
When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving [each other], even as God for Christ’s sake [forgave us].”11
The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.

The Way of the Disciple

My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
Do you secretly envy another?
Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!
In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”12
Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.
Let us be kind.
Let us forgive.
Let us talk peacefully with each other.
Let the love of God fill our hearts.
“Let us do good unto all men.”13
The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that [you use] it shall be measured to you again.”14
Shouldn’t this promise be enough to always focus our efforts on acts of kindness, forgiveness, and charity instead of on any negative behavior?
Let us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, return good for evil.15 Let us not seek revenge or allow our wrath to overcome us.
“For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. …
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”16
Remember: in the end, it is the merciful who obtain mercy.17
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wherever we may be, let us be known as a people who “have love one to another.”18

Love One Another

Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect.19 People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.
The merciful will obtain mercy.
Of this I testify in the name of the One who loved so well and so completely that He gave His life for us, His friends—in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Should I Not Spare Nineveh?"

It is hard to believe that we are in the midst of 2015.  We are about three weeks in and I have found myself reflecting on one of my "life's resolutions" that I made for the upcoming years.

One of the struggles I have encountered through out my life has been forgiveness.  Especially when I was the one that had been trespassed against.  I have studied the writings of the New Testament where one should turn thy cheek and forgive 70 times 70 and "I Lord forgive whom I forgive but you are to forgive everyone."

I remember one day a sweet adopted grand-ma was having a very bad day and she decided to take out her frustrations on me, w ho happened to be the one who entered her room.  As she verbally started chewing on me I found myself wanting to defend myself.  Just as I was about to open my mouth this scripture ran through my mind, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  I was dumbfounded and just silently took her verbal abuse.  That was a powerful teaching moment for me.

A few years later I had been called to be the Teacher Development teacher in our ward.  During one of our classes I shared a story shared by President David O'McKay about how one will not jump into save a drowning person but will find a long stick to reach out to that person so that one could pull them to safety.  As I was sharing that story with the class another powerful lesson about forgiveness was going to be taught to me.

In my mind's eyes there was a person who had cut and wounded me very deeply who was drowning.  I was standing above him and yes I had picked up a stick but instead of offering it to him to pull him to safety, I was beating him with the stick.  Another powerful lesson for me that I needed to work on my forgiveness skills.

Years later a friend bought me a book called "The Peacegiver."  What a powerful book on the power of forgiveness and the Atonement.  It was within its pages I found the desire to make a new life resolution.

The author shares the story of Jonah, which really popped at me because for the last several months a trusted friend had been telling me to re read the story of Jonah.  The author explained to me the story of Jonah in a clearer light.  The author through a serious of questions caused me for one to do a lot of deep reflection which required some honest answers.

 "Have you ever fled to Tarshish?"
"Why did Jonah flee to Tarshish?"
 "To run from the Lord because he didn't want to go to Nineveh."
"Yes but why didn't he want to go to Nineveh?"
"Maybe cause he didn't like them."(page 92)

"Jonah did not like the Ninevites' and his reasoning was based on what they had done to his people and what they were yet to do his people."
"In Jonah's day, Nineveh was a major city within the Assyrian empire--soon to become its capital.  The Assyrians were a brutal, war-mongering people, feared by all around them....The Assyrians had been raiding the borders of the northern kingdom of Israel for years, collecting tribute from them as well."
"And Jonah knew from the words of fellow prophets that the Assyrians would soon destroy the northern kingdom and lead his people into captivity, which happened in 721 B.C."  (page 93)

"So how could Jonah work to save them?"  "Why would the Lord even ask him to?"
In Jonah's mind, "Nineveh didn't deserved to be saved.  And he, one of the aggrieved and mistreated, didn't deserve to be required to help them."    (page 93)

From my two before mentioned examples one can see that my attitude was very much like Jonah's and sadly I had to answer with an honest yes and had to look deeply inside to see that I too was trying to flee because I like Jonah did not like my Nineveh's and they did not deserve to be saved and how could the Lord ask me, the mistreated to reach out to them.  Powerful lesson for me.

The author continues to compare Jonah to Nineveh because Jonah feels "Nineveh doesn't deserved to be saved...but guess who else doesn't deserve to be saved?"   (pg 95)
Whether or not Nineveh is righteous is critical, of course--but only for Nineveh.  It has nothing to do with Jonah. And if he thinks it does--if he thinks he is more deserving because he is somehow better than Nineveh, then he in that moment becomes more 'Ninevitish' than the people he is blaming."
 (pg 97)
"...If he really is more righteous than they are because he will understand fully and deeply that he is entitled to nothing but hell.  At least in one sense, 'righteousness' is simply a humble understanding of how unrighteous one is, coupled with a deep commitment to be better.  The truth leaves no room for feelings of superiority.  Such feelings are nothing but lying vanities."
"...Relative righteousness means nothing.  Whether Jonah was better or worse than Nineveh isn't the question at all...Some laborers work longer, the Savior told us in one of his parables...Each person's payment at the end of the day has nothing whatsoever to do with the work of others.  We are each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.  And that gift will come to us only if we know in our hearts that we deserve it nor more than anyone else."
Our "fleeing to Tarshish is the persisting idea that we are better, more righteous, and deserve more than others.  The truth is, we are all, each of us, equally damned without the mercy of the Lord.  Eternal life is a gift.  I have no cause to feel entitled.  I have cause only to feel grateful." (Pgs 98-99)
Ouch....those verses really hit home with me and gave me a lot to reflect on.

We know that Jonah preached for 40 days to Nineveh.  The author told the story on how much Jonah "liked" delivering the message because he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed and was "Eager for the 'Ninevites' destruction,,,"  (Pg 103)  I still see in my minds eye me whacking the heck out of the drowning person who had so wronged me with the stick....I like Jonah enjoyed his despair.

We know from the story that the people of Nineveh repented and the Lord withdrew his sentence of destruction.  I don't remember reading in the story the reason Jonah was sitting in the hot sun on that hill but in the book the author tells that Jonah spent "24 hours demanding that the Lord follow through and destroy the Ninevite's and angrily he remained on the hill hoping to witness the "hoped" destruction. (Pg 103)

The author then brings up key points which causes the reader serious reflection:

"1.  The Lord commands Jonah to preach against the wicked Ninevites
2.  Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved
3.  Jonah repents and the Lord saves Jonah

3.  Nineveh repents and the Lord saves Nineveh
2.  Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved
1.  The Lord asks Jonah a question:  Should I not spare Nineveh?"  (pg 105)

The author then closes this powerful chapter with this thought:

"It's no accident,...that the very center statement of the book of Jonah, which appears in the middle of the center elements of the chasms, with 24 verses preceding it and 23 verses following reads:
'They that observe lying vanities: Has forgotten his own prior sin; he has forgotten the mercy extended to him by the mariners, who tried to spare him even when they knew he was the cause of their troubles; he has forgotten the ultimate mercy of the Lord, who delivered him even though he didn't deserve it; and he is therefore blind to his own 'Nineveh-ness'--to show he, himself, is Nineveh.  Failing to see mercifully, his heart, mind and eyes are lying to him.  All he can see is that he is 'right,' 'entitled,' 'deserving,.'  Observing 'lying vanities,' he is in danger of 'forsaking his own mercy.' And feeling no personal mercy, he is locked in despair."  (pg 107)

I am so grateful for a friends insight to give me the book "The PeaceGiver" and also the insight from another friend to study the story of Jonah.  I have learned so much from quiet reflection and the authors insightful insight.  In closing I leave this question open to those who read this post,

"Should I not Spare Nineveh?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"What does the Book of Mormon Mean to You?

With the New Year upon us I like many others have found myself reflecting on New Years Eve goals.  

During my reflection I had three thoughts pass through my mind.  
The first was to not make a "New Years Resolutions 
but make "New Life Resolutions."  

Liking the sound of that I found two ideas forming in my mind 

which would take a life time to achieve.

One came from a book I had just completed called "The Peacegiver."

The other came from multiple readings from the brethren in which I had this great

desire to obtain a greater love and appreciation of 

the "Book of Mormon."

Then I cam across Elder Scott's article 

"How the Book of Mormon Changed my Life."

His poignant question, "What does the Book of Mormon mean to you?"  

Struck a deep chord deep within me and hence my journey has begun.

May all who are Latter-Day Saints ponder 

and answer that deeply personal question, 

"What does the Book of Mormon mean to me?"

"The Power of the Book of Mormon in My Life

Richard G. Scott
One summer when I was a teenager I worked on an oyster boat off the coast of Long Island in New York to earn funds for college. The other members of the crew were seasoned oystermen, hardened by the harsh environment in which they spent much of their lives battling the icy ocean and raw wind to secure their catch.
To them, I must have been an enigma, easier to distrust than to understand. At first, I was considered a company spy, then a crazy kid who didn’t know how to “live it up” when we were on shore.
As I became more proficient in fulfilling my duties and attempted to establish friendships, they offered to show me how to become “a real man” by joining them on their all-night indulgences on the town. I thanked them, but declined, and the tension grew more intense.
The summer weather was beautiful and the ocean magnificent. We were engaged in relatively simple tasks, such as transferring small oysters to a more distant portion of the Sound where the nutrients accelerated their growth and improved their flavor.
Except when a dredge full of oysters was dumped onto the deck signaling a flurry of intense activity, there was much time for contemplation. While my deckmates dozed by their shovels, I followed the practice of reading and pondering the Book of Mormon. I cannot adequately express the powerful awakening within me that came from those weeks of studying the Book of Mormon under singularly unusual circumstances.
We slept in envelope-type bunks sandwiched into the restricted space between the ship’s diesel engine and hull. One night at dockside I retired early since it appeared that some of the crew planned to party alongside our boat. I was suddenly shaken into consciousness by the powerful hand of a deckmate, Toddy, a giant of a man. He was brandishing a hammer in my face, and his breath reeked of alcohol. Stunned, I realized that there was no way I could escape him, and I thought the end had come. Then I began to hear what he was shouting. “Scotty, get your fins and mask. There’s a man overboard, and you are the only one who can save him.” Fortunately, we acted quickly enough to avoid a tragedy.
That night I learned a lesson I have never forgotten. Publicly the crew members ridiculed me, but privately they respected me for my standards. The confidence that came from that knowledge let me quietly help three of them with some of the serious personal challenges they faced.
That summer’s experience with the Book of Mormon was the beginning of what has proven to be a recurring theme in my life, one that has given it dimension, purpose, power, and joy. I discovered then, and have confirmed time and again at crucial periods of my life, that as I read, ponder, and apply the principles contained in the Book of Mormon, not only am I strengthened with an appreciation for the powerful servants of the Lord that it depicts, but a conduit of communication is opened to me personally that crystalizes truth in my own heart and mind. Those experiences provide a basis for inspirational guidance that I urgently need as a husband, father, and servant of the Lord.
I would like to share some other occasions when the Book of Mormon has played a vital role in my life. I do so with the heartfelt desire that you may be led to similar blessings of inspiration and direction, if you have not done so already.
After I received my mission call, but before I entered the mission field, I had the opportunity to finish some postgraduate work at the University of Delaware. Each day I was immersed in advanced courses in thermal dynamics, hydraulics, and gas turbine design, but each night and on the weekends I would read and ponder the passages of the Book of Mormon and relate them to my forthcoming missionary assignment. Although there have been many intervening years since then, I vividly recall those sacred experiences. I became personally involved in the recorded lives of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, and other prophets as they struggled with the responsibility of sharing with others the marvels of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I empathized with the terrific challenges placed before Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni as they set forth on their missionary endeavors. The testimony of Abinadi burned within my heart. The conversion of Alma, and its effect on generations of sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven, taught me that no missionary can determine the lasting effects of his or her labors.
As I read and contemplated the pages of that marvelous book, impressions came to me of areas in my own life that needed strengthening if I were to become an effective missionary. Night after night, I knelt and expressed gratitude to the Lord for the inspiring examples of his servants recorded in the Book of Mormon, and for the growing testimony within my heart of the divine call of Joseph Smith and the marvel of the restoration of the gospel.
As a missionary, I learned the essential principles of the gospel from the Book of Mormon. At that time, we had no formal lesson plans. The Book of Mormon became my missionary handbook, study guide, and resource in teaching investigators. I proved to myself the literal reality of the declaration of Joseph Smith: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
As a mission president, the one source that I could always count on for inspiration for zone meetings was the Book of Mormon. In it I found words of the prophets that could express far better than I the deep feelings of love and appreciation that welled up in my heart for the choice elders and sisters that served with us. Alma’s words expressed eloquently my personal feelings:
“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God … and cry repentance unto every people. …
“But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.” (Alma 29:1, 3.)
Likewise, his revealing explanation of the growth of his own testimony communicated volumes of meaning when he declared:
“Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.” (Alma 5:45–46.)
I recall being uplifted during a long automobile ride with a fine missionary as we quoted from memory favorite passages of scripture. He helped me memorize one that has had great meaning in my life:
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27.)
Later, I wrote this note in my copy of the Book of Mormon: “An assistant, Andrew W. Peterson, pointed out this scripture. He is a choice spirit.” I was not surprised some years later when he was called to be a mission president.
Throughout that copy of the Book of Mormon there are special symbols and dates which identify specific scriptures that record occasions on which I had sincerely sought direction from the Lord in my life. I was lead to those specific scriptures, and because of them, received much needed guidance and counsel. For example: “And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.” (Mosiah 26:13.) Beside this scripture the note reads, “How often I have felt this way as a mission president, not to do what I wanted, but as the Lord wanted.” May it ever be so.
On one occasion, a missionary came to my office with a problem that troubled him greatly. As he spoke, I began to formulate in my mind specific comments to help him resolve his challenge. When he concluded, I said, “I know just how to help you.” He looked eagerly toward me, and suddenly my mind went blank. I could not remember anything I had prepared to tell him.
In anxiety, I began to thumb through the Book of Mormon I held in my hand until my attention was drawn to a very significant scripture, which I read to him. This occurred three times. Each scripture applied perfectly to his situation. Then, as though a curtain were raised in my mind, I recalled the advice I had planned to give him. Now it had far greater meaning, for it was based on a foundation of valuable scripture. As I concluded, he said, “I know that the counsel that you have given me has been inspired because you have repeated the same three scriptures that were given me when I was set apart as a missionary.”
This treasured experience is one of many that demonstrate how the Lord respects words recorded by his servants in scripture, and how he expects us to use them often to find the kernels of truth we need to resolve difficulties in our own lives.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball supervised our area when I was mission president. I observed how well he understood and used the Book of Mormon in his inspiring messages to members and missionaries alike. Especially meaningful was his use of the scriptures referring to the Lamanites, whom I deeply love.
Elder Kimball had a remarkable way of teaching truth. At a missionary zone meeting on one occasion, he said, “Richard, you used a scripture from the Book of Mormon today that I had never thought of using in that way.” That was the careful preparation for a very significant lesson he wanted me to learn. He then added, “And to think that I have read that book more than seventy-six times.” He didn’t have to point out specifically that I knew very little about the scriptures, and that I needed to spend a lifetime in pondering and applying them. That single comment has motivated me to a lifelong goal of increased understanding of the sacred word of God.
During the dedication of the Mexico City Temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley repeatedly emphasized that a new era was opening in Church growth and development in Mexico and Central America. Frequently during those sacred services I was impressed that the Mexican Saints would have to put the Book of Mormon to greater use to fulfill such increased responsibility.
I was asked to speak during one of the dedicatory sessions. The strong impression of the spirit helped me to say the following:
“Those who labored to prepare the Book of Mormon are the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven who have served, suffered, and given greatly to form the foundation upon which we are building the Church today. In fulfilling prophecy, they would say to you today that they are ending hundreds of years of preparation. This is the opening of a new era, the beginning of a tremendously important phase of the work of the Lord. They have done their part. They have prepared a people. You represent that people. In a very real sense, the responsibility for the work here has been transferred to the leaders and members of Mexico and Central America who live today. But these former leaders would tell you that you are not completely prepared to accept that baton of responsibility.
“I feel in my heart a pleading on behalf of many former prophets that each of you learn to appreciate the records that they have prepared and protected. When they see you walk from place to place with a Book of Mormon in your hands, or see it kept in your homes, and they do not observe you open it to read, ponder, and apply its contents, they are saddened. It is their history, prepared by divine assignment for your blessing and enlightenment. I want to tell you Regional Representatives, stake presidents, and other leaders present, there still remain false traditions in your lives and the lives of those that you supervise. I do not say this to criticize, but with a spirit of profound love and appreciation.
“By studying pages of the Book of Mormon, you will learn the messages that have been divinely placed there for you and your families, and for those you supervise. You will know how to correct the influences of false traditions. There are problems and challenges but they were all seen beforehand by the Lord. He has given you the way to correct these deficiencies, but they are of little value if they remain locked in a closed book. It is not sufficient that we appreciate it nor that we testify that the Book of Mormon is of God. We must know its truths and make them a part of our lives.”
As a General Authority, I have met with missionaries in various parts of the world. I have come to feel that many missionaries could benefit greatly from more devoted study of the Book of Mormon and more conscientious application of its principles in their lives. It is my personal witness that the Book of Mormon is the greatest missionary literature in the Church, and that we can significantly increase convert baptisms by more effective use of the Book of Mormon in our proselyting activities.
Repeatedly, I have used these words of President Ezra Taft Benson to help missionaries assist their investigators to overcome challenges that prevent their baptism:
“We are to use the Book of Mormon in handling objections to the Church. Here, then, is a procedure to handle most objections through the use of the Book of Mormon:
“First, understand the objection.
“Second, give the answer from revelation.
“Third, show how the correctness of the answer really depends on whether or not we have modern revelation through modern prophets.
“Fourth, explain that whether or not we have modern prophets and revelation really depends on whether the Book of Mormon is true.
“Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 65.)
My missionary copy of the Book of Mormon has been retired. The new editions of scriptures recently published by the Church are far richer in teaching aids. They now form the basis of my gospel study. Recently, however, I have been painstakingly transferring notes and observations from my treasured missionary copy. This brought back a flood of memories and a rekindling of experiences that are sacred. I found stains from a candle used to teach humble Lamanites in Quiriza, Bolivia, of the love the Lord has for them personally. I have encountered tear stains on some pages where the outpouring of the Spirit caused my eyes to overflow with gratitude. I love the Book of Mormon and am grateful to a merciful God who has inspired holy men throughout the centuries to prepare its magnificent teachings for our encouragement in this crucial period of history.
The Book of Mormon holds answers for the problems we face in everyday life. Consider these examples:
—If you have made a serious mistake in your life and Satan would have you believe that your opportunity for true joy and happiness is past, study the lives of Alma the younger and his companions, the sons of Mosiah. (See Mosiah 27Alma 5:3–62.) When the process of repentance is complete, you can rejoice with a new heart and unlimited opportunity for happiness as did Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah:
“Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?
“Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church.
“Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?
“Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls.
“And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.” (Alma 26:17–21.)
—When you are tempted to complain about the challenges and problems you face or the things you must suffer, please remember Moroni, who spent more than twenty years hiding from Lamanite armies that sought to take his life. Yet he did not complain. What he engraved on the plates was inspired counsel for us today:
“Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.” (Moro. 7:26.)
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. …
“But charity is the pure love of Christ.” (Moro. 7:45–47.)
—If in your personal life there is a temptation to take shortcuts and rationalize, taking steps that are not worthy, remember Kishkumen and the bands that he formed, or Gadianton and his followers, who sold themselves to Satan and in their greed and wickedness destroyed the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations. (See Hel. 6:17–40Ether 8:18–22.)
—If you have a tendency to be overbearing in your calling and responsibility, remember King Benjamin, who taught us how to preside with humility in the work of the Lord. (See Mosiah 2.)
—If you desire to have the Holy Ghost with you, remember the words of Ammon, who gave us a formula for obtaining the Spirit: “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God.” (Alma 26:22.)
—If you long for a close friend, remember the Savior whose love, tenderness, and compassion surpass all ability to express:
“The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
“And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father. …
“And he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
“And when he had said these words, he wept, … and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
“And when he had done this he wept again.” (3 Ne. 17:16–17, 20–22.)
The prophets have borne solemn witness of our responsibility to read the Book of Mormon. For example, Nephi testified: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.) Nearly every page of the Book of Mormon solemnly testifies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Redeemer and Savior. How fitting that its title page now carries the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
In a motivating message entitled “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 65), which I encourage you to read, President Ezra Taft Benson declared: “Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life.”
With characteristic candor, President Marion G. Romney counseled, “If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with … the things of the Spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by daily reading the Book of Mormon.” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 66.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “No member of this Church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon.” (In Conference Report, October 1961, p. 18.) Each of us should take to heart that sobering testimony.
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve consistently reiterate the vital importance of the Book of Mormon. Some recent declarations of this theme are referenced at the end of this article.
It is not sufficient that the Book of Mormon be found in our homes; its principles must be captured in our minds and hearts. Through consistent reading, prayerful pondering, and conscientious application, its teachings will become an essential part of the fabric of our lives.
What does the Book of Mormon mean to you? Has it been a source of inspiration and power in your life? Will it continue to be?
If you have not yet drunk deeply from this fountain of pure truth, with all of my soul I encourage you to do so now. Don’t let the consistent study of the Book of Mormon be one of the things that you intend to do but never quite accomplish. Begin today.
I bear witness that it can become a personal “Urim and Thummim” in your life.

Suggested Reading

Benson, Ezra Taft. “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God.” Ensign, May 1975, p. 63.
Benson, Ezra Taft. “Joseph Smith: Prophet to Our Generation.” Ensign,Nov. 1981, p. 61.
Faust, James E. “The Keystone of Our Religion.” Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 9.
Hinckley, Gordon B. “An Angel from on High, the Long, Long Silence Broke.” Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 7.
Hinckley, Gordon B. “Praise to the Man.” Ensign, Aug. 1983, p. 2.
McConkie, Bruce R. “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You.”Ensign, June 1980, p. 54.
McConkie, Bruce R. “What Think Ye of the Book of Mormon?” Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 72.
Packer, Boyd K. “Scriptures.” Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 51.
Petersen, Mark E. “It Was a Miracle!” Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 11.
Petersen, Mark E. “Evidence of Things Not Seen.” Ensign, May 1978, p. 61.
Petersen, Mark E. “The Last Words of Moroni.” Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 57.
Romney, Marion G. “The Book of Mormon.” Ensign, May 1980, p. 65.
Tanner, N. Eldon. “The Inevitable Choice.” Ensign, Sept. 1977, p. 2.
“The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon.” Ensign, Dec. 1983, p. 31.
“Testimonies of the Book of Mormon.” Ensign, Dec. 1983, p. 6.
[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert Barrett"