By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (Mosiah 4:27)
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118)
Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears opened that he may hear;
For my Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite, and to the condemnation of the ungodly. (
Doctrine & Covenants 136:32-33)

These are just a few of my favorite scriptures on wisdom. They encourage me because they teach that we can become more wise than we are by being humble, calling on the Lord, and learning a step at a time. We don't have to go faster than we are able to go, but we must persist in our efforts. Wisdom implies applying what we learn--putting it into action. Sometimes that is hard to do, but when something is difficult, so much the greater our growth and improvement in accomplishing it.

What's your take on wisdom?


Monday, February 19, 2007

Thoughts on a Merciful and Long-Suffering God

Our Heavenly Father loves each one of us very much. We are individuals to Him and He cares about our lives and our ups and downs. He listens to our prayers and answers them (though in His way and time--not ours), and He wants each one of us to succeed in this life and return to His presence to live forever. I firmly believe these things.

I also believe that a merciful, loving, and long-suffering God is not an indulgent, anything-goes God. There are eternal laws that must be obeyed if we are to return to live in our Heavenly Father's presence. The laws and commandments that have been revealed to us in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, as well as what the Bible states, are those eternal laws. If we choose to obey, we will progress until at last we can return to our Heavenly Father. If we choose to disobey, our progress will stop.

Sometimes the eternal laws and commandments are at odds with the philosophies of men. That happens. There has to be opposition in all things. We must have choices to make so that our decisions and the paths we take will be meaningful and will mark our growth and maturity. Nevertheless, there are right choices and wrong choices.

Our Heavenly Father stands ready to guide us through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, has paid the price for all our sins. But we must choose to repent and return to our God in order for the Atonement to work for and in us. We must repent and sin no more and forgive others so that we might be forgiven and our sins remembered no more.

I am just as imperfect and struggling as anyone else. I have issues and problems. There are things that I know I should do that are hard for me. There are things that I don't yet fully understand. We all make mistakes, transgress, and commit sins of commission and omission. Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, reach out to us, call to us, comfort us, watch over us. They are ready with open arms to receive us. But we must go to Them, follow Them, work toward becoming like Them.

The laws and commandments do not change, even though some policies and prodedures in the church might change. God reaches out to us, but He will not change eternal laws and commandments to suit a few, or even to suit many. He is not subject to the whims of mankind. He knows what is truly best for us and will not indulge in feel-good policies that don't help in a deep and eternal way.

It is up to us to reconcile ourselves to God--not the other way around. God is merciful, loving, long-suffering, forgiving, and all good things. But He is also an unchangeable God upon whom we can depend--for mercy and also for justice.

In his book, The Promise of Discipleship, Elder Neal A. Maxwell has this to say on page 50:

Given our moral agency, God's long-suffering becomes vitally necessary for God to tutor us in process of time, encouraging the further alignment of our own desires with His. Even if such aligning finally fails to happen fully, God's mercy and loving kindness and long-suffering will nevertheless have striven with us, and the record will be clear. God's many specific entreaties will have been rejected because of our rebelliousness. Even though His redemptive arm was "lengthened out all the day long" (2 Nephi 28:32), it is often unnoticed, or turned aside, by many who could have grasped it.

God is Someone in whom we can trust because He doesn't change things from one moment to another. That stability is necessary for us to progress.

We should be grateful for that stability and do our best to keep God's laws and commandments, even when we don't fully understand them. I know I'm grateful and that I have a lot of work to do.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spring May Actually Get Here Someday!

We have had a cold somewhat icy winter in Oklahoma this year. Not as bad as poor upstate New York, of course, but bad enough for me to whine a bit. However, it is getting better and it looks like the worst is over. My hope for spring has been rekindled.

I have been reading some in a book called
Every Woman in the Bible by Larry and Sue Richards. It talks about every woman from Eve to unnamed groups or individual women who are mentioned in the Bible. I haven't read it all, but it gives some background and talks about what we can figure out from the scriptures about that particular woman. Interesting.

I do not consider myself a feminist, nor do I believe that the Church is sexist, racist, or oppressive. That does not preclude my interest in woman things. It is always interesting to learn what roles different people played throughout history, including what women did and what men did. Certainly, when one looks for role models through the ages, one often looks at one's own sex first. One reason I picked up the book mentioned above is that it is easy to overlook barely mentioned or unnamed women, so I wanted to get a view of all the women mentioned in the Bible.

There has been a series this past week on NBC Nightly News and also our local NBC channel about taking care of one's parents. This has given the personal stories of several of the prominent news people and has solicited stories from the public, some of which they will air next week. I no longer have parents--on this side of the veil, that is--but my Mom needed a lot of care for the last several years of her life, so I can relate to the good things and the problems arising out of the situation. I haven't gone over to the
MSNBC website, but I expect they have articles about it, if you haven't seen the series (it's called "Trading Places: Caring for Your Parents) and are interested.

I haven't been as faithful as I would like to be at reading other people's blogs. I hope to do more of that because I enjoy reading what others have to say about various topics. I've had a lot on my mind--work, a class I'm taking for work, health, the possibility of needing a new car, spiritual issues, etc.--well, you all know how it is. We all have various issues we have to deal with and sometimes they pile up a bit!

Happy President's Day on Monday!

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Because We Have Them Before Our Eyes"

In the June 2006 New Era Elder David Bednar wrote an article titled "The Message: Because We Have Them Before Our Eyes". His subject is scripture study, which is a subject that always captures my attention. Although written with the young folks in mind, this article contains insights and ideas that can help any of us, whatever our age, improve our scripture study.

In answer to the question of why studying the scriptures is important, Elder Bednar wrote:

The Lord has declared that it is His work and His glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He has established His Church to help in this great work. Accordingly, the grand mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to “invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59) and “be perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32). Thus, all that we learn and know and do as disciples of the Savior and as members of His Church is intended to assist us in responding affirmatively to this supernal invitation.

Coming unto Christ is not a single event with a fixed point of beginning or ending; rather, it is a process that develops and deepens during a lifetime. As an initial step in the process, we certainly must obtain knowledge and learn about Jesus and His life, teachings, and ministry. But truly coming unto Him also requires consistent obedience and striving to become like Jesus in our thoughts, motives, communications, and actions. As we “press forward” (
2 Ne. 31:20) on the pathway of discipleship, we can draw near unto the Savior with the expectation that He will draw near unto us; we can seek Him diligently with the hope that we shall find Him; we can ask with confidence that we shall receive; and we can knock anticipating that the door shall be opened unto us (see D&C 88:63).

One of the best ways to draw near unto Him and to both learn about and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ is to consistently study the holy scriptures—to daily “feast upon the words of Christ” (
2 Ne. 32:3).

That sums up the eternal importance of studying the scriptures. There is something else, too. Have you ever wondered if you would know the voice of the Lord and thus be able to follow Him, as it says several times in the scriptures? How do we know His voice? Elder Bednar writes as follows:
The scriptures, in essence, are a written “recording” of the voice of the Lord—a voice we feel in our hearts more than we hear with our ears. And as we study the content and feel the spirit of the written word of God, we learn to hear His voice in the words we read and to understand the means whereby the words are given to us by the Holy Ghost. As is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36:

“These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;

“For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;

“Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.”

How important it is for each of us to return repeatedly to the holy scriptures and thereby gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice. As we regularly study the holy scriptures, “Behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (
2 Ne. 32:3).

I feel encouraged that I can "gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice" and am therefore less likely to be led astray by false voices. If we learn to hear and feel His voice and are very familiar with His teachings and, therefore, what He is likely to say, we can be confident that we are on the right track, or "the strait and narrow path."

Elder Bednar then lists five principles with some commentary to make our gospel study more effective and edifying. He writes:

Principle 1: Pray for understanding, and invite the help of the Holy Ghost. The things of the Spirit can be learned only by and through the influence of the Spirit. Each time we begin a session of sincere scripture study, an earnest and humble prayer in which we petition our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son for the assistance of the Holy Ghost will greatly improve our learning, understanding, and recall. It is helpful to pray not only at the beginning, but to plead for understanding as you study. Also, I find it helpful to express gratitude for what I have been taught as I conclude the session.

Principle 2: Work. Gospel knowledge and understanding come through diligent study of the scriptures and tutoring by the Holy Ghost. The combination that opens the vault door to hidden scriptural treasures includes a great deal of work—simple, old-fashioned, hard work. A farmer cannot expect to harvest a crop in the fall if he does not properly sow in the spring and work hard during the summer to weed, nourish, and cultivate the plants. In like manner, we cannot expect to reap a rich scriptural harvest unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study. The scriptural treasures we seek in our lives cannot be borrowed or loaned or obtained secondhand. We must each learn to open the vault door by applying the principle of work.

Principle 3: Be consistent. Given the hectic pace of our lives, good intentions and simply “hoping” to find the time for meaningful scripture study are not sufficient. My experience suggests that a specific and scheduled time set aside each day and, as much as possible, a particular place for study greatly increase the effectiveness of our searching in and study of the scriptures.

Principle 4: Ponder. The word ponder means to consider, contemplate, reflect upon, or think about. Pondering the scriptures, then, is reverent reflecting on the truths, experiences, and lessons contained in the standard works. The process of pondering takes time and cannot be forced, hurried, or rushed.

The Prophet Joseph Smith provided an important guideline about pondering and reflecting upon the scriptures. He taught: “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” Thus, striving to understand the question that preceded a particular revelation, parable, or episode can assist us in obtaining a deeper understanding of the scriptures.

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) emphasized a similar approach to studying and pondering the holy scriptures in general and the Book of Mormon in particular:

“If [the Book of Mormon writers] saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’ ”

President Benson’s teaching helps us to follow the counsel of Nephi to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (
1 Ne. 19:23). Thus, asking questions about and pondering the things we have studied in the scriptures invite inspiration and the assistance of the Holy Ghost.

Principle 5: Write down impressions, thoughts, and feelings. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles frequently has emphasized the importance of writing down spiritual impressions and thoughts:

“You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being.”

Writing down what we learn, think, and feel as we study the scriptures is another form of pondering and a powerful invitation to the Holy Ghost for continuing instruction.
There is a lot of insight there to help us as we study the word of God. I was particularly struck by what the Prophet Joseph Smith said. “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” It makes sense that knowing the context of what the Lord is teaching can help us understand it better and know how it applies to our lives.

Writing a scripture journal can also help us focus and remember and we will have a record of insights that come to us as we study the scriptures--insights that are all too easy to forget in the midst of all the activity of daily life.

There is much more in this article that I found inspiring and useful and I hope that you will read it and see what you can find that will give your scripture study a boost, as well.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Scripture Mastery

Correction: The Scripture Mastery page is actually on the Church Educational System website. I got to it from the Church website by going to the "A-Z Index" and clicking on Scripture Mastery, but it takes you to the CES website. Just wanted to clear that up! Either way, you will find it.

The new church website has a page for Scripture Mastery. Having joined the church as an adult, I missed out on a lot of things that the young people study. This page has PDF files of the cards and also MP3 downloads. There is a link to a place to purchase the cards, as well. In addition, the Scripture Mastery verses are divided by which standard work they appear in.

The cards contain the featured verse, the historical setting, the doctrinal teaching, missionary application, and personal application. Very nice! I'm sure this is old hat to many of you, so pardon my pleasure in finding this!

Anything that can increase one's knowledge and understanding of the scriptures is a plus in my eyes.

From this same page, there are tabs for bookmarks, reading charts, study guides, and downloads. If you missed out on seminary, as I did, you might enjoy exploring this page for help with your scripture study.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Institute Manuals Online

Many of you probably already know that the LDS Church Institute manuals are online at the CES website. Still, it's worthy of mention because the manuals cover the scriptures and other important topics such as marriage and church history and family history.

One manual that has been helpful to me is Religion 150: The Gospel and the Productive Life. It gathers together some good advice from scriptures and from church leaders on getting one's act together. I also like Religion 430-431: Doctrines of the Gospel. It was recommended to me by grasshopper, for those who remember when he used to blog.

I have paper copies of a number of the manuals and have always enjoyed studying from them. The manuals covering the scriptures offer background and explanations that can help enhance scripture study.

I wanted to mention these resources because they are good for study or reference. Even if you took the Institute classes when you were in college, you might enjoy working through them again. Or using them to prepare talks or lessons or blog posts.

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