Several years ago Sister Funk attended the marriage of a niece in the Cardston Alberta Temple. While in southern Canada, she had the opportunity to hike to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park. As she told me of that beautiful but challenging climb to the lake, she described a part of the hike where it was necessary to climb up a rock wall along the face of a cliff. If a hiker slipped, they could fall hundreds of feet. Fortunately, a metal cable was firmly attached to the mountain for hikers to hold onto as they made their way through that treacherous part of the journey.
As Sister Funk described this experience, she said she could not have reached the lake and enjoyed the beauty of that experience without the safety of the metal cable. She continually held onto that iron rod so she could safely reach her destination – a destination that was well worth the effort.
Together we observed the comparison of that experience with our journey through mortal life. Our loving Heavenly Father has provided this beautiful earth for us. With our mortal body we can enjoy many wonderful experiences. Because He knew it would be difficult and treacherous at times, however, He provided a rod of iron for us to hold onto during our journey. That iron rod is the word of God, as revealed to prophets, seers and revelators anciently and in our day.
Early in the Book of Mormon we learn of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.”[i] In the vision, there were three groups of people who were pressing forward toward the tree. The first commenced on the path, but then lost their way.[ii] The second caught hold of the rod and came and partook of the fruit of the tree, but then “cast their eyes about as if ashamed” and “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.”[iii]
I have observed a similar response among two groups of people. The first are those who become interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ and seem eager to learn, but never read the Book of Mormon. Usually, they fail to progress toward the covenant of baptism and eventually lose interest.
The second are those who begin to read, receive a witness of the truth and enter the waters of baptism, but then fail to continue feasting upon the word of God. They do not develop deep roots. They are like those the Savior described in the parable of the sower. They spring up but because they have no root, they endure but for a time and when affliction or persecution comes “immediately they are offended.”[iv]
The third group consists of those who “did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.”[v] Notice that this group continually held fast to the iron rod. As Elder David A. Bednar said, “This is the group you and I should strive to join.”[vi]continually
Nephi learned that the iron rod was “the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or the tree of life” which “was a representation of the love of God.”[vii]
Let me describe three important ways that regular, consistent study and searching of the scriptures can help us in our strivings to stay on the path that brings us closer to God.
The first is that consistent, regular study of the scriptures will help us feel the Spirit of the Lord. We learn this in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon. As Lehi prayed “in behalf of his people” he had a vision in which “he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven” with “twelve others following him” and they “gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.”[viii] We, too, will feel the Spirit as we read from the scriptures.
Second, as we ponder the scriptures, we receive inspiration. On the day before General Conference in October 1918, President Joseph F. Smith was preparing for conference. World War I was ending but many more were dying from a pandemic influenza. There are many things the president of the Church could have been doing on that day, but Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants describes what he did: “I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures.”[ix] As he did so, reflecting on the great atoning sacrifice of the Savior and the love of the Father and the Son, he recalled the words of Peter in the New Testament and turned to read them. President Smith recorded: “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me…”[x] He then received an important revelation on how the gospel would be taught to those in the spirit world.
We will not receive revelations for the Church, but we can obtain answers to our prayers and guidance in every aspect of our life as we follow that pattern of pondering over the scriptures. It is valuable to read through the scriptures, but I have found it to be a particularly revelatory experience to “ponder over the scriptures” and allow my pondering to take me to the teachings the Spirit would guide me to at that time.
A third blessing is contained in Moroni’s promise at the end of the Book of Mormon. Moroni exhorts us to read, remember and ponder the teaching of the book and then to ask God with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ if it is true. He promises “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”[xi]
The Introduction to the Book of Mormon summarizes this exhortation and states, “Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its [the Book of Mormon’s] truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Then adds: “Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth….”
Our loving Heavenly Father has created a beautiful world for us to live in; however, it is not without difficult and challenging trails to climb. Because of His love for us, He has provided a rod of iron – the scriptures and words of living prophets. As we continually hold fast to the word of God, we can feel of His love, gain needed inspiration, deepen our conversion, and safely reach our destination of eternal life. .■
[i] 1 Nephi 8:10
[ii] See 1 Nephi 8:21-23
[iii] See 1 Nephi 8:24-28
[iv] Mark 4:17
[v] 1 Nephi 8:30
[vi] See David A. Bednar, “A Reservoir of Living Water,” (Church Educational System fireside for young adults, February 4, 2007), lds.org/broadcasts/archive/ces-devotionals/2007/01
[vii] 1 Nephi 11:25
[viii] See 1 Nephi 1:5, 9-12
[ix] Doctrine and Covenants 138:1
[x] Doctrine and Covenants 139:11
[xi] Moroni 10:5