Searching the Scriptures: What Do the Scriptures Say about the Scriptures?

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“Searching the Scriptures: What Do the Scriptures Say about the Scriptures?” Ensign, May 1973, 22

Searching the Scriptures:

What Do the Scriptures Say about the Scriptures?

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Ps. 19:7–8.)

So spake the ancient psalmist about the word and will of the Lord available in his day. In latter times the Lord has given an additional definition of scripture to his servants:

“And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:4.)

And Paul, recognizing the value of the word of the Lord, said that scripture “given by inspiration of God … is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16–17.)

The main purpose of scripture is to teach of Jesus Christ. For example, the Book of Mormon is sent forth “to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; … And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.” (Title page, Book of Mormon.)

Jesus himself frequently quoted the scriptures, citing many passages from Isaiah, the Psalms, and Deuteronomy. On the very day of his resurrection from the dead, he walked along the road to Emmaus with two disciples, “and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

“And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:27, 32.)

Later that day he said to the Twelve: “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:44–45.)

Philip, finding the man of Ethiopia sitting in the chariot reading from the prophet Isaiah, “began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Acts 8:35.)

Apollos was “mighty in the scriptures,” “fervent in the spirit,” and “taught diligently the things of the Lord, … for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:24–25, 28.)

At Thessalonica Paul taught three Sabbath days in the synagogue of the Jews, and “reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” (Acts 17:2–3.)

And while a prisoner in Rome, Paul preached the gospel to all who would listen, “to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23.)

The scriptures are important to us, for in them is revealed the plan of salvation. (Jarom 1:2.)

The sons of Mosiah “waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Alma 17:2.)

Paul explained that the scriptures “were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4.) And when the people at Berea “received the word with all readiness of mind,” they “searched the scriptures daily.” (Acts 17:11.)

But not all scripture is easy to understand. Nephi explained that many of his people had trouble comprehending Isaiah, because they did not read with the “spirit of prophecy” and did not understand the manner of writing of the Jews. (2 Ne. 25:1–5.)

We have been particularly instructed to “search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Morm. 8:23.) To the Nephites, Jesus said, “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Ne. 23:1.)

Furthermore, one scripture contributes to our understanding and comprehension of another scripture. Thus the Book of Mormon and the Bible “shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace” and bringing people “to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.” (2 Ne. 3:12.)

There will also be “other” books in the last days that will prove that “the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.” These last records, the product of latter-day revelation, “shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away” from the Bible through the centuries, “and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world. …” (1 Ne. 13:39–40.)

“… the Lord [also] doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue … all that he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8), “for I command all men, … that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world” (2 Ne. 29:11), and “the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written” (2 Ne. 25:22).

The day will come when the Nephites, the Jews, and the lost tribes will each have not only their own records, but also the records of the others, for a witness and a testimony, that in the mouths of two or more witnesses all things shall be established. (2 Ne. 29:12–13.) For the Lord has said that “the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God.” (2 Ne. 29:8.)

The written scriptures are invaluable guides, for as King Benjamin explained to his sons about the plates of brass: “… were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, … not knowing the mysteries of God. For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates.” (Mosiah 1:3–4.)

Furthermore, the Lord gave a commandment through Moses that the ruler of the people “shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.” (Deut. 17:18–19.)

Not all the rulers remembered to do this, and at times this neglect caused great ignorance and wickedness among their people. Copies of the scriptures also became very scarce. After some particularly wicked kings of Judah caused the people to go astray, Josiah, a good king, came to the throne. When a copy of the law of Moses was found in the temple and brought to Josiah, the scribe read it to him, and he saw how far his people had departed from the commandments of the Lord. Josiah then inaugurated a great reform and the whole tenor of the kingdom was changed, because the king learned the contents of “a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses.” (2 Chr. 34:14–21.)

Then “the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.

“And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God. … And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chr. 34:31–33.)

Likewise a change in the lives of an entire people came when Ezra “stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose, … [and] opened the book in the sight of all the people; … [and] read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. … And all the people … understood the words that were declared unto them. … And there was very great gladness.” (Neh. 8:4–5, 8, 12, 17.)

Contrariwise, the people of Mulek, not having the holy scriptures, dwindled in unbelief, not having a knowledge of the things of God. (See Omni 1:14–17.)

Reading scripture does not make a man a prophet, but a prophet makes scripture as he speaks by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Written scriptures, though very important, are insufficient without a living oracle, a man with the priesthood, a living prophet. Sometimes people “trust” in the scripture of former prophets but reject the living prophets. The Jewish leaders were doing just that: pretending to revere the words of Moses but failing to heed the words of Jesus Christ. For that reason Jesus said:

“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:45–47.)

This is also the reason why Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” (John 5:39.)

The Jews thought that they could get eternal life from the scriptures, but Jesus told them that if they would search the writings in which they had so much confidence, they would find that they testified of him. He was the living oracle, the prophet, the man with authority to perform the ordinances; and therefore unless they would come to him they could not have eternal life, even with all the scriptures.

Photography by Eldon Linschoten