“Feasting upon the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 42
On behalf of the First Presidency of the Church, I thank all who have had a part—and they are many—in the production of new editions of our standard works with their valuable study helps. All of this work has been done during the period that President Spencer W. Kimball has been serving as President of the Church.
He has encouraged this work from the beginning, and one of the most significant items in the new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is the important revelation on the priesthood which came through him as prophet in 1978.
The new editions have been available to us for some time now—the Bible since 1979, and the Triple Combination since 1981. Scores of thousands of copies have been sold, and they have stood the test of careful scrutiny. But this is not enough. We need to read and use the new editions more. They contain much helpful information which, if used, will lead us to greater understanding of the contents of the scriptures. The Topical Guide, Dictionary, and maps included in these new editions will be most helpful to the thoughtful reader.
Of course, concordances and dictionaries are not new. Excellent ones have been around for a long time. I have used Alexander Cruden’s Concordance of the Bible for some thirty-five years. First published in 1737, it contains over 220,000 references to the King James Version of the Bible. I value it as an old and trusted friend.
I also treasure my first edition of the Concordance of the Book of Mormon, which was printed in 1900. It represents twenty years of devoted labor on the part of George Reynolds. The volume which I have is now eighty-five years old. It was my father’s. He used it much, as have I. I love the feel of its old leather cover. As I use it I can sense the pride of its compiler, who paid so heavy a price for his testimony of the gospel.
I have a concordance to the Doctrine and Covenants that is also a first edition. It goes back forty years, having been first published in 1945. But that publication represented the work of the author, off and on, during the sixty years before its publication. John V. Bluth began this work while serving as a missionary a century ago in the Southern States. I knew him in his later years, and in my mind I can still see him as he was when he worked in the Church Historian’s Office, during which time he completed the work.
I love these old friends of mine—these concordances of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I am familiar with them and have used them for a long time. I hope to use them as long as I have sight to read. They are essentially complete in their listing of words used in the scriptures they represent.
I also have Bible dictionaries, including a small but rather good one, and another more substantial volume on the personalities and lands of the New Testament, along with a number of maps.
All these concordances and dictionaries have been of great value to me over the years. But they contain more than is needed for day-to-day study of the scriptures. They also lack some important things, including cross-referencing. Each book is independently tied to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants. These, with the Pearl of Great Price, are the standard works of the Church. One who studies needs to find not only the word of the Lord on a particular subject as set forth in the Bible, but also in the Book of Mormon, in modern revelation, and in the writings found in the Pearl of Great Price.
The concordances also lack explanatory notes and references on many topics that are of interest to even the most casual student. Consequently, students must also go to dictionaries and commentaries if they are puzzled over terms, personalities, or places.
The essential elements of all these are now included in the new editions of our scriptures. The new features in the new editions are not exhaustive, but they are detailed enough and complete enough for most uses. They can be of tremendous help, and they will be if they are used.
Any tools that assist in the reading and studying of the scriptures are useful and are likely to promote familiarity with these sacred volumes. Such activity invariably will lead to an increase not only of knowledge, but also of faith.
I love our scriptures. I love these wonderful volumes, which set forth the word of the Lord—given personally or through prophets—for the guidance of our Father’s sons and daughters. I love to read the scriptures, and I try to do so consistently and repeatedly. I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say. I do not claim distinction as a scholar of the scriptures. For me, the reading of the scriptures is not the pursuit of scholarship. Rather, it is a love affair with the word of the Lord and that of his prophets. They contain so much for each of us.
For instance, I love the mercy of the Lord as I read of mercy and forgiveness, which run as a thread of gold through the fabric of all our scriptures. I begin with the invitation given in Isaiah: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18.) I find that same wonderful element in what I regard as the most beautiful and touching of stories ever told—the parable of the prodigal son as given in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. This parable is a marvelous lesson on mercy for every parent, and an even greater lesson on the mercy of our Father toward his wayward sons and daughters.
The same spirit of forgiveness and mercy is found repeatedly throughout the Book of Mormon. For instance, Nephi declared that the Lord “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Ne. 26:33.)
The same thread of love and forgiveness runs through modern revelation. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42.) If only we, when we have forgiven, might forget forever the trespass committed against us!
I love the mercy of the Lord as it is set forth in his declarations and in the declarations of his prophets. It is an interesting and fruitful exercise to review the many references in the Topical Guide to forgiveness and mercy.
I love the covenants of the Lord as he has spoken them to his people—the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—with whom he covenanted that he would be their God and they should be his people.
The thread of that covenant runs through the Book of Mormon. The covenant was reaffirmed in this dispensation when the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the preface of what has become the book of Doctrine and Covenants. Setting forth the purposes of this restoration, the Lord named among them: “That mine everlasting covenant might be established.” (D&C 1:22.)
We are a covenant people. We have entered into contract with God our Eternal Father. We have taken upon ourselves the name of his Beloved Son and agreed to keep his commandments. He has covenanted with us that we should be his sons and daughters, that he should be as a shepherd to us, and that we should have his Holy Spirit to abide with us. I love to read of those great everlasting promises as they are set forth in our scriptures.
I love to read of the atonement of my Redeemer. It was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. It was promised by the prophets of the Book of Mormon. It was realized in the matchless life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God as set forth in the four Gospels of the Bible. It was testified to by the writers of the Epistles. It was witnessed on this continent and recorded in the Book of Mormon. It has been repeatedly reaffirmed through modern revelation as recorded in that which came through the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who have followed him.
As I read these sacred volumes I marvel at the wonder and the majesty of the Almighty God and his Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the writers of these testaments sing the praises of God our Father and of our Redeemer. The scriptures testify of the Father and the Son—of their majesty and wonder. The scriptures invite all to come unto the Father and the Son and to find peace and strength in that union between God and man. This, to me, is the essence of these great books of light and truth—the consistency of which becomes more evident through the use of the tools available to us.
I love the King James Version of the Bible. I love the lift of the language, the depth and the height of its words, and the strength and the grace of its expressions.
I delight in the spirit and the language of the Book of Mormon. The words of Nephi find fulfillment in my soul as I read them. Long ago he wrote: “And upon these [plates] I write the things of my soul. …
For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.” (2 Ne. 4:15.)
I love the words of modern revelation: “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
“For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever.” (D&C 1:37–39.)
I have read these great and singular volumes again and again. As I have pondered their words there has come, by the power of the Holy Ghost, a witness of their truth and divinity.
I do not concern myself much with reading long commentary volumes designed to enlarge at length upon that which is found in the scriptures. Rather, I prefer to dwell with the source, tasting of the unadulterated waters of the fountain of truth—the word of God as he gave it and as it has been recorded in the books we accept as scripture. Where there are questions, or where cross-referencing will help, the tools in the new editions will be invaluable. Through reading the scriptures, we can gain the assurance of the Spirit that that which we read has come of God for the enlightenment, blessing, and joy of his children.
I urge our people everywhere to read the scriptures more—to study all of them together with the help of these tremendous aids for a harmony of understanding in order to bring their precepts into our lives.
May the Lord bless each of us to feast upon his holy word and to draw from it that strength, that peace, that knowledge “which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7), as he has promised.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. The General Authorities are asking us to read and study the new LDS editions of scripture.
2. The cross-references, Topical Guide, index, chapter summaries, introductions, dictionary, maps, and other aids will be of great help to thoughtful readers.
3. The scriptures testify of the Father and the Son, of their majesty and love, and of the blessing of the Savior’s atonement for each of us.
4. The scriptures can give peace and strength to each of us.
1. Relate your personal feelings about the value of scripture study in our lives. Ask family members to share their feelings.
2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?