“May the truth of the scriptures really be known by the power of the Holy Ghost?” Ensign, July 1988, 53
Newell B. Stevenson, a sealer in the Oakland Temple and Gospel Doctrine teacher in the San Rafael First Ward, San Rafael California Stake. The answer is, unequivocally, yes! However, when we speak of the “truth of the scriptures,” we do not refer only to the historical truths contained in them, such as the fact that Jesus was a great teacher, that his Apostles were fearless advocates for their crucified Master, and that the Israelite nation had a stormy history and was at times a nation of influence in the Middle East. Every student of the scriptures can seek that knowledge through study and research. But knowing the “truth of the scriptures” also means knowing that the principles of salvation and eternal life that are recorded in them are true.
Jesus declared, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) Thus, knowing the truth of the scriptures means knowing that Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for our sins and made it possible for us to live again with our Father in Heaven. Such knowledge cannot come from books or research; it must come through the witness of the Holy Ghost.
We can learn a great deal about how the Spirit reveals the truth of the gospel from reading about Alma the Younger. As a young man, he actively persecuted the Saints and their leader, his own father. But because of the prayers of the Church and his righteous father, an angel of God appeared to Alma and commanded him to cease his persecutions. (See Mosiah 27.)
We might think that, since an angel had appeared to him, he knew the truth. But he said, “Do ye not suppose that I know of these things [the gospel] 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 hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” (Alma 5:45–46.)
Even the appearance of an angel and his instructions to Alma did not give him the knowledge he sought! He gained his understanding not from the angel, but after fasting and praying for many days. Then—and only then—did he receive the manifestation of the Holy Spirit that the gospel is true.
Paul taught the Corinthians that it was only through the Spirit that one could know that the gospel was true. “God hath revealed [the truth of the gospel] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God,” he wrote, adding that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:10, 14.)
My father loved the scriptures and spent many hours studying them. He enjoyed talking about what he had read, and often tears came to his eyes as we talked about some exciting “new” bit of scripture. Among the earliest things I remember about my father was that he knew the scriptures and knew that they were words from “holy men of God [who] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Pet. 1:21.)
I also remember the first time I read the Book of Mormon. My heart burned with great excitement, and the Holy Ghost let me know that the things I was reading were true. When I reached the end of 2 Nephi, tears filled my eyes because of the great love I felt for Nephi. I know that the scriptures are true because their truth has been revealed to me by the Spirit.
As we study and ponder the scriptures and seek our Heavenly Father in prayer, each of us can, by the power of the Holy Ghost, receive our own witness that the scriptures are true. Then, as Nephi wrote, “he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto [him], by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (1 Ne. 10:19.)