The holy scriptures are the word of God given to us for our salvation. The scriptures are essential in receiving a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. The scriptures given to us by God in these latter days are the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These sacred records bear testimony of the Savior and lead us to Him. That is why great prophets like Enos cried unto the Lord in faith to preserve the scriptures.
Will you open with me the cover of the Book of Mormon? Look on the title page. We read that it is “written by way of commandment, … by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.” It has “come forth by the gift and power of God,” and its interpretation is “by the gift of God”—by the Holy Ghost. It shows “what great things the Lord [has] done” and has given to us “that [we] may know the covenants of the Lord,” that we might not be “cast off forever.” Most importantly, it has been written to convince us “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”
Turn the page again, to the introduction. Here we learn that this prophetic record is “holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” It contains “the fulness of the everlasting gospel, … outlines the plan of salvation, and tells [us] what [we] must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.” It promises each of us that “all who will come unto [the Savior] and obey the laws and ordinances of his gospel may be saved.”
What is the vital role of this sacred book in our day? What is its message regarding the purpose of all scripture?
On page one of the book of 1 Nephi—the very first book in the Book of Mormon—we learn that Lehi, in about 600 b.c., was directed by God to take his family and flee into the wilderness. But Lehi didn’t get very far before the Lord commanded him to send his sons back. Why? To retrieve the scriptures, the brass plates, which were so important that Lehi’s sons risked their lives and lost all their worldly possessions to recover them! Ultimately, it was the Lord’s help and Nephi’s faith that miraculously delivered the plates into his hands. When Nephi and his brothers returned, Lehi, their father, rejoiced. He began to search the holy scriptures “from the beginning,” and “found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth … insomuch that [Lehi and his posterity] could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto [their] children.”1
Indeed, the brass plates were a record of Lehi’s fathers, including their language, genealogy, and, more importantly, the gospel taught by God’s holy prophets. As Lehi searched the plates, he learned what all of us learn by studying the scriptures:
Who we are.
What we can become.
Prophecies for us and for our posterity.
The commandments, laws, ordinances, and covenants we must live by to obtain eternal life.
And how we must live in order to endure to the end and return to our Heavenly Father with honor.
So essential are these truths that Heavenly Father gave both Lehi and Nephi visions vividly representing the word of God as a rod of iron. Both father and son learned that holding to this strong, unbending, utterly reliable guide is the only way to stay on that strait and narrow path that leads to our Savior.
Several chapters of the Book of Mormon are devoted to Lehi and Nephi applying this lesson—searching the scriptures and quoting from them. Clearly they wanted their families and us to understand the importance of the scriptures, especially Isaiah’s prophecies about the Restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of their record—the Book of Mormon—in our day.
The Book of Mormon records how a number of civilizations regarded or disregarded the scriptures, beginning with Lehi’s own family. The Lord had commanded Lehi to flee Jerusalem because it was going to be captured by the Babylonians and to journey across the sea to the promised land in a divinely designed ship. But Lehi’s children were bitterly divided into two factions. Those who followed righteous Nephi—the Nephites—retained the scriptures when they departed the Lamanites, and “their souls were illuminated by the light of [God’s] everlasting word.”2
But Laman and Lemuel—and their descendants the Lamanites—rejected the scriptures and walked in the darkness of ignorance, contention, and destruction. In about a.d. 400, the Nephites also rejected the word of God, dwindled in unbelief, and were destroyed, thus ending approximately 1,000 years of Nephite civilization.
The book of Ether gives a history of a civilization, the Jaredites, who left the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel, approximately 2200 b.c. The Lord directed them to journey across the sea to the promised land in divinely designed barges. When the Jaredites were righteous, they were blessed; and when they rejected the word of the Lord and refused to repent, the Spirit of the Lord ceased striving with them. Eventually they departed from the Lord’s ways and destroyed one another in about 600 b.c., thus ending approximately 1,600 years of Jaredite civilization.
Lehi arrived in the promised land about the time of the destruction of the Jaredites. A few years later, still another civilization, Mulek and his followers, also came to the promised land. They discovered the last recorded survivor of the Jaredites, a king named Coriantumr. The Mulekites brought no scriptures with them; so about 400 years later, when Mosiah and the Nephites found them, the Mulekites’ language was corrupted, and they had lost their belief in their Creator. They did not know who they were. When the Mulekites learned that the Lord had sent the Nephites with the plates of brass, which contained the scriptural record of the Jews, they rejoiced and joined themselves to the Nephite civilization.
The fate of these civilizations, as recorded in scripture, is a testimony to all the world: if we don’t have the word of God or don’t cling to and heed the word of God, we will wander off in strange paths and be lost as individuals, as families, and as nations.
As with voices from the dust, the prophets of the Lord cry out to us on earth today: take hold of the scriptures! Cling to them, walk by them, live by them, rejoice in them, feast on them. Don’t nibble. They are “the power of God unto salvation”3 that lead us back to our Savior Jesus Christ.
If the Savior were among us in the flesh today, He would teach us from the scriptures as He taught when He walked upon the earth. In the synagogue at Nazareth, “there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. … And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”4 Later when the Sadducees and Pharisees posed a difficult question, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”5 And after His Resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, His disciples “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?”6 To His disciples then and now, His words ring out: “Search the scriptures; for … they are they which testify of me”7—a testimony borne by the Holy Ghost, for “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”8
Brothers and sisters, I testify that the scriptures have been “kept and preserved [for us] by the hand of the Lord … for a wise purpose in him.”9 Lehi prophesied, “These plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.”10 The Lord covenanted with Enos to preserve and bring forth the scriptures “in his … due time.”11 Of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni recorded, it was “written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed.”12 The scriptures which we have give prophecies and promises, and they have been fulfilled in our day.
What a glorious blessing! For when we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline. Behind the darkness of the Iron Curtain, the Saints survived because they heard His voice through the scriptures. In other parts of the world, when members couldn’t attend Church for a time, they continued to worship God because they heard His voice through the scriptures. Throughout all the wars of the past century and the conflicts that rage today, Latter-day Saints survive because they hear His voice through the scriptures. For the Lord has said, “The scriptures shall be given … to the salvation of mine own elect; for they will hear my voice, and shall see me, and shall not be asleep, and shall abide the day of my coming; for they shall be purified, even as I am pure.”13
Over two millennia ago, Isaiah wrote of the word of God, “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.”14 That time is now. This world needs the scriptures today. Before the coming of the Savior, it was necessary that all God’s children be tutored in the preparatory law of Moses, which allowed “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”15 Many in this world still live by that fearsome code, and the evidence of it is around us.
We boldly declare that the answer to the terror, destruction, and even genocide of these last days is found in the scriptures. The gospel in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. The prophecies in the Bible came to pass in the Book of Mormon. The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price bear witness of the fulness of the gospel which is now upon the earth.
From Genesis to Malachi and from Moses to Abraham, it was prophesied the Savior would come. From the books of Matthew to Revelation, from Nephi to Moroni, and from Joseph Smith to our beloved living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, the prophets all testify that Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, has come and will come again. In Him “old things are done away, and all things have become new.”16 Through the holy scriptures, His new and everlasting gospel proclaims: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”17 “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”18 “Of you it is required to forgive all men.”19 For this is the gospel of our Savior, who is anointed “to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and … to set at liberty them that are bruised.”20
At the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni figuratively looks out over the last remnant of his people. He knew their extinction could have been avoided if they had not forgotten God’s holy word and lost the Spirit of the Lord. Is it any wonder that Moroni writes personally to us, to you and to me, pleading for us to claim the blessings of the scriptures?
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”21
We are living in the latter days, brothers and sisters, in the fulness of times. We must remember that we have control over who we are no matter how difficult the world becomes. Like those in 1 Nephi, the true and faithful will be able to withstand the fiery darts of the adversary when he is loosed upon this earth.22 Despite all the turmoil in the world, when the Savior comes to His temple, as He did in the Book of Mormon, those who are true and faithful will be there. May we be among them, I so pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.