“The Blessings of Studying the Old Testament,” Liahona, January 2022
Welcome to the 2022 study of the Old Testament, with the Come, Follow Me resource as a guide! The Old Testament is a sacred canon of scripture that has been preserved by the hand of God for us to read and ponder. It can be a blessing and guide to us in these latter days.
The Old Testament provides us with a 3,500-year panorama of faith and devotion from approximately 4,000 BC to 500 BC. There are 39 books in the Old Testament. Genesis covers the four dispensations of Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. The remaining 38 books, Exodus to Malachi, are devoted to the dispensation of Moses.
As we read the Old Testament, we will become better acquainted with its prophets and their teachings. They taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. They prophesied and looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Their inspired teachings are preserved for our day.
As we read the chapters and verses of the Old Testament, we will be spiritually fortified. The Holy Ghost will bring to our attention specific scriptural verses that will be a strength to us as we look forward to the Second Coming of the Savior.
I’d like to share a story about how a single verse from the Old Testament has influenced me throughout my life.
In 1974, I was 17. I was enjoying life as a junior in high school. I was looking forward to my mission. In the October 1974 Ensign magazine, I read a powerful message from President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) titled “When the World Will Be Converted.”1 I have read it many times since. To this day it inspires me.
President Kimball presented a sweeping global perspective of the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this dispensation. He taught of our opportunity and responsibility to take the gospel to all the world. President Kimball quoted a verse from the book of Genesis. It inspired me then and it has continued to inspire me throughout my life: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14, which is scheduled for study in February).
President Kimball reviewed the story of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah laughed at the Lord’s promise that she and Abraham would have a son. They had not been blessed with children. They were now, respectively, 90 and 100 years old. They were well beyond the childbearing years.
“And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh … ?”
“Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:13–14).
Abraham and Sarah exercised faith. The Lord kept His promise. Isaac was born. Abraham became the father of nations.
“Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” This Old Testament scripture has strengthened me when I have faced life’s challenges or worries:
As a new missionary when I felt overwhelmed. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”
After my mission, when Anne Marie and I were considering marriage and were nervous about how to pay for food, rent, and college tuition. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”
As newlyweds, welcoming children and realizing the financial pressures of life. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”
Facing the challenges of graduate school, a growing family, and starting a career. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”
When I was president of the Spain Barcelona Mission, Anne Marie and I repeatedly referred to this scripture when teaching missionaries. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” Letters to our missionaries frequently included a reference to “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”
This verse of scripture is just one of many examples of inspiring verses found in the Old Testament. I am sure there are many that already inspire you. As we conscientiously and prayerfully read the Old Testament this year, the Holy Ghost will bring to our attention additional specific verses that will strengthen our conversion to Jesus Christ and His gospel.
The Old Testament contains doctrine and principles of timeless importance. It contains prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. It teaches us about where we came from. And it teaches us about the Abrahamic covenant, which is still in effect today.
The Old Testament provides a foundation for our other scriptures. The more we understand the Old Testament, the greater our understanding of other volumes of scriptures will be, because its teachings appear in those other books of scripture:
During His ministry, the Savior taught using scriptures from the Old Testament.
Lehi and his family carried the brass plates, which contained scriptures from the Old Testament.
Nephi taught Jacob by quoting from Isaiah in the Old Testament.
During His visit to the Nephites after His Resurrection, Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah and Malachi in the Old Testament.
The prophets and teachings in the Old Testament are also central to the message of the Restoration of the gospel in our day:
In his initial visits to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Moroni quoted from Malachi.
The Pearl of Great Price contains the books of Abraham and Moses.
Moses, Elias, and Elijah committed their priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple.
As we read the books in the Old Testament, we should consider that the books were selected, emphasized, and arranged in a particular way for a theological reason. We can appropriately ask ourselves, “Why was this information included and what purpose does it serve?”
While parts of the Old Testament may be somewhat difficult to understand, we should remember that it contains a richness that should not be neglected. As Joseph Smith taught, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). Surely we are blessed by studying the word of God!
It may be helpful in our study of the Old Testament to look for themes and insights. We should look for ways to better understand that the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. Jehovah is Jesus Christ. How does studying the Old Testament help us to know our Savior better?
Other major themes that I find in the Old Testament include covenants, holiness, living prophets, sacrifice and obedience, faith and repentance, praising the Lord, and God’s sovereignty.
As we study, we should remember that latter-day revelation provides us with a more complete understanding of the Old Testament. For example, thanks to modern revelation, we know that the prophets of the Old Testament held the Melchizedek Priesthood and that prophets in prior dispensations knew and taught the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this dispensation, we are once again blessed to know that prophets and apostles provide inspired teachings and counsel.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles first introduced Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families in the October 2018 general conference.2 This resource has been a great blessing for all of us. The last three years have provided for me some of the most profound and meaningful scripture study experiences in my life. I am sure that equal blessings await each of us in 2022.
President Russell M. Nelson said that as we transform our homes into sanctuaries of faith and centers of gospel learning, we will receive four specific blessings:
“Over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight.”
“Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings.”
“The influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease.”
“Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.”3
President Nelson’s promises are profound, and they are true. These blessings have become a reality and will continue in 2022 as we study and learn from the Old Testament.