Well of Living Water
November 1973

“Well of Living Water,” New Era, Nov. 1973, 29

Well of Living Water

“Read the scriptures again? I’ve already done that for two years and made it through each of the standard works four times!”

Thus wrote a returned missionary after I challenged my institute class to read and ponder the scriptures twenty minutes each day for a month.

I suppose I made that assignment partly out of curiosity. I wanted to see if these modern young people could discover for themselves in a month’s time some of the power that ancient prophets found in the scriptures available to them.

Nephi wrote, “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and profit of my children.” (2 Ne. 4:15.) He also said that the words that he had written would be made strong unto his people, “for it persuadeth them to do good … and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.” (2 Ne. 33:4.) He further said his words are the words of truth, “and they teach all men that they should do good.” (2 Ne. 33:10.)

Following his encounter with Sheram, Jacob described the Nephites in these words: “And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man.” (Jacob 7:23.)

Alma described the effect of his words upon some of the people of Ammonihah by saying, “many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures.” (Alma 14:1.)

The four sons of Mosiah, in the midst of missionary work following their conversion, “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.)

The Psalmist wrote:

“O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

“Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

“I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

“I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.

“I have not departed from thy judgements: for thou hast taught me.

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. (Ps. 119:97–104.)

I used these scriptures to help my students understand that it was not enough just to read. Prophets have used the words diligently, pondering, meditating, and feasting to explain how we should approach the scriptures. Clearly we should read with careful thought and much pondering. Even when we are not reading we should reflect constantly on God’s word. The prophets have promised that this will lead to new spiritual insights and to greater righteousness.

The scriptures show us that we can ponder in two ways: we can meditate on the scripture itself, or we can relate what we read to our personal lives.

Moroni taught the first kind of pondering when he exhorted Book of Mormon readers to ponder in their hearts what they read. (Moro. 10:3.) Nephi was caught away in the spirit while he sat pondering in his heart the things that his father had seen. (1 Ne. 11:1.)

The eyes of Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith were opened following a studious and prayerful consideration of John 5:29. Joseph Smith stated, “… while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened. …” (D&C 76:19. See also D&C 76:11–18.)

The second kind of ponderings led to the Sacred Grove. The Prophet Joseph said of James 1:5:

“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did. …

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs. …” (JS—H 1:12–13.)

This kind of reflection can help all of us make commitments that will decrease darkness and increase light. We must ask questions as we read, questions such as, How does this apply in my life today? or What lesson can I learn from this?

I was confident that if my students would read the scriptures in this way, they would find in them the same inspiration that Nephi and Moroni did. I encouraged them to start with the Book of Mormon, feeling it would probably be the most powerful influence. Elder Marion G. Romney has said, “I am persuaded by my own experience and that of my loved ones, as well as by the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that one can get and keep closer to the Lord by reading the Book of Mormon than by reading other books.”

In order to evaluate the experience, I assigned each student to write a reaction at the end of the month.

Those reactions justified my confidence in the scriptures. The returned missionary who had resented the assignment wrote, “I have rediscovered an exciting adventure. I have once again astonished myself with the wonder of learning and understanding the gospel as it has been presented to us by the prophets. The gospel has become even more relevant in these last few weeks than ever before. I understand more clearly that faith and the strength of one’s testimony are things that vary from day to day and must be kept current.”

The other students’ responses were equally enthusiastic. It was apparent that scripture study affected them just as it affected the ancient prophets. It vitalized their prayers, improved their sensitivity to spiritual things, increased their productivity, strengthened their self-mastery, and changed their attitude toward life.

One student spoke of a more sensitive conscience: “It seemed to have a residual effect on my conscience of not letting me rationalize so easily . … Especially since I had become engaged, I had noticed that I was trying to rationalize a few things, play it close to the line between black and white. I don’t say reading the scriptures was the only influence, but I am glad for their influence.”

Several students spoke of a new spirituality. A law student wrote: “One significant thing distinguishing the past year for me is the matter of scripture as a means of maintaining spiritual sensitivity. The results have been so undeniably stimulating to the spirit that I am now confident that daily scripture study shall be a life-long pursuit.”

A girl active in her sorority found that scripture reading helped her stay spiritual at school: “Well, I decided that if I promised to read the scriptures for thirty days, I would do it for thirty days—which wouldn’t do me too much good. So I promised to do it for the rest of my life. That was about six months ago. I’ve almost read the Book of Mormon three times since then and oh the difference! It has made possible the thing that I have always thought impossible, which is to be spiritual during the school year.”

Some students who had never enjoyed the scriptures discovered what a delight they could be. Wrote one girl, “I have tried to read the Book of Mormon many times, and each time felt that something was lacking. I had to force myself because I didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. This year I’ve loved every minute of reading the scriptures. I now read the Book of Mormon every morning, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I thought it would be terribly hard to get in the habit of reading every morning, but it hasn’t been.”

Another wrote: “I am one who often used to ‘tune out’ when scriptures were read, not purposely, just automatically, and also one of those people who has never read the Book of Mormon. I started to read it two or three times but never got past 2 Nephi. … my whole attitude toward the scriptures and even the gospel itself has changed. Not that I didn’t feel a testimony before, but my testimony was built on faith and not scriptural knowledge. Now I feel that I have a much better understanding of the gospel and how it applies to me personally. Every time I read the scriptures at home or when we read them in class, I feel a closeness to God and Jesus Christ and more of a desire to do good. Even my prayers have changed, and I’ve only read through Enos.”

Students discovered that the scriptures brought them closer to God and made their whole lives happier. A boy living in the dorms wrote: “When I read scriptures out of the Book of Mormon, it seemed as though my whole day went more smoothly. I was happier with people. My life became cleaner. I would pray night and morning, which was hard to do before. I can control habits easier and ignore social pressures that are in the dorms. I really can’t explain the feelings I have, but all I know is that I feel closer to God.”

A freshman girl said: “It is amazing how quickly a life can change, especially when it is your own. Six months ago I would have said that any kind of a drastic change could not take place in a short period of time. But since I have been reading the scriptures every day my whole attitude toward life has changed. I once felt that the scriptures were irrelevant to today, that they applied to the days of the prophets of long ago. But as I have read and studied the Book of Mormon, I am amazed at the insight that can be gained by applying the principles within. I find a constant challenge to improve—not just the challenge, but the means by which I can work on that challenge.”

A returned missionary active in campus affairs found his life changed when he read and pondered the scriptures: “My reading in the scriptures was a fantastic experience—so much so that it will be only natural to continue. I can make a valid comparison of the changes it can bring about because I had a break during the quarter when I didn’t read every day (about two to three weeks). Before and since this period my daily reading was a longed-for thing—something that increased in interest each day. During those days my thoughts were clearer, my mind more at ease, my temperament with others more appealing and less offensive. But above all, my thoughts were cleaner and purer than ever before, and thus I was happier because my soul was in much better harmony with the Lord. During the period when I didn’t read daily, I did some regretful things, and my desires in prayer slipped. I believe meaningful prayer and scripture study go hand in hand.

“I thought I knew the Book of Mormon from my study while on my mission and especially after reading it several times in another language. But to ‘ponder in your heart’ is something special—something that can be done over and over. This is what I’m doing each morning now and am enjoying it immensely.”

The scriptures are for people of all ages. Young children can also learn to read, ponder, and appreciate them. A father recently assigned two of his children, ages eight and nine, to read four chapters from the New Testament each Sunday. At first they had to be prodded, but they gradually developed interest and even began to read on other days of the week. Soon they were reading before going to bed each night. When they finished the New Testament, they started the Book of Mormon. Within three months the older child finished the Book of Mormon and started it again.

The lesson to be learned from these experiences is clear. We owe it to ourselves to begin a program of daily scripture study. In that way we can experience the “well of living water” spoken of by the Lord (D&C 63:23) and the “Divine Anchor” described by President McKay. Shortly before his death, President McKay challenged the members of the Church to try harder than ever to be worthy of daily inspiration and influence from the Lord. Daily meditation based on the scriptures will help us feel closer to the Savior, his teachings, and his work. But remember, the more consistently we read, the more natural and delightful the experience becomes. A returned missionary writes, “A year after my return from the mission field I’m still spending at least a half hour daily reading the scriptures. It’s so much a part of me now that I can’t imagine my day going by without it. It seems as normal as eating.”

As the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.”

Illustrated by Richard Hull