An Invitation to Study the Doctrine and Covenants

Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast • August 5, 2014

 

This morning I made the mistake of cutting myself shaving. I was thinking very hard about this talk and not concentrating on what I was doing, and I cut myself. I told Kristi, my wife, what I’d done, and she reminded me of another couple that had a similar conversation. When the husband said, “I was concentrating on my talk, and I cut my face,” his wife said, “You should concentrate on your face and cut your talk.” That’s pretty good advice. I’m not sure if she meant for me to do that.

I am so grateful to be here. It’s just wonderful to gather together, isn’t it? I love and appreciate every one of you who serves in seminaries and institutes and in our primary and secondary schools. It is a privilege to be with you and to be joined by so many of our spouses today. Thank you for being here, and thanks to each of you for all you are doing to bless so many people around the world.

Last August I extended the invitation to encourage more youth and young adults to have a meaningful experience studying the Book of Mormon. So many young people have been blessed by your efforts. One released-time seminary teacher reported that 98 percent of his students read the entire Book of Mormon during the past school year. Many of you have had similar successes, in both the numbers of young people that you encouraged to read and in the quality of the experience they had as they studied.

I personally have read hundreds of letters from students whose lives have been changed because of their experiences. May I share with you three brief examples that represent countless ways in which students have been blessed by their study of the Book of Mormon?

A young woman named Ruby wrote: “This is my first year in seminary. Throughout the year I have seen a big change from seminary and reading the Book of Mormon. I feel my testimony has grown so much, and I know that through faith in Jesus Christ anything is possible! I have come to love reading the Book of Mormon and know it is true. I have prayed about it and have felt the Spirit while I read. It really strengthens me and helps me avoid the temptations that surround me. I love the Book of Mormon.”

MacKenzie said: “Living by the teachings of the Book of Mormon gives my life purpose. It has strengthened my testimony of the truths of this gospel and increased my desire to live a Christlike life.”

And this from a young man named Isaiah: “The Book of Mormon gives me a testimony of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, the Great Redeemer of mankind—without Him, all mankind would be lost. I have felt His mercy and can personally testify that He is the Son of God.”

I love these examples because they demonstrate that miracles can happen every day because of the Book of Mormon. These miracles include receiving the strength to resist temptation, an increased desire to live more like the Savior, and a deepened testimony that He is, in reality, the Son of God.

This coming year all of our seminary students and many of our institute students will now have the opportunity to study the Doctrine and Covenants. President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are bound together as revelations from Israel’s God to gather and prepare His people for the second coming of the Lord. …

“[They] testify of each other. You cannot believe one and not the other. …

“The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ’s kingdom, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ [ D&C 1:30 ]. …

“The Book of Mormon is the ‘keystone’ of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone.”1

The Lord Himself has commanded us to “search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophesies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.”2

Therefore, may I extend an invitation similar to the one I offered last year? Please encourage those students in our Doctrine and Covenants classes to read, study, and ponder this sacred book of scripture. Please help them to have an experience that deepens their faith and commitment to the Savior and to His teachings. A meaningful study of the Doctrine and Covenants will also deepen their testimony of His true and living Church, of His commissioned prophets, His priesthood authority, and His covenants that have been restored again in our day.

This blessing is especially needed in the world in which we now live. As the confusion and the philosophical clutter of the world intensifies, more than ever before our students will need to bind themselves to their covenants and to stay firmly rooted in the Lord’s true and living Church. I wonder if we might sometimes be tempted to testify of His Church with less fervor than we testify of His gospel. But our students will need unwavering testimonies of both His gospel and His Church if they are to weather the storms that they will surely face.

I remind you of the words of President J. Rueben Clark Jr. in The Charted Course of the Church in Education:

“There are … two prime things which may not be overlooked, forgotten, shaded, or discarded:

“First—that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, … the Sacrifice for the sins of the world … ; that He died; … that He was raised from the tomb a resurrected being. …

“The second of the two things to which we must all give full faith is that the Father and Son actually and in truth and very deed appeared to the Prophet Joseph … ; that the gospel and the Holy Priesthood … were … restored to the earth … ; that the Lord again set up His Church … ; that the Prophet’s successors, likewise called of God, have received revelations … and that they will continue to receive revelations as the Church and its members, living the truth they already have, shall stand in need of more; that this is in truth The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … These facts … must stand, unchanged, unmodified, without dilution, excuse, apology, or avoidance; they may not be explained away or submerged. Without these two great beliefs the Church would cease to be the Church. …

“… These matters … are the latitude and longitude of the actual location and position of the Church, both in this world and in eternity.”3

May I add my testimony to that of President Clark’s concerning the Restoration of the gospel and the calling of latter-day prophets? I know that Joseph Smith was, in every sense of the words, a prophet, seer, and revelator.

President Henry B. Eyring’s father, Henry Eyring Sr., once said to a group of students at Brigham Young University, “As far as [Joseph Smith] was concerned, everything indicates that he was absolutely convinced.”4 I love that simple phrase. I suppose the world will say what they choose to about the Prophet Joseph, but one thing is for certain—he was convinced that the Father and the Son had appeared to him and had called him to be the Prophet of the dispensation of the fulness of times. He was convinced of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. He knew of the reality of the priesthood and the restored gospel, and he knew that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom established once again upon the earth. His life and his death testify that he was absolutely convinced, and so am I.

Just as I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, I also know that Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and those who serve as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are also called as prophets, seers, and revelators. As I attend Board of Education meetings and am in other settings, I have the privilege of observing their devotion and their faith and witnessing their desire to serve the Lord. As people, they are everything you would hope they would be and more. But it is more than the fact that they are impressive individuals; it is more than their intelligence or their talents or even their kindness. There is a mantle; they have been called of God and are directed by Him. My testimony is continually strengthened by what I see and feel as I watch those who have been called of God to lead His Church.

So, again I invite you to take every opportunity to teach and to testify in ways that will anchor youth and young adults to the Savior and to His true Church. What better opportunity could our students have to deepen their faith in these “two prime things” than a meaningful study of the Doctrine and Covenants?

Now, may I add one other invitation regarding our teaching? I invite you to both personally and as faculties think and talk about how we might be even more centered in the scriptures we teach. As we continue to work on improving our teaching techniques and methods, we cannot forget that our ultimate goal is not to be skillful presenters or facilitators, as important as that is. Rather, our commission is to teach the scriptures.

To begin that conversation it may be helpful for each of us to ask ourselves: Do the scriptures hold a central position in my teaching? How often are they in my hands as I teach? Do I, as President Howard W. Hunter suggested, invite my students into the scriptures themselves and not just give them my interpretation or presentation of them?5

On a given day, for example, did we merely have a pleasant conversation about faith, or did we spend our time in class studying Alma 32 and 33? Or, in other words, do we sometimes settle for reading a few verses as a springboard into a discussion that invites the sharing of opinions, or do we intently and systematically study the scriptures together in order to discover and apply what prophets have taught?

Do my teaching methods sometimes distract from a focus on the scriptures, or do my object lessons, personal experiences, and class discussions point students to the truths that are contained in the word of God? Do I spend our precious class time talking about worldly philosophies and moral dilemmas, or are we having meaningful experiences discovering and applying essential, saving, eternal principles? Do I “sneak up behind [these] spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in [their] ears,”6 or do I allow the testimonies of prophets to ring out in my classroom in ways that energize and inspire my students? Together, do we come to know and love Jesus Christ a little more every day because we are coming to know and love the scriptures, which were preserved to testify of Him?

One of our teachers shared with me a similar question that we might want to consider. He asked, “If we wanted our students to learn about faith, who would we want them to meet?”

If Nephi or the brother of Jared or Ruth were available, wouldn’t we invite them to teach what they have learned about faith? If we wanted to help our students understand the blessing and beauty of repentance, and the Apostle Paul or Alma the Younger walked into the room, surely we would invite them to speak instead of asking them to sit quietly in the corner until we had finished our lesson. If we wanted our students to know how to endure trials faithfully, and Joseph Smith or Abraham or Job were in the room, wouldn’t we gladly turn the time over to them? Ultimately, if the Savior were to come into our classroom, I am sure that each of us would want His words to be the message our students heard that day. The scriptures give us that opportunity every day if we will simply let them be at the center of our students’ experience.

As a young seminary teacher, I had a significant moment that changed my teaching approach dramatically. I had just begun a class with some type of story or example when a young lady asked what part of the scriptures we would be studying that day. Before I could answer, another student responded with “He can’t tell us until he tricks us into opening the scriptures.” We all smiled, but the truth is—that stung a little. I already believed in the power of the word and in its ability to draw Heavenly Father’s children to it. I trusted my students and believed they really did want to learn the gospel and to deepen their faith. I believed in the power of the Holy Ghost to direct, comfort, and testify. But that comment by my student seemed to question whether my teaching approach reflected that I believed these things. I decided that day that my teaching methods would always be consistent with what I believe about the power of the word, my confidence in my students, and my trust in the Holy Ghost.

In order to be skillful teachers of the word of God, we must pay a price in personal study and preparation to master the content of the scriptures. We must identify, analyze, and prioritize essential gospel principles. We must understand the principles that govern the invitation of the Holy Ghost and apply them in ways that invite the Spirit to testify and to provide personal revelation. The approved curriculum, the fundamentals of Gospel Teaching and Learning,7 and the teachings of modern prophets can all help us do these things in relevant and effective ways.

May I conclude with one thought from the scriptures about the scriptures?

I was recently reading in Alma 37, verse 6, where it says, “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Have you ever wondered what the word this refers to? “[You] may suppose that this is foolishness.”8 What is “this”? Well, clearly “this” is that by small things, great things will happen. But in the context of Alma’s teaching, it’s more than that.

In the previous verses, Alma is commanding his son Helaman to keep a record, so that it can go forward to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”9 And we read in verse 8 that by doing this, the Lord will enlarge the memory of this people, convince many of the error of their ways, and bring them to a knowledge of God—to the salvation of their souls. To a relatively small and unknown group of people, with no technology to help them communicate, this promise must have sounded like foolishness, or at least highly improbable. And yet the record they kept has changed the lives of millions by helping them to know and love the Lord. By small means, the Lord has brought about great things.

Similarly, it may seem like a small thing to focus more on the scriptures in our classrooms. But if you want to enlarge the memory of your students, convince them of the error of their ways, and bring them to a knowledge of the God of salvation, help them to love and rely on the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.

To see evidence of this, we don’t need to look any further than to the example of Joseph Smith, a seminary-aged boy who was tutored through the pages of scripture in a time of need. Because of the words in James 1:5 and because of the power of the Holy Ghost, which accompanied those words, his life—and ours—was changed forever.

My prayer is that we will teach and testify of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His restored Church. And may we teach His scriptures with power so that our students will come to know Him and desire to be His disciples throughout their lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

© 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 1/14. “An Invitation to Study the Doctrine and Covenants.” English. PD10051052 000

Show References

    Notes

  1.  

    1. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 83.

  2.  

    2. Doctrine and Covenants 1:37.

  3.  

    3. J. Reuben Clark Jr., The Charted Course of the Church in Education, rev. ed. (1994), 1–3.

  4.  

    4. Quoted in Henry J. Eyring, Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring [2007], 298.

  5.  

    5. See Howard W. Hunter, “Eternal Investments” (evening with President Howard W. Hunter, Feb. 10, 1989), 2; si.lds.org.

  6.  

    6. J. Reuben Clark Jr., The Charted Course of the Church in Education, 9.

  7.  

    7. Gospel Teaching and Learning: A Handbook for Teachers and Leaders in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (2012).

  8.  

    8. Alma 37:6; emphasis added.

  9.  

    9. Alma 37:4.