What the Scriptures Mean to Me

By J. Stan Marquiss

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    What the Scriptures Mean to Me

    Because of it, I’ve become the spiritual leader of my family

    Some time ago our stake president challenged me to memorize a certain scripture: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (D&C 84:33.)

    He also shared his method for memorizing scripture. He would write on a card that he carried in his pocket the first letter of each word of the scripture. Then, while waiting for a stoplight, or whenever time was available, he would memorize the scripture.

    I have done as he challenged, and it has led me to read and study the scriptures. Now I actually study them, as opposed to merely reading them, which makes it necessary to research a subject in all the standard works. It has been a real joy to find different scriptures on similar topics written by different prophets. Their personalities and cultures and points in history come forth to add color and interest.

    But even more important, my sudden interest in studying and memorizing has had an effect on my family that I would not have considered. I feel that because of it, I’ve become the spiritual leader of my family. Our children not only read more but are trying to learn a new scripture each week.

    My testimony has been strengthened, and I feel more assurance in gospel discussions. I have become a strong advocate for study and memorization of scriptures because I have seen what it has done for me and my family.

    I never did find reading very exciting

    “I challenge you to read the New Testament in its entirety during the coming year.” As our stake president issued this challenge in stake conference that beautiful September morning, I recall thinking how wonderful it would be if only I could do it.

    I have been a member of the Church since I was eight years old, but I had never completely read the scriptures. In fact, I had often felt sad about how limited my knowledge was of the gospel I professed to believe.

    Also, I never did find reading anything very exciting. It seemed that my hardest part of getting through school was my slowness in reading. Although I did well in school, every assignment took me twice as long as others.

    Many times since my youth I had started to read the standard works, only to become bogged down after the first few chapters. So I had continually relied upon my returned missionary husband for answers to gospel questions.

    But the challenge kept coming back to my mind. At each stake conference the stake president reminded us again of the challenge. But by the end of May—eight and a half months later—I had read only into the book of Mark. Not a very good record, yet something had happened to me. I knew I had to read the New Testament!

    I soon found myself “hooked” on scripture reading. As the days progressed I began to find real joy in reading the scriptures.

    I remember the tears that came to my eyes as I read the beauty of the teachings of Jesus: the sorrow I felt for those who were bereaved at his death; the empathy I felt for Peter as he realized he had betrayed Christ; the strength I saw manifest in Paul as he traveled and was undaunted in the things he knew, felt, and taught.

    Yes, I accomplished my goal. And what a wonderful feeling came to me as I did so! In addition, other beautiful things happened along the way. I found spiritual things to discuss with my children; I showed my husband I could increase my knowledge of the gospel on my own; I found in context the many things I had been taught over the years; I proved I could start, follow through, and finish a task that in the beginning had seemed impossible.

    Best of all, my testimony and love for Jesus Christ increased. There is no doubt in my mind that he lived upon the earth, that he lives now, and that if we draw near to him he will draw near to us, to guide and influence our lives.

    The car drove on

    One Sunday night while returning from a district conference in England, where I was assigned as a building missionary, I noticed that the car was almost without fuel. The red warning light was burning, and I knew that only a few liters of fuel were left in the tank.

    Because I did not feel good about buying fuel on Sunday, I decided to wait until Monday. However, on Monday morning at six o’clock, I had to drive for two and a half hours to take a plan to my building project assignment. I forgot about the car until I started the long drive. The warning light came on, and I suddenly realized that the fuel stations would not open for two hours.

    There came into my mind a scripture I had read: “… he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do. …” (John 14:12.)

    I just kept driving, thinking that somewhere perhaps a fuel station attendant would be inspired to get up early to service me. Half an hour went by, then an hour, one and a half hours, and I drove on. When two hours had passed, I saw a service station attendant opening up. At that moment the motor of the car stopped.

    As the attendant filled up the tank, he said, “You were lucky. You were driving on your last drop of fuel. Your tank was completely empty when you drove in.”

    “Yes,” I said, “I know the tank was empty.” The promises our Father in heaven has given us through the scriptures have all become very real to me, especially since that day.

    I was expecting to prove or disprove the Church intellectually

    By April 1971, more than a year had elapsed since I started actively studying about the Church. Although I had read the Book of Mormon and had found, as Alma says, that the word was delicious to me, I was still very far from having a testimony.

    I had been searching essentially my own way, rather than the Lord’s, expecting to prove or disprove the Church intellectually. I had done a little praying and fasting and was working on the Word of Wisdom, yet I needed something more.

    During a brief vacation trip in California, I drove through the hometown of the missionary who had taught me while I had resided in Boston. I visited with his family for several hours, and I felt moved, when we were alone, to ask the missionary for a blessing.

    I received the blessing and returned to my room filled with the Spirit. I felt confident that upon opening the Book of Mormon I would find some scripture particularly helpful to me in my struggle to determine which church was true.

    You can imagine how I felt when I started to read in 2 Nephi, chapter 32:

    “Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

    “For behold, again I say unto you that if you will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

    “And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” (2 Ne. 3:4–5, 8.)

    These words struck my heart. They seemed directed right at me. I needed to be told about entering in by the way of the Lord; about receiving the Holy Ghost; and especially about the necessity of prayer. I pondered this message considerably and did my best to apply the principle. Some time later I received my testimony from the Spirit. This passage from Nephi set me on the right path.

    It seemed only one more burden in the marathon of church activities

    Recently I found myself becoming aggravated by things that had never bothered me before. I resented changing the baby’s diaper. I became annoyed when my wife wanted us to do something together as a family on family home evening rather than watch the Monday night sports on television. Home teaching became an intrusion on my leisure time, and stake Sunday School meetings became only one more burden in the marathon of church activities.

    I even noticed myself always calling on my wife to offer family prayer, rather than praying myself. It seemed as though nothing was smooth and special as it once had been.

    Then one evening just before dropping off to sleep, my wife asked why I was so unhappy. Of course, I denied being dissatisfied, but I realized something had to be done.

    But how do you change something that has you completely entangled within it? As I pondered my situation, the words of some scriptures came into my mind—verses such as: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:5.)

    I felt unworthy to approach the Lord in prayer. I decided, however, to pray until I really wanted to pray. Some time later I did become sufficiently humble to truly communicate with our Father in heaven in prayer. I soon gained the peace of mind so obviously lacking in my life during the previous weeks. It was a peace that brought a complete change of attitude. As a result, I tried to inspire increased family love and harmony.

    I have thought much about this experience, of what it means to have the blessing of the Holy Spirit with us at all times. This blessing, it seems to me, does not come from one awe-inspiring event or happening, but from an everyday struggle to obey the Lord’s commandments and to maintain communication through prayer. I am so grateful that the Lord has left instructions throughout the scriptures to guide us on these matters.

    A Jewish attorney finds the Messiah

    I am an attorney and was raised on a farm in Transvaal, South Africa, of Orthodox Jewish parents in a very formal Jewish environment. In the 1950s I married a Jewish girl, but something was missing in my life. Although I knew there was a God, I did not really know him. I regularly went to synagogue and I tried to run a kosher Jewish home, but eventually I abandoned this practice. Unhappily my marriage ended in divorce.

    Then on a miraculous day I met my present wife, Edwina. Early I found out that she was a Mormon, but I paid little attention to this. As time passed, I realized that I loved her more than life.

    But what was I to do? You can realize the problems that arose within my family because I was dating a gentile. So I decided that I should investigate the Mormon religion for six months, and thereafter Edwina would investigate Judaism for six months, and it would all be solved. We would be Jews. I will never forget Edwina’s smile when she said, “Investigate, and then we’ll see.”

    During the next months I spent many lonely hours worrying and reading.

    Eventually, one morning about two o’clock, I turned to the Bible. A thought entered my mind. I realized that I knew Psalm 23 well, but I had never read Psalm 22. As I began to read, suddenly there came a dawning in my mind. David was describing the crucifixion in all its terrible magnificence many years before the event:

    “They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

    “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

    “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

    “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

    “I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

    “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

    “But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.” (Ps. 22:13–19.)

    As I read this, I knew as surely as I live that Jesus was the Messiah! Can you imagine what this did to me? During the next three months I discovered that all my concepts were wrong.

    My whole life changed and I came to one conclusion: I was wrong. With this knowledge that the Messiah had come, I started to seek his church. I read the Book of Mormon in earnest. Yes, it was written “to the convincing of the Jew and gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”

    As I read I prayed. The Holy Spirit manifested the truth of the gospel to me. I went to Edwina and told her I wanted to be baptized. Later we were married. Now, at 41, I serve on the high council of the Transvaal Stake. I have never found in my entire life such satisfaction and purpose as I do now.

    “I” is in the middle

    I think all of us know that the scriptures can give us answers to personal problems and crises. But I have found it fascinating to find in the scriptures ideas for many other kinds of concerns.

    For example, while reading the Old Testament early one morning I suddenly found the answer to a simple matter that frequently vexed me. It was an easy way to remember how to spell the name Melchizedek. I had always hesitated when I wrote that name, remembering that there is only one i, but it seemed that the i was always coming up in a different place. That morning it suddenly occurred to me that the name of this great high priest has eleven letters, and that i is in the middle with five letters balanced on each side.

    It also reconfirmed for me the importance of recognizing that all of our Father’s children place themselves as the central point around which things revolve. Thus, when we can recognize the needs and concerns of all the I’s, while helping the I’s to be in the middle of serving others, life is in its proper balance.

    Since that morning, I’ve remembered how to spell Melchizedek, but more importantly, whenever I see the word, I recall this choice lesson on the purpose of the priesthood.

    “What would Joseph Smith have done?”

    While serving a mission in the Pacific Northwest, I read a passage of scripture that has had a greater influence on my life than any other single verse. I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and this verse struck me with force:

    “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. …” (D&C 135:3.)

    It occurred to me that this statement was one of the most fantastic accolades ever received by any man. To my mind that verse was, to quote Elder Hugh B. Brown, “a challenge to research, a challenge to check up on what you believe in.” So I decided to follow that advice.

    From that experience seemed to come an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the life of Joseph Smith. I wanted to learn of his parents, his brothers and sisters, his childhood, his friends, his interests, his personality, his life and death. My spare time became filled with books on the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    What has been the result of that drive? It seems as though hardly a day goes by that I’m not placed in a situation where I don’t stop and ask myself “What would Joseph Smith have done?”