I take a text from the words of the Lord Jesus—“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30.) I call attention to three phrases: one, “Come unto me”; two, “learn of me”; and three, “ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
We have adopted for the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums of the Church and for all the prospective elders a system of scriptural study. It makes the Standard Works of the Church the manual for study by the priesthood quorums. We are inviting every adult brother in the Church to read all of the Standard Works in the course of the next eight years, and all of the lesson material will be tied into them. We shall study doctrinal matters; we shall study by subjects; each subject will be presented as taught in all of the Standard Works. But during each year we shall also read consecutively an assigned portion of the scriptures.
Now, all that the auxiliaries and the other organizations of the Church do in their teaching is tied into this same format; it is all perfectly correlated. Thus the Relief Society began the study of the four gospels, and we would like to issue this challenge to all of the sisters of the Church.
We would like all Latter-day Saint sisters to read all of the Standard Works, to ponder in their hearts the eternal truths that are found in them, and to get on their knees and ask the Lord in sincerity and in faith for understanding and comprehension and guidance. We would like each of you to read them, either by yourself, or with your husband, or with your families, and not simply read the words but ponder and pray about their content so that there will come into your lives the desires for righteousness that grow out of the study of the pure, perfect word of God. We would like the Church to start drinking at the fountain—undiluted—the pure, perfect message that the Lord has given by the mouths of his prophets, the message found in the Standard Works of the Church.
From my view, it seems a remarkably fine thing that we are starting out to study the four gospels, because they are the record of the life of the Lord. They are the place, above all other places, where we can fulfill this instruction, to “learn of me.” They are the source to which we go to fall in love with the Lord: and those who love the Lord signify this by keeping his commandments; and those who keep his commandments gain eternal life in his kingdom.
We want to have peace and joy and happiness in this life and be inheritors of eternal life in the world to come. These are the two greatest blessings that it is possible for people to inherit. We can gain them by reading and learning the words of eternal life, here and now, and by keeping the commandments which prepare us for immortal glory in the world to come.
Now, let us speak particularly of these wondrous books that we call the four gospels. They contain hidden and unknown treasures. We haven’t caught the vision and come to realize what we can get out of the gospels. Would it surprise you if I suggested that there is more knowledge in the four gospels, more revealed truth relative to the nature and kind of being that God our Father is, than in all the rest of holy writ combined? All we need to do is learn how to get that knowledge out. We need guidance. We need the Spirit of the Lord to direct us as we study.
You remember that Philip met the eunuch from the Court of Candace. The eunuch was reading Messianic prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. Philip said unto him, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” And he said, “How can I, except some man should guide me.” (Acts 8:26–31.) We need to be taught how to approach the Standard Works of the Church, and then, if we follow the simple, easy formulas that are provided, we shall have a new vision of doctrinal understanding, and new desires to live righteously will grow up in our hearts.
Let us consider the gospels. They are the account of the life of the Lord. The gospels tell of him. He is the Son of God. God was, in Christ, manifesting to the world the nature and kind of being that he is. It is life eternal to know the Father and the Son and to become like them. We know the Father by coming to an understanding of the Son. The Son is the revealer of God. No man cometh unto the Father except by him or by his word. We want to know the Father and the Son, and the chief account is in the gospels.
Would it surprise you if I said that there is more knowledge and doctrine about the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus in the four gospels than anywhere else in all the Standard Works? All we need is the key to unlock it. We can come to know how he proclaims his Divine Sonship with absolute certainty.
For instance, there is an account in which he heals a man who was born blind. He does it on his own initiative. He does it for the purpose of assembling a congregation. Word of the deed is heralded through all Jerusalem. Hosts assemble to see what has been done. Then, to that great congregation, he proceeds to teach, “I am the good shepherd”; that is to say, “I am the Lord, Jehovah.” In his sermon he says, “I and my Father are one.” He preaches a glorious sermon on his own Divine Sonship. And his words are attested as being true because he opened the eyes of the man born blind! (John 9 and John 10.)
The same thing is illustrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus comes and preaches a sermon; he says, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” In other words he says: “Immortality comes by me; eternal life is in and through me. I am the Son of God. I make these things possible.” And lest there be any question about his doctrine, he commands them to roll the stone from the door of the tomb, and then he says, “Lazarus, come forth,” whereupon the man whose body had started to decay rises and he comes out. This raising of Lazarus from the dead is thus a witness, for all the world and through all the eternities, that the Man who did it is the resurrection and the life; that immortality and eternal life come by him; that he is the Son of the Living God. (John 11.)
Let us take another illustration: After his resurrection, Jesus walks along the Emmaus road and converses with two of his disciples. He is made known to them in the breaking of bread. Soon thereafter he appears in the upper room to ten of the twelve (Thomas was absent)—and please note, it was to a congregation of saints, which, without question, included the faithful sisters of that day—and to this entire group, not to ten men only, but to the entire group, he says, “Have ye here any meat?” They bring him a piece of a broiled fish and of honeycomb and he takes it and eats before them. Then they feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into his side. You talk about a teaching situation. That little episode that occurred on the Emmaus road and which was climaxed in the upper room is the paramount illustration in all the revelations that have ever been given as to what kind of a being a resurrected person is and how we, patterned after him, will yet become if we are true and faithful in all things. (Luke 24.)
I am suggesting to you that we have a marvelous opportunity this year to come to love the Lord and to get the desire to keep his commandments and consequently be inheritors of peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. It is not reading alone; it is reading, pondering, and praying so that the Spirit of the Almighty gets involved in the study and gives understanding.
A few years ago I gave some rather intensive attention to the four gospels as found in the New Testament. When I had finished this study, using these words of John as a text—“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31)—wrote these words:
“And so endeth the gospels—
“Those sacred scriptures which tell of the birth, ministry, mission, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God;
“Those revealed records which teach with power and conviction the eternal truths which men must believe to gain salvation in God’s kingdom;
“Those true histories of the life of Christ which lead men to love the Lord and to keep his commandments;
“Those sacred and solemn testimonies which open the door to the receipt of peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
“In this holy writ, in these gospel accounts, in these testimonies of the life of our Lord—
“We see Jesus—the Almighty, the Creator of all things from the beginning—receiving a tabernacle of clay in the womb of Mary.
“We stand by an Infant in a manger and hear heavenly voices hail his birth.
“We observe him teaching in the temple and confounding the worldly wise when but twelve years of age.
“We watch him in Jordan, immersed under the hands of John, while the heavens open and the personage of the Holy Ghost descends like a dove; and we hear the voice of the Father speak approving words.
“We go with him into a wilderness place apart and behold the devil come, tempting, enticing, seeking to lead him from God-directed paths.
“We view in wonder and amazement his miracles: he speaks and the blind see; at his touch the deaf hear; he commands and the lame leap, paralytics rise from their beds, lepers are cleansed, and devils desert their ill-gotten abodes.
“We rejoice at the miracle of sin—crippled souls being made whole, of disciples who forsake all to follow him, of saints who are born again.
“We stand in awe as the elements obey his voice: he walks on the water; at his word storms cease; he curses the fig tree and it withers; water becomes wine when he wills it; a few small fish and a little bread feed thousands because of his word.
“We sit with the Lord of life, as a man, in the intimacy of a family circle in Bethany; we weep with him at Lazarus’ tomb; we fast and pray at his side when he communes with his Father; we eat and sleep and walk with him down the lanes and in the villages of Palestine; we see him hungry, thirsty, weary, and marvel that a God should seek such mortal experiences.
“We drink deeply of his teachings; we hear parables such as never man spake before; we learn what it means to hear one with authority announce his Father’s doctrine.
“We see him:
“In sorrow—weeping for his friends, lamenting over doomed Jerusalem;
“In compassion—forgiving sins, caring for his mother, making men whole spiritually and physically;
“In anger—cleansing his Father’s house, blazing forth with righteous indignation at its desecration;
“In triumph—entering Jerusalem amid shouts of Hosanna to the Son of David, transfigured before his disciples on the mount, standing in resurrected glory on a mountain in Galilee.
“We recline with him in an upper room, apart from the world, and hear some of the greatest sermons of all time as we partake of the emblems of his flesh and blood.
“We pray with him in Gethsemane and tremble under the weight of the burden he bore as great drops of blood come from every pore; we bow our heads in shame as Judas plants the traitor’s kiss.
“We stand at his side before Annas and again before Caiaphas; we go with him to Pilate and to Herod and back to Pilate; we partake of the pain, feel the insults, shudder at the mocking, and are revolted at the gross injustice and mass hysteria which hurl him inescapably toward the cross.
“We sorrow with his mother and others at Golgotha as Roman soldiers drive nails into his hands and feet; we shudder as the spear pierces his side, and live with him the moment when he voluntarily gives up his life.
“We are in the garden when the angels roll back the stone, when he comes forth in glorious immortality; we walk with him on the Emmaus road; we kneel in the upper room, feel the nail marks in his hands and feet and thrust our hands into his side; and with Thomas we exclaim: ‘My Lord and my God!’
“We walk to Bethany and there behold, as angels attend, his ascension to be with his Father; and our joy is full, for we have seen God with man.
“We see God in him—for we know that God was in Christ, manifesting himself to the world so that all men could know those holy beings whom to know is eternal life.
“And now what shall we say more of Christ? Whose Son is he? What works hath he wrought? Who today can testify of these things?
“Let it now be written once again—and it is the testimony of all the prophets of all the ages—that he is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father, the promised Messiah, the Lord God of Israel, our Redeemer and Savior; that he came into the world to manifest the Father, to reveal anew the gospel, to be the great Exemplar, to work out the infinite and eternal atonement; and that not many days hence he shall come again to reign personally upon the earth and to save and redeem those who love and serve him.
“And now let it also be written, both on earth and in heaven, that this disciple, … does himself also know of the truth of those things of which the prophets have testified. For these things have been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit of God, and he therefore testifies that Jesus is Lord of all, the Son of God, through whose name salvation comes.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 873–876.)
Now the wondrous thing about the system of revealed religion which God has given us in this day is, first, that it’s true; and secondly, that every man, woman, and child in the Church can have the absolute knowledge, born of the Spirit, the conviction that is unshakable and certain that Jesus is the Lord; that salvation is in Christ; that if we will come unto him, and learn of him, and keep his commandments, we will have peace and joy and happiness in this life and we will be inheritors of eternal life in the world to come.
We issue the challenge to all of the women of the Church to join with the brethren of the Church to drink at the fountain; to study the Standard Works of the Church; to read, ponder, and pray; to ask God for understanding; to get the power of the Holy Spirit into their lives so that each person knows, independent of anyone else, of the truth and divinity of these things, for out of that course comes the joy and satisfaction and peace that the gospel offers.
God grant that it may be so. This work is true. This is the Lord’s work. His hand is in it. He has decreed its success. It will roll forward, and you and I in time and in eternity will be inheritors of these glorious blessings if we will now do the things that I am sure all of us know in our hearts that we ought to do.
In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.