One might ask why the doctrines and principles of the gospel are scattered through some 2,500 pages of scripture instead of systematically arranged by topic in a more concise text. To the human mind, such a text would seem to provide for a far greater economy of space and study, as well as added clarity. In His wisdom, however, the Lord has chosen to reveal His eternal truths through the interesting and memorable historical and personal accounts of the writers of the scriptures. This method of teaching powerfully presents and preserves the doctrines and principles of the gospel in the following ways.
Scripture stories pique our interest. Brimming with human interest, the stories of truth contained in the scriptures stimulate our imagination and draw us toward the gospel as no other work of literature can.
Our Heavenly Father’s dealings with His children, both the weak and the strong, are depicted for our profit and learning.
Scripture stories show us how to apply gospel principles. Accounts of real people and events have the power to bring abstract concepts to life. In a variety of settings, the men and women of the scriptures repeatedly demonstrate the application—and misapplication—of every principle of the gospel, including the blessings or problems that follow.
Scripture stories can both tug at our emotions and challenge our intellect. If we read the scriptures with only the attention and thought we might devote to a popular novel, we will fail to appreciate the richness available in our sacred volumes. We are admonished to search them, which suggests a thorough examination of their teachings.
Our searching must involve both mind and spirit if we are to draw the intended messages. As we do so, the eternal principles interwoven with the factual accounts are revealed.
Scripture stories help us remember the principles they illustrate. Associating gospel teachings with vibrant people and events helps us better internalize and recall those teachings. These stories are valuable teaching aids whenever we instruct in the home or in the classroom.
Scripture stories often contain “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” that can be identified only by those who diligently and sincerely search, ponder, and pray, spiritually preparing themselves to receive those principles.
For example, when we read of the tabernacle and its furnishings that Moses and the children of Israel were commanded to build in the desert in Exodus 25–27, it may seem pointless or tedious. However, when we ponder the symbolism of each aspect of the tabernacle and compare it to our temple covenants and ordinances, a new journey of spiritual discovery may occur.
The Lord has preserved and brought forth for us a marvelous treasure of inspired messages, wrapped in historical narrative. But this gift will have little value if we leave it on the shelf and do not study, appreciate, and apply its teachings in our lives. The Lord expects us to make a determined effort to study the scriptures—to understand, absorb, and delight in the truths they contain. As we study the lives of the people of the Old Testament, we will come to love them for their example and teachings, and we will be better prepared to teach others. If we are sincere and prayerful and strive to be worthy, our quest for greater gospel knowledge will be aided by the promptings of the Spirit. Our consistent efforts to mine the stories of the scriptures will bring us increased strength and resolve to be faithful and true.
The following three articles are the first in a series featuring stories from the Old Testament. We hope they will be useful for scripture study in our homes and Church classrooms this year.