Feasting on the Word

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Three members share insights discovered during regular scripture study.

The word of the Lord in the scriptures is like a lamp to guide our feet (see Ps. 119:105), and revelation is like a mighty force that increases the lamp’s illumination manyfold,” says Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We encourage everyone to make careful study of the scriptures and of the prophetic teachings concerning them and to prayerfully seek personal revelation to know their meaning for themselves” (“Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 7). The following accounts from members offer insights gleaned from study of and prayer about the scriptures.

Serving with Sincerity

Reading again of Ammon’s brave encounter with the Lamanites at the waters of Sebus reminded me that Ammon did not seek his own glory. Instead of marching triumphantly at the head of the other servants, he went back to the stables and readied the king’s horses for a trip to see Lamoni’s father.

Ammon’s intention upon leaving the land of Zarahemla to live with the Lamanites was to “cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land” (Mosiah 28:2). Ammon was offered three opportunities for power that would have given him great influence among the Lamanites. First, King Lamoni offered Ammon his daughter to be his wife (see Alma 17:24). Then, after the events at the waters of Sebus, Lamoni offered him anything he desired, including protection by the Lamanite armies (see Alma 18:21). Shortly thereafter, Lamoni’s father offered Ammon anything he asked, up to half the entire kingdom of the Lamanites (see Alma 20:23). All three of these offers could have given Ammon great influence.

Yet Ammon turned down these opportunities. I wondered why, and then I recalled the passage in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–42 [D&C 121:41–42] that reads: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

I realized that through Ammon’s genuine display of love and dedication, King Lamoni came to realize that Ammon truly wanted to serve him and was not in his kingdom to gain control or to destroy him. Lamoni’s father also came to accept the sincerity of Ammon’s purpose and even asked to be taught the gospel.

Ammon’s love for the Lamanites was sincere. I believe that he was a powerful missionary not because he was physically or mentally strong but because he dealt with others with genuine love.

Julie Cannon Markham, Vienna Ward, Oakton Virginia Stake

Placing Others First

For me, one of the most revealing scriptural texts about the Savior’s example is in Philippians 2 [Philip. 2]. Although not frequently quoted, it is an important reference in guiding us to make correct choices. The imprisoned Apostle Paul wrote this epistle to the Saints in Philippi, the earliest congregation he founded in Europe. Although the Apostle Paul seems to have had a special affection for the Philippian Saints, he was concerned about dissension within the Church that apparently was being fueled by the pride and selfishness of some of the members. So he taught them that the key is to have “this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philip. 2:5)—in other words, to think and act like the Savior.

But how did the Savior think and act? The interesting passage that follows is a poetic form that may well have been an early Christian hymn, possibly already familiar to the Philippian Saints:

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philip. 2:6–11).

The first line in the Greek version of this passage is literally “being already in the form of God.” The text then points out the distinction between the glorious Lord of pre-earthly life and His mortal appearance as a “servant.” This contrast brings to mind the comparison of the son and servant in the Old Testament extended family unit. Historically, the firstborn son was the most important person in the family next to the father. It was he who would inherit the larger portion of the estate and probably ultimately assume leadership of the family. Servants had no such natural privileges. Therefore, the comparison of son and servant symbolizes those of highest and lowest rank, respectively. For the eldest son to voluntarily give up his rank and inheritance and assume the role of a servant would be astonishing.

Thus, an important teaching of this text is the Savior’s infinite selflessness. In the premortal realm the Lord did not seek His own aggrandizement but chose to become a servant to all in bringing about the Atonement.

The next lines in Philippians show the Savior’s willingness to put aside His own comfort. Faced with suffering and death on the cross, He could retreat and seek His own comfort and safety or follow through with His vital mission of service. The choice between fulfilling Heavenly Father’s purposes and seeking our immediate comfort often faces us, as it did the Philippian Saints. When faced with such choices, we should look to the Savior for our example, as the Apostle Paul emphasized.

Our yielding to selfishness is usually associated with a limited perspective rather than a consideration of the ultimate consequences. Thus, the text emphasizes the outcome of the Savior’s choices from an eternal perspective. Because He was willing to give up personal position in order to serve others and because He remained committed to His promises despite sufferings greater than any of us could bear, He was able to bring about the Atonement. Through this, He found infinitely greater joy in the fruits of His work than He could have realized without His sacrifice. As our perfect and personal example, He is constantly challenging us to follow Him.

Clyde D. Ford, Valley View 12th Ward, Salt Lake Valley View Stake

Drawing Near to the Lord in Our Weakness

Perhaps as some others, I’ve felt there are some parts of my personality that I wished weren’t there. Saddened by these flaws and troubled at my lack of progress in overcoming them over the years, I sought help in the scriptures.

I received new hope after reading Ether 12:27: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

This scripture is familiar, but when I read it again while pondering some of my problem areas, it struck me with new meaning. I realized I needed to find for myself how the Lord viewed me if I am to discover each weakness and, with His help, make it a strength. Also, the idea that God helps us recognize our weaknesses is a wonderful reason to talk to Him! It was then that I felt His guidance directing me toward new growth.

My first awareness of His guiding hand came shortly after my scripture experience, while attending a class on anger—because I thought someone else needed it. The instructor asked me to describe how I was doing in regard to anger. I could tell him more about how the strangers in the class felt than I could find words to tell how I was feeling. Suddenly it came to me that we often possess weaknesses we see in others.

This realization brought added meaning to the Savior’s teachings on the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. 7:3).

The discovery that some of the characteristics I have the least tolerance for in others are sometimes my own shortcomings was eye-opening and humbling. By focusing on my own growth and progress, I have learned I need not spend time worrying about others. I am now better able to admit my wrongs. Instead of justifying my mistakes, I now sorrow for them, try to forsake them, and repent. And surprisingly, embracing the fact that I have shortcomings has allowed me to understand some personal character strengths, like being outgoing, aware of others, and open-minded.

Moroni relates the Lord’s promise to him regarding this: “And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father” (Ether 12:37; emphasis added).

This scripture study has made me more conscious of my personal responsibilities.

Proverbs 3:4–6 [Prov. 3:4–6] says: “So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I have found when I do so, ultimately I’m happier.

Susan Wilson Ackerman, Riverton Seventh Ward, Riverton Utah North Stake

[illustrations] Illustrations by Richard Hull