Not long after I was called to be the general Young Women president, I received a letter from a young woman from Nairobi, Kenya, in East Africa. Sylvia, who was fifteen at the time, told me her father had been killed in a road accident. She said:
“When he died, I felt a part of me had been killed also. All this has made me a different person. Someone I don’t like. It has affected my studies and my spiritual nature. My grades are dropping. I hate school. There are times I forget to pray. I am losing my trust in God. All the love, warmth, and security I used to feel is all gone from me.
“Sister Hales, please help me. I feel if I don’t do something or get some help, I am going to destroy myself.”
I felt an urgency in Sylvia’s plea for help, but I was thousands of miles away. Carefully I wrote a letter, hoping my words of faith would help her regain trust in our Heavenly Father. Then I suggested: “Read the scriptures each day. After reading the scriptures each day, please write and tell me if it helps the way you are feeling.”
Weeks later Sylvia said: “I had stopped reading the scriptures; and when I read them, it was like I couldn’t understand and I would put them away. You have given me that desire to … search more diligently the scriptures. I am discovering very precious, spiritual nourishment. Thank you for that suggestion.”
Sylvia received help when she felt desperate and alone, but she also found the scriptures could help her improve her life. She later said: “I have decided to work hard to be a better person. I have to overcome some of my bad traits and replace them with good ones and to withstand people who want to tear me down and tear down my faith, especially in school. I am the only LDS member in our school.”
As Sylvia’s commitment to read the scriptures continued, she realized that Heavenly Father would help guide her in making decisions.
Later she said: “I have become busy, but I have not forgotten my scriptures. I desire to have the faith like the Brother of Jared or Nephi which enabled them to know the Lord’s will for them. I am planning to meditate on ways to strengthen my faith. I turned sixteen.”
As months passed, Sylvia’s understanding of the scriptures grew deeper, and she expressed a desire to help others. She said: “I love going to church, and the most exciting part is when I get to help with the Primary children. I love hearing them sing and read and saying what they feel.”
As Sylvia started to help others, she started to better understand our Savior. She told of reading about Christ’s final ministry on the earth, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection. She came to understand more clearly Christ’s mission on earth and his great love for us.
Sylvia continued to face challenges and peer pressure, but she had found a permanent source of help in the scriptures. When she got word that my mother had passed away, she wrote to encourage me and strengthen my faith.
The resource suggested for her three years ago, reading the scriptures, was much greater help than I could have given. Scripture reading did help her with her immediate crisis, but the scriptures have become a permanent resource to her—a resource that will always be with her. She has learned that our Heavenly Father will not fail her.
The scriptures have blessed others. Many of you have read the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. The scriptures were an answer for her in a time much more bleak than most of us will ever have to face.
Corrie and her sister, Betsy, lived Christian lives in prewar Holland. They responded to the brutality against Jewish people by hiding them in the family home. When the hiding place was discovered, the sisters were shipped to a death camp where they suffered all the deprivation heaped upon the Jewish prisoners.
In an unusual way Corrie was able to keep a Bible. She led scripture readings with the other prisoners. Their outer world of suffering grew “harder and harder.” But she described their inner life as just the opposite. In her words:
“Our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. …
“Life … took place on two separate levels. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory” (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, New York City: Bantam Books, 1974, pp. 194–95).
Others like Sylvia and Corrie ten Boom have testified of the power of the scriptures. In knowing the scriptures and trusting our Heavenly Father’s words, our Savior himself was an example to us. It is recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke that when Jesus had fasted for forty days and was tempted by the devil, the devil suggested that if Jesus were the Son of God, he turn a stone into bread. Even after fasting forty days, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). Jesus knew the words of the prophets.
Satan again tempted Jesus, offering him power and glory if he would worship Satan. Jesus resisted the temptation and responded with the words, “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8). Jesus knew his Father’s will, and the words strengthened him in a time of temptation.
The words of the scriptures will strengthen you in times of temptation. The scriptures have been given to us to help us find peace and reassurance in times of crisis, to help us find solutions to our everyday challenges, to strengthen us in times of temptation. The scriptures will help us improve our behavior as we come to know our Savior, Jesus Christ. The young women of the Church are invited in 1995 to make a commitment to read the scriptures regularly.
Just imagine five hundred thousand young women all over the world with open books of scripture. I see open books of scriptures at camp, at youth conferences, in Sunday lessons; a read-a-thon; or scripture reading in a retirement center. Young women may be reading the scriptures to little brothers and sisters or to a grandparent whose eyesight is failing. I see scriptures on pillows, on nightstands, in family home evenings. Alma’s heart would be touched this night seeing young women gathered in chapels and stake centers with scriptures in hand. Would all of you open your scriptures to the thirty-second chapter of Alma. I will read verse 27, and we will all read verse 28 together.
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
In verse 37 we are told that after we have planted the seed and it begins to grow, we must nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us.
In verse 41 it tells us how to nourish the word with faith, diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit. It is my prayer that each young woman in the Church can realize the promise in verse 42, that when you have planted the seed and nourished it, “ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.”
This is our Heavenly Father’s promise to us if we respond to the invitation to experiment upon the word. I bear my testimony of that promise in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.