Often times we agree that “literature” may be interesting—even exciting—but think that scripture is something to be read dutifully, with little expectation of the kind of enjoyment we hope for in secular writing. In setting a scriptural reading schedule we rarely expect to be carried away and go beyond that which we have decided upon in advance. In truth, we often look ahead to see how many verses our chapter for today has—and sigh when we find it one of the longer ones.
What we need is a fresh look at some of the most exciting reading ever provided for mankind. The scriptures provide us with this kind of material. They must be probed, analyzed, prayed over, and reflected upon. Only then will their beauty and significance become evident. Serious reading is never light reading, but it can be immensely rewarding and encouraging, for we meet people who are struggling to find meaning in their lives, just as we are. When we read, we are never without friends. Those long dead and from far countries whisper to our minds and stir our hearts. As we develop our skills to hear fully what they would share, we grow to match their expectation of us.
And most exciting of all, we get to know, truly know, those who share our aspirations—and suffer with those who do not take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
Consider, Chemish from the Book of Omni. As I read the heartbreakingly short contribution Chemish gets to make to the plates of Nephi I think of all the opportunities I’ve missed because I wasn’t prepared. It may well be that Chemish didn’t expect to get a chance to write, for the plates had usually gone from father to son and not from brother to brother, but he seems to be prepared to say only that he saw how his brother wrote, that it is now his turn, and this is the way they have been commanded to do it. “And I make an end.” I can almost feel him shaking me and trying to explain that he wasn’t prepared, that he didn’t expect to make an entry—and I resolve that I will let the example of my friend Chemish remain vivid enough that I will always be ready for what I am asked to do.
I also become aware of the vigor of a man like Enos, whose account is filled with action words. Enos is one of the few prophets in all scripture who tells us of how he is going to feel when he stands in the presence of the Lord—“then shall I see his face with pleasure.” Somehow we expect this of so vital a man.
Perhaps, in really reading the scriptures, we need to reflect upon the full implications of John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” When we bring our complete, trained capacity to bear upon the word of God, it does become alive. The prophets become real to us, and we can confide in the Savior as our dearest friend.
“Early in life, these two quotations regarding books greatly influenced me: ‘Be as careful of the book you read as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be influenced by the former as by the latter’; and ‘Except [for] a living man there is nothing so wonderful as good books.’ With all my heart, I urge young people to cultivate the reading habit. But in order that your reading be of maximum value choose it as carefully as you do your friends. I trust that we do so remembering that if we spend time reading a cheap book, we will be forced to pass by a choice one.” President Ezra Taft Benson