Likening the Scriptures unto Ourselves


The scriptures are a powerful resource the Lord has provided to help us achieve eternal life. Among other things, they help us know that Jesus is the Christ and they help us gain knowledge and attributes necessary for salvation.

However, as we search the scriptures, we encounter some passages that seem to have dubious relevance to us personally. For example, it may be difficult to see how instructions given to Old Testament prophets have any relevance for individual Church members living today. Yet basic principles underlying those instructions may be broadly applicable for any disciple of Christ. How, then, can we best “liken all scriptures” unto ourselves? (1 Ne. 19:23).

First, we should focus on those truths that the Lord’s prophets have always emphasized. Righteous principles and saving ordinances have been the same in all dispensations. Faith, repentance, baptism, forgiveness, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end have been taught from the beginning (see Moses 5:58; Moses 6:51–60; Moses 8:24; Gal. 3:8; Heb. 4:1–2). Other principles taught by precept and example throughout the scriptures include love of God and neighbor (see Ex. 20:3–5; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:37–39; Mosiah 23:15; Moro. 7:46–48; D&C 59:5–6); keeping the commandments (see Deut. 6:17; John 14:21; 1 Ne. 15:25; D&C 18:42–43); and the power of living by faith (Hab. 2:4; Heb. 11; 2 Ne. 26:12–13; D&C 20:29).

Second, we must recognize that some revelations were given to meet the circumstances of a given time (see Joseph Smith, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, edited by Dean C. Jessee [1984], 420–21). For example, the revelations to build an ark, leave Ur of the Chaldees, lead Israel from bondage, destroy the Canaanites, or live the Mosaic law are not binding on us.

Still, there are principles taught in these revelations that we can adapt to our own pursuit of perfection. For example, it is not likely we will be asked to slay a Goliath, but we may need to exercise the kind of faith required of David. We may not be asked to prepare to sacrifice an only son as was Abraham, but we should be willing to give up whatever the Lord asks of us. We may not be directed to slay a Laban, but we all must resolve to “go and do the things which the Lord [commands],” as did Nephi (1 Ne. 3:7).

Third, we must be aware that the Lord in His wisdom sometimes sees fit to change His instructions. For example, the first Apostles were instructed to go without purse or scrip (see Matt. 10:9–10), then they were later told, “he that hath a purse, let him take it” (Luke 22:36). In addition, they were first asked to “go not into the way of the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:5), but later they received the imperative to “teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19). There are similar examples in our dispensation (see D&C 52:22; D&C 56:4–8). To avoid misinterpreting the scriptures, we must study them all.

Fourth, we receive a clear signal of how to liken the scriptures to ourselves as we hearken to the teachings of the living prophets. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “The proper course for all of us is to stay in the mainstream of the Church. This is the Lord’s Church, and it is led by the spirit of inspiration, and the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture” (Doctrines of the Restoration, edited by Mark L. McConkie [1989], 67).

The Apostle Paul reminded us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Notice that he said all scripture.

In deciding which scriptures pertain to us, we might ask, Will living this principle help me become more Christlike? We might also apply this threefold test: Is my interpretation in harmony with (1) the teachings of the standard works, (2) the modern prophets, and (3) the witness of the Holy Ghost? If our answers are yes, we can proceed with confidence to liken the scriptures unto ourselves by applying the principles taught.

[photo] Photo illustration by Welden C. Andersen