Chapter 17: The Scriptures

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 118–24


Every evening, President Brigham Young sounded the prayer bell and gathered his family around him to sing and hear counsel, study the word of God, and conduct family prayers. He believed in studying the scriptures and compared them to “a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the Fountain of light” (DBY, 127). He exhorted the Saints: “Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households” (DBY, 128).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Learning and living by the teachings of the scriptures bring inspiration and direction to our lives.

It is your privilege and duty to live so as to be able to understand the things of God. There are the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants, which Joseph has given us, and they are of great worth to a person wandering in darkness. They are like a lighthouse in the ocean, or a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the Fountain of light (DBY, 127).

I believe the words of the Bible. … I believe the doctrines concerning salvation contained in that book are true, and that their observance will elevate any people, nation or family that dwells on the face of the earth. The doctrines contained in the Bible will lift to a superior condition all who observe them; they will impart to them knowledge, wisdom, charity, fill them with compassion and cause them to feel after the wants of those who are in distress, or in painful or degraded circumstances. They who observe the precepts contained in the Scriptures will be just and true and virtuous and peaceable at home and abroad. Follow out the doctrines of the Bible, and men will make splendid husbands, women excellent wives, and children will be obedient; they will make families happy and the nations wealthy and happy and lifted up above the things of this life (DBY, 125).

I say we take this book [the Bible] for our guide, for our rule of action; we take it as the foundation of our faith. It points the way to salvation like a fingerboard pointing to a city, or a map which designates the locality of mountains, rivers, or the latitude and longitude of any place on the surface of the earth that we desire to find, and we have no better sense than to believe it; hence, I say that the Latter-day Saints have the most natural faith and belief of any people on the face of the earth (DBY, 125).

We consider the Bible … as a guide … pointing to a certain destination. This is a true doctrine, which we boldly advance. If you will follow the doctrines, and be guided by the precepts of that book, it will direct you where you may see as you are seen, where you may converse with Jesus Christ, have the visitation of angels, have dreams, visions, and revelations, and understand and know God for yourselves. Is it not a stay and a staff to you? Yes; it will prove to you that you are following in the footsteps of the ancients. You can see what they saw, understand what they enjoyed (DBY, 126).

There is no clash in the principles revealed in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants [the Pearl of Great Price was not yet canonized at the time of this statement]; and there would be no clash between any of the doctrines taught by Joseph the Prophet and by the brethren now, if all would live in a way to be governed by the Spirit of the Lord. All do not live so as to have the Spirit of the Lord with them all the time, and the result is that some get out of the way (DBY, 126).

We believe in the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants given by the Lord to Joseph Smith and by him to the Church. We also believe if we were destitute of the Spirit of the Lord, and our eyes were closed so that we could not see and understand things as they are by the spirit of revelation, we might say farewell to all these books, no matter how numerous. If we had all the revelation given since the days of Adam and were without the spirit of revelation to be and abide in the midst of the people, it would be impossible for us to be saved in the celestial kingdom of God (DBY, 128).

The book of Doctrine and Covenants is given for the Latter-day Saints expressly for their everyday walk and actions (DBY, 128).

The Bible contains the doctrines of salvation.

This Book, which is the Old and New Testament, preaches but one sermon from Genesis to Revelation (DBY, 126).

The doctrine that we preach is the doctrine of the Bible, it is the doctrine the Lord has revealed for the salvation of the children of God, and when men, who have once obeyed it, deny it, they deny it with their eyes wide open, and knowing that they deny the truth and set at naught the counsels of the Almighty (DBY, 126).

The Bible is true. It may not all have been translated aright, and many precious things may have been rejected in the compilation and translation of the Bible [see 1 Nephi 13:24–27]; but we understand, from the writings of one of the Apostles, that if all the sayings and doings of the Savior had been written, the world could not contain them [see John 21:25]. I will say that the world could not understand them. They do not understand what we have on record, nor the character of the Savior, as delineated in the Scriptures; and yet it is one of the simplest things in the world, and the Bible, when it is understood, is one of the simplest books in the world, for, as far as it is translated correctly [see Articles of Faith 1:8], it is nothing but truth, and in truth there is no mystery save to the ignorant. The revelations of the Lord to his creatures are adapted to the lowest capacity, and they bring life and salvation to all who are willing to receive them (DBY, 124).

We believe the New Testament, and consequently, to be consistent, we must believe in new revelation, visions, angels, in all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and all the promises contained in these books, and believe it about as it reads (DBY, 124).

We have a holy reverence for and a belief in the Bible (DBY, 124).

By reading the Bible we find that the Gospel is contained not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old. Moses and the Prophets saw and predicted the apostasy of the Church. They saw that the Lord would strive with the children of men from time to time, that he would deliver to them the truth and the Priesthood; they also saw that through the wickedness of the people they would change his ordinances, break the covenants, and transgress his laws [see Isaiah 24:5], until the Priesthood would be taken from the earth, and its inhabitants be left in apostasy and darkness (DBY, 124–25).

We as Latter-day Saints have confessed before Heaven, before the heavenly hosts, and before the inhabitants of the earth, that we really believe the Scriptures as they are given to us, according to the best understanding and knowledge that we have of the translation, and the spirit and meaning of the Old and New Testaments (DBY, 125–26).

The Book of Mormon … declares that the Bible is true, and it proves it; and the two prove each other true. The Old and New Testaments are the stick of Judah [see Ezekiel 37:15–19]. You recollect that the tribe of Judah tarried in Jerusalem and the Lord blessed Judah, and the result was the writings of the Old and New Testaments. But where is the stick of Joseph? Can you tell where it is? Yes. It was the children of Joseph who came across the waters to this continent [the Americas], and this land was filled with people, and the Book of Mormon or the stick of Joseph contains their writings, and they are in the hands of Ephraim. Where are the Ephraimites? They are mixed through all the nations of the earth. God is calling upon them to gather out, and he is uniting them, and they are giving the Gospel to all the world (DBY, 127).

The messages of the scriptures are plain and easy to understand for those who seek the Spirit of the Lord.

We are not in the same attitude that the people were a few thousand years ago—they were depending on the Prophet or Prophets, or on having immediate revelation for themselves to know the will of the Lord, without the record of their predecessors, while we have the records of those who have lived before us, also the testimony of the Holy Spirit; and, to the satisfaction of all who desire a testimony, we can turn to this book and read that which we believe, learn the object of our pursuit, the end that we expect to accomplish—the end of the race as far as mortality is concerned—and the fulness of the glory that is beyond this vale of tears; consequently we have the advantage of those who lived before us (DBY, 128).

The people on every hand are inquiring, “What does this scripture mean, and how shall we understand this or that passage?” Now I wish, my brethren and sisters, for us to understand things precisely as they are, and not as the flitting, changing imagination of the human mind may frame them (DBY, 128).

I ask you, brother B, how I must believe the Bible, and how shall you and every other follower of the Lord Jesus Christ believe it? … I believe it just as it is. I do not believe in putting any man’s interpretation upon it whatever, unless it should be directed by the Lord himself in some way. I do not believe we need interpreters and expounders of the Scriptures, to wrest them from their literal, plain, simple meaning (DBY, 126).

The Bible is just as plain and easy of comprehension as the revelation which I have just read to you [see D&C 58], if you understand the Spirit of God—the Spirit of Revelation, and know how the Gospel of salvation is adapted to the capacity of weak man (DBY, 128).

With regard to the Bible, the phraseology is that which was customary centuries ago; but no matter what the language is, that is merely custom. But I will say that the doctrines taught in the Old and New Testaments concerning the will of God towards his children here on the earth; the history of what he has done for their salvation; the ordinances which he has instituted for their redemption; the gift of his Son and his atonement—all these are true, and we, the Latter-day Saints, believe in them (DBY, 129).

When we reflect and rightly understand, we learn how easy of comprehension the Gospel is, how plain it is in its plan, in every part and principle fitted perfectly to the capacity of mankind, insomuch that when it is introduced among the lovers of truth it appears very easy and very plain, and how very ready the honest are to receive it (DBY, 129).

We should all live so that the Spirit of revelation could dictate and write on the heart and tell us what we should do. … But to do this we must become like little children; and Jesus says if we do not we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. How simple it is! Live free from envy, malice, wrath, strife, bitter feelings, and evil speaking in our families and about our neighbors and friends and all the inhabitants of the earth, wherever we meet them. Live so that our consciences are free, clean and clear (DBY, 36).

Suggestions for Study

Learning and living by the teachings of the scriptures bring inspiration and direction to our lives.

  • According to President Young, why should we study the doctrines of the Lord as contained in the scriptures? What promises does President Young make to those who will observe the precepts of the Bible and the other scriptures?

  • In what way can records that are hundreds and thousands of years old guide our lives today? How have the scriptures directed your life?

  • Why, according to President Young, was the Doctrine and Covenants given? How has the Doctrine and Covenants helped you in your “everyday walk and actions”? (See also D&C 4:3–4; 84:43–44; 86:11; 121:41–42, 45.)

The Bible contains the doctrines of salvation.

  • President Young taught that the Bible “preaches but one sermon from Genesis to Revelation.” What is that sermon?

  • How have the scriptures helped you understand “the character of the Savior”?

  • What are the sticks of Judah and Joseph? What relation do the Bible and the Book of Mormon have to each other? According to President Young, for what purpose has the stick of Joseph been placed into the “hands of Ephraim”?

The messages of the scriptures are plain and easy to understand for those who seek the Spirit of the Lord.

  • What was President Young’s counsel to those who constantly seek man’s interpretations of the scriptures?

  • What advantages come to us because we have the records of the prophets in the scriptures?

  • President Young invited us to look beyond the sometimes difficult language of the scriptures for valuable principles and doctrines to guide our lives. Which doctrines does he specifically mention? Why are these doctrines particularly important to us today?

  • According to President Young, for whom are the scriptures plain and easy to understand?

  • President Young taught that we should “live so that the Spirit of revelation could dictate and write on the heart and tell us what we should do.” How can we cultivate the spirit of revelation in our lives so we can understand more clearly the messages of the scriptures?