“I used to believe that religious stuff, but that was before I studied the sciences. Now I don’t believe in the Church anymore,” said a medical school classmate of mine.
“I know you have spent countless hours studying in the sciences,” I replied, “but how much have you been studying the scriptures?”
“I haven’t looked at them since I was a kid,” he told me.
In another instance, I remember watching a newscast on television in which a member of our church was protesting the tearing down of an old chapel in his small town so that a new one could be built on the same site.
“If they tear down that old church,” he shouted “I’ll never attend church again as long as I live!” Upon inquiry, I learned that this man had not attended church in many years anyway.
President Harold B. Lee used to tell about a man who had heard a rumor of a mysterious person appearing to temple workers, warning them, “You had better hurry and store food for a year, or two, or three, because there will come a season when there won’t be any production.”
The man asked President Lee what he thought about it. President Lee said: “Were you at April conference?”
“No, I couldn’t be there.”
“You surely read the report of what was said by the Brethren at that conference, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well,” President Lee said, “at that conference the Lord gave a revelation about food storage. How in the world is the Lord going to get over to you what he wants you to do if you are not there when he says it, and you do not take the time to read it after it has been said?” (Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Personnel, BYU, 8 July 1964).
A testimony is a viable, living thing. It can’t be left out in the sun for a long period of time without water and without cultivation and be expected to remain alive. Our church meetings provide fresh water and sunshine, they cultivate the seeds of faith and encourage them to grow and become stronger. The scriptures are also a source of daily nourishment. The Savior gave wise counsel when he said: “Search the scriptures; … they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).
We emphasize how important it is for investigators to read the Book of Mormon in order to obtain a testimony of its truthfulness, thus confirming that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. But it is just as necessary for us to read and reread the Book of Mormon in order to keep our testimonies alive.
The promise that if we will read and pray about the Book of Mormon with “a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moro. 10:4), is just as valid each time the book is read. We need this renewal and strengthening of our testimonies.
If we want to know the word of God, we must search diligently what the Lord has told us through his prophets.
A world-renowned physician and professor at a prominent medical school came to my office when I had been serving only a month or two as a mission president. “President,” he said, “I am going to join your church. I am terribly busy. I must teach, I carry a heavy program of research projects, and at the present time I am revising my textbook. (He had written a textbook on his specialty that was used in most medical schools.)
“I already know the Church is true, but I don’t want to join and then not be the kind of member I should be. I know you are also a physician, so I want to ask you this question: Can I be a good Mormon and still be a good physician?”
I assured him that I had never found a conflict between my profession and my commitments as a servant of the Lord. Many years previously, when I was set apart as a member of a high council, I had been promised by Elder Alma Sonne, who did not know I was a doctor, that I would never experience a conflict if I were to accept willingly any calling that was given to me.
As this eminent professional and I talked, I could not resist asking the question: “Doctor, with your scientific background, how did you handle the Joseph Smith story?”
“I will admit that the story sounded utterly incredible to me at first,” he said. “But then I thought that if this man Joseph Smith truly were a prophet, his work should verify that fact. I proceeded to look up, read, and study everything I could find that Joseph Smith had ever written.
“I was amazed at the wisdom that had come from this uneducated, unlettered young man in the short time he had lived. Surely he could not have written any of this wisdom unless he was what he claimed to be—a prophet of God! Only God could have been his tutor.”
I could not resist asking the natural sequel to my first question. “How,” I asked, “did you handle the Book of Mormon?”
His answer was very matter-of-fact. “I read it and put it to the test” (see Moro. 10:4), he said. “Can you think of a better explanation than the one Joseph Smith gave?”
For me his answer summarized a basic premise: The Book of Mormon and the other scriptures are not on trial. We are. The proof of their divinity lies within them. A testimony of their truthfulness is ours for simply reading them prayerfully.
Every month in our Church magazines, we also have contemporary instructions and messages from our prophet and other General Authorities. If we want to know the Lord’s mind and will for us, his people, we can find additional inspiration here.
Too often people will disagree with or even contend against a policy in the Church, without having bothered to see what the Lord has revealed on that very subject. Instructions are given only after fervent study and prayer. Inspiration comes even to our prophet and other leaders of the Church only after they have earnestly studied out the problem in their minds (see D&C 9:8).
Three different times the Lord warns us in the scriptures not to trifle with sacred things. I feel that our testimonies are among the most sacred things we possess. We trifle with them when we neglect them or fail to strengthen them.
In Jacob 4:13, the Lord says: “for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be.” If we truly want to know things as they are—the truth, we will study and heed the counsel given to us by our authorities through the Spirit.
You may have read the scriptures already—possibly several times. But in these times of mass media when we are bombarded with worldly and often unsavory information, we need to experience the thrill of having our testimonies strengthened and our faith renewed. We need to give the Lord “equal time” in our lives.
“By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:5). I challenge you to feel this power of the Holy Ghost frequently in your lives as you make a habit of reading the scriptures.