My senior year in high school was beginning, and I was full of anticipation as the first few weeks of September rolled by. Everything seemed to be pointing to a great year ahead.
For the first time, I was really interested in my classes, which included calculus and a college-prep psychology class. I was determined to get my first-ever 4.0 grade point average.
I had also just been put in as president of my seminary class and as first assistant in the priests quorum. In addition, I was developing a new photography hobby and was working toward making it into the Iron Man bench press bracket in the school weight room. I was also fellowshipping a good friend from work. Even the weather seemed exciting and refreshing.
But perhaps the most important thing to happen at the beginning of that school year was a decision I made to read the scriptures for half an hour each day.
I chose to read the New Testament, and I immediately became attached to it. Every day after school I would put away my school books, sit down at my desk in my room, and pull out my scriptures. I must have gone through three red pencils in just the first few chapters. Reading about the life of Christ every day put me on a real spiritual high. But after the first week of this, trouble hit.
It was a normal afternoon. I came home from school, opened my Bible to Matthew and started reading. But something was different. I didn’t feel that spiritual high, and I wasn’t getting any insight. I was just skimming meaninglessly and couldn’t seem to get involved in the passage. I stopped reading and looked up from the pages of the book.
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “Why can’t I seem to grab hold of anything? What am I doing wrong?” I sat for a minute and then, suddenly, a small episode from the long day at school entered my mind.
Some nonmember friends and I had been sitting around talking about whatever came to mind. Soon what was coming to mind were funny stories and jokes. And then some not-so-funny stories. In fact, they got downright shameful, and I had been a part of it. I had laughed and even made some off-color comments of my own.
The life of Christ hadn’t affected my actions, not then. I hung my head over my scriptures and silently apologized to my Heavenly Father. As I refocused my eyes on the page, they fell across these words, found in Matthew:
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).
Never before had I felt the ever-watching presence of Heavenly Father so strongly. I turned from my Bible and offered up a prayer of repentance.
I had known many uses for the scriptures before. I had read them for gospel instruction, for increasing scriptural knowledge, for spiritual comfort, for seminary scripture chases, and probably most often for finding answers to a Sunday School teacher’s elusive questions. However, this was the first time I had ever used the scriptures to receive personal revelation.
I knew that the Spirit had directed me to these words at this time. The answer to my question, “What am I doing wrong?” was simple. I was reading the scriptures, marking the scriptures, and even really enjoying the scriptures; but I was not living the scriptures, which in some degree made me a little like the hypocritical Pharisees whom the Savior so often rebuked.
Although my answer was not accompanied by a booming voice or violent earthquake, its power was sufficiently intense to make me reevaluate myself.
Each time I came across some new point of Jesus’ life in my reading, I would check myself in the same area. While there were a few areas that I didn’t have any trouble with, many others required changes in my personality, attitudes, and actions. As I did this, I began to like myself more.
With these new standards came blessings. It was funny how taking a half hour from each day seemed to lengthen it so much. Since I began reading the scriptures and trying to live by Christ’s example, I noticed how different areas of my life began to blossom.
I was able to accomplish many of the goals I had set for myself and, to my surprise, I even got that 4.0.