Letters from Home

An edited version of an address delivered at the general women’s meeting on September 28, 1985.

I think of questions young women have asked me. “How do I stay close to the Lord?” “Can I make it?” “Is there a way back?” In answer to those questions, I say with all the fervor of my soul, “You can feel a closeness to your Heavenly Father. You can make it no matter how tough the test.” And to some I’d say with the deepest conviction, “Yes, there is a way back—come back.”

I would tell you how studying the scriptures can make it easier to know all the things Heavenly Father wants us to do. I remember a difficult time in my life when I thought I couldn’t make it. I had failed a grade in school. I was humiliated and lacked confidence in myself and my abilities. It was awful. I didn’t want to go on. I just remember praying with all my heart that I could be smart. Sometime after that I became aware that the scriptures could help me find answers when I needed help. I’d like to share with you one scripture that really helped me at that time in my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5–6).

You might think that I never lack confidence now, but I do sometimes. And when I feel that way, I reread that scripture. I can feel His love and the secure, quiet feeling of peace and know He is near.

Learning to love the scriptures is a lot like learning to walk. At first you’re unsure—you sometimes stumble, and you don’t get anywhere very fast. But if you stopped trying, just because you fell down a few times, you’d never know the joy of going places you couldn’t go before.

When you first begin reading the scriptures you feel unsure; you’d much rather read something familiar, like a favorite story. But I can tell you from my experience, if you will try reading the scriptures every day, just as you kept trying to walk, the scriptures will be as important to you as being able to walk. But you’ve got to begin.

Start by first reading the chapter headings to get the feel of the story. I’d suggest you start with 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. The heading of chapter one reads, in part, “The night of Christ’s birth arrives—The sign is given and a new star arises.” You’re already familiar with that miraculous story, and by reading this chapter you can be comfortably on your way—a first step which can lead to many more.

One summer I spent three days in a wilderness camp with 150 young people. We did a lot of hiking and had some hard physical challenges like rappeling down an 80-foot cliff.

On the last day we were given instructions to go into the woods alone. Before leaving the group, each of the young people was given a letter from home which had been written by his or her mother or father for this occasion.

When I went out alone, I took my scriptures with me. I read about my Father in Heaven’s love for all of us and for me. It was then that I realized that these scriptures are like letters from home.

After the time alone, we gathered together to share our experiences. Many spoke of their letter from home. It was obvious everyone had been anxious to open and read their letter. One young woman stood before us, holding the letter from home close—a precious treasure.

In her words, “I bawled my face off when I sat there alone and realized how much my mom and dad love me.”

It can be that same way for us when we read the scriptures. We discover how much our Father in Heaven loves us. Can you imagine being away from home and receiving a letter from your parents and not bothering to open and read it?

Will you make a commitment today to make a habit of reading your letters from home—your scriptures—more frequently? If you will ask Heavenly Father in your daily prayers to help you understand the messages and if you will strive to keep the commandments, you can have the Holy Ghost to teach you, to open your mind to the messages that are there for your individual needs at particular times in your life.

I know this is true. It can happen over and over again. Often, while you’re studying, you’ll feel very close to your Heavenly Father. As you keep trying, sooner than you realize you’ll have a few favorite scriptures marked that you an easily turn to. And you’ll learn to love these like special friends.

Let me tell you about this old set that my mom and dad gave me when I turned 17. I had read the Book of Mormon before, but this time it was different. Perhaps I was more in tune with the Spirit, maybe I had studied more diligently and prayed more fervently. I wanted to know for myself if the Book of Mormon was true. On this day I had come to the part in Alma, chapter 32, about faith. [Alma 32] As I finished that chapter, I experienced a feeling which I recognized as a witness from the Holy Ghost—I knew the Book of Mormon was true. I wanted to tell the whole world what I knew and how I felt, but I was alone. So with tears of joy streaming down my face, I wrote on the margin all the way around on each side the feelings in my heart at that moment. I made a big red star up in the corner and wrote, “May 31st, 7:30 A.M. This I know, written as if to me.” Then I wrote on the other margin, “I have received a confirmation. I know the Book of Mormon is true.” On the other side I wrote, “One month ago today I began fasting each Tuesday for a more sure knowledge. This I know.”

I am so eager for you to know and love the scriptures so they can provide answers during your teenage years when the climb is steep and scary and risky and you need inspiration as you make important choices every day. As you become more and more familiar with the scriptures, they can eventually become your favorite stories, easy to read.

Will you join with me in making a renewed commitment to regular scripture study? If you will do this, I promise you that our Father in Heaven will draw near to you because you will be drawing near to him (see D&C 88:63). You will find peace in your heart with a conviction of his love and nearness that you cannot deny in happy or troubled times.

My experience with the scriptures … (A Teenager’s View)

When Sister Kapp gave this talk, she called Gail Gardner, a 17-year-old Laurel, out of the audience to tell what the scriptures mean in her life.

Why do you read the scriptures regularly?

I read them because there are a lot of good things that have come out of scripture reading for me. The times when I feel like I really know and understand my Heavenly Father and what he wants for me have almost always been those times when I’m reading the scriptures.

Do you have a favorite scripture?

Yes. One of my favorite scriptures, one that has really helped me, is found in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 4:27. It talks about man not having the need to run faster than he has strength, but that if he will be diligent, all things will come to him. That scripture helps me because I’ve always been really busy and have wanted to be actively involved in a lot of different things with family, church, and school.

A specific incident with that scripture happened just awhile ago. I was preparing to compete in a big speech tournament and was facing college entrance exams. I’d just been called to serve on our seminary council and was worried about responsibilities there. I also have one brother and six sisters that I really care about, and I wanted to spend time with them. I read through that scripture and others like it which said that all I needed to do was to set a pace for myself and keep up with it. I felt that my Father in Heaven had answered my prayers in that scripture.

How have you made scripture reading a habit?

In trying to make scripture study a habit, I try to keep in mind three things. First, I’ve found that ten minutes of serious study and concentration on maybe three verses of scripture every day is much more meaningful and worthwhile to me than an hour of “hurried” reading once a week. Second, I’ve found that it’s easier for me to make scripture reading a habit if I do it for a certain length of time and at a specific time of day, if at all possible. For me, it works best to read at least ten minutes a day, and I usually do that right after my prayers, before I go to bed. Some days are hard, and reading the scriptures every day helps me feel closer to my Father in Heaven and makes it easier to do what’s right. Last of all, I’d say that scripture reading and prayer go hand in hand. A lot of times I don’t understand a scripture, but the feeling I get when I’m studying, reading, and praying can often bring answers to all kinds of questions and doubts.

How do you feel about having your own set of scriptures?

I love them. These scriptures that I have marked and studied have helped to increase my testimony so much. I’m only 17, but the principles and guidelines of the gospel that I understand and have learned to obey have really brought me closer to my Father in Heaven. From my study of his scriptures, I know that they are true.

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark

[illustrations] Lettering by James Fedor