A Guide for Your Life

by Richard M. Romney

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    Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever we had a problem or a hard choice to make we could go to our Heavenly Father for advice? Wouldn’t it be nice to have him let us know how much we are loved?

    That advice and those words of encouragement are already here just waiting for us to read—in the scriptures. Those who have learned to include the scriptures in all their activities find blessings sometimes come in unexpected ways.

    Regular study of the scriptures can guide us and reassure us in many ways. For example, the following five stories illustrate how the scriptures can bless the lives of young people in their families, in Young Women and Young Men, in seminary, and as member missionaries.

    Special Issue: The Scriptures—Written for You

    Problem Solver

    The scriptures help us merge gospel ideals into our lives, keeping us on the right road, avoiding dangerous detours.

    The Mia Maids had a problem.

    “Two of the most popular girls (in Mia Maids) decided that ‘having fun’ was more important than living the gospel,” explains Sarah Tunnell of the Snohomish (Washington) Second Ward. “They stopped coming to church.”

    Sarah, first counselor in the Mia Maid presidency, and Tresa Brown, the president, felt they needed to do something to help keep others from making the same mistake.

    “I had just finished reading the Book of Mormon for the first time,” Sarah says. “And I said, ‘If everyone would just read the Book of Mormon, they’d have a testimony, and the possibility of their going inactive would be a lot smaller.’”

    Sarah and Tresa looked through a clip art book, found a calendar, and worked out a schedule for reading the Book of Mormon. They also outlined a system for calling all the Mia Maids and reminding them of their reading goals.

    “We had a presidency meeting that night,” Sarah continues. “The Laurel president happened to come by, and she said, ‘Hey, we want to do that!’ So we said, ‘Okay, but we can’t leave out the Beehives.’ So we called the Beehive president, and she said, ‘Us too!’ We started the next week.”

    The idea was simple. “You can’t really bribe them. They can buy their own candy or ice cream. We decided the best thing was to provide a calendar and then just remind them and encourage them. Anyway, that was the limit of what we could do with our teenage income, which is nonexistent.”

    Since then, the program has gone through some fine tuning, tailoring daily goals to individual abilities, incorporating “catch-up” days for those who get behind, coordinating with seminary reading schedules to avoid duplication, etc. And some have read more than others.

    “I haven’t read as much as I’m supposed to,” one Beehive admitted. “But thanks to Sarah, I have read something.”

    And the major goal, “Just to have them open the book, to have some kind of daily contact with it,” as Sarah says, has been met by just about everyone. In fact, last Sunday in ward council meeting, they were discussing a Book of Mormon reading program for the entire ward.

    [photo] In the scriptures, Sarah Tunnell of Snohomish, Washington, found help for her calling in the Mia Maid presidency. (Photography by Richard M. Romney.)

    Special Issue: The Scriptures—Written for You

    A Great Book

    Crossing life’s difficult terrain is easier when we travel with others, giving support and sharing understanding.

    Asked who his favorite person is from the Book of Mormon, Clint Nelson, a 13-year-old deacon, says, “I like Alma Junior.” Before someone can mention that Alma Junior is usually called Alma the Younger, Clint gives his reasons. “I liked how he was struck dumb, and then how he started preaching for the Lord.”

    The deacons quorum of the Apple Valley Ward of the Salt Lake Butler Stake is enthralled with reading the Book of Mormon. They accepted the challenge presented to them by their stake leaders to read and then test Moroni’s promise that they can pray and know for themselves if the book is true. To help them reach their goal, their quorum leader, Mark Duffin, has helped the boys stay interested and motivated. “I want them to feel what they are reading instead of just getting through the pages.”

    “At first I actually passed out tests, with questions chapter by chapter,” said Brother Duffin. “They loved it at first. When that wore thin, I had them come prepared to talk about a chapter. But I think the best thing we’ve done is having them over to my house on Sunday evening about once a month. We read together. We talk and discuss what we read. Then we have cake and ice cream. After an hour or so, I have to kick them out. They don’t want to go because they’re enjoying themselves.”

    The boys and their fathers were both challenged to read the Book of Mormon during the school year. Trever Hansen said, “My Dad and I always sit down together and read for as long as we can. Then we have scripture reading as a family.”

    J. P. Westenskow is personally on schedule with the quorum reading schedule, but he and his family have just finished the Book of Mormon. “We get up every morning at ten to seven and take turns reading aloud. We’ve been working on it for a long time.”

    Andy McCann and Casey Mills jumped ahead of the quorum and have finished. Andy said, “It made me feel like I actually know something.”

    What would they tell someone else who has just started to read the Book of Mormon? Casey Mills gave his answer some serious thought and said, with wisdom a little beyond his years, “I’d tell them it is one of the most worthwhile things to do when you’re young and have time to do stuff like that.”

    Shane Talbot also had a bit of advice to those who are just starting to read. “I like the Book of Mormon. It’s like reading a really good book. You’ll enjoy it.”

    [illustration] Painting The Conversion of Alma by Gary L. Kapp

    [photo] The deacons of the Apple Valley Ward in Salt Lake City enjoy the Spirit when they study the scriptures together in the home of their quorum adviser, Mark Duffin. (Photography by Don O. Thorpe.)

    Special Issue: The Scriptures—Written for You

    Charting the Way

    Yielding to the enticings of the Spirit is easier when you make the scriptures part of your life.

    Stephanie wanted Santa stickers.

    She knew it was kind of silly, but the reading chart in her seminary class had a row of Santa stickers that were all hers. “Knowing that if I didn’t read I wouldn’t get any Santa stickers kept me going,” said Stephanie Plamondon.

    Who would believe that almost grown-up seminary students could be motivated to keep up-to-date on their scripture reading by putting stickers on a chart? But it turned out to be a fun way to encourage each other and realize they were all working toward the same goal.

    The class is the home-study seminary in the Charlottetown Branch on Prince Edward Island, a province of Canada. Each week, these dedicated seminary students travel to the chapel for a weekly class. They’d love every-day early-morning seminary, but some live too far from the chapel to make it work. Their teacher, Heather Hirtle, has just one hour to help them understand their reading from the past week and expand their understanding. “We learn it together,” says Sister Hirtle. “We seek out the knowledge, then pray about it and gain a testimony. The whole reason to have seminary is to get us into the scriptures.”

    At first, it was a struggle to gain the good habit of reading every day. With home-study seminary, students have to do a lot of study on their own in workbooks. Sister Hirtle says, “With some I started off with a small goal—just one verse a day, one verse before your head hits the pillow. Read it and ask yourself what it means. Do it for 14 days, and it starts to become a habit.” Then as her students gained the habit of reading each day, they moved up to putting stickers on a reading chart with the reward of an ice cream cake for the class at the end of the year. This turned out to be so much fun it is now a class tradition.

    Rick Cartier, a former seminary student, now serving in the Brisbane Australia Mission, talks about his love of the scriptures. He says, “There were three of us in the branch that were really good friends. At times, either my friends or I went astray, but what kept bringing me back to the scriptures were two things: my testimony and caring leaders like our seminary teacher. It was love that kept bringing me back. And that’s what the scriptures are about, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s love for us.” Rick and his friends are all serving full-time missions, the most missionaries the Charlottetown Branch has had out serving at the same time. They are a little like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, excited that they are all strong in the faith and teaching others.

    Studying the scriptures in seminary helped Eryn MacEachern gain her testimony. “After reading the New Testament, our class was watching a movie on the crucifixion of Christ. I was crying, and I couldn’t help it. It was the feeling I got. I just knew he loved me so much, that he loved everyone in the world, to atone for us.”

    For others, reading the scriptures can become very personal, especially when you share a name with a great prophet. The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon is a particular favorite of Nephi McPherson. “I like the things that set him apart from some of his brothers, his closeness to God,” says Nephi.

    That chart with its lines of crazy stickers marking each person’s reading progress is still at the front of the room. The rows are starting to look a little like iron rods. After all it was a Book of Mormon year in seminary.

    As Sister Hirtle says, “You need to read your scriptures. If you don’t hold onto the rod, you can’t stay on the path.”

    [illustration] Painting The Crucifixion by Carl Heinrich Bloch

    [photo] Reading the New Testament in seminary helped Stephanie Plamondon gain her testimony of Christ and the wonder of his atonement. (Photography by Janet Thomas.)

    Special Issue: The Scriptures—Written for You

    Rising to the Challenge

    The scriptures are a powerful and effective guide when read with the Spirit’s help. They can even help keep you personal relationships on the right track.

    When Troy and Sheralee Johnson were young, they had a problem—with each other. They fought all the time.

    “They just couldn’t seem to leave each other alone,” says their mom, LeAnn. “A lot of times they couldn’t even be in the same house together.”

    At about the time Troy and Sheralee were having the most trouble getting along, the Johnsons decided it was time to commit the family to daily scripture study.

    “During a general conference session when I was still pretty young, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled all of the Saints to read and study the Book of Mormon both as a family and personally. He promised blessings to all the families that followed his counsel. My parents decided that if anyone needed blessings, it was us,” says Sheralee.

    A family meeting was held and all eight Johnsons agreed to get up early every morning to study together. That was more than nine years ago, and the family has hardly missed a day since.

    The family’s dedication also brought about an unexpected, although welcome, result.

    “When we started reading scriptures together, the overall feeling in our house changed, and Troy and I just didn’t fight anymore. We focused on other things, like school and church. Then, since we weren’t fighting, we could really get to know each other,” says Sheralee.

    “I don’t remember anything specific happening to make us stop fighting,” says Troy. “Things just changed for the better and we started to get along. I guess we just had a better feeling in general and that made things better between us.”

    Now Troy, a returned missionary, and Sheralee, a student at BYU, are friends. In fact, Sheralee says she really missed having Troy around while he was on his mission in Rome, Italy.

    “Until he was gone, I didn’t really realize what an integral part of my life Troy had become. I couldn’t wait to see him again,” she says. The rest of the Johnson siblings, Curtis, Benjamin, Michael, and Angie, are now carrying on the tradition, getting up at the crack of dawn to study the gospel every day.

    “Growing up, I learned how the Book of Mormon affects our lives,” says Troy. “The same feeling continued on my mission, and that helped with the work.”

    “Our parents really taught us the importance of the Book of Mormon. We knew that if they made that much of an effort to get us up, it must be important,” adds Sheralee.

    Is getting up at 5:30 A.M. to study scriptures with your family a challenge? Troy, who isn’t a morning person, answers a hearty “yes.” Is it worth it? Troy and Sheralee both say they wouldn’t have it any other way.

    [illustration] Painting Liahona by Arnold Friberg

    [photo] When Troy and Sheralee Johnson had trouble getting along, reading the Book of Mormon together as a family helped build a strong brother-sister bond. (Photography by Welden Andersen.)

    Special Issue: The Scriptures—Written for You

    Changing More Than Costumes

    When you stop and think about it, you realize that you have friends and neighbors whose lives can be blessed by the message of the scriptures—the good news of the gospel and the existence of Christ’s true church on earth today.

    Before they began practicing for their road show a few years ago, the youth of the Parker Ward set aside a day to fast and pray. To people who have been in a road show before, that may not seem such a strange thing to do, but they weren’t fasting in hopes of making the best use of their talents, and they weren’t praying for the road show to get canceled.

    The road show participants were praying for help and guidance in making the road show a way to build testimonies. Little did they know it would build the testimony of someone who was not yet a member of the Church, and would introduce her to the scriptures.

    Lindsay Thiess, a Laurel at the time, invited Roxanne McHugh (who wasn’t LDS) to be in the road show with her.

    “We wanted to have the road show be a missionary experience,” says Lindsay. “I knew Roxanne would have a good time doing the show.”

    Lindsay was right. Roxanne did have a good time. She also started getting curious about the story she was acting out.

    “The story of the road show was about the Brother of Jared. One night after road show practice, I went home and found this Book of Mormon that my brother had ordered from an ad on television when he was 11 because he could get it for free!” says Roxanne. “I read the story of the Brother of Jared, and after that the road show meant a lot more; it started to make sense.”

    That complimentary Book of Mormon, delivered to Roxanne’s house three years earlier and put on a shelf, sparked an interest in the gospel that Roxanne couldn’t deny.

    “I prayed and knew the Church was right, and I knew that I needed to invite my parents to come to the play,” says Roxanne.

    Roxanne’s parents had the same good feeling after watching the road show, and soon Roxanne, her younger brother, Courtney, and both her parents were baptized. One year later Roxanne and Courtney were sealed to their parents in the temple for time and all eternity.

    It was a miracle. The miracle all the youth of the Parker Ward, Willow Creek Colorado Stake, had prayed for.

    And the miracle continues every day for the McHughs as they read the scriptures, grow in the gospel, and share their testimonies with their nonmember family and friends. Strange as it may seem, Roxanne gained a personal connection to the scriptures while she was singing songs with made-up words and wearing an old sheet dyed and sewed to look like Jaredite apparel. Roxanne learned to really know the people of the scriptures, which helped her know that the gospel was true.

    “I have learned to love the scriptures,” says Roxanne, “and that has changed my life.”

    [illustration] Painting Mormon Abridging the Plates by Tom Lovell

    [photo] Lindsay Thiess (right) thought that Roxanne McHugh might be receptive to the Book of Mormon’s message. (Photography by Craig Dimond.)