I had such a wonderful experience yesterday morning in my personal scripture study I wanted to not only share it with you, but walk you through the process so that it might be of some benefit. This is a very personal article. Stay with me.
Daily Readings No Matter What
I read the scriptures each and every day. I never miss. I haven’t missed since I committed to daily scripture study on August 28, 1972. I’ve instructed my family that if I’m ever in a coma or have a long surgery where I’m out of it that they are to read the scriptures to me so I don’t miss.
I used to get up on my soapbox every semester in front of my institute students and encourage them to take the challenge: “The very best day to start reading the scriptures every day, never miss, was probably twenty years ago (I have mainly taught adults), but the second best day to start is today, yes, this very date, Friday, February 10, 2006 (or whatever date it was). You can always look back and say, ‘Yep, I committed to reading the scriptures every day, never miss, on Friday, February 10, 2006. And I have never missed since that day — not once.’” I can’t tell you how many students I have come to me years and years after that lesson and say, “Brother Proctor, I want you to know that I’ve never missed reading the scriptures every day since October 27, 1994. I’m so glad I committed.” That is so gratifying.
Letter of the Law
I have to admit, there are some days, when, because of Meridian’s responsibilities (you know, doing Meridian is like buying a dairy farm in Wisconsin — every morning the cows are bellowing — and they have to be milked) my daily read in the scriptures ends up being between 11:54 PM and 12:07 AM. I don’t particularly like those kind of readings because I know that I’m missing something very great. At that point I am only living the letter of the law.
Yesterday was the Patriarch Hyrum Smith’s birthday — February 9, 1800. I always think about him just like I think about the Prophet Joseph’s significant dates and a pile of other Church History dates. These things are just resident in my mind. I think dates are significant. I always love to reread Section 76 on February 16 each year, just to capture some of the context of that day when the great vision of the three degrees of glory was received. My scripture reading is often very rich on the Patriarch Hyrum Smith’s birthday, just because… well, just because.
Let me walk you through yesterday morning’s study time. I’ll make it personal and detailed so you can see the process I went through. I think it will bless you.
The first alarm had gone off on my watch. I have three. I try to get up immediately so I don’t awaken Maurine before she has to get up. I’m the designated parent to awaken Mariah each morning to get ready for seminary. I am a morning person.
I made it to Mariah’s room by the second alarm. Awakening Mariah is always a chore. She is a dreamer and she almost always begs me to let her finish this really good part of the dream she’s in. I have to talk her through the motions of getting out of bed. “Don’t forget to make your bed right as you get out of it,” I reminded her.
The third alarm went off. Mariah was ready to get out of bed (and I trusted that she would not leap back into her dream). I knew Maurine had to be up at 5:45 to leave by 6:30 for a conference in the District. I sneaked back into our room to get my scriptures from my night stand and then I headed down to the laundry room to put on my gym clothes. I put them in the dryer the night before at 11:20 just before I went to bed. I put my gym clothes on because on the weeks that I don’t drive the seminary car pool, I drive right from the church to the gym to get in my workout and get back to the house in time to launch the new edition of Meridian. (We certainly don’t do Meridian alone — without an able and talented staff we would be sunk). It was a cold 26 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight wind. I was glad to be able to work out inside.
I sat down in the quiet of the kitchen eating area and spread my scriptures out on the kitchen table. I could hear the shower going upstairs, so I knew that Mariah was going to be okay. I opened my Triple Combination back up to 2 Nephi Chapter 8 — the chapter I had attempted to read late the night before, but only got through 12 or 15 verses before the clock struck twelve and I could not concentrate. I try to read something morning and night. I said a prayer as I began, essentially something like this: “Dear Heavenly Father, I thank Thee that I have this time to read Thy words. Help me to understand them and to feel the message Thou wouldst intend for me to have today. In the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.” I was ready to begin.
I knew this chapter was Isaiah material. I really wanted to understand it. “Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness. Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.” (2 Nephi 8: 1) I knew from past readings this was all about our ties to Abraham and Sarah. I had just taught a lesson last Sunday in High Priests on the Covenant of Abraham. I have made this reading of the Book of Mormon specifically focused on one of the two-fold purposes of the book from the title page itself: “Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever…” I’m searching for all the references to the covenants of the Father to His children. I thought, “Ah, another chapter about the covenants of the Father. This is great.”
“Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, she that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him.” (verse 2) I was fully attentive to what was going on now and I started feeling the Spirit in my heart as I read this verse. “These are my true parents,” I pondered. “And this record has been written for their posterity.”
“For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.” (verse 3). “You know,” I thought, “I have always felt like this would be one of the greatest miracles and greatest gifts of the Lord. I know that waste places can be a people without knowledge of the true Messiah — but I also know about the great wilderness of Judea and the Wadi al Arabah where the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the earth.
The healing of that land and that sea will be one of the great miracles of the last days. And to become like Eden — wow.” Now I lost all track of time. The clock on the wall behind me has a small pendulum that swings. I could not hear it now.
I enjoyed each verse. I began to feast upon the words. “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart I have written my law…” (verse 7). I stopped and meditated about having the law of the Lord written upon my heart. I wanted to be that kind of person. I wanted to be someone the Lord can absolute count on. Is His law written on my heart?
“But my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation. Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days” (verses 8, 9). “Remember, this is talking about the covenants of the Father to Abraham and to his posterity,” I meditated. This sounds familiar to me.”
“I am he; yea, I am he that comforteth you” (verse 12). I continued to ponder: “This is the voice of the great Jehovah. This is Jesus Christ. This is the true Messiah, the Holy One of Israel. This is the Anointed One. This is the one that gives me comfort. I like the phrase ‘I am he.’”
By now I was completely immersed in these verses. I was feeling the Spirit in my heart and ideas were flowing to my mind (see D&C 8: 2, 3).
I carefully studied each verse, word by word. I thought about “the captive exile being loosed.” I thought about Job. I thought about the Lord of Hosts whose “waves roared.” I thought of Nephi’s constant knowledge that he and his family were like the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. I thought about the two witnesses in the last days who will testify in Jerusalem (see verses 17-20).
I came to verse 22: “Thus saith thy Lord, the Lord and thy God pleadeth the cause of his people…” I thought how powerful that was that Christ was the one pleading our cause as a people; that He was our advocate with the Father. It made me so happy to think of Jesus being our advocate. I wanted to read all the verses specifically in the Doctrine and Covenants that referred to Christ as our advocate. The footnote in verse 22 didn’t lead me to any of those cross references. I went to the index in my Triple Combination. I looked up the word advocate. This said: (see Jesus Christ — Advocate). I turned to page 176 of the index. There were all the references I had felt to look up in the Doctrine and Covenants. I went through them one by one.
“Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.” (D&C 29: 5) Maurine and I had memorized that verse 15 years ago. I thought about the 1839 mission of the Twelve to the British Isles and how Joseph had seen the Twelve in vision and saw Christ standing there just above them and they could not see Him. I pondered about the statement “it is his good will to give you the kingdom.” It made me so happy that the Father is so kind and so generous. I went to the next reference.
“And Ziba Peterson also shall go with them; and I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them” (D&C 32: 3). I knew this mission well from Fayette, New York to Western Missouri. I studied it carefully as we were blessed to do the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, the Revised and Enhanced Edition. I thought about Parley and Ziba and Peter Whitmer, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery and later Frederick Granger Williams on that brutal mission in the dead of winter in 1830 and 1831. I thought about the Savior being with them. I pondered about the statement “…and nothing shall prevail against them.” I was so moved by the kindness of the Lord. I went to the next reference.
“Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him —Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou was well pleased…” (D&C 45: 3, 4) I stopped briefly. My heart was so full I felt I would burst. I began to cry. I could not imagine anything sweeter than knowing that the Savior was pleading my cause before the Father. I wanted to look up the verses where the Father’s voice says “in whom I am well pleased.” He didn’t say it in the Sacred Grove (see JS-H 1: 17) at least it was not in the 1838 account. It was at the River Jordan right after the baptism.
I looked up Matthew chapter 3. Sure enough — there was one of them. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (and the Joseph Smith Translation adds “Hear ye him”)” (see Matthew 3: 17). I knew the Father had spoken at the Mount of Transfiguration. I had it well marked: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (see Matthew 17: 5).
I thought “Oh, and He spoke when the Savior visited the Nephites.” I quickly turned there: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name — hear ye him” (see 3 Nephi 11: 7). I was thinking about how much the Father loved His Son. I just felt so happy. I now went back to finish up the Section 45 reference.
“Behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45: 4, 5). I was writing all these references down with my very fine Rapidograph pen sideways in the margin of my scriptures back there by 2 Nephi 8: 22. The section 45 words reminded me of the language in the great intercessory prayer. I turned to John chapter 17. My heart was still burning and I was being blessed.
I read the entire prayer of Jesus Christ. I’ve always loved that prayer and have often felt the effects of that very prayer in my own life. It made me so happy to read it again. I got to verse 17: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” I thought, “I need to remember that verse. 17:17 — I can remember that. Reading the scriptures on a daily basis is part of the sanctification process.”
I turned back to the last couple of references in the Doctrine and Covenants.
“Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (D&C 62: 1). I was moved by the word succor. I had looked up the word before in the Greek but couldn’t remember the exact meaning now.
I went and got my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (a must for someone studying the scriptures who doesn’t know the ancient languages of Greek, Hebrew or Chaldee). I looked up succor. It was word number 997 in the Greek. I went to the index. The transliteration is boetheo (bo ay theh’ o). I went right to my Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The first line of the definition leaped out at me: to run to the cry (of those in danger). I welled up with tears again. This great God I worship knows how to succor those who stand in need. I thought about how many times I had cried unto him and He had “run to my cry.” I was filled with joy and gratitude. This feeling was so sweet.
Now the kitchen table was covered with my opened books — my Triple, my Bible, Strongs, Thayers and Gesenius’ (the Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament). My colored pencils were spread all over. My pen cap was off to the right.
I had two more references. “I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110: 4). I thought about the Kirtland Temple and the great manifestations there on that April 3, 1836. I thought of Joseph and Oliver gazing into the face of the Savior — the Advocate with the Father.
“I am the same which have taken the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom…” I stopped. We were just talking to our girls about this last Sunday morning in our Old Testament family study time. “…and verily, I say, even as many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them” (D&C 38: 4). Here is this same image again, the Savior pleading our case before the Father.
At this moment, Mariah came into the kitchen. “Dad, I’m ready to go.” She startled me. I was in a completely different world. “What time is it?” “Seven ‘til.” “Oh my goodness, I forgot to get Mom up. I’ll be right back.” I left everything in a heap and ran up the stairs. The light was on in our room and fortunately Maurine was awake. “Good morning, dear. I’ve just had the best scripture reading time. Did you realize the word succor means ‘to run to the cry?’ I am so grateful that we worship a God who knows how to succor us. I loved my scripture reading so much this morning.” “Will you share it all with me tonight?” “I will. In fact, I think I better write about it. I’ve got to take Mariah to seminary. I love you.”
“Dad, I want you to know I was ready on time this morning and you are the one making us late,” Mariah said to me.
“You’re right, dear. I take full responsibility, but now I’m ready for the day. Let’s go.”
We’re out the door and off to seminary (we said our prayers on the way in the car).