In this week’s lesson we get a micro-specific peek into the process of coming to understand a very difficult passage of scripture. The Prophet is asking the Lord very specific questions about Chapters 4 and 7 through 11 in the book of Revelation. And it’s not so much what was revealed to Joseph that was important to us as it was the pattern for studying the scriptures and receiving personal revelation.
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In the last two podcasts we have talked about the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible and the tremendous blessings that came to the Prophet Joseph and to Sidney Rigdon as they carefully studied, pondered and meticulously prayed over the Bible. One of the great blessings that came was The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory. In this week’s lesson we get a micro-specific peek into the process of coming to understand a very difficult passage of scripture. The Prophet is asking the Lord very specific questions about Chapters 4 and 7 through 11 in the book of Revelation. And it’s not so much what was revealed to Joseph that was important to us as it was the pattern for studying the scriptures and receiving personal revelation.
Hello dear ones. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. This week we will be studying Doctrine and Covenants Sections 77 through 80 with a lesson entitled: “I Will Lead You Along.” We try to remind you at least once every podcast these two things: 1) You can find the complete transcripts of these podcasts with all the references and sources each week at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast, that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. And 2) Could you, this very week, share the podcast with a family member or friend or fellow ward member or even an old missionary companion? Just send them to latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast It’s as simple as that.
In Section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Prophet Joseph poses very, very specific questions to the Lord about parts of various chapters of the book of Revelation in the New Testament. Of course, they are in the midst of translating the records of John, the author of Revelation, and naturally a number of questions arose. Have you ever tried to read the Book of Revelation and get through the entire book without at least asking the simple question, “What is he talking about?” or “I don’t have a clue what this is saying. What does he mean here?” You have experienced this, I’m sure. And now Joseph went to the Lord with very detailed and pointed questions.
That’s right. Verse 1. What is the sea of glass spoken of by John, 4th chapter, and 6th verse of the Revelation?
And the Lord gives the answer: It is the earth, in its sanctified, immortal, and eternal state. Period. It’s a short, correct, perfect answer.
How’s that for a pattern? Ask the Lord a question and you can receive an answer!
And that reminds me of a wonderful experience I had when I was a student at BYU. I had the rare privilege of going with a friend and visiting the venerable Apostle Mark E. Petersen. I was told in advance I could ask him anything I wanted to. I was already an avid student of the gospel and so I prepared a whole list of questions and I knew it was going to take at least 45 minutes to an hour to get through my questions—if I didn’t keep asking more questions based on the answers.
As you know Maurine, I went in with some very deep, eternal questions for him. He was so gracious. He was so warm. He was so kind. And he said, “Scot, what are your questions?”
I began with what I thought was such a good question. The answer from Elder Petersen: We don’t know.
I waited for him to expound and he clearly looked at me for the next question.
I asked him the next question. He said, “That hasn’t been revealed.”
I asked my third question and the answer was about as short as the one in verse 1 of Section 77.
The point is this, When Joseph asked the Lord these questions, he was given answers that were sufficient and which gave the understanding that he needed at that time.
My other questions to Elder Petersen were also very specifically answered and we were done in a matter of 8 minutes.
What you are saying, then, Scot, is ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t be afraid to study things out in your mind from the scriptures and then write down the questions that come to you and then ask the Lord to increase your understanding. Ask the Lord for further light and truth and knowledge on the subject. Ask the Lord for guidance, wisdom, understanding and a clearer understanding of the truth. The pattern again is to ask questions.
Please don’t think you are ever left on your own in the scriptures. You never are. Here are some quick hints on where to turn for answers:
First of all: Pray before you start your daily study of the scriptures. Pray that you may be led to the truth. Pray that the eyes of your understanding may be opened. Pray that you will hear the voice of the Spirit leading you to the truth of the things you are reading. Pray that you will understand what in your studies today is for you specifically in your life’s setting and context right now. Pray that the Lord will forgive you of your sins so that you might be a vessel pure and able to receive personal revelation. Pray that you might see things that you have never seen before.
Now, we’re not saying that you should pray ALL these things in each pre-scripture-study session, but remember them and pray for what is appropriate for your current setting in life.
Second of all: Know that the scriptures themselves are the best commentary on the scriptures. In other words, as you are reading and studying daily in your scriptures and you come upon things you don’t understand, as the Prophet Joseph did, then look in the scriptures themselves for further understanding, for more light and knowledge on the subject or thing you are studying. You can and will be led to more thoughts and more answers. Look in the scripture Study Helps section where you have all of the following:
- A Topical Guide to the scriptures
- A Bible Dictionary
- An Index to the Triple Combination
- A Bible Chronology
- A Harmony of the Gospels
- The Joseph Smith Translation Appendix
- Bible Maps
- Bible Photographs
- Church History Maps, and
- Church History Photographs
Cross referencing is extremely helpful in coming to understand a passage of scriptures, but better yet, if you listen closely to your inner prompts, you’ll be led along to various verses and other passages that will help you understand what you are studying. We will talk more about that in number 3.
Now, remember, we’ve started this week by looking in Section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants and we’re watching as Joseph Smith is asking the Lord very specific questions. Here’s an example from the Book of Mormon that will show us the pattern of seeking answers and further commentary from the scriptures themselves:
Turn briefly to or listen to 1 Nephi chapter 10, verse 14:
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, [and by the way, I love the word OR in the scriptures because it usually is a signal that we’re going to get more explanation]…or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or [there’s that OR again] the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
I love that verse. Look at what we learn about the symbolism of the olive tree in this one verse alone:
The gathering in of Israel is analogous to the Gentiles and eventually the house of Israel receiving the fulness of the gospel.
The natural branches of the olive tree are the scattered remnants of the house of Israel.
To have the remnants of the house of Israel grafted in to the tree means for them to come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
Now, the Book of Mormon is especially loaded with this kind of commentary and it’s fantastic.
Remember, we are looking for patterns. What is the pattern we see in Section 77 for our own studies? And what resources do we have that will help us come to a deeper understanding of the scriptures?
Third: Learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit in your scripture studies. You remember last week we talked briefly about trigger scriptures. And we referred to these verses, 18 and 19 in Section 76:
18 Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit.
19 And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.
Let us pray that the eyes of our understanding can be touched that our spiritual eyes can be opened and that we can recognize when this is happening.
Pay attention to the slightest new understanding that comes.
Pay attention to feeling peace and calm. These are fruits of the Spirit.
Pay attention to a new idea or a flash of inspiration.
Pay attention to the slightest intimation that you should turn to another scripture or another verse. Go right to that verse. The Spirit is directing your studies.
Learn how the Spirit speaks to you.
Fourth: Turn to the words of the prophets and the apostles for further light and understanding on the scriptures. Joseph and Sidney did not have this resource in their day, but we have 181 years of conference talks and published words of the prophets and apostles to draw from.
And for your information, we use a wonderful app called “Scripture Citation Index” that is invaluable in this process. If you are reading a certain verse or some passages in the scriptures and you want to know what the brethren have said on that specific verse, you can go to the app, look at that book, chapter and verse and then see every time that verse or those verses have been cited in General Conference from 1942 through April 2021 and including the entire Journal of Discourses and the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
For example, today’s Section 77, verse 1 has been cited 11 times in General Conference by the following:
Russell M. Nelson
Harold B. Lee
George Albert Smith
Charles W. Penrose
Orson Pratt (4 times)
Brigham Young and
Elder Nelson said, “It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10). Ultimately, the earth will become celestialized. (See Rev. 21:1; D&C 77:1; D&C 88: 25-26) But its last days must be preceded by its latter days!
“We live in those latter days, and they are really remarkable.” (Russell M. Nelson, ““Thus Shall My Church Be Called”,” Ensign, May 1990, p. 16.)
And listen to what Elder Orson Pratt said about Section 77, verse 1:
“So, it will be with this earth. It will crumble, or in other words, the elements will be separated asunder, and the world will pass away from his presence. What next? Another great change to be wrought. The same elements, constituting the earth, and the atmosphere will be brought together again, in such a manner and way, that the new earth will look like unto a sea of glass, (see Rev 4:6; D&C 77:1; D&C 130:6-7) and those who are worthy of the celestial glory will inhabit it forever. (See Prov. 10:30; Luke 17:39-40 (JST); D&C 88:20; and D&C 130:9) (Elder Orson Pratt, Pre-Existence, in Spiritual Form, of Man, the Lower Animals and the Earth—The Temporal Probationary State—The Millennium—The Final Change, Mount Pleasant, November 12, 1879, Journal of Discourses 21:197)
So, turn to the words of the prophets and apostles for further understanding of the scriptures.
And fifth: Turn to wonderful commentaries that have been written by reputable and faithful members of the Church on the scriptures. There are many of them over the years that have been written—some of them are absolutely wonderful.
We often turn to the age-old Smith and Sjodahl Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, first published over a hundred years ago in Liverpool, England. It’s a gem.
But, of course, there are numerous commentaries which have been written since then, and we draw upon all of them in our studies. Robinson and Garrett commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, the Millet and Jackson Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants. We study the Robert Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie (your former bishop, Scot) commentary on the Book of Mormon. And, of course, we read and study from the six-volume Messiah series from Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Elder James E. Talmage’s Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith. The list goes on and on—and that’s the point. You have tremendous resources at your fingertips to help you in your serious study of the scriptures.
So, let’s review these simple five suggestions for aiding your study:
- Pray before you start your daily study of the scriptures.
2. Know that the scriptures themselves are the best commentary on the scriptures.
3. Learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit in your scripture studies.
4. Turn to the words of the prophets and the apostles for further light and understanding on the scriptures, and
5. Turn to wonderful commentaries that have been written by reputable members of the Church on the scriptures.
Remember, this is not a comprehensive approach to your personal studies of the scriptures. This is a life-long pursuit and there is a universe of knowledge to pursue and to dive into. Learning is eternal. Joseph Smith taught us this. We have worlds to explore—worlds without number. And there will never be a dearth of things to learn. It’s all very exciting.
Now, let’s focus on Section 78 for a few minutes. This section is a foundational revelation for the establishment of the “Firm” or the United Firm. Joseph would later refer to this as the United Order. This would lay the cornerstones for the whole idea of stewardship for the poor and stewardship of the things the Lord has given to us. These would be the founding principles of the welfare program of the Church that would come much later. Remember, the Restoration is ongoing and unfolding in our day and time and “we believe that [the Lord] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (See Articles of Faith, 9)
Look at verses 17 and 18 in Section 78:
17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; (Doctrine and Covenants 78:17)
If I can interrupt here, that verse really helps us understand where we are in our perception and knowledge of what Heavenly Father has in store for us. I love the scripture in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 2, Scot, that you and I have memorized:
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
That veil that was dropped over our memories is very real and very powerful in dousing our true knowledge of Heavenly Father’s generosity, His goodness, His abundant giving, His incredible planning on our behalf, His constant care, His never forgetting even one detail of any difficult circumstance or situation.
18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along…[You know that’s one of my favorite phrases from the scriptures: Be of Good Cheer, Sei guten Mutes in German.] The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours. (Doctrine and Covenants 78:18
That is so cheering! The kingdom is ours. That really means we are joint heirs with Christ. The blessings of the kingdom are ours. That means all the covenant blessings of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, as we are faithful, are ours. And the riches of eternity are ours, which, as we are faithful, includes eternal life! Those are some of the richest promises in all of holy writ.
They certainly are, and all in the context of teaching us about our earthly stewardships.
Now, look at verse 19:
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19)
That promise of blessings an hundred fold is fascinating. It can be translated from the Hebrew and the Greek as meaning 100 times, but there is some connotation that it has to do with the harvest of fruit or wheat and doesn’t just mean 100 times that season, but in multiple seasons to come so it has a feeling of an immeasurable blessing. You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed, I used to say.
The whole idea of receiving all things with thankfulness, living in gratitude, is a principle of great power. We had an extremely difficult experience in our family that taught us a great deal about gratitude.
Troubles are not polite. They don’t wait to take their turn, but often pile on you all at once until you feel like a drowning person on the seashore, who just struggles up from a wave and before you can take a breath, another wave catches you and fills your mouth with seawater.
We had a time like that twenty-one years ago. Things were hard. We had just moved from our dream home to live with eight of our eleven children in a cramped condo, waiting for a larger move across country to Washington DC. The sale of our home, which had been on the market for three years, had fallen through, and now we were stuck with two very large house payments. On top of that, we were just at the starting point for Meridian Magazine, and the financing, which we had worked on for several years, had also fallen through. We were too new to have an income from the magazine which took our full-time effort. We already felt adrift and frightened for our future.
Then the horrible phone call came from Mexico. Our daughter, Julie, had saved her money to spend a week at spring break, in Puerto Vallarta, with her friend Heidi. She had only left the day before for this longed-for vacation. Heidi’s voice trembled as she told us the news. Julie had had a terrible fall by the pool and had hit the back of her head hard on the cement and had been found in a pool of blood. No one knew exactly how it had happened. Feeling thirsty, she had left her friend on the beach, and headed back to the hotel pool to find water. Did she faint from dehydration? Had someone pushed her? We’ll never know, but she fell like a tree, straight back on her head, and we understood that it was serious. Heartsick, we called the hospital in Puerto Vallarta, struggling with the language barrier, to find out how she was. They couldn’t tell us much, but only promised one thing for certain: they would start treating her as soon as we gave them a credit card to use. Our insurance wouldn’t cover the bills in Mexico. It is often the case that critical illness is accompanied by financial desperation because of bills that mount at a dizzying rate. We ached with worry about Julie’s condition because we knew that head injuries often left long-term disabilities, and it was made worse because of our current circumstances.
We couldn’t get a plane out to Puerto Vallarta for about forty hours and in the meantime, the reports from the hospital were grim. She had twenty bleeds in her brain and her brain continued to swell. The mid-section of her brain had shifted. She had a large subdural hematoma. She was not in a coma, but difficult to awaken. We knew someone who had one bleed in her brain and her life was completely altered. When we finally arrived in her hospital room in Mexico, we never felt more vulnerable. Here was our beautiful daughter, her dark hair splayed across the pillow, with a vacant look in her eyes. She didn’t know what had happened. In family pictures we showed her, she didn’t recognize her aunts and uncles, though she could be coaxed with effort to remember the names of her brothers and sisters. We asked her who we were, and she said without emotion that we were Mom and Dad, then promptly went back to sleep. What lay ahead for her? We tried not to think the worst about long-term damage to her intellectual abilities and her opportunity to lead a normal life, but, of course, a gnawing worry ate at us.
I thought about how funny she was, how quick-witted. Would we ever see that flash of humor again? Another fear nagged us. Was she getting the best treatment in this small hospital in Mexico? It was hard to say because our doctor only spoke halting English. When the results of the second MRI came back, the news was worse. Her brain continued to bleed and swell, and, if that trend continued, we’d have to MedVac her to another hospital in Guadalajara , though moving her could be dangerous—even life-threatening.
We spent hours trying to find a neurosurgeon from Salt Lake who spoke Spanish and could communicate with our doctor so we could be assured she was getting the best care. When we did find one, he assured us her care was good, but they were “not as aggressive as we would be here in the States.” At night, Scot went back to a nearby hotel room, since there was room for only one extra person in Julie’s room, and I slept on a narrow padded slab against the wall, getting up every two hours to wake her so she wouldn’t slip off into a coma. On that slab in the darkness, I tried to pray. You’d think at such a low ebb of desperation that you could pour your heart out to God, that words would come bubbling to the surface. Not for me. It was like the words were stuck inside of me in some paralysis of pain. It was as if they were stuck behind a dam, that if it burst I would not be able to contain my anguish, and my grief would overcome and swamp me. So, all I could say in a plaintive whisper to God was, “Help. Help. Help” repeated over and over again, my voice hoarse with pleading. How could so many things go so wrong in my life at once? What would happen to our beautiful girl? I found out that God does hear one-word prayers, because when I think back on my life and am filled with gratitude, those miserable days in a Mexican hospital, when I could hardly breathe for tension, are what come first to my mind. The Lord gradually shed light into my darkened world.
First, He sent his children to bless and lift us. The moment we had learned about Julie’s accident, we began to make a series of calls, finally finding the mission president, who could speak Spanish and called the nearest branch president to come quickly. Just as the ambulance arrived at the hospital, he was already there and gave her a powerful blessing in the ambulance. It was in Spanish and Julie couldn’t hear it, but the Spirit did. The branch president and his wife came the next day with a teddy bear and treats, hoping to touch her heart with hope, and then came a few times more to make sure she was doing well. Another member of the branch owned a lovely restaurant and motioned to us after church on Sunday, that he wanted to give us relief from our worries. He explained with a word of English here and a word there, that he would pick us up the next night and take us to his restaurant and feed us. How can the Lord have such charitable and good children? We thought, they will never see us again. They can’t even converse with us. We can do nothing for them, but they are seeking to bless us merely because we are a brother and sister in heavy need. These kindnesses made our days bearable. They were like a quiet touch on the shoulder from God saying, I know where you are and I haven’t forgotten you.
Julie’s third MRI yielded better news. The bleeding and swelling had stopped. After two weeks, she had begun to awaken more and speak somewhat coherently. We felt encouraged, but the tedium of the hospital coupled with the tension was terribly draining. Then, we got a knock on the door and there stood Chris and Alison Hemming, a young couple we had never met before, brimming with happiness and vitality, who were on their honeymoon. They had been married two days before in the Oakland Temple and were on a cruise, whose first stop was Puerto Vallarta.
Now think about it, if you are on your honeymoon at your first port of call, where the tropical breezes caress the very air, what would you do with your few hours? Walk hand in hand along the beach? Share a romantic little dinner to celebrate your wedding? Wander through the shops eyeing the folk art? Then there is always that great possibility that pops up first in any honeymooner’s mind. You could always visit the sick—somebody that you don’t know at all. Who were these two bright ones at our door? Who would consider such a thing? They explained that Chris had been on a mission in Bolivia and told Alison so much about it, that she really wanted to see what a little branch looked like. Though it was Monday, they caught a cab and went to the church building, and who should be there but our saintly branch president. He told them that an American girl was very sick in the hospital and the newlyweds decided that visiting her was what they wanted to do with their few free hours at this port of call. We laughed together, talked like old friends, and I secretly marveled at how much better I felt for this outpouring of love to us from these two who didn’t know us, but chose to love us anyway. I felt awash in gratitude for my Heavenly Father, who knew just how to send a dash of hope into a gray hospital room. I wanted to shout Hallelujah that His children who feel His light would act in such a compassionate way. I felt—I can say it no better than this—I felt loved. I felt noticed by the Divine, acknowledged by my Creator, and encircled in the robes of His righteousness.
Later, the doctor sat at his desk and handled the scans of Julie’s brain, and said, marveling, that the patient whose brain was scanned in those pictures could not be the same patient in the hospital room, who now was talking so clearly and hadn’t apparently suffered intellectually. “Julie and this scan just don’t match up,” he said. “I just can’t understand how she can be functioning so well with this degree of brain trauma.” Later another doctor in Salt Lake independently made the same comment. The patient and the scan don’t match. This is the scan of a very sick girl. Still, we cannot say that life became easier. We had had a miracle, but Julie had years of difficult symptoms from her injury. It took another ten months to sell our home in Utah, all the while we had two house payments and very little income.
But what we had experienced from the depths of our extremities was a transformation from heaviness to hope, and wretchedness to gratitude. I had felt God’s light touch upon my soul. Julie’s jokes and wit are still a regular part of our life. They were not stilled by that accident, and I will never forget that God hears one-word prayers and remembers even when I am far away.
19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious…
That scripture rang true to us then. It rings true to us now.
There is great power in gratitude. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:
“When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, (1997), p. 250)
President Thomas S. Monson taught:
“We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (Thomas S. Monson, The Divine Gift of Gratitude, General Conference, November 2010).
President Joseph F. Smith drives this lesson home:
“The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” He continued: “Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” (Ibid)
No matter what our circumstances, no matter what our trials, no matter the challenges, may we be found full of gratitude to the Lord for His generous Hand in our lives and His multitudinous blessings which are showered upon us.
That’s all for today. We love being with you and we love you. Next week our lesson will cover sections 81 through 83 with a lesson entitled “Where Much is Given Much is Required. Thanks as always to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music and thanks to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produced this show. Have a wonderful week and see you next time.