Hi, we’re Maurine and Scot Proctor and we welcome you to our new Come, Follow Me podcast.
We love to talk, discuss, enjoy, and celebrate the scriptures. This is our passion. It’s why we do Meridian, and it’s why we’re talking to you today. We are the publishers and editors of Meridian Magazine. We’ve taught institute for 18 years. We’ve written a number of books on scripture and the history of the Church.
And mostly, we just love the scriptures and so excited to talk about them. Special thanks to Paul Cardall for providing the music for this podcast. Now, we hope that you’ll study along and listen to this podcast in your car, or in the kitchen, or while you’re reading the scriptures. We just want it to become kind of a part of your life. We’ve been invited to do study groups. This is one of them.
So, let’s begin with lesson one. I love how this starts because the beginning says, “I am responsible for my own learning.” With this new change in the way we do things in the church, we have the chance to come home and study the scriptures on our own. I believe this is the Lord’s way of giving us His trust and saying, I know you can do this. Because sometimes we’ve been spoon fed with our spirituality. We hope that the Gospel Doctrine teacher has a great lesson prepared. Did we prepare? Did we read the lesson in advance? Did we come to Sunday School, oh, I didn’t read it this week. Oh, oh well. He’ll have a good lesson. She’ll have a good lesson. It doesn’t always work out that way. We think that someone else is responsible for our learning. We come away from the lesson and we say, hmm that wasn’t a very good lesson, or that was a great lesson! We still are kind of entitled. We’re waiting for them to give us that spirituality. So now we have to take responsibility, as we always should have taken responsibility, for our own learning.
So, this is a day of determination. We need to determine today how we are going to use our agency. Are we going to make the scriptures a part of our everyday life? You know, Joshua said:
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Neal Maxwell said about that scripture:
“[However] Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve; he spoke of ‘this day,’ while there is still daylight and before the darkness becomes more and more normal.”
What an interesting idea—the darkness becoming more normal. Neal Maxwell continued:
“When Jesus called his first disciples, the scriptures record that they left their ships and nets ‘straightway.’ They didn’t ask to join Jesus after the fishing season; they didn’t even delay their response in order to make just one more catch. They left ‘straightway’! Act, my brothers and sisters, for once the soul is tilted toward belief, and once there is even a desire to believe, then marvelous things begin to happen! … Act now, so that in a thousand years from now, when you look back at this moment, you can say this was a moment that mattered—this was a day of determination.”
He said, “The truth is that ‘not yet’ usually means ‘never.’ Trying to run away from the responsibility to decide about Christ is childish.” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Why Not Now?” Ensign, Nov. 1974.)
I love that idea—that this is the day of determination for all of us.
So let’s be determined. Let’s begin. And I love in Section 58 how the Lord really tells us that we need to be anxiously engaged in many righteous things and bring about much righteousness on our own (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). I was thinking about Enos in the Book of Mormon, because, you remember, you all know the story of Enos. He went into the woods to hunt beasts and he started thinking about the words of his father and he started thinking about his own life and he prayed to have forgiveness for his sins. And after a long prayer, I mean it went all day long and in into the night, as he finally reached the heavens and the spirit or the voice of the Lord spoke to him and said, Enos, thy sins be forgiven thee. And I love what Enos says:
“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie, wherefore my guilt was swept away.” (Enos 1:5,6)
So that teaches us something: that first of all, God cannot lie; and second of all, when Enos realized that his guilt was swept away immediately. And so for us, if we can exercise that kind of faith, if we know that His promises are sure, if we know absolutely that God cannot lie, then we can exercise great faith in Him.
And think about the kinds of promises He’s made to us. For example, if you “draw near unto me, I will draw near unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63). That’s a promise from one who cannot lie. And I can’t think of anything I want more than to have Him draw near unto me. I love what Jeremiah says in Chapter 29:
“11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
And what is that end?
“12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
“13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
“14 And I will be found of you[.]” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Now, this is a promise from someone who cannot lie. That’s an immense and incredible thing that we’re promised if today we make that determination to really become a devoted disciple of Christ in everyway that we are asked.
That really has the same power of that Enos scripture. “I will be found of you.” I just love that. It just gives me so much confidence to come to the Lord and seek to find answers from Him because He is source of all truth.
Yeah, sometimes we get the idea that He is going to be hard to find, or that He wants to hide from us, or that somehow we can’t approach him, he won’t be there for us. And He says just the opposite. He says, if we will determine to use our agency to act on this journey with our whole hearts that He will be found.
That brings us to 1 Nephi 10:17. You’re welcome to follow along if you go to that verse. It’s worth looking at closely because in that verse Nephi has just listened to his father recounting the vision that he had of the tree of life, and he’s thrilled about it. He’s so thrilled that he wants to find out all about it for himself. And he wants to know the meaning of that. And so, in verse 17 it says:
“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi…”
Watch this really closely.
“…I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” (1 Nephi 10:17)
So here is this Nephi showing us the way, showing us an example that he could receive the same things that his father had received.
And what’s so interesting about this is that Laman and Lemuel are meanwhile in a tent discussing and even arguing about the things that their father told them. But Nephi takes a different route. And knowing that God’s good on His promises, and knowing that he, Nephi, had this huge desire, he went to Him in prayer and with this full confidence that he would be answered.
So, if we’re going to liken the scripture unto ourselves, then we need to look at our own desires and say do we, too, have that same kind of desire? Do we want to know things that the Lord teaches through the holy scriptures? Do we want to understand them and apply them in our lives in this modern world? In this very confusing and sometimes tumultuous world how do we know the truth of these things and how do we apply them into our lives?
What’s so great about this, too, is that the Lord wants to give us these desires if we don’t have them. Sometimes we think, well, I wish my desires were a little more intent. I see Nephi has these huge desires, but do I? And so that’s something we can pray for. Lord, give me desire to come to Thee. Give me desire to know Thy word in the scripture. Give me desire, and the Lord will take even that very humble prayer and answer it.
In fact, He loves that particular prayer, I think. I’ve had my own experience with that prayer. That brings us to John 5:39. This is a scripture many of us learned back in seminary days. But I love this scripture, but I love it in context because the scripture, of course, as you know, is,
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)
This is the Savior speaking. He’s giving this imperative. It’s a commandment: search the scriptures. But then, He’s talking to the Jews here and the Jews had kind of had this concept that if they have the scriptures, they would obtain eternal life. That just by having them, just by studying them, that’s how they would obtain eternal life. But he was saying to them, search them for they’re the ones that point to me. They’re the ones that are going to bring you to me. And I’m the one that can give you eternal life. And so, I love that. And this word search is, like, it’s not just a passive commandment. It means dig. Dig deep. Dig like you’re digging a mine for you’re trying to find the motherlode. And as you dig deeper and deeper and deeper and you find the motherlode, you find that that is the Savior. That’s who you find.
And isn’t it interesting those answers you find when you’re digging deep are the ones that mean the very most to you? It’s also this huge compliment from the Lord because he says, I know you have the intellect and spiritual resources to be an agent in finding these answers. And the Holy Ghost will give them to you as you actively search. It becomes such a wonderful dynamic between you and the Lord as you are actively searching the scriptures. And yes, it’s a skill that can be learned. But, it is something that grows stronger and stronger and stronger as we seek to do it. I also love Isaiah 34:16, and it’s again a verse that talks about the sure promises of the Lord. He says,
“Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail” (Isaiah 34:16)
In other words, not one thing that He’s saying is going to fail. You can count on what He has said. That’s amazing in a world where you can’t count on very much of anything. We don’t even know what tomorrow looks like for any of us, and we live in a world where fads come and go, and governments come and go, and things change constantly. But God is someone we can count on. And he says, “no one of these things shall fail,” as He tells us in scriptures. What a foundation and a sense of security to have in your life.
Well, Joshua gives us that same teaching at the end of his life. He apparently gives this on the day that he’s going to die. He says:
“And, behold, this day I’m going the way…” and this is Joshua 23:14.
“And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” (Joshua 23:14)
That is Joshua’s dying testimony. He says, you know—and I love how he tells the whole congregation of the children of Israel—you know that nothing has failed, that all that the Lord has spoken has come to pass. And you are witnesses this day.
What a sure place to be in our lives—to be tethered to the Lord through covenant and through these promises that we absolutely know He will fulfill because He cannot lie. Such an incredible thing. I love those verses from the very first section of the Doctrine and Covenants to this verse 37 and 38. It is:
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37)
My goodness. He tells this idea again and again throughout scripture that his promises and his prophecies shall all be fulfilled. And then there’s a stunning verse: 38.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mind own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38)
And again, that sense of assurance, His words shall all be fulfilled. We don’t need to be insecure for one moment in this world when we are tied and tethered to the Lord and His word.
His word is sure. And I love how this has been renewed to us now in our time. Right? Recently, when President Nelson gave his what I call seminal talk on Revelation in the April 2018 General Conference, he not only talked about him receiving revelation for the church, he talked about us receiving revelation for ourselves. And he not only encouraged us, he implored us, to seek for personal revelation. He said:
“Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives”, Ensign, April 2018.)
I love that from the prophet of the Lord, saying that the Lord trusts us, and the prophet trusts us. He says, go seek your own personal revelation about anything that concerns you.
And what’s so interesting is he doesn’t say you have to be perfect at it today or you’re somehow a failure. He says, in fact he implores, for all of us to be learners. Now we are to learn. We don’t have to be some perfect finished specimen at this point. We get to learn this process and we get to learn how to connect with the Lord. And I just love that when he said: “Does God really want to speak to you? Yes!”
It gives me great joy to know He wants to speak to me.
President Nelson continued:
“I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.’
And then he said,
“Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know[.]” And then he quoted Elder Maxwell: ‘To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!’
“Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives”, Ensign, April 2018.)
President Nelson gives us there a formula for how to receive revelation. He gives us those six things and it’s worth looking at that very paragraph over and over again and pondering about that to see how that applies to us. Again, we have to look at that a little closer:
“Nothing opens the heavens quite like [number one:] the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.”
That is just amazing what will happen.
It is. I want the heavens opened for me, and I bet everyone in this audience wants the heavens open for them. And so we’re invited to learn how to do that through this very incredible formula that we’re given. Why would we ever resist the Lord when we’re being told so very specifically what it takes to open the heavens? Why would we resist doing any of that? And yet, we have to confess that sometimes we do resist.
We do. And I think we resist in very subtle ways. Sometimes we have impressions and we think, oh, that’s probably not an impression. Or we have an inclination towards doing some good thing and we think, oh, maybe some other time, or I’m not going to do it right now, maybe I’ll do it later. I think that is a small view of resistance to the Spirit of the Lord—just those little things. Parley P. Pratt used to say, the Lord entrusts us with small things so that He can trust us with the big things.
I like that because sometimes the small things are say hello to this particular brother, or say hello to this particular sister, or you need to call so-and-so, or you need to turn this way with your car, or you need to go to this person’s home and see them. Those are all what we would consider little things. But the Lord is entrusting us with them because I’m sure He has bigger things to give to us.
I also think it’s interesting that sometimes we resist the Lord because we think it will be an imposition on our will. We want to do it our way. We want to walk in our own way. And we think that somehow being a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ means it involves discipline. Disciple and discipline are linked words. And, really, we resist joy. We resist expansion of mind and heart. We resist all the things that are delicious to us.
Absolutely. And that leads us to Alma 32, which is talking about planting the word in your heart. He talks about comparing the word unto a seed and planting that seed in our hearts. He says,
“Now,…” and this is Alma 32:28,
“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart,…”
In other words, the word is planted in your heart by study, by studying the scriptures.
“…behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—it must needs be a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:38)
What more would we ever want than something that expands us in that way? And it is delicious to us. And that’s what the Lord promises as we make the scriptures a center of our lives and plant that word in our heart as if we would plant a seed.
Well, then it continues in verse 37, he says:
“And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, it ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.” (Alma 32:37)
And it’s interesting that when you put that fruit inside of you and it begins to grow, it grows into a tree of life, which is the very symbol of Jesus Christ. The tree of life grows inside of you. It also means that your frame of reference for your whole life are these words of the Lord that you’re putting into your mind and heart.
I’m reminded of something that happened to us just recently. We have a piece of land up on a mountaintop with some beautiful soaring pine trees, and we go there often to walk and fill a little bit of peace. But there was a fire that came this summer to Utah in this dry, dry season of drought. And everything was just the perfect condition for this fire. And this fire, which started at one hundred acres, grew to two hundred and then a thousand and then ten thousand. We watched it leaping in great bounds toward our mountain and our property. We were really concerned that it would be burned in the fire as so many other beautiful stretches of forest were being burned. So, Scot, you and I went to the top of a mountain and we had a really special prayer. We could see from the top of that mountain, that fire coming toward us.
In fact, by this time the fire had gone around to the south of us. It was off to the west of us coming towards the east. It was off to the north of us. It was as if we were completely surrounded by these fires. And they go so quickly that you just don’t know from day to day how quickly that will come and how fast it can jump. And so we just started pleading with the Lord.
Yes. In fact, we took one last walk on our own piece of property, kind of saying goodbye to it because we thought it would burn. But we went to the top of that mountain. We pled with all of our hearts. But because we know the scriptures well, we know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And they were cast into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. And it was a furnace that was extremely hot. And they said that they would not bow down and worship the idol, the 90ft idol that the king of Babylon wanted them to worship because they worship the true and living God. And they knew he was able to save them, “but if not,” be it known, King, that this is the Lord that we serve. (Daniel 3:18)
And so, as we watched that fire can be taught us, we said we would really hope that the blessing would come to our lot, that it would not be burned. But if not, we will still be devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. We will not feel unanswered or unloved or somehow cynical because this prayer was not answered. And it’s because we were at that moment letting the scriptures furnish our mind. And then, just a few weeks later, in Paradise, California, we interviewed so many members of the church who had lost their homes in a raging fire that had come through their beautiful town. And, interestingly enough, they felt the same protective power that we had asked for from the Lord. Even though their houses had been burned, they had that sense that the Lord loved them and protected them. And “but if not”—and in this case it was “but if not”—the Lord was in the fiery furnace with them as He had been in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Just an example that when you let the scriptures furnish your mind, it changes your mind. It expands your mind. You think of things in relationship to the true attributes of God and you are less torn and thrown about by every wind of doctrine. You are solid.
You know, as you read the scriptures this year, as we study the New Testament together, as we try to understand the ministry of the Lord, His mortal ministry here on this earth, pay attention to those scriptures which speak to you personally. And this happens to us often. We’ll be reading the scriptures, and just a verse, maybe we’ve read it before, and the verse just seems to leap off the page to us and it starts to speak to us. Pay attention to those. I call them trigger scriptures. We see it in the history of the church. Joseph Smith, of course, experienced this a number of times, but one particular main time he experienced it.
This was, of course in James 1:5. That is,
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5,6)
I love that scripture because it says that the Lord gives liberally when we ask questions. And “upbraideth not” means He doesn’t get angry at us because we’re ignorant or that we don’t know, or that we’re confused. He wants to give liberally to us these answers. And so often these answers are found in the pages of scripture. Or, reading scripture conditions our whole spirit to be open to receive that light and revelation that is available to us.
I love what Joseph said about after he read this scripture. He said, no passage of scripture ever came with greater force to the heart of man than this one did at this time to mine (Joseph Smith—History 1:12). That’s what a trigger scripture is. And later on, when he and Sydney are translating the Bible, they get to John 5:28,29, and they see this about the resurrection of the just. And they start looking at this and it comes out of them as never before. Then, that is the trigger that allows them to see the great vision of the three degrees of glory. Joseph F. Smith is the same way. He’s pondering the scriptures in his room. He’s studying from 1 Peter and he’s pondering about the atonement and reflecting upon the atonement at about that time when the Savior went in to preach to them who were in the spirit prison. And this opened his mind to a great vision of the redemption of the dead and we have a Section 138 now. So pay attention to those trigger scriptures. Pay attention to scriptures that speak to you on that particular day. They will come out to you, and they will invite you to revelation.
I love that. They will also give us protection from the adversary. It is so interesting that we have our perfect exemplar, Jesus Christ, who obviously knew the scriptures perfectly from the time of His youth. It is interesting that, when He goes into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and nights and be with His father, when He is a hungered and famished, Satan comes to him and he tempts him, first of all, that he turn the rocks into bread. And how does Jesus answer every single temptation? He answers by quoting a scripture to Satan. For example, when Satan says, turn these stones to bread, Jesus answers,
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
And then when Satan tempts him to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple, and that angels who are given charge to protect him would protect him right before all those who would be there. And in a very direct show that he had this kind of divine power, Jesus answered,
“Thou shall not tempt the Lord Thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
Again, complete quoting of scripture. So it is clear that if we want to protect ourselves from the adversary, we have the scriptures in our mind, in our heart, ready to go.
Now, as we come to a close of this particular podcast of this first podcast on the Come, Follow Me curriculum, we want to give you a challenge. We are at a place where we need to commit to read the scriptures and make them a part of our lives every day. I have to say from my own witness, I had a wonderful father who was always encouraging me to read the scriptures when I was starting into seminary, and I was very resistant to that. I just thought, I don’t think that’s very important and I don’t…—you know how teenagers are. And I was that way. I just thought I wasn’t going to start reading them every day. It just seemed like a waste of time. I had a lot of things to do, and he kept encouraging me: “Scott, I promise you, if you’ll read the scriptures, you’ll get more out of them than what you put into them.” And that’s what he kept saying: “you’ll get more out of them than what you put into them.” And I started getting curious about that. So, when I make a commitment, I really want to make a commitment. And so I did so. I finally made the commitment that I would read the scriptures every day, but I said I would read them every day the rest of my life, and I’ve never missed. It’s been 46 years and five months and a number of days. And I’ve never missed. I’ve never missed a day. And today is the day for you. Now, 20 years ago or 10 years ago might have been the perfect day for you to start reading the scriptures every day. But let’s say you’re listening to this and it’s December 30th, 2018. Or maybe it’s December 27th or December 31st and maybe it’s January 1st, 2019. A great day to start. Whatever day it is, mark the day and say, I will read the scriptures every day for the rest of my life. I will never miss. We’re big kids now and the Lord has said, I am allowing you to study these scriptures at home. I’m entrusting you with this. He’s giving us this opportunity to read and study at home. Make the most of it. Do it daily. You’ll be so blessed. Elder Bednar said,
“…[A]s learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? …A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception.” (Elder David A. Bednar “Seek Learning by Faith”, Ensign, Sept. 2007)
So this is the day.
I love that idea that you act instead of be acted upon. In fact, Scot, you’ve told me that if you ever go into a coma for any reason that I am to read the scriptures to you every day while you are in a coma.
So that I don’t miss.
So that he doesn’t miss.
I do not want to miss a day, ever.
And we’ve made that challenge to many of our children. And many of our students over the years who have taken that and have said to us when we run into them later: it’s been six years, it’s been ten years, it’s been fourteen years since the day I determined and committed to reading the scriptures every day. So this is an act of faith. But I love what President Kimball said about Joseph Smith and faith. He said,
“…[R]emember that there were no heavenly beings in Palmyra, on the Susquehanna or on Cumorah when the soul-hungry Joseph slipped quietly into the Grove, knelt in prayer on the river bank, and climbed the slopes of the sacred hill.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, “Obedience Born of Faith in God”, Chapter 13.)
His faith and his hunger and his absolute dedication to the Lord is what brought these experiences to him. They weren’t having Sunday school in the grove the day Joseph arrived. He went there by himself. And so we’ll go there by ourselves to our scriptures and we’ll find that we’re not by ourselves at all, but the spirit will be with us. The Lord will guide us. We will receive answers that will surprise us and bring us great joy. And we make this charge to you and to ourselves to continue to study the scriptures with an eye to learning heavenly things.
Next week’s lesson will be Matthew chapter one and Luke chapter one. And so, as we get together, it will help if you’ve read these chapters. The lesson is entitled Be it unto Me according to Thy Word. We’ll see you next time.
Looking forward to it.