Effective scripture reading is like learning a foreign language. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Lord instructed his people to spend significant time in the study of the word.
Meditate Therein Day and Night
The Lord said to Joshua:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
This message is not unlike the message Moses gave the Israelites in Deuteronomy:
Teach Them Diligently
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
How do we provide our children with the necessary tools to speak the language of the scriptures, so that they can be men and women “of understanding” and so that “they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:2)?
Paying the Price
That understanding and knowledge does not come without paying a price.
Most of you remember your first exposure to Leviticus or to Romans, or even to the Gospels. The construction, the language, and the flow were all strange to you.
Early attempts at reading the scriptures are very much like early piano lessons. Those first hours at the keyboard are important, but they are not very productive.
For those who become proficient pianists, great effort and continued immersion in the fundamentals, and then a great deal of time in front of an open music book are required. Most people do not pay that price. Even though all of my children took piano lessons, only one son worked at it with sufficient discipline to learn to play well. He can play almost anything.
Looking at an Open Book
The principles involved in becoming proficient on the piano are true of the scriptures. Skills with the language of God’s word require continued immersion and a lot of time looking at an open book.
Many musical people have paid the price. These are people who can look at sheet music and understand the notes and notations, and convert them into beautiful music. By applying the same effort and principles, it is possible to learn to look at the scriptures and understand their language, and extract beautiful messages from those holy words.
Never Too Early
Moses commanded his people that they should teach the words of the Lord “diligently unto [their] children” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The labor to provide that teaching could not be more intensive if we were trying to teach our children Egyptian or Laotian or Portuguese. But the results are infinitely more important.
It is never too early make small children a part of the process of learning the language of the scriptures. Never mind if they are too young to read, or even too young to listen, as parents read. No one worries about the age of their children as they learn to speak. Infants are immersed in hearing the language and they learn to speak it.
So it is with the scriptures. As they sit on someone’s lap and listen, they become familiar with the names, the sounds, and the spirit of the scriptures. If that opportunity does not arrive until they are old enough to read and study on their own, they will be old enough to say ‘no’ and to resist those precious moments of study. But if the study of the scriptures has been a part of their lives from their infancy, then by the time they are old enough to choose for themselves, it will have become an indispensable habit with them, and they will have learned to love it.
A Tree by the River
Great blessings come from such study.
Through Joshua the promise comes that continuous study of and meditation in the word will make our way prosperous and help us be successful (see Joshua 1:8).
In the first Psalm, those people who delight in the law of the Lord, and who meditate therein day and night are “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalms 1:2,3).
With these promises echoing in our hearts, we should feel a great longing to become fluent in the language of the scriptures.
Always Before Our Eyes
King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon desired to provide the best of every benefit and opportunity for his children. He did so by teaching them the scriptures. Benjamin taught a great lesson about the benefits of the scriptures and gave needed counsel about how to claim those benefits:
“I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren . . . who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct” (Mosiah 1:5).
What a blessing to have the opportunity to “have his commandments always before our eyes,” that is, “to meditate therein day and night” (Joshua 1:8).
Scriptures that are Falling Apart
Have you taken advantage of the blessings of the Holy Scriptures? Or have you, by reason of neglect of the scriptures, dwindled in unbelief from time to time in your life? Mark Twain once said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read”. Have you sometimes “suffered in ignorance, not knowing the mysteries of God” because you won’t read? Are you children following a path that will lead to that same ignorance?
I listened to a lovely young woman report on her experiences as a missionary. Among other things, she said this: “Scriptures that are falling apart usually belong to someone who isn’t.”
So many families seem to be falling apart, and we interact every day with people whose lives are in disarray. But there is super glue in the scriptures. They are the prescription to cure this malady, and we begin to heal as we learn the language of the scriptures.