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Let your imagination run wild. Suppose that you have won a contest and the First Prize is a car: any car. You can choose the car of your dreams: A Koenigsegg Agera, retailing for around $2.1 million; a Bugati, worth about $2,9 million,a Maybach Exelero,retailing for about $8 million, a Lamborghini Veneno ($2.8,million), or you could practice frugality and ask for a McLaren F1 with a base price tag of only about $265,000.00.
You must meet only one condition to claim your prize. Since the company awarding the car intends to use the vehicle and its owner in a number of advertising campaigns, you will be required to take good care of the vehicle. You must know how it works: its capabilities, maintenance requirements, and accessories.
The generous folks who have given you this prize have decided to evaluate your ability to operate and care for the vehicle by giving you a test covering any aspects of operation and maintenance that they choose to emphasize. The exam will be both general and specific and incorrect answers will count against you. If you do not pass the test, you will instead become the proud owner of a ’93 Geo Metro with a broken transmission. The test will arrive soon, but you have received, with the award notification, an owner’s manual for the car you have chosen, and the prize committee has assured you that the answer to every problem on the test can be found in that book. And the test is an “open book” test.
Now you have a decision to make. Will you use the book? Or will you trust to luck and common sense to see you through?
I have raised enough teenagers to know how some drivers might respond to this. “An owner’s manual? Can you please be serious? I came home from the hospital in a car the day after I was born. I have been in a car every day of my life since then. Probably a dozen times some days! I don’t need an owner’s manual to pass any test on any car!”
Others might be more cautious. They would glance swiftly through the book, focus on a few pages that look interesting, note a few facts, and then set the manual aside. But if you are the winner and you really want the car, you will not respond in any of these ways.
No. You will take the test with the owner’s manual close at hand, and refer to it every time you encounter an unfamiliar or difficult problem.
The analogy is obvious but the point is crucial. The scriptures are the owner’s manual for the human soul. And more than a car is at stake. The quality of your eternal future depends on passing the Test of Life. The answers are in the book. Don’t be stubborn about this. Use the book! Elder Boyd K. Packer said,
“If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question–personal or social or political or occupational–that need go unanswered. Therein is contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. Therein we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it” (Charge to Religious Educators, p. 21).
Some might be skeptical of this promise. Is it possible that the scriptures have all the answers? Could books written hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years ago really provide reasonable, workable answers for the twenty-first century? Some people have difficulty believing that the standard works really have all the correct solutions, but a simple experiment will convince such skeptics: read the scriptures. I learned this lesson in an Institute class decades ago from a marvelous teacher who testified, “I never knew the scriptures had the answers to my problems . . . till I read them.” He was right. People who do not believe the answers to the problems of the Test of Life are in the scriptures are people who do not read the scriptures.
Nephi wrote, “Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ, for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what you should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3, emphasis added.) This is an emphatic, no-nonsense, unconditional promise: “all things.”
Knowing the imperative nature of using these revelations to guide and shape our lives, Moses commanded his people:
“And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall 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 thy eyes. And thou shalt write them, upon the posts of thy house and upon thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)”
Why would the prophet direct that the scriptures be a “sign” upon our hand, or “frontlets” between our eyes? The words of Christ help us keep our hands and eyes in the right places. Joshua charged the House of Israel:
“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).
Dark and unseen forces do not want us to pass this Test.
Lucifer, enveloped in misery, spreads his dominions. Revelation 12:17 tells us that Satan, the dragon, “went to make war with the remnant . . . which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 13:7 says of Satan, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints . . .”
In D&C 76, the Lord explains how Satan makes war: “Wherefore, [the devil] maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about” (D&C 76:29). Satan wages war by laying siege, by surrounding (encompassing) the saints with temptation. “And thus,” says the Lord in D&C 10: 27, “he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men.”
The remedy is the rod of iron, which is
“the word of God, and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:24, emphasis added).
Nephi does not say that being in the neighborhood of the rod is sufficient. Knowing where the rod is located will not provide protection. He does not specify an occasional touching. Not even an intermittent clinging will suffice. Safety is for those who “press their way forward, continually holding fast. (1 Nephi 8:30). And if we want to win the war with Satan, we must!
Four groups of people enact the drama of Lehi’s dream. Three of the groups are composed of members of the Church. We first read of them “pressing forward, that they might obtain” the straight and narrow path that leads to the tree” (1 Nephi 8:21). They do, and one group commences to travel toward the precious fruit, when suddenly they are enclosed in “an exceedingly great mist of darkness” (1 Nephi 8:23). The path was narrow, the rod was close at hand, but in the darkness, they could not locate it and “they wandered off and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:23). This “mist of darkness” is Satan at war, encompassing the saints round about, and overpowering them unto blindness.”
Others came, “and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron.” They arrived at the tree. That is where they had longed to be. They had struggled to obtain their place beneath its branches. But they did not stay. They stopped clinging. They were distracted by the big building. The thing that brought them there is the only thing that could have kept them there, but they looked elsewhere; they “cast their eyes about . . . and they fell into forbidden paths, and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:24-28).
One group in Lehi’s dream came to the tree and stayed. They arrived by “continually holding fast to the rod of iron” (1 Nephi 8:30, emphasis added), and even though they were challenged by the same distractions that led others away, they “heeded them not” (1 Nephi 8:33). The word of God, to which they “continually” held fast, was for them as “frontlets” between their eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8), keeping their attention focused on the things that matter most.
In this war Lucifer wages against the saints, the ultimate and only safety is in holding fast to the word of God. Ezra Taft Benson said,
“Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries” (Ensign, May 1986, p. 80)”
In Helaman we read that
“Whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a straight and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is set to engulf the wicked” (Helaman 3:29)”
Paul, after describing with prophetic clarity in the first verses of 2 Timothy 3 the horrifying evils of our day, offered the solution: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned . . . And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). A message here teaches the strategy for taking the Test of Life. It is this: do not ignore the scriptures until an unfamiliar challenge or trying problem presents itself, and then read the standard works through looking for an answer.
Lehi saw people who followed the path to the tree, “continually holding fast.” Paul exhorted Timothy (and us) to “continue . . . in the things” we have learned in the scriptures. And the Lord further instructed that we “treasure up in [our] minds continually the words of life” (D&C 84:85, emphasis added).
President Kimball observed:
“The years have taught me that if we will energetically pursue this worthy personal goal [regular scripture study] in a determined and conscientious manner, we shall indeed find answers to our problems. . . .” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Bookcraft, 1982, p. 135).
As we make our hazardous way through the Test of mortality, we should consider ourselves blessed. We are taking an open book Test.
The preceding is the first chapter of Ted Gibbons’ book on the Test of Life. The book is composed of 16 chapters, each of which is a rule for how take and pass the Test of Life. The text comes from Ted Gibbons’ book, ‘This Life is a Test.’ If you would like to get your own e-copy of the entire book, send $5.00 to the PayPal account of [email protected] We will email you an e-copy of the book.