Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Know the Scriptures are True (Ether 4:11)

As a missionary in Texas, I asked many Christians why they believed the Bible was true, in hopes of helping them understand that they could gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon in the same way. Instead of hearing faith filled testimonies about how the Bible had changed their lives or how they had received a witness from the Holy Ghost, most people responded that they did not know why they believed it. It was just something they had grown up with or that everyone else around them seemed to believe. These responses made me sad. To think that so many people who wanted to follow Christ did not even know why or if they really believed His words.

This morning I rediscovered one of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon about how we can come to know the truth of the scriptures for ourselves. Many wonderful memories and experiences came back to me and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. Speaking of the Book of Mormon, the Lord said:
"But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good (Ether 4:11)."
This verse teaches some essential principles of the Gospel and gives some powerful promises. Those who believe the words of the Lord found in scripture, by both reading and living his teachings, will have the fruits of the Holy Ghost manifested in their lives. Though the Lord was specifically talking about the Book of Mormon with the aforementioned verse, I believe that this blessing applies to the Bible and all other scripture He has revealed. There are hundreds of ways that the Holy Ghost manifests Himself to us and will bless us as we seek to live the Lord's teachings. Last week I mentioned how I received physical strength from having the Holy Ghost with me. A simple list is given by Paul:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23)."
As we have our hearts open to the Spirit of God, we will feel and see and the manifestations of the Holy Ghost in our lives in the form of peace, light, charity, strength, etc. I saw this time and time again as a missionary. We would ask people to read passages from the Book of Mormon before our next visit. When we would come back, it was easy to tell who had read and who had not. Those who read had more light in their countenances and there was a better spirit in their homes than had been before. When people would come to church for the first time, they would see the influence of the Holy Ghost in the lives of the members. The most common comment people made after coming to church for the first time was "I have never seen so many loving fathers in one room before."

One experience of the power of the scriptures I saw on my mission will forever remain with me. A young couple had a child pass away tragically. I had never seen so much pain in someone's eyes before. Though I do not have any children, I can see that losing a child is one of the hardest challenges we could ever face in this life. We testified to this poor couple that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ they could be sealed by the Priesthood and be an eternal family; that their daughter was not lost to them; that she would live again. At first our testimonies had little impact on them. They were broken people.

A week later we came back and as soon as we entered their home we could tell that something was different. Where there had once been a dark cloud of despair, a spirit of healing was present. I will never forget the feeling of peace that was there. I knew I was on sacred ground. The parents were changed as well. Instead of intense pain, their eyes were filled with light. I wondered what could have possibly brought about such great change in their lives in such a short amount of time.

They answered the question for us before we could even ask it. Instead of watching television, they had read the Book of Mormon together for an hour every night. It made sense. As I looked at the changes in them, I could see the manifestations of the Lord's Spirit, and it gave me a renewed testimony of the Book of Mormon and how our lives can be filled with the blessings of the Holy Ghost as we embrace the scriptures.

Sadly, so many people try to prove that the scriptures are true and that Christ lives through physical means and processes. But the only way that we can really know what is true is through the Holy Ghost. Paul put it this way:
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.... But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:12,14)."
There are many degrees between believing something to be true and knowing that it is true. In Ether 4:11, the Lord promises us that he will turn our belief in the scriptures into knowledge that they are true through His Holy Spirit.

At the end of Ether 4:11, the Lord says that we will know the scriptures are true because they persuade us to do good. This is a point of counsel, and at the same time it is a promise. We can know that the scriptures are true because we will find greater power to change our lives. This happened to the people of King Benjamin. After delivering most of his sermon, King Benjamin wanted to know if the people believed his testimony of Christ. The people's reply was:

"Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2)."

This is the main way that I received my testimony of the scriptures. I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true because they have changed my life. When I consistently read them and seek to apply their teachings, something happens to me. I find my unrighteous desires fading away and my desire to do good increases. I begin to see more ways that I can serve my fellow man. Weaknesses that once were impossible to change are now possible to change. I love the scriptures and know that they are true because they have helped me to know my Savior, which has been the greatest blessing of my life. I will end with these words of Ezra T. Benson, a Prophet of God:
It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

-Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov 1986, 4

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