October 26, 2007

Search These Things Diligently

Parley P. Pratt October 7, 1855 Parley braved loud winds to preach to the saints on the subject of scripture study. He read Luke 21 and gave commentary on the fulfillment of predictions in that chapter. He first pointed out how important the scriptures were to Christ during His ministry on earth, and how they ought to be important to us:

Jesus himself, while he traveled upon the earth in his mortal tabernacle, read the Scriptures to the people, "he opened the book and taught;" his manner was to do it in the synagogue every Sabbath day-he exhorted them to search into the things that were written. And after he had risen from the dead, and received all power in heaven and on earth, he refereed his disciples to that which was written. On a certain occasion he said, "O fools and slow of heart to believe that which the Prophets have written." When he appeared to the Nephites, in his risen body, as you will find it written in the Book of Mormon, he took pains to refer them to the written prophecies of Isaiah and many others, and quoted many of them, and exhorted the people to search the things contained in the prophecies of Isaiah diligently, bearing testimony of their literal fulfillment: and said he, "A commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently," for they have been fulfilled, and will be fulfilled according to that which is written, not in some other way. Not only are we included in these general exhortations and commandments of the ancients, and of Jesus Christ himself, but the same commandments have been renewed to us by our great Prophet and founder, Joseph Smith, and by our Prophets and Apostles that still live. How often have they told us to treasure up the words of God, those things that are written for our profit and learning, and to search diligently and treasure up in our hearts continually words of wisdom from the best books.
Parley reminded the saints of Joseph Smith's thoughts on scripture: that if the saints treasure up the scriptures through study, the Holy Ghost would bring scriptures to their remembrance when needed. We need to give the Holy Ghost something to work with!
It is not to study up what you shall say particularly, but to treasure up truth in your hearts, to have them well filled with it, kept well stored, and then give free liberty to the Spirit of God to operate upon you, to collect out of that treasure that portion which will be best suited to the wants and condition of men who do not treasure up the words of life. If the Holy Spirit should come upon a man of that description to select out of that store-house, he would find it empty, and he would have the trouble of putting it there, or it would not be there; hence he would be barren and unfruitful.

Parley was familiar with the common excuse that people were too busy to take time reading some old books; but he believed time should be made for that purpose:
You may say you have not time; take those portions of time you would otherwise devote to something less useful. We all have time to do it. I have been as hard working in my day as any other man, perhaps, and I always had time to do it, and always have done it, and it was by the light that shone in a dark place, diligently and prayerfully searched out, and the Holy Spirit that shone upon the understanding, through the prayer of faith, and through diligent search, that caused me to see, and understand, and lay hold on certain things that came in fulfilment of these prophecies.
Parley knew the importance of scripture, but the words alone aren't the most important thing. As Paul once said, "the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life (see 1 Corinthians 3:6). Scripture study invites the Holy Ghost:
If any one asks how I came to be a Latter-day Saint, or what some people would call a "Mormon," a follower of Joseph Smith, the modern Prophet, I answer, it was because I had given heed to the sentiments of truth from my early youth, carefully and prayerfully searching and believing them; it was because the Holy Spirit rested upon me, and opened my understanding to the same through the prayer of faith, and diligent search. It was because that the Holy Spirit gave me clearly to understand that this modern Prophet, and the fulness of the Gospel restored by him, had come in fulfillment of certain promises made by the ancient Prophets and Apostles; that is the reason why I really embraced the fulness of the Gospel which the world calls "Mormonism."
In addition to the written word, the restored gospel believes God sends living prophets and apostles on the earth today; special witnesses with His authority and message. Seeing all the confusion throughout the many Christian sects I am reminded of what Paul told the Ephesians regarding leaders in the Church:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive...(Ephesians 4:11-14).
God is sending prophets today, and since the beginning of the restoration they have been accused of being false prophets. I would ask 'where are the true prophets, then? We are told they will be sent until all come into a unity of the faith, and we don't see that unity yet.' Parley knew the rejection of living prophets was as old as time:
But that part of "Mormonism" is very ancient, and applied to Moses, and to Christ, and to every Prophet that has ever been sent to lead the people... What do our enemies complain of us about? For believing we must hearken to the Prophet of the Lord which we profess to have among us-Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young, or whoever it may be. "They believe," say our enemies, "that they must hearken to their Prophet in all things whatsoever he shall say unto them." Just as though it was a new thing; that is what they are mad at us about; it is the main point that is found fault with from California to Maine, and throughout Europe, by editors and Priests. Everywhere the word is, "what is the matter with the Mormons in Utah? They hold to that abominable principle of hearkening to all things the Prophet of God says to them." O dear, what hurt does that do? It gives them power-they will all vote one way. We are not the only people that are troubled with that doctrine, and this is not the only age that has had that kind of trouble to contend with.
Searching the scriptures- the ancient record as well as the words of the living leaders- invites the Spirit to instruct us, correct us, encourage us, and change us. Footnotes For more on following living prophets, see this former post: He That Reveiveth You Receiveth Me

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