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Spiritual answers may be found in scriptural questions, authors of '52 Life-Changing Questions' say (+video)

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

One of John Hilton III's favorite questions in the Book of Mormon is found in 1 Nephi 15:8. As an institute teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he often repeated the question to his students when they came to him for advice or asking difficult life questions.

"Have ye inquired of the Lord?" he would say. "I can give you my advice, but the Lord is the one who really has all the answers."

One particular day Hilton asked his students to evaluate his teaching performance by responding to a survey. He asked what he could do differently to make the class better.

"A student writes back, 'Have ye inquired of the Lord?'" Hilton said. "That was so great. There are so many little areas ... where we want to improve. We can go to a friend or a church leader for feedback. We can also inquire of the Lord."

"Have ye inquired of the Lord?" is one of 52 questions analyzed in "52 Life-Changing Questions From the Book of Mormon" (Deseret Book, $24.99), co-authored by Hilton III and Brad Wilcox. The 256-page book was released earlier this month.

Did you know? According to the book:

  • 61 different individuals, including prophets, missionaries, investigators and apostates, ask questions in the Book of Mormon.
  • Alma 5 has the most questions of any chapter with 42. Alma 30 is a distant second with 22 questions.
  • As an individual, Alma the Younger asks 103 questions. Nephi comes in second place with 41 questions. Jesus Christ asks 35 questions.
  • The most commonly asked question has to do with how people remember or forget the Lord. Variations of this question appear 26 times.

There is power in asking and pondering inspired questions, said Hilton, a popular speaker and religious education instructor at Brigham Young University.

"We've pulled out 52 questions that are asked in the Book of Mormon," Hilton said. "Hopefully some of the stories, insights we've compiled can really push an individual to think, 'What does this question mean to me and my life? How can my life be different because I've thought about that question.'"

Wilcox, also a popular speaker and BYU professor, said the words "quest" and "question" come from the same root.

"A question can actually send us in quest of insight, of motivation and of change in our lives," Wilcox said. "Elder Tad R. Callister has said a good question is like an alarm clock that can wake us up. I look back in my own life. Questions have awakened me and made me think, 'We need to deal with this issue, we need to address this.'"

Hilton was awakened six or seven years ago by a curiosity to know how many questions existed in the Book of Mormon. Using a computer, he copied and pasted the entire text of the sacred book into a document and did a "search and replace" for question marks. He discovered there are 543 questions in the Book of Mormon.

In time, Hilton collaborated with Wilcox to narrow the list down to 52, with each writer tackling 26 questions.

Some questions were challenging to answer, they said, including "Have miracles ceased? (Moroni 7:9)," "What evidence do you have there is no God?" (Alma 30:40), and "Can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26).

"As you see people struggling to maintain faith, I think these questions become more important than ever," Wilcox said. "These aren’t just questions from hundreds of years ago, these are questions people are asking now. That's the power of the Book of Mormon, it was written for our day. Mormon, who compiled these records, was not just choosing experiences, sermons and testimonies that would be appropriate for our day, but I think he also chose questions that people would be asking now."

One humorous question that didn't make it into the book would have benefited many young men, Wilcox quipped.

"Whither shall I go to obtain food?" Wilcox laughed. "1 Nephi 16:23."

Working together to write the book was a meaningful experience for both men.

"It was a very invigorating experience because it forced me to answer the questions. Sometimes I answered them with experiences from my life, sometimes with quotes from the brethren, sometimes with own thoughts, but it was so eye-opening to me to stop and write my answers," Wilcox said.

Wilcox and Hilton don't want readers to stop with their 52 questions. There are more than 3,500 questions in the standard works. Keep going, they said, write your own book.

"For Latter-day Saint adults who consistently read the scriptures, one of the challenges is 'how do I keep my scripture study fresh and invigorating?' A person might say, ‘I’ve read the Book of Mormon a couple of times and scripture study is becoming more of a duty or chore’" Hilton said. "But with thousands of questions to explore, you could have many, many fruitful scripture study sessions focused on responding to questions asked in the scriptures."

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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