As far as I can recall, there has not been a general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without a plea that members spend time each day reading and pondering the scriptures.
I must admit it is not hard for me to do. I have had a love affair with reading since I was a child, even willingly facing parental reprimands when my sister tattled on me for taking a flashlight to bed so that I could read under the covers. I started with Beezus and Ramona, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, gravitated to adult mysteries and historical fiction, and I am now well-entrenched in straight up history and books on LDS Church history and doctrine.
I thank my mother for weekly trips to the library and for summer reading programs. One memorable summer, being just a bit competitive, I took up the challenge to read as many books as possible in hopes of besting everyone else whose name graced an ocean diver, who dove deeper and deeper with each book read, until reaching a treasure chest on the bottom of the ocean floor after reading 20 books. Determined to be “the best,” I read 52 books that summer, although truth be told, I did so by searching out and reading the thinnest books I could find — along with a good number of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries.
My mother also read regularly to us at night before we went to sleep, from all kinds of books but most memorably from "Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible," a compilation of superhero tales from the Old and New Testament. Each story told of a real hero or group of heroes performing miraculous deeds, because of their devotion to the commandments and to God. They captured my imagination then, helped ground my testimony at a young age, and continue to impress and stimulate me today.
While I make no claim to being a scriptorian during my teen and college days, after my marriage, as I was encouraged by church leaders, I took up the scriptures much more seriously, and my love for them continues to grow. Being a rather “cost-benefit” person, I was pleasantly surprised this week, after myriad readings of the Book of Mormon, to learn why reading the scriptures is critical mass for those who aspire to the peace and safety that comes with true and continued Christian discipleship in a confused and increasingly wicked world.
In Helaman 13-15, Samuel the Lamanite chastises the Nephites for their gross wickedness, for being, “foolish … vain … evil and devilish … quick to do iniquity and … slow to do good … quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one. …" (see Helaman 12:4). Also, "Ye do always remember your riches, (but) not to thank the Lord your God for them … your hearts ... swell with great pride, unto boasting … envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities” (Helaman 13:22).
Conversely, Samuel praises the Lamanites for their righteousness, their willingness to believe in God, to repent and thereby, “The more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes” (Helaman 15:5).
The divide between the two groups is so astounding that Samuel notes the Nephites — after “having mighty works shown unto them” by God, “dwindled into unbelief,” while the Lamanites — “who dwindled into unbelief because of the traditions of their fathers,” were yet able to come to the truth and become “firm and steadfast in the faith” (Helaman 15:15).
What factor played a significant role in this amazing reversal? Samuel explains, “Many of (the Lamanites) … are brought to … know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and believe the holy scriptures, yea the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written.” Thereafter, studying the scriptures, “leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which … bringeth a change of heart unto them. … (And) “as many as have come to this … are firm and steadfast in the faith” (see Helaman 15:7).
Because the Lamanites steadfastly studied the scriptures, because they used the scriptures as a guide to help them discern right from wrong, because they lived the principles therein and followed the counsel of living prophets, they were able to remain “firm and steadfast in the faith.”9 comments on this story
As the Nephites turned from studying the word of God, they floundered. As the Lamanites embraced, regularly studied and applied scriptural injunctions to their edification, enlightenment and empowerment, they flourished. And, with continued “steadfastnesss … once enlightened … the Lord … bless(ed) them” (see Helaman 15:10).
Clearly, critical to our salvation today is our ability to discern right from wrong, truth from error and, in so doing, avoid the temptations and deceits of the adversary. As prophets and apostles have, and will likely continue to advise in this and future conferences, one of the best ways this is accomplished is through daily, careful studying, pondering and applying the scriptures in our lives.