Scriptures and Spiritual Preparation
Elder Michael John U. Teh (Area Conference, May 2011)
What a thrill and privilege it is for me to speak to you during this conference associated with the 50th anniversary of the rededication of our country for missionary work. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us so that the counsel that we hear from our leaders today will be carried forth and received by the spirit.
My heart is full. Last night, most of us have been witnesses to the faith and expressions of gratitude by thousands of our brethren and sisters. In about two weeks, thousands more will do the same in their respective stakes and districts outside of Manila. Thank you for lifting our spirits.
Most of you have had wonderful experiences during the past three years as you participated in the many events leading up to this area conference and various cultural celebrations. I am tempted to say that all of us had uplifting experiences all along the way but that would not be accurate. I know that for some, there were peaks of joy and valleys of frustration in your journey. I firmly believe however that with what we were trying to accomplish, the journey is more important than the destination. There were many lessons scattered all along the way. It is my prayer that we recognize those lessons, learn from them, and use them for our benefit and growth.
I share the sentiment of the area presidency and the area council in saying that this area conference, the magnificent cultural presentation we watched last night, and the many other cultural presentations that will take place in two weeks are merely highlights of our jubilee celebration. They are not and should not be seen as the crowning event. Our prayer is that the culmination of our celebration will take place in each of us in very personal ways, at different times, and in varying circumstances. We hope that this Jubilee celebration will help raise our vision and lift us to new spiritual heights.
I have been pleading with the Lord for many weeks to know what it is that He wants me to share with you today. I started receiving answers while attending general conference last month. I had a substantial outline prepared before coming home and thought that I was ready for this assignment. As the days passed however, I started to feel that what I had prepared is not what the Lord really wanted. So, two weeks ago, I started working on my talk again every day. But, the inspiration did'nt come.
Three days ago Elder Edwards woke up with some thoughts on the Jubilee and shared them with me. What a comfort it was for me to know that at least for one small part of my talk- I was listening to the same spirit he was listening to. But, what about the rest of my talk? Well, I continued to wrestle with the Lord and up until late Friday evening, I laid on my bed scratching my head. My dear wife, sensing my anxiety, leaned over and whispered: “How is your talk.” Feeling embarrassed that I did not feel I was there yet I mumbled in a soft voice: “I am not ready.”
Well, by this time I was driving the Translation Department crazy. This broadcast is translated into Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Hiligaynon. They were begging me for a copy of my talk so that they can prepare beforehand. I apologized to the translation manager last Friday and told her I am afraid that my talk will not be ready until Sunday morning or perhaps until I am up here ready to give it. I am happy to report that as of 5:42am this morning. I sent her a “tentative” copy.
As I awoke early yesterday morning and went on my knees to pray, a thought came that I needed to go fasting again. I have already done so early in my preparation. Because I was desperate, I fasted again.
As I started putting my thoughts together an interesting thing happened. Suddenly, thoughts were beginning to flood my mind. They were coming in so fast that my inadequate typing skills could not keep up. I was frantic. I didn’t want to lose those thoughts. The Lord blessed me and the flow of revelation continued and I was able to retain them.
I sensed that Heavenly Father was trying to get my attention. My activities from the day before came flashing back. I practically sat in front of the computer the whole day trying to put things together. But, every now and then I would get up and go to the kitchen and find something to munch on. (I was bored you see.) In fact, I probably went into the kitchen many, many times because Sister Teh thought that all I accomplished that day was exercise my jaws and sharpen my teeth.
After this scene flashed I finally realized what the Lord was teaching me and what His message is for each of us today- and that is to Prepare ourselves spiritually. It also brought home the whole meaning, the whole purpose of this Jubilee and what we were doing for the past three years. God wants us to be prepared spiritually for what He is about to do to the Church in this nation.
We rejoice as we look back to the last 50 years and marvel at what has been accomplished. Truly, in the entire history of the Church, the growth of the Church in our country is most phenomenal. But let me tell you what the Lord allowed me to feel with certainty early yesterday morning. We have seen nothing yet! The best is yet to come. In the next few years, the work of the Lord will burst forth. He will hasten His work in this land.
A great responsibility is upon our shoulders. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually more than ever before because the work will move forward with or without our help. He will give us the opportunity to participate. If we participate, we will be blessed and the eyes of our understanding will be opened and we will truly begin to see.
There are many activities that will help strengthen us spiritually and prepare us to receive revelation. May I suggest one that is often neglected. It is also one that will have the most impact on us as a people. I speak of studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, daily. Please note that I said studying the scriptures and not just reading them. I do not speak only of reading them in preparation to attend a class, to give a talk, or to teach a lesson. I speak of a consistent and daily study of the scriptures. I speak of drinking daily from the words of eternal life. There are few other activities we can engage in that will bring greater benefits to us than the daily, consistent study of the scriptures.
It is often difficult for us to recognize the effects because the change does not happen overnight. I testify that assuredly as our daily intake of nourishment maintains our physical health, so will our daily study of the scriptures strengthen our spirits. A change will come to us spiritually.
While working with the apostate Zoramites, Alma determined that:
“…the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them – therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” (Alma 31:5)
So I say, if you are struggling to pay a full tithing – try the virtue of the word of God. If you are struggling with unclean thoughts, pornography, or other moral issues – try the virtue of the word of God. If your heart is full of hatred, pride, and envy – try the virtue of the word of God. If as a bishop or stake president, you are at a loss as to how you can bless the lives of members – try the virtue of the word of God.
President Boyd K. Packer often taught: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will change behavior faster than the study of behavior will change behavior.”
Where do we learn the doctrines of the gospel? They are to be found in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. No wonder, that as a newly called general authority President Packer’s simple counsel to me was: “Learn the doctrine.”
The remarkable vision of Lehi about the tree of life gives us very practical lessons on the importance of the rod of iron which represents the word of God. Many who have commenced on the path but have disregarded the rod of iron would later lose their way when the mists of darkness blinded them. It is interesting to note that it was not that they did not have access to the rod of iron. In fact, the strait and narrow path “came along by the rod of iron.” And so it is with us today, it is not a question of having access to the scriptures as it is our neglect of them.
Father Lehi’s vision continues with a promise to those who recognize the importance of the rod of iron:
“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth 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, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:24)
How? Because the word of God is one of the most powerful weapons we have against the adversary:
“Yea, we see 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 strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-” (Helaman 3:29)
How? “For behold the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3)
There are those of us today who have started on the path and held fast to the rod of iron. Unfortunately, as we survived one, or perhaps two or three of these “mists of darkness”, we become complacent. We begin to think that we already know enough and do not need to continue “clinging to the rod of iron”.
For those who find themselves in that situation, please give serious attention to the following counsel from the Book of Mormon:
“Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received and we need no more.”
“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:27,29)
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “I am convinced that each of us, at least some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves- and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again…Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment.”
The prophet Joseph Smith taught: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
Isn’t it our desire to get nearer to our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ?
In closing, I would like to ask you three questions. Don’t raise your hands or say anything. Rather than responding openly, may I invite you to allow the Holy Ghost to speak to your mind and heart:
- Do I take time to study the scriptures everyday?
- If not, what excuse do I have for not doing so?
- Will my excuse be acceptable to the Lord?
I challenge you to begin today to study the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon daily. Do not go to bed tonight until you have done so. As you do, there will come to you a greater desire to do the will of the Lord.
May we once again “try the virtue of the word of the God” is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.