Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy
First Counselor in the Asia Area PresidencyFirst Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency
It has often been said in the Church that we speak to God in prayer and He answers back through the scriptures. As we read, we are privileged to hear Him speaking to us through His Spirit. Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36 teaches us: “These words are not of men nor of man, but of me…For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, …Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” As we pray and feel the Spirit directing us, we can truly say that we have heard the voice of the Lord.
My wife is a convert to the Church. She grew up in a home with no religious influences. At the age of 11, she learned about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from her grandmother, who had been a convert to the Church years before. My wife has fond memories of seeing her grandmother sitting on her bed every night reading the scriptures before she went to sleep. Her grandmother knew the voice of the Lord was available to her as she opened the scriptures and began to read, and she set a wonderful example for her granddaughter.
Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity of visiting a member’s home in Mongolia. As we entered the home, I noticed the scriptures were open and also the Liahona magazine. I asked the Sister who welcomed us into her home to tell me what she had been reading. She picked up her scriptures which were open to Alma 27:27, and read the following: “And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end.” This sister told me how inspired she was by the description of these people in the Book of Mormon.
I thought to myself that she was very much like the people Nephi described in that verse. Her zeal towards God was demonstrated by her diligence in reading the scriptures. When I asked her what she had been reading in the Liahona, she indicated it was the most recent General Conference address of Elder Russell M. Nelson and she proceeded to summarize it for me. I thought to myself, “Here is a woman who is hearing the voice of God as He speaks to her through the scriptures and through living prophets. He is guiding her to become more Christ like through the messages she finds in them.”
Many years ago, I had a friend who was hiking with a group of boys from the Church in the Grand Canyon area of the western United States. As they were hiking deep into the canyon below, he carried a very heavy backpack. The weight caused injury to his knees and he couldn’t continue. They had to arrange for a rescue team to bring him out of the canyon area. As he was being carried out by the rescue team, he opened his Book of Mormon to a randomly selected page, which was 2 Nephi 4:20, and read: “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.” This scripture filled his heart as he felt the rescuing power of His Savior near him.
Nephi wrote these words to describe his own experience in trials, yet my friend heard the voice of the Lord say the same thing to him in trying circumstances. Part of the key to hearing the Lord speak to us through the words of the scriptures is learning the skill of likening. Nephi explains: “And I did read many things unto [my family] which were written…; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” (1 Nephi 19:23)likening liken all scriptures unto us
When people become new members of the Church or as children grow up in the Church, they generally do not know how to liken scriptures to themselves. One of the best ways to learn to do this is by reading with someone who does know, typically a more experienced member of the Church. Many people are not accustomed to reading scripture. They need help from someone who can guide them, if they are to learn to hear the voice of the Lord as they read.
There is a story in the 8th chapter of Acts in which Philip encounters a man who is having difficulty reading and understanding the scriptures. Philip was one of seven men chosen to assist the Twelve Apostles (Acts 6:2–6). On this occasion, he encountered a man referred to as “an Ethiopian eunuch.” Philip sees that his scriptures are open to Isaiah and asks if he understands what he is reading. The man says, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31)
Most of our new members and youth find themselves in this same position. Unless someone guides them, how will they learn to liken the scriptures to themselves and hear the voice of the Lord speaking to them? They need a scripture reading companion or mentor. All of us who are members need to watch for and help those who need a helper, like Philip, to teach them to read the scriptures so they can draw personal spiritual strength and guidance from them.
A few years ago, my wife and I hired a contractor to do remodeling work on our home. He had no religious background. We began having occasional discussions with him about the gospel as he worked in our home. After a few months, we gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited him to attend church with us. Soon he began meeting with the missionaries and was baptized. However, I noticed that he was not comfortable reading from the scriptures in Sunday School class. So I asked him about it. He told me that he did not read well and had not read a book in 30 years. I could see that it was unlikely he would read the Book of Mormon on his own, nor ever learn to liken it to himself. So, I offered to read with him.
That began one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my many years of membership in the Church. We met in my home two times a week and would spend about an hour reading together. Sunday afternoons following Church was a convenient time and he would also come to my home one other evening in the week. As we read together, we would pause often to discuss things he did not understand and talk about the personal application of what we were reading. I could see his spiritual roots growing deeper every time we read. Today, he is a strong member of the Church with a deep testimony and understanding of the Book of Mormon. He knows how to liken the words of scripture to himself, and he hears the voice of the Lord speaking to him from its pages.
This is our opportunity every time we open the scriptures. There is no greater source of guidance than from God Himself. He will give us the answers to our daily needs if we read the scriptures and liken them to ourselves. I pray that we will especially seek opportunities to be scripture reading companions and mentors with those who are just beginning their own journey in the scriptures. Then we may all say together, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) ■
Caption: Elder Larry Y. Wilson