Oh the Places We will Go
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”
“Oh, the places you’ll go,” written by Dr. Suess is a popular children’s book that creates at a young age the love of learning. Can you hear your Father in Heaven saying something similar to you when you left your heavenly home. I can hear him say, “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” As he loving sends us one by one to come to this earth. He knows there will be roads to travel going in many different directions and things we will pass that will challenge our spirits and bodies. He has given us power to endure and keep going. He knows we’ll get mixed up and sometimes feel lost on our way, so he has provided for us maps, directions and help along the way. One of the most important gifts that God has given to us are the scriptures. If we accept his offering of this treasured gift, we will begin to build a house of learning that can bless our family and posterity for generations to come.
Just as Dr. Suess titled his book, “Oh, the Places you’ll Go!“ a home is one of those “places you’ll go” to learn and to grow.
Let’s turn to the scriptures and discover some of those “places you’ll go” first to a time of restoration when the prophet, Joseph Smith, was alive. In D&C 88:119 it says, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.“
The School of the Prophets
This doctrine of how to establish our homes was given to Joseph Smith early when the church was in it’s infancy. Shortly after this revelation was received the prophet started what was known at the time as the School of the Prophets. It was to be a place where the brethren would be instructed in the gospel prior to serving their respective missions as well as secular knowledge. It was located over the Newell K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, Ohio.
Just like we have problems in our daily lives, the Word of Wisdom came in response to a problem during a meeting in the school of the prophets.
According to church history, “Every morning after breakfast, the men met in the school to hear instruction from Joseph Smith. The room was very small, and about 25 elders packed the space. The first thing they did, after sitting down, was “light a pipe and begin to talk about the great things of the kingdom and puff away,” Brigham Young recounted. The clouds of smoke were so thick the men could hardly even see Joseph through the haze. Once the pipes were smoked out, they would then “put in a chew on one side and perhaps on both sides and then it was all over the floor.” In this dingy setting, Joseph Smith attempted to teach the men how they and their converts could become holy, “without spot,” and worthy of the presence of God.
The scene in the School of the Prophets would have been enough to give any non-tobacco user like Joseph Smith cause for concern. Joseph’s wife, Emma, told him that the environment concerned her. He and Emma lived in the Whitney store, and the task of scrubbing the spittle from the hardwood fell upon her. She may have complained of being asked to perform this thankless task, but there was also a more practical consideration: “She could not make the floor look decent,” Brigham Young recalled. The stains were impossible to get out. The whole situation seemed less than ideal for those who were called of God as these elders were, especially when we remember that the room with the filthy floor was Joseph’s “translation room,” the same place where he received revelations in the name of God. Joseph began inquiring of the Lord about what could be done, and on February 27, scarcely a month after the school started, he received the revelation later canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 89. The answer was unequivocal: “Tobacco is not for man but is for bruises and all sick cattle; to be used with judgment and skill.”
Just as Joseph received direction for the church, we to can receive inspiration from the Lord as we study his holy scriptures and pray to receive divine guidance.
So, I ask myself how has studying the scriptures daily made a difference in my life?
Our Weakness Can Become a Strength
Let me back up for a moment to the beginning of 2011 when we lived in Pennsylvania. I was pondering on my scripture study or lack of and was trying to figure out how to carve out more time to really study the scriptures and not to just read a few verses a day. At the time, I was a mother of three, a wife to a husband in the Bishopric, in the Primary Presidency, a family history enthusiast, owner of a photography studio and on the Pottstown Historical Board. I just didn’t know how I was going to make more time out of the 24 hours that I was allotted everyday. I thought of one of my favorite scriptures found in the Book of Mormon, in Ether 12:27. This is when Moroni is lamenting about his weakness in writing. The Lord’s reply has become one of my favorite inspired writings. It says,
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
I came up with a plan. If I could just wake up an hour earlier than I was already waking up, I could get in a solid hour before my children woke up and another day would keep me on my toes. You have to understand, I have never been a morning person, I am one of those people that you would find up late at night working up until midnight or beyond on most nights. I enjoyed sleeping in, but I knew that I had to change my priorities and give the top billing time to the Lord. I reflected on this scripture in Ether and asked if God could please make my weakness a strength. I set my alarm clock and went to bed at 10pm. It took about a week to train my body to switch my schedule and I have been eternally grateful for the fulfillment my favorite scripture. He did make my weakness a strength and I have come to love the scriptures and feel gratitude when I receive daily inspiration in a way I never thought possible.
I thought I’d share a few ideas on how I study the scriptures and then demonstrate how to use the LDS Study Tools available online that I have recently discovered.
First, I choose one of the standard works to study from cover to cover. Right now, I am currently reading the Book of Mormon again. I have finished all the standard works and just keep rotating through them. I believe the key to my scripture study success has been in using the Institute Student Manuals that are available in print and on your LDS Gospel App. Also, for me the best time to study my scriptures is first thing in the morning before anyone is awake. I use a desktop computer so that I have a large screen to read and study from. First, I will split my computer screens with the scriptures on LDS.org on the left side and the Institute Manual matching the scriptures I am studying on the right side.
I then will open another tab tucked away that I log in to My LDS Notebook. From there I begin to read the scriptures while stopping anytime there is some commentary on a particular verse. Many times, I find the quote inspiring and I check to see where it came from which often leads me to a Conference talk that I will study and further learn about the subject. It helps me to dig deeper and bridge the gap from the ancient prophets to our modern prophets. It is a blessing to learn from all past and current prophets as they testify of eternal truths.
Here’s an example of how to use the LDS Tools while studying your scriptures. Let’s start by marking that favorite scripture found in Ether that I just shared.
“Elder Maxwell described how recognizing our weaknesses is one way that the Lord has chosen to increase our learning:
“When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.
“Because God wants us to come home after having become more like Him and His Son, part of this developmental process, of necessity, consists of showing unto us our weaknesses. Hence, if we have ultimate hope we will be submissive because, with His help, those weaknesses can even become strengths (see Ether 12:27).
As I began to really study the scriptures, I have felt close to my Father in Heaven and his Son, Jesus Christ that is both humbling and rewarding. What would you give up if you could sit at the Savior’s feet each day and hear his words? That is the experience you can have if you just sacrifice a little time to focus on Him. The scriptures uplift and have given me a sense of peace and hope that I too can change like many of my heroes found in the scriptures. As I study their stories and the choices they made, I can better understand what consequences whether good or bad might come my way. It has helped me steer through my own trials and challenges.
Lessons Learned while Traveling Across the Country
A few years ago we took an RV trip across the country to visit the Philadelphia Temple Open House with our 5 kids. We had a few bumps along the way: getting pulled over by the police, out running what my kid’s considered a tornado tracking truck in Kansas, driving in torrential rain at 1 in the morning: tired, scared and stuck on a freeway with no exits for 35 miles going the wrong way, breaking down: not once, or twice but I guess three times is a charm, being infested with mosquitoes and then having our rental van canceled when we were in need of transportation.
As we passed through many bumps in the road, there were so very many tender mercies of the Lord that helped me stay positive and count my many blessings. We didn’t get a ticket from the police officer, the truck wasn’t following a tornado, I was able to endure a difficult drive at night and find a rest stop 20 miles down the road, all three break downs happened in a parking lot and not on the freeway or in some obscure location, we didn’t catch Dengue or Zika virus and after a couple hours we found another car for a few hundred dollars less.
Just as Nephi, Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite, Queen Esther and other righteous men and women endured trials, they overcame them only through the Lord’s help. As we ‘feast upon the words of Christ” we can gain strength, eternal perception, help and hope for our day-to-day trials, stresses and difficulties.
Yet, if we do not study the scriptures and come to learn of the doctrine of Christ, we do not know what the will of the Lord is for us in our lives. We have no anchor, guide or map that will lead us to calmer waters. It would be like being lost on a long road from Arizona to Pennsylvania without a map, compass or smartphone with Google Maps to help chart our course. Would we ever get to our desired destination?
What road are you traveling on? Where is your destination point and how do you plan on getting from here to there? Can you begin to see why establishing a house of learning founded on the scriptures can impact your life and that of your families?
If so, then what road blocks and obstacles are keeping us from progressing on our path or are distracting us from what matters most: a gospel centered home founded upon the holy scriptures?
Just as we drive along the road, we encounter many road signs that warn us of dangers ahead. Signs like yield, reduce your speed, upcoming curve in the road, lane closed ahead, merge, prepare to stop. When you travel across the country, I don’t think there was a sign that we didn’t see. One that really got my attention was “CAUTION: Severe Storm Warnings Ahead” “Zero Visibility Possible” or the unexpected when an animal darts in front of your vehicle. So many things can take us off the path, cause us to brake, slow down or change directions entirely.
Yield Signs and Warnings
How can we find our way across this earth life we call mortality? Where are our yield signs and warnings?
The life we all are living in is fast pace and never stops. Information is available at all hours of the day. We over schedule and over tax ourselves with to-do lists that never end and then we wonder how the day got away from us without once taking time to just be still, ponder, pray and read our scriptures. These are some of those road blocks that prevent us from our divine destiny and potential.
I am so grateful for the scriptures, apostles and a living prophet that are our yield and warning signs telling us when to slow down, make a lane change or stop entirely and re-route ourselves. If we will stop and listen our lives will be filled with the spirit of the Lord.
In following the prophet Joseph Smith’s footsteps, we too can create a house of learning where the gospel becomes our center focus. We can find answers to our daily problems that will give direction and comfort. It is not easy being a mother in today’s fast paced world. We must establish consistent patterns of learning centered around the gospel. We can have regular Family Home Evening, scripture study and other gospel and secular learning. Yet, many times, myself included, we find it a struggle to just crack open the scriptures as a family to even read just a verse or two. Our lives have become increasingly more busy yet, many of us carry an entire library of God’s word in the palm of our hands. How can we minimize our social interactions on our phones and instead socialize with the Lord through his scriptures and studying the words of the living apostles and prophets?
President Benson said, “The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for ‘unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment; and we must let them govern our lives.”
Whether you sit down and read from a printed book, login to your computer and access the scriptures online or use your smart phones, you can begin to really study the scriptures the way the Lord intended.
I love what Elder Ballard once said about how to use our phones to bless us or not. He said regarding smart phones, “They need to be our servants, not our masters. For example, if later tonight you share inspiring thoughts from this devotional on social media, your smartphone is a servant. If you randomly surf the Internet, your smartphone is a master.”
Not only must we read and ponder the scriptures, but there is power in keeping a journal or notes regarding inspiration that comes through the spirit. By recording your thoughts and impressions while studying your scriptures, you open new avenues of receiving personal revelation: “A study journal [can] help you understand, clarify, and remember what you are learning. Elder Richard G. Scott taught, ‘Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. This practice enhances the likelihood of your receiving further light.’”
I have found that as I have begun to not only take notes and journal about the inspiration that comes to me during my scripture time but that inspiration will come at other times during the day.
One morning as I took a short jog around the neighborhood after my scripture study, I was pondering on some of the doctrine that I had just read. These thoughts came to me that I quickly recorded in my journal when I got home. “I felt the spirit whisper that I was a daughter of a God and that my potential was great because of the redeeming power and love of Christ.”
I think Elder Maxwell explains it best in his always eloquent words when he said, “Brothers and sisters, the scriptures offer us so many doctrinal diamonds. And when the light of the Spirit plays upon their several facets, they sparkle with celestial sense and illuminate the path we are to follow.” In this case, a reminder of who I am and how that is possible.
I love how true that is.
The Scriptures Bring Peace and Hope
One of the great blessings that scriptures can bring into our lives is a peace and hope for the future. We can look forward to Christ’s return and be prepared as we seek after truth and knowledge. With our understanding of the gospel, we can gain a deep and abiding knowledge of the Savior and his work and glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Start today to make a decision to read the scriptures daily or if you already read maybe study a little bit longer, keep a study journal or whatever else the spirit is telling you to do right now.
President Hinckley said, “I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine.”
Why is it so important that we use the scriptures as our guiding light on our road back to our heavenly home? President Joseph Fielding Smith said that “Every baptized person [can] have an abiding testimony. … but [it] … will grow dim and eventually disappear [without] … study, obedience, and diligent seeking to know and understand the truth.”
That is why it is so important. The scriptures illuminate our path and guide us on how to maneuver while in this mortal life.
The Holy Ghost is the Key
Another key to successful scripture study is the Holy Ghost. You can think of it as your car’s headlights that guide us in the dark. In the Preach My Gospel handbook it says, “Your gospel study is most effective when you are taught by the Holy Ghost. Always begin your gospel study by praying for the Holy Ghost to help you learn… Like Enos, as you hunger to know the words of eternal life and as you allow these words to ‘[sink] deep into [your] heart’ (Enos 1:3), the Holy Ghost will open your mind and heart to greater light and understanding.
Sometimes finding personal time to study the scriptures isn’t as hard as trying to carve out time as a family to study the scriptures. As a child, my parents were experts at this. We woke up really early in the morning everyday during the week to read the scripture together before we got ready for school. I don’t think I truly appreciated the effort that they put into consistently getting all 6 of us kids to the table to study day in and day out. I am sure I didn’t always come as a willing participant, but I am now grateful for their consistent diligence in having us study the scriptures as a family.
In my home, my husband wakes up and is out the door heading to work before 5am so an early morning scripture time doesn’t work for our family. We usually try and gather the kids at night to read from the Book of Mormon before everyone goes to bed. Although, we are not perfect at it, we strive to read daily from the scriptures as a family.
5 Ideas to Increase our Scripture Study
I thought I would share a few ideas that might help you read together as a family. We have used all of these at some point in our marriage. Hopefully, something might sound like it could work for your family situation even if it is for just a short time. What we really are trying to do is create a habit of gospel learning in the home that can bring the spirit of the Lord and inspiration into it.
1. The Scripture Basket. Each morning, my children and I gathered around the kitchen table with our Scripture basket which consists of each child’s own paperback copy of the New Testament, a journal and the New Testament Stories book. We had nicknamed this part of our day “Scripture Smoothie” time since I would make a smoothie for the children to drink while we studied the scriptures. At the end of each chapter, I would pull up the amazing Bible Videos app. I really love these videos because they are short, sweet and they get right to the point of the portion we are studying that day. Afterwards, I had the kids get out their journal, draw a picture and write about it. My kids loved it. My, then, 5 year old daughter always asked if it is scripture smoothie time whenever she would wake up.
2. 90 Day and 6 Month Reading Challenge. Our Bishop issued a challenge once to read the Book of Mormon in 90 Days. I came up with a schedule that I shared with the ward to accomplish the goal. Near the end of the 90 days we came to the last two chapters found in the Book of Mormon, Moroni 9 and 10. I felt inspired that we should take our family to the Gilbert Temple that evening and read together the last two chapters. It was a special experience especially being able to point to Angel Moroni on the top of the temple as the author of the prophet we were reading about that day. I think we were most successful because we had a group of us working together for a common goal. There really is strength in numbers!
3. Memorizing Scriptures. As I was at studying my scriptures early one morning before the children woke up, I was pondering how I can get the words of the prophets who were inspired by God, into the hearts and minds of my children. Elder Richard G. Scott once said,
“Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change” (The Power of the Scriptures)
I love that quote and I wanted that same power for my children as they face the many challenges that come and will continue to come their way. I decided that I needed to design some tools to help my children memorize the scriptures. I wanted to create something that would not only be kid-friendly, but family-friendly. I didn’t want just my kids memorizing the scriptures, but my husband and I as well. It is an ongoing process that I hope will bless us all.
4. I Can Read the Scriptures. In 2011, when we lived in Pennsylvania, I was in the Primary Presidency when we discussed ways we could help the primary children get ready for the ground breaking of the Philadelphia Temple in September of that same year. I will never forget that meeting with the other wonderful leaders I was able to serve with as we prayed and pondered what we should do. The idea of “A Page A Day, Helps the Spirit Stay” was the inspiration we received that night. The children just pick one paper out each time you sit down together to study the scriptures. Using the Topical Guide, find the word and look up a couple scriptures to study and learn about.5. Ponderize. During a past General Conference, Brother Devin G. Durrant spoke about pondering and memorizing the scriptures, he called it “Ponderize.” It was a powerful talk. I made a print out that you can laminate and attach to your frig to help you ponder the scripture of the week. You can have the children take turns picking a scripture and writing it on the print out.
However you decide to study the scriptures both as a family and individually, first begin by seeking the guidance of the spirit. Our Father in Heaven wants us to be successful in establishing a house of learning. If you ask in faith, he will guide you with thoughts, ideas or resources that will allow you to gather your family together and feast upon the scriptures.
I know it isn’t always easy, but the Lord will bless our efforts however small we feel they may be. We can reach our desired destination of eternal life with our loved ones just like we finally made it to Pennsylvania for the Open House of the Temple as we center our home on the scriptures. Although there were bumps along the way, we made it and so can you!
God trusts us to guide and instruct his children in the gospel. He knows if we will just make a decision, pray with faith and begin today, oh the places you will go! On a journey of timeless truths as we unlock the treasures of heaven through scripture power.
I would love to hear your ideas, struggles and successes too. Please comment below!