Being able to make connections between the scriptures and our own lives takes practice; that is why we should have effective personal scripture study. Reading the scriptures is good for surface-level understanding and knowledge, but internalizing the message and gaining a testimony of the doctrine and principles require searching, pondering, and praying. Even if we have trouble finding a specific answer in the words of the scriptures, engaging in daily scripture study invites the Spirit to give and opens our hearts to receive personal revelation.
Such deeper study takes time and effort, but it is not impossible to achieve. Start by finding a consistent time when you can focus and be uninterrupted. You may have to be creative. Don’t worry about how much you read; quality is more important than quantity. Take advantage of cross references, institute manuals, and other study guides to help you understand context and meaning. Then pray to know personal application. Write down any thoughts and feelings you receive during study time or later in the day.
Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being.
We must also remember that what counts as scripture is more than just translated records of old. It also includes modern-day revelation. The Lord revealed in Doctrine and Covenants, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (1:38). Who are these servants? Amos clarified, the Lord “revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (3:7). This truth is repeated in Doctrine and Covenants: “that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled” (42:39).
Although there is only one president of the Church, all the apostles are considered prophets. When they speak to us at general conference or other Church broadcasts and write articles for the Church magazines, we need to listen and obey just as we do with what we read in the scriptures, especially because what our leaders say is meant specifically for us in our day.
In this age of modern technology, it is so easy to access the guidance of our caring Church leaders anytime, anywhere. We can listen to talks while driving or exercising. We can watch and discuss the messages for family home evening. We can read an article related to what we are reading in our personal scripture study for added insight. We have so much knowledge before us, more than in any other dispensation. We must use it in order to be successful in both our temporal and spiritual lives.
The last scripture we have, and most vital to planning our individual futures, is patriarchal blessings. President Monson shared,
The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. . . .
A patriarchal blessing is a revelation to the recipient, even a white line down the middle of the road, to protect, inspire, and motivate activity and righteousness. A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities.
The key word there is possibilities. Giving a patriarchal blessing is not fortune telling or seeing a vision of fate. It is a revelation of all that we have potential for if we but obey God, keep our covenants, and follow the Spirit. It is the Lord allowing us to see ourselves through His eyes. He is telling us what amazing things we can do and have and become if we are faithful. Because patriarchal blessings are so personal, we should always consult them whenever making life-changing decisions. The Church magazine the Liahona added, “Other priesthood blessings you receive throughout your life may expand on themes mentioned in your patriarchal blessing. Know your blessing well enough to tell when those extra explanations come.”
With all the ancient and modern scriptures and revelations we have, we are well prepared to plan out our lives, both for here on earth and in the eternities. There is no question, decision, or problem we cannot overcome. We must be wise and use the treasures we have been given so that we are never steered wrong, just as Lehi and his family were given the Liahona to follow while in the wilderness. Alma explained the value and symbolism of the Liahona:
And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day
Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.
And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
Challenge: Let the scriptures--ancient, modern, and personal--and the Spirit direct the course of your life.