[The first half of my talk given 1/11/15. Read the second part here.]
The chorus to one of the Primary songs reads:
Scripture power keeps me safe from sin.
Scripture power is the power to win.
Scripture power! Every day I need
The power that I get each time I read.
Now these sons of Mosiah . . . had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God. [emphasis mine]
Why do we need power from the scriptures? As those verses show, first, we need power to be effective teachers and preachers of the gospel. The best example is of the full-time missionaries. They are given an hour every day to study the gospel individually and another hour to study as a companionship, and greenies are given an extra hour for the first 12 weeks. That may seem overwhelming, but there is wisdom in it. The Lord revealed:
Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. (D&C 11:21)
What a promise! To achieve that, we not only need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures, but we also need to desire that spiritual power. Otherwise, our study will be meaningless. The missionary manual Preach My Gospel shares how to have meaningful scripture study:
Effective daily study must always begin with prayer. Study is an act of faith requiring the use of personal agency. Many missionaries struggle to know how to study effectively. Some rely heavily on others or on structured programs to tell them what and how to study. While learning from a good teacher is very important [especially for new missionaries and converts], it is more important for you to have meaningful learning experiences on your own [even more especially for new missionaries and converts, because your testimony of something is stronger when you’ve learned it by yourself]. Getting good results from your study depends on having a strong desire to learn, studying with “real intent” (Moroni 10:4), “hunger[ing] and thirst[ing] after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), and searching for answers to your investigators’ questions and concerns. [In our case, our own or our loved ones’ questions and concerns.]
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. He will bring knowledge and conviction that will bless your life and allow you to bless the lives of others. Your faith in Jesus Christ will increase. Your desire to repent and improve will grow.
This kind of study prepares you for service, offers solace, resolves problems, and gives you the strength to endure to the end. Successful gospel study requires desire and action. . . . 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.
As you feel the joy that comes from understanding the gospel, you will want to apply what you learn. Strive to live in harmony with your understanding. Doing so will strengthen your faith, knowledge, and testimony. Acting on what you have learned will bring added and enduring understanding (see John 7:17).
The lessons the missionaries study are very thorough. I didn’t get why they needed to read and learn all those details just to give a brief and simple lesson, until I read in Preach My Gospel, “Although you will not teach all you know about the doctrine, your increased knowledge will build your testimony and your ability to teach with spiritual power” (19). This is confirmed in D&C 84:85: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.”
Although we are not full-time missionaries, the same principle applies to us. If we study the gospel completely and treasure that knowledge, we will be blessed with what to say and how to say it when sharing it with others, including our own families or fellow church members.
For example, one day when I was talking to a former neighbor (and now dear friend) about the gospel, she asked me a question regarding the Atonement. I read to her Alma 7:11-13, which gave her a new and personal understanding of the Savior and His suffering. It was pivotal in her accepting the rest of the gospel and being baptized. Had I not been familiar with this passage and its application, she may not have found the peace she was looking for.
Challenge: Read your scriptures so you can be a better missionary and teacher, at home and at church.