Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scriptures Teach about God

                Since the time of Adam, prophets have revealed truths about the nature of God.  Through studying the words of the prophets in the scriptures, we can learn about Heavenly Father’s attributes and increase our faith and testimonies.  As we increase our understanding of our Heavenly Father, we will also increase our own divine potential as His spirit children.  The Holy Ghost can assist us in our learning if we will follow His guidance.

                After spending more than a year in isolation in a dark, damp cell, on October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was led from a dungeon in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels, Belgium, and was immediately fastened to a post.  The pitiful figure had just enough time to utter aloud his last prayer, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes” before he was strangled.  After his death, his body was burned at the stake.  He was condemned to this treatment by the authorities of both the church and the government.  Do you have any idea what he did to deserve such treatment?  He was condemned for the crime of translating and publishing the Bible in English!

                Tyndale was born in England about the time that Columbus sailed to the American continents; he was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and then became a member of the Catholic clergy.  He was fluent in eight languages, including Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.  He was a devoted student of the bible and disturbed by the ignorance of the scriptures he observed in both the priests and the lay people.  He apparently spoke with members of the clergy about the need for putting the scriptures in the hands of the common people.  In one heated discussion with a cleric, he vowed, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost!”

                Tyndall asked the church authorities for approval to prepare a translation of the Bible in English in order that all people could read and apply the word of God, but his request was denied.  He decided to do the work of translation anyway and traveled to Germany in 1524 under an assumed name.  There he worked in secret under the constant threat of arrest.  With the assistance of some friends, Tyndale published English translations of the New Testament and later the Old Testament. 

The Bibles were smuggled into England where they were immediately snapped up because the English people recognized the value knowing the scriptures. The people who were fortunate enough to get them prized them greatly but were willing to share them in secret with others.  The authorities, of course, were not happy about the people having the scriptures and burned all the copies they found.

Within three years of Tyndale’s death, God opened the eyes of King Henry VIII who ordered the publication of what was called the “Great Bible.” The scriptures printed in English began to be publicly available.  The work of Tyndale was the foundation for almost all future English translations of the Bible, most notably the King James Version.

William Tyndale and other people in many lands and languages made great sacrifices in order that we can read the words of the prophets.  We should honor their sacrifices by studying the scriptures as well as understanding why they made those sacrifices.  What did they know about the importance of scriptures that we should know?

After relating the above story about William Tyndale, Elder D. Todd Christoffson discussed the importance of the scriptures:  “The scriptures enlarge our memory by helping us always to remember the Lord and our relationship to Him and the Father.  They remind us of what we knew in our premortal life.  And they expand our memory in another sense by teaching us about epochs, people, and events that we did not experience personally.  None of us was present to see the Red Sea part and cross with Moses between walls of water to the other side.  We were not there to hear the Sermon on the Mount, to see Lazarus raised from the dead, to see the suffering Savior in Gethsemane and on the cross, and we did not, with Mary, hear the two angels testify at the empty tomb that Jesus was risen form the dead.  You and I did not go forward one by one with the multitude in the land Bountiful at the resurrected Savior’s invitation to feel the prints of the nails and bathe His feet with our tears.  We did not kneel beside Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove and gaze there upon the Father and the Son.  Yet we know all these things and much, much more because we have the scriptural record to enlarge our memory, to teach us what we did not know.  And as these things penetrate our minds and hearts, our faith in God and His Beloved Son takes root.

                “The scriptures also enlarge our memory by helping us not forget what we and earlier generations have learned.  Those who either don’t have or ignore the recorded word of God eventually cease to believe in Him and forget the purpose of their existence.  You will remember how important it was for Lehi’s people to take the brass plates with them when they left Jerusalem.  These scriptures were key to their knowledge of God and the coming Redemption of Christ.  The other group that `came out from Jerusalem’ shortly after Lehi had no scriptures, and when Lehi’s descendants encountered them some 300 or 400 years later, it is recorded that `their language had become corrupted; … and they denied the being of their Creator’ (Omni 1:15, 17).

                “In Tyndale’s day, scriptural ignorance abounded because people lacked access to the Bible, especially in a language they could understand.  Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books.  Consequently they have forgotten things their grandparents knew.”  (See Elder D. Todd Christoffson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Ensign, May 2010, pp. 32-35.)

                Elder Christoffson answered the unspoken question, what happens to those who do not have or do not use the scriptures?  They eventually know less than their grandparents knew about God and how He works with His children!  Studying the scriptures is important in helping us understand the nature of God.

                As referenced by Elder Christoffson, Lehi took his family out of Jerusalem to obey the commandment of God.  Then God commanded him to send his sons back into Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates from Laban.  They ask for the plates and then tried to buy the plates; both times Laban denied their requests.  When Nephi found Laban drunk on the street, he was commanded to kill him.  Nephi did not want to kill Laban, and he refused to do it until he gained understanding as to the importance of having the plates.  “And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of or fathers.
                “And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 1 Nephi 3:19).

Many years later Amaleki explained how King Mosiah I and the Nephites met the people of Zarahemla, people who also left Jerusalem while Zedekiah was king of Judah.  He then wrote, “And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous.  Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them” (Omni 1:17).

King Benjamin, son of King Mosiah I, spoke with his sons about the importance of the scriptures in Mosiah 1:3-7:  “I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning those things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct” (v 5).

                King Benjamin testified of the truthfulness of the records and then said, “And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers” (v 7). 

Alma was in the midst of transferring all his responsibilities to his son Helaman when he also spoke about the importance of the records in Alma 37:8-9.  He first spoke about how the Lord can use small and simple things to bring about great things.   Then he said, “And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls” (v. 8).

                Another reason why we need to study the scriptures is the fact that we can hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us individually.  The Lord revealed the importance of studying the scriptures through the Prophet Joseph Smith:  “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which re in them shall all be fulfilled.

                “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-39).

                In a later revelation the Lord said, “These words are not of men nor of man, but of men; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man.
                “For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
                “Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my word” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36).

                The Bible Dictionary has a lengthy entry of what we can learn about God from the scriptures.  “The supreme Governor of the universe and the Father of mankind.  We learn from the revelations that have been given that there are three separate persons in the Godhead:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  From latter-day revelation we learn that the Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bone, and that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without flesh and bone (D&C 130:22-23).

                “When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim.  All mankind are his children.  The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God.  Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him.  All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim…..  The Holy Ghost is also a God and is variously called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the Spirit of God, etc.

                “Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through his Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to him that differentiates man from all other created things:  man is literally God’s offspring, made in his image whereas all other things are but the work of his hands (cf. Acts 17:28-29).

                “The God of the scriptures is a holy being.  Man is commanded to be holy because God is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2).  God can be known only by revelation.  He must be revealed, or remain forever unknown (cf. Mosiah 4:9).  God first revealed himself to Adam (Moses 5:6) and has repeatedly made himself known by revelation to chosen patriarchs and prophets since that time.  The present translation of John 1:18 and 1 Jn. 4:12 is misleading, for these say that no man has ever seen God.  However, the scriptures state that there have been many who have seen him.  The JST corrects these items to show that no sinful man has ever seen God, and also that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God.  God the Father and His Son have been manifested by voice, sight, or otherwise at various times….  The Father and the Son personally visited Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, in the spring of 1820, near Manchester, New York, in the opening of the dispensation of the fullness of times (JS-H 1:11-20).

                “Latter-day revelation confirms the biblical account of God as the literal father of the human family; as a being who is concerned for the welfare of mankind, and a Personage who hears and answers prayers.  (See Bible Dictionary:  “God” (p. 681.)

                I study the scriptures every day and have done so for more than thirty years.  I know of the value of knowing the information contained within the scriptures.  I am grateful for William Tyndall who had the courage to defy the authorities and translate the scriptures into English.  I am also very grateful for all those men who labored to record the words of the Lord and to those who preserved those records.  I am grateful for the Prophet Joseph Smith and his sacrifices to bring forth the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as well as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.  These scriptures of our day bring additional witnesses of God.  I do “believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”  I am very grateful for my knowledge of God and His Son and their work.  I am grateful for the counsel I receive through the Holy Ghost.  I am grateful for God!

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