Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Chapter 10: Our Search for Truth (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on May 17, 2014

I got a late-week call to teach this lesson, so I’m posting some quick notes (sorry, Kirk, if I’m preempting your own post).

See here for the lesson material at lds.org.

From the life

From the manual:

I usually had a book in my hands when I was home. . . . Later I read the History of the Church as recorded in the Millennial Star. I also read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, and other literature that fell into my hands.”

I’ve always been a bit of a book nerd, so this idea of always having a book in the hand resonates with me. But I’m nervous about teaching this lesson and teaching the lesson in a self-serving way. To avoid this, I’m inclined to ask the following question, to effectively get us all on the same side of the issue: Kids these days have lots of distractions that make it increasingly difficult to get them excited about reading the standard works. How can we help motivate the youth to love the standard works?

In discussing this question, I plan to key in especially on ideas relating to setting an example by having, cultivating, and showing our own love of the scriptures, and discussing how we can acquire and nurture (cf. Alma 32’s seed metaphor) this love.

1. Gospel knowledge is most important

Question: What is the most important truths to learn, cherish, and internalize in this life? Why?

Almost every paragraph in this section helps answer this question. Living in the information age, I think we face huge challenges to stay focused on the most high-quality kinds of knowledge. This requires self discipline in terms of setting up good filters and habits that will help us refrain from frittering away our time on cute and funny cat photos.

2. Search the scriptures

From the second paragraph in this section:

The world mocks at [the scriptures], but through their teachings we are permitted to come nearer unto God, get a better understanding of our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, become closer acquainted with them and to know more in regard to the wonderful plan of salvation which they have given unto us and unto the world.

Question: How have the scriptures helped you “become closer acquainted with . . . Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ”?

I think scripture stories are especially good at teaching how God’s attributes, love, and teachings play out in particular contexts. I teach using the case method in a business school, and I’ve seen how students get much more out of these real-life contexts than in more abstract, systematic textbook treatments of the same material. Also, I often get more out of pondering questions regarding scripture than I do in simply reading the scriptural teachings. Pondering matters more than reading, in my experience. (The first paragraph in section 4 of this lesson reiterates this point.)

3. Hearkening to the Lord’s servants

I think there’s a curious tension at work in this section: on the one hand, we are to study on our own; on the other hand, we are to put our trust in our leaders. I’m not quite sure how to address this tension, but I think it’s important to recognize the danger of using the “trust in our leaders” idea as an excuse/rationalization not to study the scriptures on our own.

4. Learning by study and faith

From the 2nd paragraph in this section:

We sometimes hear the complaint, “I haven’t time.” But we all have time to read and study which is our solemn duty. Can we not arrange to find at least fifteen minutes in each day to devote to systematic reading and reflection?

Pres. Smith goes on to explain that 15 minutes a day would lead to almost 100 hours in a year. I like to have particular questions or even research projects in the works that help me stay motivated enough to fill the extra little times during the day (like the opening vignette about always having a book in your hand) to read and ponder scriptural themes.

5. Living in harmony with the truth

I like focus in the final paragraph of this section on the line-upon-line blessings of diligently seeking for truth. A friend in my ward was talking this week about their missioanry daughter’s struggle with the Russian language (I served in Russia also, back in 1992-1994). I remember feeling frustrated after several months of study, feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. But then, as if by magic, I started to realize over the next few months that I was in fact, little by little, learning the language. The daily effort was really paying off, even though I couldn’t really see a difference on a daily basis. My son is learning the piano, and although he isn’t that diligent about practicing, I nevertheless can see how just 10-15 minutes of practice a few times a week is leading to significant improvement.

Spirituality takes practice. Studying the scriptures is a crucial part of cultivating our spiritual health. I pray that we can all renew our commitment to pursuing spiritual understanding.

One Response to “RS/MP Chapter 10: Our Search for Truth (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)”

  1. Kris said

    Thanks again for your insight on these lessons

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