Many years ago, when I was living in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Stake, I attended a fireside given by a brother named Russ Evans. He spoke about the Dead Sea Scrolls and how they related to the doctrines of our church. I was fascinated, and the way he presented it seemed to show that these documents proved the church was true. I became so excited that I wanted to find this information for myself so I could go around proving to everyone how right we were.
The first place I went was to the public library, where I found books upon books on the subject, written by many different scholars. In these books were a lot of background history on how they found the scrolls and the problems they had both getting them and deciphering them. There was a lot of analyzing of what these documents meant, with many differing interpretations. But the more I read the more confused I became. Yet, for all their many words, most of the books didn't have any real quotes from the scrolls themselves; it was mainly what each author's ideas were about the scrolls.
I was gaining a lot of information, but it wasn't what I was looking for. I thought I was going to find these ancient writings that proved Mormonism, but instead I was mostly getting a history about the process of doing archeology in the Middle East and many differing opinions about what was contained in the scrolls which didn't sound anything like Mormon doctrine. After reading seven or eight thick books, I began to get discouraged. Nevertheless, I kept looking. I kept going back to the library, searching the card catalog and checking the shelves for new books.
Finally, one day, I ran across a book that had a translation of a scroll called, "The Manual of Discipline." I was super excited. I went home and lost my self in that book, but, to my surprise, it didn't say that Mormonism was the true religion. I was crushed. I thought to myself, "All of that work for nothing."
But as I thought about the things I had read in all those books, I started to remember some scriptures found in the Book of Mormon. So I began to look up those verses, and, as I did, they seemed much more plainer than they ever did before I had studied about the Dead Sea Scrolls. I thought that was neat. And then I remembered other scriptures in the Book of Mormon that related to things I had read in those many books. The problem was that most of them had been returned to the library. Therefore, once more I had to check them out, and then started going through all those library books again looking for things I hadn't thought of the first time. This time, however, I began making notes of things that impressed me from those books. Suddenly I found myself getting excited all over again, and, for the next five or six months, I researched, referenced, cross referenced, and analyzed everything I had read about the subject. During all of my spare time I would think about these things and formulated ideas and develop new trains of thought, and then would go back and research some more. Why? Because it was thrilling to me.
When I was done I was amazed at what I had found. It wasn't all laid out in black and white as I thought it would be, but it was there nonetheless. I had finally found what I was looking for, and, in fact, I had found much more than I thought I ever would.
Now I wanted to share this tremendous knowledge with others, so I developed a talk and approached the missionaries with it. They thought it was a great idea, and before long they arranged for me to give a fireside to a small group of people. After it was over, many of those people came to me and said what a great talk I had given. I graciously thanked them, and soon, other offers came for me to give this same fireside. And again, afterwards people would come and tell me what a great talk I had given. I felt pleased with myself.
Then one day someone came to me and said, "I hear you're a good speaker. Would you like to give your talk to our group?" It was something about the way he made the comment that didn't sound quite right to me so I asked, "What talk are you referring to?" He answered, "I don't know, but I hear you give a great talk." I was crushed. I didn't want to give a great talk, I wanted to share the knowledge I had uncovered. I had spent months studying and learning, and I wanted to take all that information and hand it to people so they would know as much as I did. Instead, all people remembered was that I gave a good talk. I felt like a complete failure!
That bothered me for a long time, because I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. I thought people would come to me and say, "That's really interesting. Where did you learn all of that?" I had a list of books ready to give out for them to go read, but nobody asked for any information. All they said was, "That was a great talk," and then they went home and forgot everything I said.
I eventually moved away from that area and I didn't have as much opportunity to give my talk as I once did, but every once in a while I would think to myself, "What did I do wrong?" Because of that experience, over the years, I have come to realize an important principle: Knowledge has to be found; it can't be given.
Two people come to Sacrament meeting and listen to the same speaker, yet one walks away inspired and feeling like they've gained something, while the other person walks away feeling like their time was wasted. What's the difference? The difference is that one person was seeking to find something and the other person wasn't, and they both got what they were looking for. Knowledge has to be found, not given.
In the sixth chapter of Matthew, verse 33 Jesus taught us this truth when He counseled us to: "Seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." Notice the word He used: Seek. That means to search, to dig, to hunt for. And what are we to seek? His righteousness.
And how do we find His righteousness? By searching the scriptures.
Although we have been counseled to study the scriptures everyday we haven't been told how to study them. Therefore, each person develops their own method. Some read the scriptures for fifteen minutes a day, some read two chapters a day, while others have their own system. But the question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we studying the scriptures, or are we just reading them? Are we just going through the motions of looking at words on a piece of paper, or are we seeking to find what God's righteousness is by searching, researching, referencing, questioning, and analyzing?
I've had people say to me, "You seem so knowledgeable about the Dead Sea scrolls," but all I did was read a few books that were in the public library. Anybody can do that. What made the difference was that I went at it with a zeal and a determination to find something. Although it took a lot of hard work, I found what I was looking for. That's what it means to "seek".
The story is told of a disciple of the great philosopher, Plato, who knew that his teacher was getting old and would not live much longer. One day the disciple said to Plato, "Master, before you die, teach me all that you know," but Plato ignored him. Day after day, the disciple continued to follow the great philosopher, repeatedly making the same request. Finally, Plato simply said to him, "Come with me." The adoring student followed his master as they walked for a long time in silence, eventually coming to the seashore. However, Plato didn't stop there, but walked out into the water. Perplexed, the eager student followed. Plato continued to walk deeper into the ocean until the water was up to his chest, and there he stopped.
When the student stopped beside him, Plato suddenly put his hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under the water. The startled man struggled to get free, but Plato kept him under as the man's feet kicked and his arms waved about. Finally, as the man's body started to lose strength, Plato pulled him up and dragged him to shore. While the man lay there gasping and sputtering, Plato asked him, "When you were under the water, what did you think about the most?" The man replied, "Air!" To which Plato responded, "When you desire knowledge as much as you desire air, then you won't need me to teach you. You will come to know everything that I know."
Knowledge is found, not given.
Diamonds are great jewels, but they are formed deep in the earth. If we go along just scratching the surface we will never find any. If our real desire is to find diamonds, then we have to labor to get them. We have to dig deep and hunt and be persistent. Sometimes all of our hard labor will seem to be in vain, but, if we persist, in the end we will succeed.
There are great gems of knowledge hidden within the pages of the scriptures and the words of our modern day prophets, but just scratching the surface won't reveal them. We have to dig for them, hunt for them, labor for them, and have a sincere desire to want to find them.
When someone prepares to give a lesson in church they usually start their preparations by saying a prayer, asking for God's help in guiding their thoughts. Then they look at the lesson material and read the provided scriptures and any listed quotes by General Authorities. After that, they try to determine how to put all of this together in some sort of organized, interesting way. Since most teachers don't want to give a monologue, they next think of questions they can ask the class, and, usually, then think about what type of questions the class might ask in return. If they don't know the answer to those possible questions, they research it so they don't look ignorant, not knowing the answer. Perhaps they will look up other articles or books, or perhaps research other scriptures.
In order to adequately prepare for their lesson, the teacher hasn't just read the scriptures, they've had tostudy them. They've prayed, pondered, thought of questions, looked for answers, searched and researched. And it is within this process that the teacher runs across little gems of knowledge. The greater the effort they put into it, the more gems of knowledge they uncover.
The teacher is now ready to share some great ideas with their class, and sometimes class members will say "Ooo, ahh, isn't that neat," but no matter whether a teacher is good or poor, come the following week ninety-five percent of the class couldn't tell you what they learned. On the other hand, ask that teacher a year later what they taught and, most of the time, they can remember. Why? Because they had searched for knowledge and found it; it's theirs to keep. But knowledge given is only borrowed and therefore lasts just a very short time.
Most people believe that we come to church to be taught the gospel. That's only partially true. Only if we come seeking to learn can we be truly taught. For the most part, we come to church to be inspired to live the gospel. For example, can we do our genealogy by sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher? No. We can be taught how to do the mechanics of genealogy, but the teacher's main goal is to inspire people to become genealogists. Can we do our home teaching by sitting in a classroom? Again, we can be taught the mechanics of doing it, but only if the teacher has motivated us will we actually perform our duty. Only if there is a desire on our part will we want to do what we're taught to accomplish.
And what about righteousness? Can it simply be taught? Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." Before we can be taught about righteousness, we first need to be inspired and motivated to learn about it. Without that stimulation of the spirit, there will be no desire on our part to seek after it. In my opinion, the most important reason we come to church is to inspire one another, to uplift one another, to encourage and help one another to want to seek after God and His righteousness. Once that desire has been kindled, we will strive on our own to find the knowledge that leads to eternal life.
I know that sometimes in the busy world of raising children there doesn't seem to be much time to read the scriptures, let alone ponder and study them. This is especially true for mothers with children under foot all day long. May I offer a suggestion that works for me; perhaps it might for you? I find a single verse or a single idea that interests me, and then, throughout the day, I think about it during my mental free time. Maybe while I'm driving or when I'm doing some work around the house, I have a little discussions with myself where I ask myself questions, and I try to give the answer.
Certainly I encounter many distractions throughout the day, but, at the next free mental moment, I pick up where I left off. As ideas come to me, I jot them down so I won't forget them. Then when I have ten, twenty, thirty minutes to myself, I look up those things I need to, and the next day I continue to think about those things I learned from the day before. In this way I find I keep my mind occupied on heavenly matters and it relieves some of the drudgery that comes from the mundane tasks I face.
As husbands, we need to make sure that our wonderful wives have just as much opportunity for spiritual growth as we do. The scriptures council us to love our wives as Christ loved the church, and so, we need to make sure that they have time off from the almost never ending task of caring for children. We should be aware of their need for quiet meditation, and make sure they have that time to themselves.
It must be remembered that the glory of God is intelligence (D&C 93:36) and that we cannot be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6). To gain the knowledge needed for us to be saved in glory we must follow the words of the Savior to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It's not a matter of just reading the scriptures, but rather we need to study them, to prayerfully ask for guidance, to ponder, to think, to ask questions - deep questions - and then search and research for answers with a real desire to want to know. Only in that way will each of us come to find our own hidden jewels of knowledge and grow in wisdom and truth and thereby gain glory and exaltation.