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One of the key components to LDS theology is that of scripture being an open canon. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bible Dictionary, scripture is defined as follows:
The word scripture means a writing, and is used to denote a writing recognized by the Church as sacred and inspired. It is so applied to the books of the O.T. by the writers of the N.T. (Matt. 22: 29; John 5: 39; 2 Tim. 3: 15). For an account of the process by which the books of the O.T. and N.T. came to be recognized as scripture, see Canon. Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).
Moroni 10:2-53 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil” (Jordan Utah South regional conference, 2 Mar. 1997)
This scripture is in 1 Nephi 2:16:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
Just a little preface for those who may not be familiar with this scripture. Nephi’s father, Lehi had just had a vision that was difficult for his family to understand. In this example, Nephi turns to the Lord rather than to science, other men, etc. to learn the Lord’s mysteries. As a result, the Lord visits him and softens his heart. This experience serves as a building block for the rest of Nephi’s life as one reads through the Book of Nephi and sees how strong Nephi is in the Lord throughout his life.
As I read over this again this morning I thought about my own life. What are the “mysteries” that I’ve experienced and what are some that I’ve seen others struggle with? Examples include: is there a God? Which church is true? Is the Book of Mormon true? The Bible? Why am I sick? What job should I take? Who should I marry? What school should I go to? Why do we have temples and what is the meaning of what we do in temples? How can I experience God’s love? How can I love my enemy? How can I trust in something I can’t see (Jesus, God, etc.)? Why did I lose my job? Why don’t I feel happy?
I could go on, but the point is that “mysteries” to me are basically anything we don’t understand (which is about 99% of life!). Since there are so many things in life that are incomprehensible, that makes it even more important to turn to the Lord.
In the very next verse (1 Nephi 2:17) Nephi describes how we can know the mysteries of God, which is through the power of the Holy Ghost. Other scriptures state that the Holy Ghost will “teach us all things,” and by the power of the Holy Ghost we’ll “know the truth of all things.”
Receiving an answer and recognizing the answer from the Lord through the Holy Ghost may not come all at once. It didn’t for Nephi, but eventually the Lord visited him and said in 1 Nephi 2:19:
Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
Notice that the Lord didn’t simply give Nephi an answer, but it was because Nephi was:
1. Humble (i.e. didn’t rely on the philosophies of men and science but relied on the Lord)
2. Never gave up (he didn’t just ask once and call it good and then blame the Lord for not answering. He diligently sought)
3. He had faith (he believed the Lord would answer him)
I encourage all of us to follow Nephi’s pattern when we have a question or do not understand something whether it be gospel or spiritually related or something else in our lives such as our children, job, friends, spouse, or anything else.
One thing I’d like to add in conclusion. Although we can apply this formula to virtually any question we have in our lives, these scriptures are specifically referring to the “mysteries of God.” People ask questions such as “Was Joseph Smith really a Prophet?” “Is the Book of Mormon a true Book?” “Did Jesus really exist and atone for the sins of the world?” “Is there a God?” ”How do I recognize answers to prayer?” “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
Whatever questions we are asking ourselves, I hope we can apply these principles in our lives and turn to the Lord rather than man or science. I don’t know much about God’s mysteries and many of life’s mysteries, but the little I do know has been revealed to me through the Holy Spirit when I follow this pattern to know the mysteries of God.