Friday, February 12, 2016

The Miracle of the Holy Bible

When I was a child, my family attended a Methodist church. I don't have many strong memories of my time there. In the Methodist church, when members have a child, he is usually baptized as an infant, and attends confirmation class in middle school, at which time he has the opportunity to choose to become a full member of the local church, or not. I remember going to confirmation class, and not learning anything I felt substantial enough to make my decision. I remember asking my pastor, "What if I say no? Am I allowed to say no?' He told me I could, but in the end I said yes because I knew everyone wanted me to. I became a full member of my local church, but my heart wasn't in it. I wasn't sure of what I should do.

After, I remember going on retreats and trips to serve others in the summer through my middle school years. I remember being frustrated with the Sunday School program, and complaining that they didn't teach us anything. I remember not knowing how to pray, and wanting something more out of my faith.

I can also remember, for a long time, having issue with the compilation and canonization of the Bible. I can remember thinking and saying things like, "Who do they think they are? These guys that put the Bible together, what right did they have to choose?" and "What if they put something in that wasn't supposed to be in? What if they left out something really important?" For a long time, I didn't find the Bible reliable because of the method in which it was compiled - all these separate documents for hundreds of years, then put together by a conference of people who thought they had power. Some people assured me that they were "inspired" in choosing books, but how could I know that?

This problem, and MANY others led me to stop attending church services when I was in the 10th grade. Which meant the end of all religious activity, because I had not been encouraged to pray or study the Bible on my own. 

The next few years of my life were really dark, for many reasons. I had stopped believing in God altogether, and decided that all religion was, for lack of a better word, crap. I thought it was dumb, not true, and I no longer saw why anyone believed it. The invalidity of it all was so real that it astounded me that anyone believed. In one of my high school classes, we watched a video in which one of the participants stated "The strongest atheists are those who were once Christians." And I thought, Yep. That's true. Because it was me. 

Now, I realize that I didn't leave religion because it was all bad, but because I hadn't been taught the whole truth. Parts, but I didn't have all the answers.

Exodus 14:13-14
The first Sunday I attended a service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I had a discussion with some members and was given a copy of the Book of Mormon. That day and that week, as I began reading, I knew it was true. Absolutely. Completely. Unequivocally. I knew this was it, this is what I'd been looking for and longing for. These were the answers I needed, the things that were left out of my lessons as a child. 

"All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things." 

I had long wondered why God sent prophets so long ago and just stopped - Did He think we didn't need Him anymore? Did He stop caring? Anyone looking at this world knows we still need guidance. And here it was, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A prophet living today. God did care and knew we needed His guidance! I wondered about the compilation of the Bible. And here was a record compiled by a prophet of God - someone who was certainly authorized to decide what to keep and what to leave out, someone most certainly inspired. 

As I grew in my knowledge and testimony of the Restored gospel, I studied for hours and hours the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the words of our modern-day prophets. I loved it. I couldn't get enough. 

However, I didn't study the Bible on my own, and only looked to it when the missionaries, church teachers, or church leaders pointed to it. I only believed the verses our prophets quoted. Many of my former thoughts about the Bible remained - that its compilation was invalid, that it was immensely corrupted, that it was unreliable, and that I didn't really need to concern myself with reading it. I wouldn't have minded if the Church threw the Bible out, personally. I didn't need it. 

Then I came across this talk: "The Miracle of the Holy Bible," by M. Russell Ballard (now on my list of Favorite Talks). He says: 
"It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today. It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior."

Okay, I guess that is pretty good. Without the Bible, we wouldn't have this unbroken line of belief in Christ, this worldwide community of Bible-believers who have turned to Christ because of its pages, looking to ancient prophets when we didn't have living ones. If not for the Bible, Joseph Smith wouldn't have been seeking the true church, he wouldn't have known who Christ was, he wouldn't have learned character and strength from its pages, or read James 1:5 - "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Joseph Smith - History 1:25
Elder Ballard, a man whom we sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator said this: "It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records. Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work" (emphasis added). These words, by someone whom I know is a prophet, soothed my soul slightly regarding the reliability of the Bible - he testified that the Bible was written, compiled, preserved, and translated by individuals who were inspired by the Holy Ghost

"I bear solemn witness that we are true and full believers in the Lord Jesus Christ 
and in His revealed word through the Holy Bible."

I can trust his testimony, and he says this book is important. If a prophet says it's important, I guess that's good enough for me. 

"[The Bible] is one of the pillars of our faith, a powerful witness of the Savior and of Christ’s ongoing influence in the lives of those who worship and follow Him. The more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We tend to love the scriptures that we spend time with. We may need to balance our study in order to love and understand all scripture. You young people especially, do not discount or devalue the Holy Bible. It is the sacred, holy record of the Lord’s life. . . . Those who join this Church do not give up their faith in the Bible—they strengthen it. The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor de-emphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it. The Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible, and both testify of Christ."

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