Really this is all it should take, right? A commandment from the Lord Himself to read our scriptures and we should be doing it. I’d love it if life was that easy. Reading our scriptures is such an important part of a Christian’s life that it is difficult to see how anyone can stay on the path without doing it, at least for me. In my church we’re instructed to read the scriptures every day, both individually and as a family. The gift of the scriptures is inestimable, and yet how many of us not only don’t read them daily, but in fact don’t read them hardly at all?
Perhaps a brief review of the history of how the Bible as we know it came to be would be helpful. I’m no historian, but I can tell you what I do know. Prophets as far back as Abraham and Moses have been commanded by the Lord to write down important historical and spiritual events, not only in their lifetimes but even in others’. Moses for example, was the one who wrote the first five books of the Bible. Isaiah not only wrote about his own time but also the past and the future as well, and he wasn’t the only one. The Lord Himself read the scriptures and quoted scripture as we are told in the New Testament. Was he not our example in all things? The Apostles in the time of Christ wrote down their histories as well which is our prime source of information regarding our Savior’s life. Why did they do so? There was what could be termed a “Bible” in the days of the Apostles, the priests and Pharisees having records of previous prophets going all the way back. The general populace didn’t have access to it though, they were contained on scrolls and read only during church. It’s only in the last few hundred years that the common person has been able to read from the scriptures. Could it be that these things were written not just for a bunch of people who lived thousands of years ago, but specifically for our benefit?
I don’t think it will be difficult for us to agree on that point. What about afterward? After the Apostles were all killed or exiled, and the surviving Christians at the time were butchered? There was no “Bible” then either, though the writing of the Apostles we believe were being collected and compiled over the next few centuries. The Catholic Church kept and preserved the records for hundreds of years, and is the chief reason we have a Bible at all today. We all owe the Catholic church a debt for this. But of course it wasn’t any earthly institution that enabled them to be preserved, or rather no organization could have except the hand of the Lord was involved. Why are there so few records from anywhere close to the time the original authors wrote? The oldest book I’m aware of is the Epic of Gilgamesh, and it was written in approximately the 13th Century BC. This is about the only complete text we have at all before the advent of the Greeks. Old things tend to perish with time, why not the writings of the old prophets? The answer to that question is one of the reasons I’m writing this. My hope is to instill a sense of the importance God places on the scriptures that we have, and if He views them with such importance, so should we.
The Bible in ancient and medieval times could not be read really at all unless you were in the clergy. The only way the populace had to access any of its wisdom was to go to Mass and learn what they could. In fact it took the efforts of great men like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale to make this happen, he who at the cost of his own life at the hands of the Catholic Church bravely translated the Bible into English. Owning an English copy of the Bible was both incredibly expensive and a death sentence if church officials caught you, so families owned it at the risk of their lives as well. Even this may not have been enough to get the Bible into the hands of the public if it had not been for Johanes Gutenberg and the invention of the movable type, which made the printing press possible. Movable type has been called the greatest invention of the past 1000 years; was it a coincidence that the first major work he printed was a Bible, in English? From then on it seemed inevitable that public access to a Bible would spread, and now, 600 years later virtually everyone in the world can get one for hardly any money at all. But it is only through the careful shepherding and the blood and sacrifice of who knows how many men over the intervening centuries that it is possible.
I’m not sure how many of us, if our house was on fire and we had one possession to grab would get our scriptures. How much importance do we place on owning them? As much as families in the past, who owned them at the risk of their lives? The Old Testament alone is foundational not only to the Christian churches but also to the Jewish faith, Islam and Bahai’i among others. The New Testament is of even greater importance, as we are given instruction and edification on truths that the rest of the world does not know. We are taught a higher order of living. How to be happy. How to discriminate and focus on what is really important in this age of distraction in which we live. How to receive divine help and how to cultivate and strengthen faith, which increases personal satisfaction in life and the ability to endure trials. We are also taught one of life’s great skills, which is how to pray. Reading scriptures as a family not only increases time spent together but also helps insulate your children against the many harmful messages they receive while growing up. Some parents feel uncomfortable with this, feeling they should let their kids grow up and decide for themselves about things such as God and church. These parents should be reminded that Satan is not doing the same. He is enacting a coordinated and sustained assault to influence children away from anything that could give them knowledge or strength to resist him. Indeed, choosing not to involve your children with scripture reading is taking the choice away from them, because we can only choose what path to take in life when we have knowledge of what the paths are.
I love the scriptures. I need them. I’ve lived for a time without them, and that was enough to convince me that I am lost without them. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also nicknamed the Mormon church. I believe in the Book of Mormon as well as modern revelation through prophets, so I’ll include a scriptural quote from them: “…ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Where, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: ye shall have eternal life.” There’s lots of good stuff in there, but feasting upon the word of Christ in particular is referring to reading and studying the scriptures. Whether we are of the same faith or not scarcely matters though, truth is truth, and it seems beyond doubt that our scriptures are here to be read. It’s an integral part of our progress toward God, and in fact is so important that He preserved them so we’d have the chance to access His words today. A modern day Apostle, Quentin L. Cook, recently shared this thought in a talk: “Clearly a dividing line between those who hear the music of faith and those who are tone-deaf or off-key is the active study of the scriptures.” Reading and studying scriptures increases our knowledge of our Savior and his gospel, the commandments He gave and examples of people who followed them, sometimes even at the cost of their lives. Such examples can inspire us to be more like them, and the act of reading scriptures alone strengthens us spiritually. I hope I have been able to successfully share why I feel so passionate about it, and why I hope others will start to read them also. The scriptures increases our steadfastness in Christ, they give us hope, they increase our love for God and for all men, and they help give us the strength to endure to the end. They were written for us, in our day, and are a precious gift. Read for yourself and you’ll know what I mean. 🙂