The principles taught in the scriptures can help us make wiser decisions. It might seem improbable that an ancient author could advise a modern reader, particularly about problems which seem new and disconnected from the past. But truth is eternal, and fundamental principles which worked in the past will still work today.
When Nephi and his brothers arrived in the promised land, he read to them from the brass plates which they had retrieved together during their first return trip to Jerusalem. He read from the books of Moses—the first five books in our Old Testament—but he was particularly partial to the words of Isaiah. “I did liken all scriptures unto us,” he said, “that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23).
Nephi repeatedly referenced the scriptures when facing significant challenges. After failing twice in their attempts to acquire the brass plates, when his brothers wanted to give up and go home, he said, “Let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground” (1 Nephi 4:2). When his brothers refused to help him build a ship, saying that he had no expertise, he listed many of the miracles which the Lord had performed as the children of Israel traveled to the promised land, and then said, “If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:51). For Nephi, likening the scriptures to his current circumstances was a core decision-making strategy.
As a young man, Joseph Smith turned to the scriptures to overcome his uneasiness about the churches in his community. With so many contradictory messages and so much acrimony between adherents to different religions, he was unable to decide what to believe. His strategy was to turn to the scriptures:
At about the age of twelve years, my mind become seriously impressed with regard to the all-important concerns for the welfare of my immortal soul, which led me to searching the scriptures—believing, as I was taught, that they contained the word of God and thus applying myself to themHistory, circa Summer 1832, pages 1-2
His study led him to ponder at least two passages of scripture: James 1:5 and Matthew 7:7, both of which led him to ask God directly for guidance. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11 and Journal 1835-1836, page 23.)
Elder Richard G. Scott provided the following guidance about how to maximize the value we receive from the scriptures:
As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle.“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” General Conference, October 1993
Today I will follow the examples of Nephi and Joseph Smith in applying the scriptures to my life. I will strive to understand the fundamental principles taught in the scriptures I study and to make decisions which conform with those principles.