Every Word

As the children of Israel prepared to enter the promised land, Moses asked them to consider some of the lessons of their sojourn in the wilderness. One of those lessons came from the food they ate: manna, which mysteriously appeared every morning except the sabbath in sufficient portions to provide them with physical nourishment. (See Exodus 16.) In order to take advantage of this miraculous food, they had to follow the Lord’s instructions, so that their physical nourishment was explicitly tied to their spiritual nourishment: hearing and following the Lord. Moses summarized the lesson of the manna in this way:

Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

Deuteronomy 8:3

Many years later, as the Savior fasted in the wilderness, Satan tempted Him to prove His divinity by turning stones into bread. Jesus responded by quoting that passage from Deuteronomy, which served several purposes at once: It specifically refuted the notion that satisfying physical hunger was His highest priority at that moment. It illustrated that He had studied and internalized the scriptures (the word of God) and could apply them to real-life situations. And it communicated to Satan that any instruction He received would be measured against His understanding of gospel principles. (See Matthew 4:1-4.)

The prophet Mormon also referenced this teaching from Moses during a sermon about faith, hope, and charity. After explaining how to distinguish good from evil, Mormon proceeded to explain how his listeners could “lay hold upon every good thing.” Here is his explanation:

God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.

And God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come.

And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good…

Wherefore, by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing.

Moroni 7:22-25

I love how Mormon emphasizes the diversity of ways that we can receive God’s word: from angels, from prophets, and many other ways, all of which are good. By receiving and acting on God’s word, whatever its source, we exercise faith in Him.

Twice in modern revelation, the Lord reiterated this principle. In an 1832 revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord instructed a group of returning missionaries to “give diligent heed to the words of eternal life,” and added, “for you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:43-44).

About a year later, the Lord gave the following counsel to church members who were experiencing severe persecution:

I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

Doctrine and Covenants 98:11

One way to look at this commandment is that we should not be picky consumers of spiritual nourishment. Some of God’s words to us may be easier to accept and follow than others, but they all come from Him. We need to be prepared to receive and apply all of His words, not just the ones that come easily to us initially.

Today, I will strive to live by every word which I receive from God. I will strive to receive His word through multiple channels: by listening to His Spirit, reading the words of prophets, and counseling with other followers of Christ. I will strive to follow the Savior’s example, measuring each decision against my understanding of revealed truth and acting in a way that is consistent with the words I have received from God.

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