Sermoncitos, a family tradition
A Pearl of Great Price
I travel frequently, staying in motels and hotels all over this and other countries. I rarely turn on the TV, but I always look in the drawers for a bible. Most often I find one and am grateful to the Gideons, who place scriptures wherever people gather in over 175 countries, including hotels, hospitals, schools, and with members of the armed forces. Their prayer is that each reader will “find the individual instruction and blessing he may need”. The words of scripture have always had power to change lives for the better.
When the children of Israel returned from captivity, they had many problems and much to learn, as they had been suffering “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Ezra mourned their condition: “I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). They addressed the problem by gathering the people together, “all the men and women who could hear with understanding... and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:2,3). As a result of reading the scriptures, there was a great change that came over the people, and they made covenants to abide by the precepts of the scriptures (Nehemiah 9:38).
The historical period when the scriptures were exclusive, and not shared with the people, is referred to as the “Dark Ages”. Every book had to be written by hand, and scripture reading was done in Latin, not the languages of the people. “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite (Isaiah 29:8). In the mid 15th Century, Johann Gutenberg invented a mechanical way of making books, and the Dark Ages gave way to an age of enlightenment. “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 29:18, 19). Since then the scriptures have become available in nearly every language of the earth. “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting cgospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).
According to economic theorists, we have passed through the Information Age, when those with information had the advantage. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field (Matthew 13:44). When information ceased being scarce, the Knowledge Economy commenced. The current economic era is defined as the Intangible Economy, in which four factors of production are the key resources from which economic activity and competitive advantage are primarily derived and delivered today - knowledge assets (what people know and put into use), collaboration assets (who people interact with to create value), engagement assets (the level of energy and commitment of people), and time quality (how quickly value is created).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:45,46). May we know and put into use those ancient words that are like a pearl of great price. May we interact with others make the scriptures valuable. May we dedicate our energy and commitment to principles of lasting value. As we take time to share the scriptures, our friends and families will be blessed now and in the future.
As I read the Book of Mormon again, I am impressed with Lehi. My father would have called him a “great man”. He was an entrepeneur who had accumulated wealth by trading in commodities such as wine, oil, figs, and honey. He knew the language and culture of the desert tribesmen who guaranteed his caravans safe passage. He knew the sailors who transported his goods on the Mediterranean Sea. He was educated and fluent in Egyptian, the language and writing of international trade. Nephi said, “having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father”.
Lehi was so impressed with the prophets who were calling for repentance, that he “prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people”. His reaction to the visions that came, was to warn his family and all those around him. The neighbors reacted by seeking to take his life, but was commended by the Lord for faithfulness “because of the things which [he] had done”. When his sons rebelled against him, he spoke to them with such power that “their frames did shake before him, and he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them”. We don’t have a record of his preachments and writings, only Nephi’s witness that “he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children”. We do know that he risked the lives of his sons and the wrath of his wife to obey the commandment to obtain from Laban the record of the Jews and the genealogy of his forefathers.
He received a special tool by which the Lord could conveniently give him guidance during a long journey. The Liahona was only a curious artifact to his descendants who possessed it. He was the only one who actually used it. “The pointers did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.”
His methods of instruction were no doubt similar to those described by his great grandson, Jarom: “the prophets, the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already... for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance”. You will also be blessed as you share your witness by speaking and writing.
Today we receive messages from the prophets each month in the Ensign, which is like a Liahona with new writings, plain to be read. I have discovered that there is another Liahona which can open our understanding concerning the ways of the Lord on a daily basis: The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. If you read this book daily, you will plug into the same source of inspiration that guided Lehi to safety in a dangerous time. You will find God’s message to us in our day, written by the ancient descendants of Lehi. You will be taught in all the learning of your father. I witness that there is another great blessing available by this small means: if you will pray for guidance as you read the book and act in faith and diligence and heed to the inspiration you receive, the Lord will bring about great things in your life.