Thursday, May 18, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on finding specific answers in the scriptures

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (b. August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"The scriptures can also help us obtain answers to highly specific personal questions. It is obvious, of course, that the scriptures do not contain a comprehensive list of specific answers to every question we could ask about a particular subject. The scriptures are not like a telephone book or an encyclopedia.
"We often hear it said that the scriptures have the answers to all of our questions. Why is this so? It is not that the scriptures contain a specific answer to every question—even to every doctrinal question. We have continuing revelation in our Church because the scriptures do not have a specific answer to every possible question. We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer.
"...The reading of the scriptures will help us obtain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will also put us in a position where we can obtain inspiration to answer any doctrinal or personal question, whether or not that question directly concerns the subject we are studying in the scriptures. That is a grand truth not understood by many. To state it again, even though the scriptures contain no words to answer our specific personal question, a prayerful study of the scriptures will help us obtain such answers. This is because scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which, as the scriptures say, will 'guide [us] into all truth' (John 16:13), and by whose power we can 'know the truth of all things' (Moroni 10:5).
"We may also find that a specific verse of scripture that was spoken for quite a different purpose in an entirely different age will, under the interpretive influence of the Holy Ghost, give us a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Studying the Scriptures," Unpublished Thanksgiving Devotional, CES Address, November 24, 1985, pp. 19-21; quoted in CES manual "Scripture Study: The Power of the Word" chapter 14.

We often talk about finding answers to our questions in the scriptures. However, as Elder Oaks points out, the scriptures and not a question-and-answer manual or a comprehensive encyclopedia of the various issues we might confront. But yet, he states we can find answers to "highly specific personal questions." The key lies in the statement that "the scriptures can lead us to every answer" by providing the setting and opportunity for inspiration:

So we will find that "scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost" in ways that we would not be otherwise. As we immerse ourselves in study, we open our hearts and minds to inspiration in ways that allow the Holy Ghost to speak to us about the concerns we have, often giving us "a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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