Chapter 8: The Power of the Word
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 114–24
During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
“The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.”
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.
Before we go any further, it is important to properly define the word “scriptures” as meant by Benson and other LDS teachers. For many Christians who don’t know very much about the Mormon Church and its teachings, the statement above could be joyfully met with open arms. After all, the Christian is thinking that only through the Bible can a person be armed with the Spirit and find joy. However, in Mormonism, the term “scripture” means so much more.
According to Mormonism, written scripture is the Bible (King James Version), the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. These four books together are called the standard works. In addition, the inspired words of the living prophet, official church writings, and general conference addresses. As tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith explained,
WHAT IS SCRIPTURE? When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of these records, and yet we call these the standard works of the Church (Doctrines of Salvation 1:186).
Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson stated,
The inspired words of prophets, when written down, have become scripture, and whenever God has His representatives on the earth, there is always new revelation and new scripture (see D&C 68:3-4). Only when men become so corrupt that the prophets are taken out of their midst do scriptures cease. And God has stated that only through His authorized representatives could men receive the ordinances essential for salvation and the commandments necessary for the perfection of His children (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 132).
With that as a background, let’s see what Benson has to say about the “Power of the Word.”
President Ezra Taft Benson frequently testified of the power of God’s word.
When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures, other aspects of Church activity automatically come.
Now to you priesthood leaders we say, look to the prophetic counsel of Lehi and Paul and others like them. In that counsel you will find the solution to the challenges you face in keeping your flocks safe from the “ravening wolves” that surround them. (See Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29.) We know that you too have great anxiety for the members of your wards and stakes and expend great time and effort in their behalf. There is much that we ask of you who have been chosen for leadership. We place many loads upon your shoulders. You are asked to run the programs of the Church, interview and counsel with the members, see that the financial affairs of the stakes and wards are properly handled, manage welfare projects, build buildings, and engage in a host of other time-consuming activities.
When Benson acknowledges that “many loads (are) upon your shoulders” along with a reference to “a host of other time-consuming activities,” he is not kidding. Church members are expected to serve in “callings.” Some responsibilities may require only an hour or two a week, while others (such as serving a term as a branch president or bishop) could literally take dozens of hours. I have personally known many Latter-day Saints who have served the church at the neglect of their families. With so many Mormon parents having five or more children, there is not enough time in the day for many of these hard-working folks to spend adequate time fostering the relationships with their kids.
Great blessings come “when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures.”
In a First Presidency message in 1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball said:
“I am convinced that each of us, at least some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again. …
“The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for ‘unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ (Luke 12:48.) Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord’s commandment (see 3 Ne. 23:1–5); and we must let them govern our lives.” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, pp. 4–5.)
In April 1982, Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke to the regional representatives about the priority the scriptures should take in our labors. He said: “We are so wound up in programs and statistics and trends, in properties, lands and mammon, and in achieving goals that will highlight the excellence of our work, that we have ‘omitted the weightier matters of the law.’ … However talented men may be in administrative matters; however eloquent they may be in expressing their views; however learned they may be in the worldly things—they will be denied the sweet whisperings of the Spirit that might have been theirs unless they pay the price of studying, pondering, and praying about the scriptures.” (In Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)
That same day, Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke to the stake presidents and regional representatives. He said: “Buildings and budgets, and reports and programs and procedures are very important. But, by themselves, they do not carry that essential spiritual nourishment and will not accomplish what the Lord has given us to do. … The right things, those with true spiritual nourishment, are centered in the scriptures.” (In Meeting with Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives, 2 Apr. 1982, pp. 1–2.)
I add my voice to these wise and inspired brethren and say to you that one of the most important things you can do as priesthood leaders is to immerse yourselves in the scriptures. Search them diligently. Feast upon the words of Christ. Learn the doctrine. Master the principles that are found therein. There are few other efforts that will bring greater dividends to your calling. There are few other ways to gain greater inspiration as you serve.
I believe that the Bible has words of life (Heb. 4:12, 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16). So if we were talking about the Bible and reading its words, I would certainly agree with Benson’s statement. I recommend that the Latter-day Saint pick up God’s Word—even in a modern translated language that is easier to understand—and study it while making proper interpretations. (Some excellent modern versions can be found here at this website. For many, the King James Version of the Bible is just difficult to understand because of its ancient English. Therefore, some easier-to-understand versions include the New International Version, the English Standard Version, and the Living Bible.) I challenge the reader to carefully go through the book of Romans to see if the teachings of the Mormon Church are consistent with what Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago. If you are interested in taking this challenge, then check out this website.
Meanwhile, the words of the other “Standard Works” and the teachings of the LDS leadership so often contradict the Bible that there is no purpose in “immersing” oneself in them.
As we study God’s word, we receive guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul, and power to avoid deception and resist temptation.
Again, if this sentence was just talking about the Bible, it is exactly right. But, as the next paragraph will attest, this is not the only “scripture” Benson intended.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Book of Mormon, Introduction, italics added.) Isn’t that what we want for the members of our wards and stakes? Aren’t we desirous that they get nearer to God? Then encourage them in every way possible to immerse themselves in this marvelous latter-day witness of Christ.
Do you have members in your stakes whose lives are shattered by sin or tragedy, who are in despair and without hope? Have you longed for some way to reach out and heal their wounds, soothe their troubled souls? The prophet Jacob offers just that with this remarkable promise: “They have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.” (Jacob 2:8; italics added.)
If the Book of Mormon is fictional literature, then anything it says must be understood to be man-made writing and is therefore not inspired as scripture by the Almighty God.
Today the world is full of alluring and attractive ideas that can lead even the best of our members into error and deception. Students at universities are sometimes so filled with the doctrines of the world they begin to question the doctrines of the gospel. How do you as a priesthood leader help fortify your membership against such deceptive teachings? The Savior gave the answer in His great discourse on the Mount of Olives when He promised, “And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.” (JS—M 1:37; italics added.)
The same as what I wrote above goes for the Pearl of Great Price.
The scriptures are replete with similar promises about the value of the word. Do you have members who long for direction and guidance in their lives? The Psalms tell us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105), and Nephi promises that feasting upon the words of Christ “will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.)
When the Bible alone is considered, certainly scripture is a lamp unto our feet and a light onto our path. But unless the words of Christ as found in the Book of Mormon are direct quotations from the Bible, we should take anything this “scripture” (or any other purported scripture, for that matter, including the Gospel of Thomas) says with a grain of salt. Feast upon Christ’s words and nothing else.
Are there members of your flock who are deep in sin and need to pull themselves back? Helaman’s promise is for them: “Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil.” (Hel. 3:29.)
Helaman is found in the Book of Mormon and is not considered scripture by Christians.
The word of the Lord is a valuable gift, and we must not treat it lightly.
And if we ignore what the Lord has given us, we may lose the very power and blessings which we seek. In a solemn warning to the early Saints, the Lord said this of the Book of Mormon: “Your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
“Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
“And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
“And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.” (D&C 84:54–57.)
All of the above quotes come from non canonical literature and are not considered authoritative by Christians.
Oh, my brethren, let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them. Then prayerfully and in counsel with others, seek every way possible to encourage the members of the Church to follow your example. If you do so, you will find, as Alma did, that “the word [has] a great tendency to lead people to do that which [is] just—yea, it [has] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which [has] happened unto them.” (Alma 31:5.)
I challenge the Latter-day Saint to read the Bible with an open heart and mind, compare its teachings with those as found in Mormonism, and determine if LDS doctrine is compatible with biblical teaching. If you are honest, you will see that there is no comparison.
For more reviews on the Ezra Taft Benson manual, click here.