"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea the power of God unto the convincing of men."
Why did the Lord say obtain here? Why not learn? Why not understand? Why not study? Why not ponder? Why obtain? What does obtain mean? To make it your own, yes? How do you make His word your own? How do you obtain it?
To obtain something you must know it, understand it, be able to replicate the principle in entirely unrelated situations. It must become yours. It must be, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in his final testimony in General Conference before he died, "In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets. True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word."
For a long time I wondered what more I could do to obtain the word of the Lord. I was reading and pondering my scriptures. I was studying as best I knew how. While I had knowledge, I did not have understanding. I had memorized much. I could tell you the scriptures and what they said. I could apply them to my daily life. But I had not yet obtained them. I heard that testimony from Elder McConkie when I was seven, turning eight. His words stuck with me. They would not leave me. How did he know? Had the Savior come to him in person and told him those things?
It wasn't until I was 19 that I learned what it was I needed to do to have that same knowledge of which Elder McConkie spoke. I was talking with a friend during the summer of 1997 and he shared with me something his mission president had shared with him. He told me that, when reading the scriptures I needed to pray and ask the Spirit to teach me.
Now, no, this was not a new concept to me. But for some reason, it hit my soul just right that evening. I went into the house and sat down with my scriptures immediately. I prayed. I didn't just ask for the Spirit to teach me, I asked for the Spirit to reveal these things to me. I wanted to know what Nephi knew. I wanted to see what Isaiah saw. I wanted to have the scriptures given to me in my own language.
Each of us speaks such different languages. One word - "small" for instance - can have so many different definitions depending on a person and their history. A person who comes from a family of 12 or 14 children will think that 5 children is a small family. A person who comes from a family of 2 or 3 children will think that 5 children is a large family. The definitions of words we use are all relative to our experience. Words and time all exist according to our beliefs and our personal definitions and boundaries.
I can read my scriptures and I can understand what I would mean when I said those words. But what did Isaiah really mean when he wrote down the words, "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. But we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."? What do those words truly mean? We must search deeply and ask faithfully if we want to know these hidden truths.
Emerson once said, speaking of books in general, "Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we may speak. The Arabian proverb says, "A fig tree, looking on a fig, becometh fruitful." (Emerson, The American Scholar, http://www.emersoncentral.com/amscholar.htm)
I love this truth which Emerson lays out in such beautiful words. When I am connected with God and can hear His voice directly, why would I waste my time in "other men's words?" Why not listen to God over someone's interpretation of who God is? Even if they get it completely right for themselves, no one has the same life experience as this person which means that they will understand things in different places, at different times, and different levels of understanding.
The only Being who speaks my language, besides me, is God. He knows my definitions and my angles. He knows my beliefs - false or otherwise - and my heart. He knows why I am me and how I came to be in the place I currently inhabit - both inwardly and outwardly. So when He speaks to me, He uses my words and my definitions to help me draw nearer to Him.
Which is what He does for all of us. He speaks to you in your words using your definitions that you may come to a knowledge of the truth. Because of this, I find it vital to ask for interpretation when reading the scriptures.
I'm not Isaiah. I haven't had Isaiah's visions. I haven't lived life as a prophet in ancient Israel. I haven't been a man. I haven't been someone who carries the burden of calling a people to repentance or they will be carried away captive into Babylon. And these are just the huge things he's been through that pop out that tell me we have completely different definitions of words. So how in the world can I sit down to read Isaiah and expect to understand what he was trying to convey? I can't. Even if I somehow could talk with him and ask him what he meant, I cannot converse in Hebrew. And he doesn't speak English. And even if we were both given the gift of tongues, it would take weeks, months, years (name that movie quote!) to begin to understand each others' definitions of the same words.
So we ask for the Spirit to interpret - tell my heart and my mind what Isaiah is trying to convey here. Show me what You showed him. Teach me what You taught him. Share with me what You shared with him that made him desire these things be written and preserved.
Then, as Elder McConkie shared, we have these experiences that are indescribable. Experiences where we obtain. We have obtained it because we understand it the way God understands it. He has revealed it to us as if it were the original conversation and we now know and see this doctrine or truth the way He knows and sees it. When this happens, we have obtained.
The reason verse 21 in Doctrine and Covenants 11 says to first seek to obtain the word is so that truth may be received by those who hear. Once you have obtained His word from Him, you will have the power of God unto the convincing of men - because you will feel about it the way He feels about it. You will understand it the way He understands it.
And, incidentally, when your heart understands, you convert and you are healed. (Isn't Isaiah wonderful?!)
So let's begin. Now that you know that you must gain doctrine and truth by picking apart and analyzing that which you already have (Parable of the Talents) and you know that you must obtain truth from God, Himself, through the Spirit and what that looks like in daily study, let's get into the parts of doctrine which Isaiah teaches will bring us closer to God. In the next post, we'll begin with Isaiah 29.