BY LARRY STOUT
All the religious faiths in the world have religious texts, but Christianity is absolutely unique in that it is a belief that stands or falls on the basis of its written record. Though Islam is based on the teachings of Mohammed as they are found in the Quran, the practice of Islam is what is most important (known as the Five Pillars of Islam). The same can be said of cults, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons. To be a good Mormon, you must believe that President Monson and the Twelve Apostles receive perfect truth from God about what is right for everyone in the church, and that your bishop and stake president receive direct and untainted revelation about everyone in their stewardship. Believing the “truth” of the Book of Mormon is not required.
But the Christian faith is different. It claims that the Bible is the Word of God, not delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. These were given to us for the sake of our salvation — that we might know the truth and that truth could set us free.
This is critically important. As Christian believers, we are not allowed to make up our own truth. Everything we believe must be based on the truth that God has revealed in His Word, or it is false.
It is for this reason that translating the Scriptures into the common language of the people and literacy itself has been so highly valued among Christians. When the Pilgrims came to America, one of the first things they did was establish schools for their children. In fact, the church and the school were often built before homes! The primary purpose for these schools was to teach their children to be able to read so they could read the Bible.
The later settlement of the United States also saw this phenomenon continue. Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the length and breadth of America in 1831-32 and wrote a classic account of his travels in the book, Democracy in America. Tocqueville noted that even in the most backwood country, every cabin had “a Bible, an axe, and a file of newspapers.”
It is from reading the Bible that we are able to read and understand everything else. John Calvin said that the Word of God are the spectacles that enables to see the world as it truly is. Psalms 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
It is not simply a good idea - we are commanded to do so. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Never has this been more true for us than it is today. We have become a culture that is focused on the quick and easy — even in our communications. But the Bible cannot be learned without study, and this means that we have acquired the skills of reading and understanding.
So, this column is dedicated to focusing on that important but neglected aspect of our faith — reading. So, my fellow believers, heed the need to read!