Sunday, February 25, 2018

Irrigation Illustration

I was asked to speak on how we can receive personal revelation through the scriptures. 
What ever our questions are, what ever trials or joys we are experiencing, we can receive personal revelation through the scriptures, that is just that, personal. In 2 Nephi 31:3  it says: “For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” God knows us and loves us and only wants the best for us. He never speaks just to hear the words come out of his mouth, he speaks directly to each of us, through the power of the Holy Ghost, in a way we can understand and act.

To illustrate how this principle can work in our lives, I’d like to share an illustration…we’ll call it an Irrigation illustration. Now, just to clarify, for all of you Indianaian’s, irrigation is an activity that is required to grow crops when your total annual rainfall is less than what Indiana sees in a week. Such was the life on the farm where I grew up in Southern Idaho. I was introduced to the joy of moving irrigation pipe at a young age and though I always seemed to be the smallest on the crew, I was determined to never be last in finishing my lines, so I worked my tail off  lifting the pipes which were often full of water, letting them drain, then racing 60 feet down the field to and reconnect the section of pipe in a straight line then running back to get the next one. It turned into a game of sorts with some interesting competitions and prizes….but I digress…The point here today is that the irrigation pipes provided a “simple” means by which the entire field could receive water. This was my job for over 8 years and by the time I graduated from high school and headed out into the big wide world, we joked that I already had my pipe moving degree, and indeed, from the work, fun and lessons learned moving pipe, I felt like I could conquer anything.

Fast forward 14 years and I found myself standing in the middle of my own field. Just a small 4 acre field in the middle of Colorado, but I was excited to get back to my farming roots and I needed some serious irrigation to make this happen. Irrigation…I totally got this. But. In this particular part of  Colorado, there were no shiny irrigation pipes to move neatly across the field, evenly sprinkling water to all parts of the field. Here, irrigation came only 3 times a year and for me, lasted a mear 28 hours. Flood irrigation was the only option and a totally new experience for me. When it was my turn at the ditch, the water ran down a large pipe at the top of my field, and it was up to me to open up a series of small gates in that pipe to let the water flow into different sections of my field. So, on day one, I opened the gates, waited to make sure the pressure was right and everything was working correctly, then went back inside to attend to my house work. A few hours later I went back out to the field to see how things were progressing. As I walked up through my field the first thing I noticed was that it was still dry. Where was my water? Looking up my field, I could clearly see the water still flowing into my field…where was it all going? It took a little investigating, but I soon discovered that my field was not the gentle slop that I originally saw, but was full of dips and slants that I hadn’t first noticed. Much of my water was following a zig zag pattern, flowing aimlessly across my field. Then I looked across the fence into my neighbors property and saw a couple random wet spots….where in the world was that water coming from? I solved the mystery by following the flow of the water to where it suddenly disappeared…. down a gopher hole, only to reappear in the middle of my neighbors horse corral. I was in trouble and I knew it.  I went to work, trying to fill in gopher holes, and creating small ditches for water to reach different parts of my field. By the time my 28 hours were up, I was completely exhausted and a solid 2/3rds of my field remained dry. I had all the water a girl could need, but I had not provided a place for it to go.

Brothers and sisters, I believe we have a loving father in Heaven who speaks to us often, with  words of guidance, warning and comfort, and yet many of us continue to walk through a lonely dessert, parched for personal revelation. 

President Spencer W. Kimball made this observation, “I find that when I get causal in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening, and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse my self in the scriptures, the distance narrows and the spirituality returns and I find myself loving more intensely.”

If you want hear that divine voice in your life, if you want to grow spiritually, if you want to love more intensely, the scriptures provide the means to make that happen, but if you want that living water to reach all parts of your spiritual field, you must create a place for it to go. 

After my first irrigation disaster, I noticed my neighbors fields that had set furrows running the length of their field. So I went to work and with some help from a neighbor, I created furrows that stretched from my water gates all the way to the opposite end of the field. I worked tirelessly with my dog and some local snakes to eradicate the gophers and was ever vigilant against the destructive prairie dog. I created a place for the water to go, and that is where it went. We have a literal flood of knowledge and revelation waiting for us inside the scriptures, but we must provide a place for it to go. 

President Benson taught this about the Book of Mormon: 
“We learn that as we covenant with Christ and structure our lives with keeping his commandments his peace flows into all areas of our lives.” 

 Commandments are blessings that allow the spirit of God to flow into our lives. In psalms 119 it says, “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.” (psalm 119:77)  This law is found in the scriptures and they are meant to be a delight.  Building solid scripture study habits provides a place for the living water of Christ to enter our lives and the lives of our family. But it’s hard work. Here’s how our family scripture reading sometimes goes. 

Hey kids, time for scriptures.., please, yes, you need to come now, no, we can’t skip it tonight. Take a break from your homework that you just conveniently started as I called scripture study…stop yelling please, refrain from cussing while your holding your scriptures….hurry, just read, read a verse…maybe two….do you have your scriptures? Here, share with me, read a verse? Alma is not found on Instagram….can you please open your scriptures? shhhh, read a verse…that’s stripling warriors, not stripping…there’s an important difference….just read…

and then the chapter is over, kids are off to bed and the water disappears down the gopher hole. 

But sometimes…sometimes, things align and and sometimes we make a little more time, and sometimes questions are asked and prayers are answered and sometimes….something soaks in. But you can’t just leave it up to chance, there is a pattern to follow in irrigation and receiving personal revelation. First Act in faith. It truly takes a lot of faith to continue the practice of family scripture study, but as we do, our children will come to expect it and learn from experience that the guidance found in the scriptures can be a deep source of inspiration. As we actively apply the scripture truths in our lives, they will learn that of the many good books and sources of information out there, this is the best book. They will come to learn that in these stories, verse by verse, patterns of eternal truth are taught. As we act in faith and develop a habit for our own personal study as well, the living water of the gospel has the ability to reach the far corners of our lives.
President Benson made this promise: 
It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.” end quote

After I had prepared a place for my water to go, I discovered another problem. Yes, the water would go where I wanted it to, in fact, it went there very quickly, and taking me by surprise, even ran wasted into the street or my basement.  Sure my entire field was wet, but it all happened so quickly there wasn’t time for the water to soak deep and a lot was wasted. Over time, I learned to alternate the parts of the field I was watering, to let the water run over it once, give it a rest and then cover it again. I even alternated with a neighbor, allowing every last drop time to soak in. 

I remember vividly the first time I really took the time to let the word of God soak into my life. As part of the seminary council in high school I had been asked to travel around our stake and speak in the different wards about seminary. I had given talks before, but it had always been about just getting it done. I felt that this should be different. I wanted to share the truth I knew in my heart, but I didn’t know how to explain it. I followed the example of my parents and went to my scriptures.  I prayed and studied. I was lead to Alma 32 and the topic of faith. I was familiar with this passage, but as I read it this time, seeking for personal witness, I was indeed taught deeper meaning and application on how faith worked in my life. Still today, I will return to this chapter and find guidance and peace in it’s comfortable cadence. 

It was no coincidence that this first big drink of mine was accompanied by prayer and questions. In seminary we are taught not to just ask questions, but to frame them in an eternal perspective. Questions like, Why was this included in the scriptures?  Why is it repeated so often? Who am I in this story? What is the eternal truth being taught, and how can I apply this to my life? If we are really bold, we can follow Pres Uchdorf’s advice  and ask, Lord is it I? And I quote:

May I suggest that the holy scriptures are an effective mirror we can hold up for self-examination.
As you hear or read the words of the ancient and modern prophets, refrain from thinking about how the words apply to someone else and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”
We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.
Those who do not wish to learn and change probably will not and most likely will begin to wonder whether the Church has anything to offer them.
But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves… and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven—they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement.” 

 When we approach our scriptures this way, when we “ask and expect to be given” when we  “seek knowing we will find” when we knock believing that he is waiting to fling open the door;  Not only will our questions be answered, but we will get answers to questions we don’t know how to ask, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” (Romans 8:26). This takes us from a study session to worship and communion with our Father in Heaven. Take the time to let it soak in.

 As we learn to hearken to the personal revelation that is offered, more will follow. After a little practice at this new form of irrigation, I got better at it and was able to use all I was given. As this happened, I found that the ditch rider would sometimes call me when he had a little water to spare and ask if I could take more….ummmm YES! If my field was already saturated, I had a huge underground cistern at the bottom of my field. I learned to channel extra water into this cistern for use around the yard, and in my garden.  This pattern and blessing of caring for what we are given is set forth in 2 Ne 28:30
“I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”  

Care for the spiritual revelation you receive and you will be given more. Record it, ponder it, treat it like the sacred gift that it is. Let it lead you deeper into the scriptures. There is always more God wants to tell you….when you are ready. I had a stake president say once, that we should be writing our own scriptures as we receive guidance and inspiration for our lives and our families.  Another way to care for and store up what we receive is to memorize the passages that speak truth to you and then these simple verses will continue to change you. Memorizing will allow you to keep them with you like a good friend. Faster than you can tap a foot note in your digital scriptures, these memorized phrases will pop into your head when you need them the most, lighting your path and comforting your heart and when led by the Spirit, inspiring others.   In Peter 3 it says, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you, a reason of the hope that is in you” (Peter 3:15)

I want to close today with the reason of hope which is in me and my specific testimony of the Book of Mormon. I have had the opportunity to get more up close and personal with this book this year than I ever have. It is truth. It is peace. It is hope. And I hear my Heavenly Father’s voice in it’s pages.  

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