When I was laid up with a broken foot, I started a project that I have just finished: reading the New Testament cover to cover—in Spanish. I found a new kind of focus reading in a foreign language, having to be slow and evaluate the meaning and connotations of every word in a way that I would not have done reading in English. Old, well-known stories became new again, and slight differences in the translations made me contemplate the meaning of the passages more than I usually do. In addition, by reading straight through, I was struck by themes and contexts that I usually don’t notice when I study one story or prepare a lesson about one doctrine or concept. My understanding and love for the Savior increased, and my testimony of His core message has focused more on my need to be spiritually alive as a disciple and servant. Here are a couple of the big ideas I noticed over and over again:
Jesus came to Earth at the meridian of time and changed everything. He fulfilled the old law that was based on outward observance of rituals and burnt offerings, and He taught His followers to sacrifice themselves—to be changed inwardly, to love and serve one another. The early apostles and disciples who led the Church and wrote about what it means to be a Christian were constantly reminding people that it is inward light, not outward formalities that make us sanctified. I think especially of His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees who paid their tithes, but “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done and not to leave the others undone.”
Jesus organized his followers into an authorized pattern of congregations with priesthood authority and direction from church leaders. Some had power to baptize; others to confer the Holy Ghost, some were appointed apostles, and others evangelists and priests. When Judas fell into apostasy and died, the remaining apostles immediately met and replaced him in their quorum of leaders. When churches needed direction and correction, apostles went to visit them or wrote letters explaining doctrine and appropriate practice. And they received new inspiration as they did this. Thus, Peter was taught by the Lord when it was time to take the gospel to the gentiles, and when there was a question about whether or not the gentiles needed to be circumcised, the apostles met together in a council to discuss the matter. Peter, being the chief apostle, stood and rendered a decision, which he then wrote out as a decree and sent out to all the churches for their edification.
Though Jesus was scathing in His denunciation of those who ought to have known better than they did, He consistently taught with patience, love, and forgiveness as he walked among the people. He was the ultimate master teacher. When He was asked “who is my neighbor,” He told the story of the Good Samaritan to allow the questioner to figure it out for himself. When lawyers brought the woman taken in adultery to Him, He did not negate the law, but rather authorized any sinless person to punish her. Then, when they all judged themselves and went away, He told her to go and sin no more. He took little children into His lap and taught that we should follow their example of faith and simplicity. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and restored life where it was lost.
I also noticed how often Jesus quoted scriptures to ward off Satan, teach others, or explain His mission. I noticed that whenever He ate anything or gave food to others to eat, He paused to give thanks first. What a great gift the scriptures are, and I feel fortunate that I was able to find this goal and blessing from an otherwise frustrating broken foot! I think I will always take more seriously the charge to try to be more like the Savior, and the need to know Him better.
And for my next goal, I have started reading the Old Testament, which I have not read cover to cover for many, many years.