It’s the Principle of the Thing

Elder Richard G. Scott spoke the following profound words in General Conference thirteen years ago:

“As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).

Search for Principles.
How essential principle-finding is, not just for ourselves but for our young people today. The world shouts beligerantly in their ears all kinds of stuff (of which I won’t waste time here elaborating). The important question is how will the youth of today sort through the gunk, to find that which is true?

True principles are timeless. They apply in all scenarios, all countries, for all people. They clarify truth and they clarify righteous choices. They are truth. The most profound place to locate the Lord’s principles? In the scriptures.

How essential we give our young men and women ample time in the scriptures while we are with them, so that they can testify they’ve heard the Lord’s voice and can apply His teachings clearly and confidently in their lives.

Elder Boyd K. Packer testified of the urgency and “why” of principles and doctrine. He said:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).

So the question is, how clearly are we teaching our youth to find these true doctrines? We will not always be present in their lives (even if we are their parents).

The fastest and most effective way to give our youth this skill is to get them into the scriptures themselves. We want to help these kids learn to deduce, on their own, true principles from their scriptural pages. As Elder Scott and Elder Packer so succinctly taught, our students need these principles to guide them every day.

Principles are perfectly-portable-packages-of-truth and they will serve as endless generators of hope and spiritual guidance IF our youth can find them, understand them, and apply them. Principles will help our young men and women ascertain God’s safer paths given them in today’s world and courageously stick to those paths.

Learning to do this, though, takes time AND it takes practice. We, as these kids’ parents, teachers, and youth leaders need to provide that time and practice.

One of the seminary students in my class today provided a perfect example of this to the rest of the class–without even my involvement! During the devotional she gave, she shared having found a guiding principle in her scripture study last night.

During the devotional, she told of feeling overburdened currently in her life and struggling with forgiving others. Then she shared how she’d read last night in D&C 64 and read vs. 9 of that chapter. She said she read it twice because it struck her so powerfully about forgiving. Then as she moved through the chapter, she encountered vs. 33:

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

She shared during her devotional that from these words uplifted her and strengthened her to continue in the good deeds she was doing in her life right now. I watched in amazement. This verse and its attending truth had powerfully struck her last night and had become a guiding principle for her in her life.

I found this so exciting. She’d discovered this for herself last night! And what’s even larger, she felt able to explain, share, and testify of the experience with us today.

This, my friends, is the whole point, isn’t it? The Spirit brought her to it, not me or any other person in her life. She had placed herself in the right place and time (studying her scriptures) and as a result, she was given/shown by the Spirit a principle she could use as a guiding factor in her life.

I had nothing to do with this at all–she experienced this and as a result, was the recipient of a great moment of truth. What a thing to celebrate.

The reality of all this is quite apparent: while we can bring our youth to the fountains of truth, only they can discover for themselves how powerful truth really is and how simple it is to gain and apply it. When these moments come, they easily form a generator of energy and hope then to carry these young women and men through the challenging times facing them.

Thus, during the precious moments we have with our youth, let’s make sure to allow plenty of time where they can learn how to find these potent principles. The impact will be eternal.

We lead our youth to do this by:

  1. Spending time together AND privately in scripture study. How else will the Spirit have a platform or foundation upon which to testify if our kids are not in the scriptures themselves, no matter the class or the event?
  2. Spending time afterwards sharing, explaining, and testifying to new insights they’ve just discovered through the scriptures.
  3. Spending time journaling of the experience, so that they can have it recorded for future moments of need, whether for their own need or that of their posterity.

Oh, our potency as the parents, teachers, and leaders of these mighty youth. They’ve had so much placed on their shoulders. Surely we will give them that which will edify them most…the skill to find these perfectly-portable-packages-of-truth known as “principles”, left for us by the Lord amongst the pages of our scriptures!

Happy teaching!


C.S. Bezas

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