Laurie Francis was born in Logan, Utah, the first child of Dennis and Jean Skinner. She earned an associate degree from Ricks College, A bachelor of Science degree in History from Idaho State University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Emporia State University in Kansas.
She began working at Ricks College in 1995 in the Physical Plant and currently works as the University Librarian in the David O. McKay Library.
Laurie has served as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, Young Women's President, Primary teacher and Den Mother. She currently serves as her ward's Primary President and as a visiting teacher.
Laurie and her husband Robert, are the parents of two sons and two daughters-all of which are graduates of Ricks or BYU-Idaho. They are the grandparents of seven grandsons and two granddaughters.
Laurie enjoys spending time with her family, researching family history, and reading.
We invite you to study and ponder on the scriptures and other preparation resources below previous to attending devotional. As you come spiritually prepared the Spirit will have greater power to inspire you, teach you, and to testify to you of the truthfulness of the principles that will be taught.
- Read: John 5:39, John 20:31, 1 Nephi 6:4
- Ponder: What have you discovered in your scripture study that has made a difference in your life?
- Share your thought on the discussion board in three to four sentences.
I would like to begin by asking you to listen as I describe an item while you try to guess what it is.
This item comes in various sizes. It preserves and protects its contents 24/7. And although it's important and some people have one all to themselves, most of us share one. It is something that all of us have access to. We must use the contents inside of it regularly, for ourselves and our families, or the contents are of no value. The contents weren't added at the same time, and they come from various sources.
I was describing a refrigerator. What were you thinking about?
A refrigerator is something we take for granted and is considered a standard appliance in today's kitchens. It has changed lives over the last 200 years, because it keeps food from spoiling and allows us to have a variety of food in our diets.
Let's try one more.
This item is small, portable, and has a variety of uses, including storing important information, allowing us to connect to important people in our lives. It works more effectively when we know how to use it. Its creator wants everyone to have one and use it. It has changed lives in the last 40 years.
Were you thinking of a mobile phone?
Refrigerators and mobile devices are two innovations that we wouldn't want to be without. However, if we don't use them properly, they are of no value to us. Food that isn't eaten, even when stored in the refrigerator, will spoil eventually. A cell phone that isn't recharged is useless.
My topic today isn't about refrigerators or cell phones; it's about something much more valuable. Let me describe it to you.
This item comes in various sizes, and we generally prefer the smaller portable versions. It preserves and protects important information from various sources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It keeps us connected. We need to use it regularly to gain the most value, and the more we use it, the more valuable it becomes to us. Its creator wants everyone to have one, and it has changed lives over the last 3,500 years.
What were you thinking of? I was describing the scriptures, the printed word of God.
Pictured here are an original 1611 King James Bible and an original 1830 Book of Mormon, along with a modern copy of the scriptures.
The historic scriptures you see in these images are from the collection of materials in the David O. McKay Library Special Collections.
What is it that makes these books so important to us? While the 1611 King James Bible and the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon have a high monetary value because they are originals, they contain the same information as their modern counterparts.
We have many options in size, language, and format to access the sacred message these books contain. I hope we don't take our easy access to the scriptures for granted. Just as they are today, the scriptures were an important part of people's lives in the past.
Our scriptures began more than 3,500 years ago with the books of the law, written by Moses, and the words of the many other prophets who prophesied of the coming of the Savior in the Old Testament. The New Testament contains the record of the mortal ministry, birth, Atonement, and Resurrection of the Savior. The Book of Mormon provides us with the fulness of the gospel and a second witness of the Savior and His teachings. The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations given to the prophets in this dispensation. The Pearl of Great Price includes additional scriptures as well as the Prophet Joseph Smith's history and testimony. Scriptures continue to be received up to this day, with the words of our modern prophets spoken in general conference and recorded in Church publications.
Despite the length of time the scriptures have been accessible, there were many times in the past when the scriptures were missing from the lives of the people.
In 2 Kings, in the Old Testament, we read the story of King Josiah, a righteous king who ruled about 620 b.c., during a time when Israel had become wicked. King Josiah sent his workers to make some repairs in the temple at Jerusalem. During the renovation, a copy of the Pentateuch was discovered. The Pentateuch contains the first five books of the Old Testament and is known as the "law of Moses."
Apparently, these scriptures had been missing for a long time. The king had his scribe read the scriptures to him. When the king realized how wicked the people had become and how far they had strayed from God's word, he tore his clothes, which was a symbol of intense grief and mourning for loss. In this case, for the loss of the word of God. Without the scriptures in their lives, the people had changed and become wicked.
Let's move forward about 20 years and contrast these scriptures with the brass plates Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve. Copies of the scriptures were still scarce, and it seems that not even Lehi possessed the written scriptures. A copy, engraved on brass, was in the hands of Laban, one of the Jewish elders and a well-known and wealthy citizen of Jerusalem. While it's possible that copies of the scriptures might have been available on parchment, Lehi and his family needed scriptures that would withstand the rigors of sea travel, warfare, passage from one scribe to another, and be able to withstand primitive storage methods. The brass plates were the right choice.
Nephi tells us that after receiving the brass plates, he thanked the Lord for making it possible to receive this marvelous record, and then his father Lehi searched the plates. This reinforces the idea that the people of that time didn't own personal copies of the scriptures. It's likely that a copy was available in the synagogue but probably not in every home. Lehi found the plates contained the book of the law, written by Moses, the same scriptures found by King Josiah's workmen. The brass plates also included a history of the Jews from the beginning down to King Zedekiah, who was the son of King Josiah. This means that Laban, or his scribes, had kept the record current, since Lehi and his family fled from Jerusalem during Zedekiah's first year as king. Lehi discovered that the plates also contained the genealogy of his ancestors. More importantly, the plates include the words of the prophets.
Four hundred years later, in Zarahemla, King Benjamin reminds us of the importance of Lehi's obtaining the brass plates: "My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
"For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates" (Mosiah 1:3-4).
From the Book of Mormon we learn of another group who left Jerusalem about 11 years after Lehi. Mulek, the only surviving son of King Zedekiah, who fled Jerusalem at the time Nebuchadnezzar invaded and destroyed the city, led this group. King Zedekiah was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon. Omni tells us that the language of the people of Mulek "had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator" (Omni 1:17).
We already know that copies of the scriptures were scarce in Jerusalem. Mulek and his followers left Jerusalem in a hurry, so it's possible they didn't take time to locate scriptures, there were none for them to take, they didn't have room, or they simply didn't understand the importance of the scriptures. We learn about what happened to Mulek's followers in the promised land from the Book of Mormon, and that happens when a group of people doesn't have the word of God to live by.
For thousands of years the only option for people to have access to God's word was through scriptures that had been copied by hand onto parchment or metal plates, or were memorized.
This is a 13th-century manuscript Bible, with the text copied by hand in Latin and probably created in Paris around a.d. 1260. Great care was taken by the scribes to copy and create beautiful pages to contain the word of God. This Bible was compact and portable, a great deal easier for individuals to use than lengthy roles of parchment or heavy plates.
Mass production of printed Bibles was not possible until Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type, oil-based ink, and a working printing press in the 15th century. Within the next 150 years, most people were able to access a printed Bible. By the time the King James Bible was published in 1611, there were various other publications to choose from.
The most popular English-language version of the Bible in the early 1600s was the Geneva Bible, published in Switzerland. The Geneva Bible was a study Bible: it included notes, maps of the Holy Land, plans of the temple in Jerusalem, alternate meanings, notes in the margins, verse numbers, and headers. They were easy to carry and relatively affordable. These study Bibles allowed people to read and learn for themselves; the scriptures allowed them to change their lives.
The pilgrims brought their Geneva Bibles with them when they arrived in New England in 1620. For the next three centuries it would be a rare household that didn't have a Bible among its possessions. The Bible provided a guidepost for individuals and families seeking God's direction in their lives.
In a letter to his eight-year-old son, Peter, in 1784, founding father and patriot John Jay declared, "The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts."
As individuals and families began packing their wagons and moving across North America in the 1800s, they were faced with choices about what to take. A typical family Bible weighed about two pounds. While that may not seem like much, think about the books in your backpack. Would you be tempted to reduce the weight by two pounds?
Books for leisure reading were considered a luxury, but the Bible was a necessity. In addition to spiritual uplift and educational text for young readers, the family Bible was often used as the official family repository for recording births, deaths, and marriages.
In 1843, the Bloomington Iowa Herald newspaper suggested to westbound travelers that "every man ought to carry with him a Bible and other religious books, as we hope not to degenerate into a state of barbarism."
Why did Lehi's family, the pioneers, and thousands of other travelers throughout the world ensure they had the scriptures with them?
It is because the scriptures contain the words of God, as given to the prophets. However, like a refrigerator or cell phone, if they are never used, they have no value. The purpose of the scriptures is to help us navigate this life and return to our Heavenly Father.
In John 20:31 we read about the purpose of the scriptures: "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
Elder M. Russell Ballard tells us: "It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men's hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.
"The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ" (M. Russell Ballard, "The Miracle of the Holy Bible," Ensign, May 2007).
In the introduction to the Book of Mormon, we read about its purpose: "It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come" and that "Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world."
Without access to the words of our prophets as contained in the scriptures and modern publications, we can lose our way, just as the people during the time of King Josiah who strayed from the commandments of the Lord. Nephi understood this and recorded his concerns: "I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
"Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
"And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass" (1 Nephi 4:14-16).
The scriptures and the words of our prophets can change us. When we ponder and pray about what we are reading, we can receive a witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of what we've read and to what we should do next. Let's try to recognize the feeling we get in our heart when we read the words and pray for understanding.
The Prophet Joseph Smith provides us with a wonderful example. He acted on the powerful feelings that came to him when he read James 1:5 in the New Testament. He recorded in his history how he felt and what he did about those feelings: "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know....
"At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to 'ask of God,' concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture" (Joseph Smith--History 1:12-13).
What have you discovered in your scripture study that has made a difference in your life? Please take about one minute and turn to your neighbor and reverently share something from the scriptures that has changed you.
If you haven't already, I hope you will take time to ponder how studying the scriptures has changed you.
The scriptures provide us opportunities to change as we study the words and experiences of others. As we read, we can ask ourselves what promptings and feelings come to us as we ponder the verses.
I would like to share one of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon. It is the story of Alma and Amulek, as recorded in Alma 8-14, 34. These few chapters relate their amazing experiences in Ammonihah. My life has been different from Amulek's, yet when I read these scriptures, I recognize the change Amulek experienced, which was possible because Alma was willing to change his life and focus on preaching the gospel. I can feel the strength of the testimonies Alma and Amulek shared and the power of their faith.
Amulek was a descendant of Lehi. He was a hardworking, rich, and well-known man in Ammonihah. He had done his family history research and knew he was a descendant of Lehi and Joseph of Egypt. He tells us that although he had opportunities to embrace the gospel, he turned away from them. Nevertheless, God knows all things, including what's in our hearts. God knew that Amulek would care for the prophet Alma. He sent an angel to Amulek to touch his heart that he would humble himself and help Alma. Amulek cared for him for some time. Alma taught and blessed Amulek and his large family. God commanded Alma to take Amulek with him to call the people of Ammonihah to repentance. He accompanied Alma as he preached, supporting and sustaining and befriending Alma; teaching gospel principles and testifying of the Savior and His Atonement; witnessing the horror of death by fire of righteous women and children, perhaps even the deaths of his own family; suffering in prison; exercising faith; and speaking out as a second witness to the things Alma prophesied.
What I've learned from Amulek is that people's hearts change, but the principles of the gospel don't change. Amulek was willing to change his life. He accepted Alma as a prophet and willingly accompanied him to preach and prophesy to the people in Ammonihah. He gave up his wealth and prominence in the community to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught that faith can help us break down even the biggest barriers, the importance of making repentance part of our lives now, the value of praying over every part of our lives and our families, the Savior's Atonement, the Resurrection, and much more.
Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, testified to us of the power of the scriptures: "We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you....
"... I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven's help in our lives" (Thomas S. Monson, "The Power of the Book of Mormon," Ensign, May 2017).
I would like to make three suggestions for us to consider incorporating into our daily study of the Book of Mormon and the Bible:
- Pray before we begin our scripture reading. Ask for help in recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost as we read the words of the Savior and His prophets.
- As we read, let's ask ourselves, What am I feeling? Am I comforted? Inspired? Enlightened? Motivated to change? Encouraged to reach out to someone?
- Close our study with prayer. Ask for help in acting on those flashes of inspiration that have come as we pondered our reading. Ask the Lord how we can use the scriptures to change our lives and the lives of others.
In a 1993 address to CES religious educators, then Elder Henry B. Eyring, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, reminded us, "The effect of sincere prayer and of careful scripture study is to always feel an urging to do things."
It is my prayer that as we read and study the scriptures, we will recognize the promptings we receive, act on them, and allow ourselves to be changed by the scriptures. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.