This year at university I had planned to begin my minor in Jewish Civilization. But due a to an administrative error, I can't study it until next year. Oh well. Not much I can do about that. But I do have the opportunity to do a bit of study that will help me gain a different point of view on things. Through the educational system that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers, I have an opportunity to study the Old Testament for a couple of semesters. I was quite excited at this prospect when I first heard it. As a missionary in Japan, I mainly focussed on the New Testament and the Book of Mormon and I didn't study the Old Testament that much.
I am hoping that this will provide me with a new angle to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people see the Old Testament as, well... old. This is true, but that is what makes it gold! It is a spiritual and secular history of a people to which we owe much of our society's values and morals today. Those of the Jewish faith really are special. Their culture has remained strong for thousands of years and has been one of the biggest moral influences in our society. We should thank them, but sadly our modern history shows that the world has done the opposite. Even in Book of Mormon times, this attitude was prophesied:
But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people
2 Nephi 29:4-5
One thing that I really admire about Jews is that they center their lives around the covenants that they make with God. That is something that really deserves commendation. There are many people who profess to serve God but they try and make things of God fit around their lives instead of making their lives fit around God. It is a small, but I think, important detail in one's devotion to God. I know that I can always do better in making sure that God's program is the one happening in my life.
Back to the Old Testament... I am not a scholar at all. I am just 21 years old, trying to figure out what will happen in life. But this opportunity to deeply study this volume of scripture is something that I am excited for. Just a little Japanese lesson: 旧約聖書 (kyuuyaku seisho) is Old Testament. It literally means "ancient promise holy book". Although promises can be fulfilled, it doesn't mean that they are broken or no longer exist. I came across this idea as I was thinking about the topic. Interesting if you think about it. Anyways, soon after I returned home from missionary service, I heard this quote about the Old Testament:
Do you use all of the standard works, including the Old Testament? I have found precious truths in the pages of the Old Testament that are key ingredients to the platform of truth that guides my life and acts as a resource when I try to share a gospel message with others. For that reason, I love the Old Testament. I find precious jewels of truth spread throughout its pages.
RICHARD G. SCOTT
Wow! Elder Scott's word have lifted me up on many an occasion. His words really do ring true. At times where I have flipped through the Old Testament, I have found some of these precious jewels of truth. Some find the Old Testament difficult to understand, but if we give our spiritual predesessors the attention they deserve, we can learn just a little bit more about them and the holy text that they left behind. One of the "difficult-to-understand" culprits is Isaiah. His words can be confusing to many. But this is what the Prophet Nephi has to say about the words of Isaiah:
Now I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.
2 Nephi 25:1
We are all children of God and all deserve the same respect. Whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever, we all are brothers and sisters. That is one eternal truth that will never change. And although we might have differences between us, we all have truth within us and what we believe. As is says in the 13th Article of Faith written by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Articles of Faith 1:13
A good mantra for anyone of any denomination. I strive to follow it and I encourage everyone to do the same.