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Answering gospel questions

Richard Cowan shared some of the means that Church members can use to find answers to gospel questions during the Doctrine and Covenants symposium, sponsored by the Church Educational System Jan. 25.

Brother Cowan, a BYU faculty member of Church history and doctrine, told the group that they should turn to written scripture, teachings of the living prophets and to personal revelation to find answers. More specifically, he recommended members implement the following suggestions into their gospel study of the scriptures.- Know the immediate setting. For example in D&C 19: 13-20, Martin Harris is told to repent."What is it that Martin Harris needs to repent of? It would help if we had some background," Brother Cowan said, explaining that Harris had agreed to provide funding for the printing of the Book of Mormon, if necessary, and he was dragging his feet.

  • Study the scripture in light of all other scriptures. "Don't take things out of context," he said. "It is easy to take one scriptures and pull it out of context and come up with a wrong conclusion."
  • Read the scriptures carefully. "In D&C 42:43 we are told that we should nourish those that don't have faith," he said. "Now reading this carefully, people might ask, `Does that mean that if a person does have faith then we don't have to provide help?' That just doesn't logically follow."
  • Know that surrounding verses provide context. "Once again, don't read it out of context," he cautioned. "Reading the surrounding verses, reading them carefully, provides some answers."
  • Identify allusions to other scripture. He said that many times the cross references can clarify subjects in the scriptures.
  • Understand intended meaning of words.
  • Receive insights from living prophets.

"There are many times that the best answer is I don't know,' " Brother Cowen concluded. "Don't be afraid to say,I don't know.' We ought to try to find out. That ought to always be our goal, but there are times that things just have not been revealed and it would be far better to say I don't know the answer than to give an answer that is wrong."

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