Episode 60: Sunday School general presidency on ‘Come, Follow Me’ 2022 on the Old Testament

In October 2018, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new home-centered, Church-supported integrated gospel curriculum known as “Come, Follow Me.” He promised that the plan would “unleash the power of families.

This episode of the Church News podcast features the Church’s Sunday School general presidency: President Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president; Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor; and Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor. Together, they reflect on the blessings of “Come, Follow Me” as Latter-day Saints begin a fourth year of the program, this time featuring a study of the Old Testament

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Transcript

President Mark L. Pace: I’m excited to spend time with old friends. I don’t find the Old Testament scary. I’m excited to spend time with old friends that I probably haven’t spent enough time with recently. It’s going to be fantastic. And I have this manual, “Come, Follow Me,” which is not the scriptures, but it’s a great study guide manual. And my study of the Old Testament next year is going to be better than it’s ever been in my whole life.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News and welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

In October 2018, President Russell M. Nelson announced a new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum promising that the program has the potential to unleash the power of families. This episode of the Church News podcast features the Sunday School general presidency: President Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president; Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor; and Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor. Together, we will reflect back on the blessings of “Come, Follow Me” as Latter-day Saints began a fourth year of the program; and we will look forward to next year’s study of the Old Testament. 

Welcome, brethren, to the Church News podcast. 

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you. 

1:44

Sarah Jane Weaver: It’s wonderful to have you here, and hopefully we can just start today with Brother Pace. How were Latter-day Saints strengthened by their study of the Doctrine and Covenants this past year?

President Mark L. Pace: It’s been a great year for us as Latter-day Saints. I think it’s been a time of studying the Doctrine and Covenants in perhaps a way that we never really have before. Certainly, my experience has been that it’s been a more thoughtful, careful, focused and structured study of the scriptures — the Doctrine and Covenants, with the “Come, Follow Me” manual. I particularly enjoyed understanding the context of the revelations that were provided and gaining additional insight as the Spirit’s been guiding us, as we’ve been slowly, carefully studying this sacred work. It’s been a great year.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And I’m so touched that you say that, because most of us started this year by not attending any church meetings at all, because we were doing home church because of the global COVID-19 pandemic

President Mark L. Pace: In fact, it was, and so you can see the progress that we’ve made as the body of the Church and being able to meet together, which isn’t true everywhere in the world. There are still many places in the world where they’re still not able to meet together. But when President Nelson said, though, several years ago, “it’s time for a home-centered Church supported by what we do in our meetinghouses,” that has really come to pass over the last several years. And certainly we’ve been blessed as a Church as we have lifted and refocused our study of the scriptures in the home and the wonderful blessings that have come from that.

3:17

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo, you’ve probably seen that as well.

Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah, I lived that experience also of studying alone, having sacrament meeting alone for some months, and that strengthened me — the opportunity to study and kind of having the church at home. That’s what happened, in fact, during the pandemic. I had church at home, and in studying the scriptures at home and having the sacrament at home, I felt the Spirit so strong. And definitely the opportunity for me to study the scriptures, pray, and get closer to God during this pandemic time, I felt closer to Him. I think it is something that might have happened with many of the Saints, many of the families of the Church. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, I certainly felt that in my study. Brother Newman, you probably felt that as well.

Brother Jan E. Newman: I think back about the Saints during the Restoration in the early days of the Church in this dispensation, and you think about all the times that they were pushed from their homes, and they were on the run a lot. Yet, they tried to find ways that they could gather together or study the scriptures on their own. So, to a certain degree, they experienced many things that we’ve experienced here recently. My study of the scriptures, I just love to dive in and read the words and let the Spirit guide me and teach me; and, well, the Doctrine and Covenants is what I call a book of light. There’s so much light in that book that it really lifts and strengthens us as we try to understand what the Lord would have us do. I mean, you look at the early Saints, they didn’t really have a handbook of instructions on what to do. It was the revelations that came through the Prophet Joseph Smith on how they established and guided the Church going forward.

Sarah Jane Weaver: And certainly, personal revelation has been something that’s never been more needed than in the past year. 

Brother Jan E. Newman: Yeah, agreed. I mean, there’s so many points of our life that we just needed the Lord to direct us, and the fact that the Saints were going deeper into the scriptures, and engaging more deeply with the scriptures, opens the windows of revelation to each of us.

5:27

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Pace, I found a quote that you said early as we were preparing to study the Doctrine and Covenants. You said, “It’s the teachings of Jesus Christ through His prophet, and how to direct and guide His work in this dispensation.” Do you feel differently or stronger about that, now that you’ve had a chance to really dig in and study this book?

President Mark L. Pace: Well, something that really grabbed me as I was reading this in the Doctrine and Covenants this year were all the times that the Savior says, “Hear my voice, I am Alpha and Omega, I am the beginning and the end,” and the Savior was testifying through the Prophet Joseph Smith of who He was, who He is, and why we needed to listen to Him. And in the first sections in the Doctrine and Covenants, I heard that over and over and over and over again. And that message wasn’t just for these Saints who are living during the days of the Prophet Joseph, but it’s for the Saints who live today, the importance of hearing the word of the Lord. It reminds me of what President Nelson is teaching us now: Hear Him.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I loved the videos that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have released in the past, well, now almost two years, on how they hear the voice of the Lord. Well, we should also look forward. Brother Camargo, what are you most excited about for our study of the Old Testament?

Brother Milton Camargo: When I think about the Old Testament, it’s, for me, a testimony of God talking to us since the beginning. So, if He talked face-to-face to Moses, Abraham, to Adam and all of the others, He can talk to us today, He can talk to me, He can talk to our Prophet today. So for me, the Old Testament is a testimony that God is the same, that He revealed his will to His children, and He continues to do this today. So I’m excited to remember and remind myself some of those wonderful stories that we all read and heard since our youth, and so I’m excited to review that, all of them.

7:35

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and President Pace and Brother Newman, you have to also be looking forward to something as you prepare to study the Old Testament.

President Mark L. Pace: I’m excited that the Latter-day Saints will be focused, probably in a way like we never have before, on the teachings of the Lord through His prophets in the Old Testament. I think we are often focused on other books of scriptures, and as we should be, but this is part of the canonized doctrine and book of scriptures about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And for me, and for many Latter-day Saints, this will be our finest year of study of the Old Testament, ever. And when you think about that the Savior taught of the scriptures, he was teaching of the Old Testament. Nephi got the brass plates, he got the history of the Old Testament. What a blessing that will be for us to read that this year. 

When I think of the scriptures, I think of the times when the Savior Himself testified of their truthfulness. First of all, in the Doctrine and Covenants, He testifies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. But the one thing I love that He says in 3 Nephi, He says, “Great are the words of Isaiah.” So now, we’ll have the opportunity to read about the law and the prophets. And sometimes we get a little overwhelmed and maybe a little intimidated by some of the writings, and I have found is if we will read the words, not be intimidated by them, but look forward to learning the truth of the Lord, that He’ll guide us through those; and as we seek to understand and see the Savior in the writings of the Old Testament, that it will be a great blessing to them. There’s just nothing to be fearful about as we read the Old Testament. 

9:22

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I’m personally so excited. I have a daughter, she’s named Rebekah. Rebekah is a hero of mine, but I’m looking forward to learning more about the women in the Old Testament.

President Mark L. Pace: I think that’ll be a wonderful thing as we read through and see how the Lord has worked through His prophets and through the women. As we see there’s a number of those situations that are highlighted. That will be a great blessing to all of us.

Brother Milton Camargo: Well and a quick comment. You mentioned on this being intimidated, and also you mentioned for the women. For some reason, I just read, recently, the story of Ruth and Naomi — very updated. So, it is not something intimidating. Well, it happens today so much, someone becoming a widow like Naomi. And I guess she was very young at that time, because her mother-in-law also became a widow. So I made some calculations. I thought, “Well, maybe she was 30, around that.” And as I thought for the women today, when they read that example, saying, “Why did Ruth decide to go with Naomi, and the other sister-in-law decided not to go?” We know her answer. She said, “Well, wherever you go, I’ll go. Your God is my God.” I guess for me, that’s what touched me. She got a conversion to the real God of Israel, and that’s why she wanted to go with Naomi. It was not just because of a loyalty to her mother-in-law. I guess it was because she got converted to the real God, and thought, “Well, I better follow the God of Israel.” And all of the story later showed that her example of following the true God of Israel, helped her in her challenge. So I think it’s very updated for members reading, “Oh, yeah, I can see that happening today.”

Sarah Jane Weaver: And your example actually does explain how we can break the Old Testament down and make it applicable, so it’s less intimidating to us.

Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah, definitely.

President Mark L. Pace: I think it’s a neat thing to think about that we’ll be studying 4,000 years of history that the Lord has preserved. What a wonderful blessing. Think of all the time that has passed, and of all the things the Lord has given us to bless us in our day. He has preserved the scriptures, and none of the scriptures have been preserved any longer than the content we have from the Old Testament that was preserved and handed down and is given to us in our day. We have a number of different dispensations of the gospel that we’ll learn about. We’ll learn about the dispensations of Adam and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, and then the dispensation of Moses, and see how the Lord has taught His prophets and they have looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, and they taught of Him and looked forward to that day.

12:16

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Newman, I’m so interested that you said that the book can be intimidating for some people. It is intimidating to me. There is nothing that is not intimidating about it. I always dreaded the years my kids dealt with that in seminary, because I knew we were going to have to delve in and study it differently than we had before. How can we make this book of scriptures approachable and manageable for people?

A young woman in Brazil studies the scriptures.
A young woman in Brazil studies the scriptures. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Brother Jan E. Newman: I think back to a time when I was serving in a stake presidency, and there was a sister that was going through a very difficult time in her life. And she asked if she could just come and talk to me about that. She came and chatted with me, and then she says, “Can I just share with you some verses from the book of Isaiah?” And I’m going, “OK,” and she unfolded some of the most beautiful verses in Isaiah that I had ever heard. And I know I’ve read them before. And I was motivated after that to really have a deeper engagement with the scriptures and to not be fearful of them, but to really look for those little gems. Sometimes we get stymied a little bit by maybe some of the complexities and some of the verbiage in the Old Testament. But I think if we read it with a different context in mind, and a different thought in mind, and that is to seek the Savior, and these beautiful writings and how they may apply to our lives, it just simplifies everything. And once I did that with Isaiah, all of the prophets, and all of these books, I’m just not fearful of them anymore. I just go in and I just savor them. 

I think the great thing about “Come, Follow Me,” it breaks it down into little bite-sized pieces that we can really think about during a one-week period of time, with some assistance from “Come, Follow Me.” But we need to make sure that we don’t just read what’s in “Come, Follow Me,” that we actually get into the scriptures themselves. And I would just promise the members if they do that, the Spirit will teach them and guide them through their journey there. 

President Mark L. Pace: Let me give you another example of a scripture that’s been meaningful to me my whole life from the Old Testament. Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” When I was a young man, I remember President Kimball teaching that. That got burned into my mind, but as my life has gone on, through experiences as a young man, as a missionary, and then marriage and family and throughout my life, challenges are with us, difficulties are with us. But that little verse from the Old Testament where the Lord is talking to Abraham and Sariah and promising them that they would have a posterity when they were 100, one of them was 100 and the other one was 90 years old, and Sariah laughed, I guess, and the Lord said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And it’s been my experience that nothing is too hard for the Lord. Those sorts of scripture gems are all over in the Old Testament, and will be a great blessing to us as Latter-day Saints as we’re thoughtful and careful in our reading this coming year.

15:27

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and President Pace, is there anything new or different in the upcoming “Come, Follow Me” manual that you want to highlight or talk about?

President Mark L. Pace: If you have your “Come, Follow Me” manual, you can grab it and look at it. 

Cover of "Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families: Old Testament 2022."
Cover of “Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families: Old Testament 2022.” Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and President Pace does have his manual.

President Mark L. Pace: I have mine, that’s why I’m talking as I’m looking for it. 

Brother Jan E. Newman: We give him a hard time about that. He is old-school and has the hard copy, but we love him for that. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: And he carries it with him.

President Mark L. Pace: So easy to turn pages when you have the hard copy. OK. There’s a section that’s throughout the manual entitled “Thoughts to Keep in Mind Regarding the Old Testament.” Towards the beginning of the year: “Thoughts to Keep in Mind: Reading the Old Testament,” a little bit later, “Thoughts to Keep in Mind: The House of Israel,” later on, “The Tabernacle and Sacrifice.” Later on, “Jesus Will Say to All Israel, ‘Come Home,’” another one, “Reading Poetry in the Old Testament.” These are a page or two that provides insights and understanding of the Old Testament for an audience that is not as familiar with the Old Testament as we are with other books of scriptures. So this is something that’s brand-new in “Come, Follow Me” this year, which I think will be a real blessing to us all.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Newman, so much of “Come, Follow Me” is now available on phones, on tablets, electronically. Very few of us, like President Pace, have to carry a physical book around. How has technology blessed this work?

Brother Jan E. Newman: So, whenever I think about technology and the word of God, I think back to the words of William Tyndale when he said, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do,” as he was speaking to the religious leaders of his day that were persecuting him for doing this. And boy, you think about that prophecy really coming true in our day. The Lord has brought all of these scriptures through divine means. And now, the technology that’s been provided in the devices, you literally can have all the scriptures on your person, anytime, anywhere, and you can read the scriptures, you can cross reference them. The one thing I love is being able to just literally — when I’m reading “Come, Follow Me” — click a reference, the thing that’s called the drawer slides out. I can read the scripture, and then I just tuck it back in, and I go back into the scriptures again. So never before have the scriptures, the word of God, been more accessible by more people than at any time in the history of this world. Thank God for that.

18:06

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. And next year’s study of the Old Testament marks four years of “Come, Follow Me,” so we will have completed the rotation of the standard works. How has this program blessed the Church and its members? I know we’ve talked about that a little bit, but I want to dig deeper. Certainly, my husband and I did not think that this would have the power it had in our own lives when it was announced. We did not comprehend that something we could study at home could be better than what we were getting in Sunday School.

Brother Jan E. Newman: The one thing that I’ve heard a lot as I’ve been with members around the area and around the world, even as I’ve talked to them about what “Come, Follow Me” has meant to them, the one thing I’ve heard multiple times is that parents are having more gospel-oriented discussion and conversation with their kids, not just at home. They’ll be driving to the bus or they’ll be driving home from school or they’ll be going to the store, and whether the parent or the child initiates it, these conversations are happening: “Wow, that was really interesting when we heard the story of —” whatever the story may have been that day, or the scriptures they had read — “What did you think about that?” And it was that kind of discussion that the members are having. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like that. Now, we have seminary curriculum integrated in lockstep with “Come, Follow Me” now too. So whatever they’re studying at seminary, they’re studying at home. So this home-centered, Church-supported piece, which seminary is, is just revolutionising the way the gospel is discussed in the family setting.

Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah. Can I share one experience that I had? Very interesting with one of the trainings I was giving. I asked, as I normally ask, I asked the question, “What has the Holy Ghost taught you this week during your scripture study with ‘Come, Follow Me’?” And then I listened to very good answers. And then one sister from Colorado said, that was not specifically for that week of her study, but she said this: “During these months of family scripture study using ‘Come, Follow Me,’ my family moved from concern to power, from challenges and trials to deliverance, from the influence of the adversary to the influence of God and the Savior.” And then she quoted Matthew 18:19-20, that says, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  That, for me, was a clear picture of what the blessing of “Come, Follow Me” in the lives of the families of the Church. They move from one stage to a higher, more inspired level. They move from, as she mentioned, from challenges to deliverance, and from the influence of the adversary from the influence of God. So I guess that’s the blessing we have in the Church as we study the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me” as a resource.

21:23

President Mark L. Pace: Sarah, if I could add something to what these wonderful brothers have shared. I think the study of the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me” is in the process of changing the Church. It’s changing our hearts, home by home, family by family. President Nelson promised us that if we would make our home sanctuaries of faith, and if we would make them centers of gospel learning — he made us four promises. You know, it’s been three years now since we received those promises. He said over time, your Sabbath days would truly be a delight. He said your children would be excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings. He said the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home would decrease. Wow. And then he said the changes would be dramatic and sustaining. And we are witnessing in the lives of the Latter-day Saints that put the Prophet’s invitation to the test exactly those blessings coming forward and resting in their lives, and in their families, in their marriages. It’s something marvelous. We’ve always believed in reading the scriptures, but I believe that with “Come, Follow Me,” we’re doing a much better job of reading and studying and pondering the scriptures than we ever have before, and the Prophet’s blessings are coming to fruition. 

We’ve gone through this COVID experience here in North America. Wasn’t it interesting that it was during the year that we were studying the Book of Mormon, that we weren’t able to go to church, but we had the Book of Mormon, and we had “Come, Follow Me.” And my feeling was that there — for those who were diligent in their scripture study — there was no spiritual famine in the land. We may not have been meeting as a congregation together, but the influence of the Holy Ghost blessed us and rested upon us individually and as families. 

Read more: The power of the Book of Mormon in the pandemic: How Saints are ‘spiritually thriving’ amid challenges

One of the great things that we know from “Come, Follow Me” is the invitation found in the front of the manual where it says, “Conversion is Our Goal.” And this is the fourth manual of “Come, Follow Me,” and in every manual, it says, “Conversion is Our Goal.” And those paragraphs there, if you’ll take the time to read it, are all about inviting the promptings of the Holy Ghost into our lives. We love to ask the Saints, as Brother Camargo mentioned just a little bit earlier: “What has the Holy Ghost taught you this week, during your scripture study with ‘Come, Follow Me’?” And to be mindful of that and thoughtful of that, because the great teacher is the Holy Ghost, and as we listen to His promptings, He converts us. And He doesn’t just convert us once, He converts us over and over and over again. And as we are having those revelatory experiences with the Holy Ghost, week after week after week after week, we’re not letting go of the iron rod. We’re not being overcome with the temptations of the world. We’re not — our faith is not being undermined, our faith is growing, and our devotion to the Savior continues to increase. 

I love the thought, “What has the Holy Ghost taught you this week during your scripture study with ‘Come, Follow Me’?” And that blessing continues to move forward as we’re studying this year the Doctrine and Covenants, and looking forward with great joy to be able to read what the Lord has preserved through us through all these thousands of years from the teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament. Great times. These are great times.

24:57

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I want to look forward to next year and talk about a few things that we’ve learned from some of the curriculum teams that are working on “Come, Follow Me,” and have you just respond to some of these. But we understand that unlike some of the other years, you’re not suggesting that everyone has to read every scripture in the Old Testament, that what you’re doing is providing suggestions for reading and learning for the most helpful chapters and stories of the Old Testament. Now, we’re not giving anyone a pass. If they want to read the whole thing, certainly they can, right? 

Brother Jan E. Newman: Yes. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: But talk about this idea that you can take the Old Testament in pieces, in sections, in scriptures.

President Mark L. Pace: Well, it’s exactly true that it wasn’t the intent to overwhelm the Saints. We still have the invitation of the prophets to be reading the Book of Mormon every day, and we’ve heard that from President [Thomas S.] Monson, we’ve heard it from President [Gordon B.] Hinckley, we’ve heard it from President Nelson. So the invitation to be reading the Book of Mormon is is still there and so important, we’re not taking a hiatus from that. But the study of the Old Testament is broken down in more bite-sized, manageable pieces that you can read, that you can study, that you can reread, that you can ponder, and not be overwhelmed by the reading assignment for the week. But there’s something you can be reading there and studying there every day.

A group of young men study the scriptures together.
A group of young men study the scriptures together. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Newman, it’s my understanding that we can learn so much about modern Israel as we study and learn to understand ancient Israel.

Brother Jan E. Newman: Well, the thing I’ve learned by reading the scriptures in general, is, as we read the scriptures, we see the pattern of the hand of the Lord in the lives of His children. We see how he interacts with His children. We learn about those things, so that we can apply that in our lives. And when you think about what President Nelson has talked about, gathering scattered Israel, we’re talking about the bloodlines of Israel that exist in the populations of the world today, and really reaching to that group of people, and bringing them and gathering them into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the Lord’s Church, even the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Old Testament, which was the Great Jehovah and Jesus Christ Himself. 

And so, I just love the fact that as we read about ancient Israel, and how the Lord dealt with them, and a lot of times, stiffneckedness — is there any of that going on today? Certainly, there is, but when we see how the Lord deals with His children, and probably most importantly, is how merciful and kind and loving He is toward His children, how, as He says, “My arms are always lengthened towards thee. How often have I gathered you like how a hen gathers her chickens?” I learned from that that He loves us and He’s merciful. Even in those trying times of the Old Testament where people were going in the ditch quite often, He just was always reaching out and His love extended them continually. So that’s what I learned. When I think about ancient Israel, I tried to understand how He worked with them, and then I think about today how He worked with us, and it’s the same. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

28:30

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo, when we speak of the fullness of time, we’re connecting ourselves back to the Old Testament. We see continuous progression from then until now. Can you comment on that?

Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah, and I was still thinking on the previous question.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You’re welcome to comment on that too.

Brother Milton Camargo: They are a continuation. I think, “Well, the ancient Israel, what was that?” It’s a people of covenant. In modern Israel, it’s a people of covenant. So they did a covenant, they were kind of chosen to be the covenant people, and they covenanted with God. And we are the covenant people today. Now, the difference I see — I don’t know if I see a big difference. In fact, when I think of the examples in ancient Israel, I see the example of Joshua. I said, “Well, he was talking to people: ‘You can follow whoever you want, but me and my family we will follow the Lord.’” It is the same today. We are the people of covenant, but at the end, what matters is that if we decide and choose to follow the Lord and follow the Prophet of God on the earth today, I think that is a continuation. So when you ask, “Well, what is the connection there with the past?” It was, all of the covenants were restored. All of the keys of the priesthood were restored and some of those that had those keys are from the Old Testament: Elijah that came, and Elias, and Moses that came to Joseph Smith and in the Kirtland Temple. So all of those keys of the covenants that they made in the past, they were restored today. We have all of them today. That’s why we are in the fullness of time, and we have the same opportunity to choose, like Joshua of the past. We can see the world today, not many people are following God. Yeah, they can decide that, but me and my family will follow the Lord. I guess that’s what we are, we are all about: being the people of a covenant.

President Mark L. Pace: That’s inspiring. Thanks, Milton. I think the invitation for the Latter-day Saints looking forward to 2022, as we read the Old Testament, is to look for symbols and teachings and themes of Jesus Christ. The prophets taught of Him. And as the covenant people followed the prophet, they were blessed, and the teachings that they express to us that are preserved in the Old Testament will be a blessing to us as we read them and ponder them and consider them. The Holy Ghost will bear testimony to us, will change our hearts, will convert us and be a wonderful blessing to us this coming year, just like it was of saving blessings to ancient Israel to follow the prophet. So we can follow the example today as modern Israel in following the prophet as well.

31:34

Sarah Jane Weaver: We have a tradition at the Church News podcast, and we always end the same way, and we ask everyone the same question. And it’s, “What do you know now?” And actually, I’d love for each of you to answer this in two parts, because I’d love to know what you know now, after three years of “Come, Follow Me”; and then I’d love to know what you know as you’re preparing to study the Old Testament and looking forward to this fourth year.

Brother Jan E. Newman: So what I’ve come to know over the last three years is that God is in the details. As I’ve read the scriptures, and watched how the Lord has gently and kindly and lovingly, lovingly worked with His children, it’s just inspiring to me. I think some people, as they read in some books of scripture, they may sense that maybe there’s an angry God. I just don’t see that. The thing I have learned is the infinite love and kindness of the Lord towards His children. He loves us, and He wants us to return. He’ll do anything to help us if we come to Him with a willing heart and mind. And so that’s what I would say that has really come to me, and just knowing the truth of the sacred books of scripture. I just know, more than ever, that those sacred records are true, as Brother Pace said, miraculous that they’ve been preserved for us in our day. 

As I prepare to study the Old Testament, I’m really looking forward to understanding the covenant people a little more deeply, and understanding covenant Israel, and what that means to gather scattered Israel. I look forward to going a little deeper into the prophets. Those who represented God to the people, and the challenges they went through and the things that were difficult for them; but yet, the sacred things, principles and doctrines that they were taught, that they then were required to take to the people. I’m really looking forward to going, engaging deeper with their testimonies in their words. 

And my witness, brothers and sisters, is this that I have come to know, in a very deep and personal way, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He lives and He guides the work here in these latter days in a beautiful and perfect way. And in the last two and a half years, I’ve seen it up close and personal like I’ve never seen before. And I testify of the sacred callings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve and the leaders of the Church, and that He guides His Church through them.

Brother Milton Camargo: Well, what I learned in those three years, two and a half years, three years — I also did a kind of recollection of all of the teachings of our Prophet, because it was exactly when, that year, 2018, when President Nelson was sustained as President of the Church. Then at the end of the year, he kind of introduced “Come, Follow Me” to all of us. In all of his talks in all of those years, in recent years, what I see that he stresses is that there will come a time that we won’t be able to survive spiritually without the guiding, comforting, directing influence of the Holy Ghost. That was his words, and he repeated in different ways, through all of that. 

So my learning in all of that: Yes, we can have the influence of the Holy Ghost daily in our lives if we’re willing to listen, if we’re willing to make time for the Lord. And if we’re willing to read the scriptures, ponder and write down impressions, something that I’m starting to learn more and more to do that. And then I can recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost in my mind, in my heart. And I believe that happens with every one of us. Otherwise, the Prophet would not say this. We can and should receive more personal revelation as we study, ponder, listen, write down impressions. Our Savior wants to reveal many things for us for our lives. So for me, that is something so important that I’ve watched this in each one of those scriptures that I’m studying in “Come, Follow Me.” 

Now for next year. Really, what I’m excited to do is to go back to many of those stories that I heard and I read, but now trying to see how we can apply them today. Because they’re quite — I said updated first, I don’t know if it’s the right word — but it’s applicable to our current lives. All of them, we can always think, “Well, how’s that applicable?” We can see, well, Moses opening the Red Sea, that’s not quite applicable today. Yeah, might not be. But having him entering into the Red Sea, until the point that he opened, I can see that. Going into our challenges and then waiting for the Lord to open the Red Sea because, you know, we need that. It’s quite necessary in our lives. And I could go to several other examples or stories that I want to look at in a different way: “How’s that applicable?” And I hope members also will do that today, that as they read the book, the Old Testament, they see, “Wow, that is totally applicable to my situation today.” They can strengthen their faith, they can be elevated. My testimony is really that God lives and He is concerned with our daily challenges. He is willing to speak to our minds and our hearts, and He does that. I testify of that. And He loves us. I have a testimony that the Savior loves me, and loves all of us.

A family reads the scriptures during family home evening.
A family reads the scriptures during family home evening. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you, Sarah, for inviting us to be with you today. We’ve enjoyed this discussion very much. What do I know now? I know that Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and I find myself praying for them. And I find myself praying that particularly the Latter-day Saints, who are the covenant people of Israel, of the Lord, would take advantage of the blessings available by reading the word of God found in the scriptures. And in my prayers, that thought rests on my mind, often, and as I find myself about to finish praying, I feel a prompting: “Have you prayed for all the members of the Church?” And then I pause and I pray for the Saints around the world with all their challenges and all their difficulties, that they would read the scriptures, because I know that as they read the scriptures, the Holy Ghost rests upon us and blesses us and inspires us in such a marvelous way. That’s what I know now. 

What are my thoughts as I’m looking forward to studying the Old Testament next year? I’m excited to spend time with old friends. I don’t find the Old Testament scary. I’m excited to spend time with old friends that I probably haven’t spent enough time with recently. It’s going to be fantastic, and I have this manual “Come, Follow Me,” which is not the scriptures, but it’s a great study guide manual. And my study of the Old Testament next year is going to be better than it’s ever been in my whole life, and my experience with old friends is going to be sweet and delightful, and I’m really looking forward. And I rejoice that the Saints then know what the Saints know now and they know what I know now, which is that Jesus is the Christ. Jehovah was Jesus Christ. Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ, the God of the New Testament. And I know that the Savior lives. I know that all the scriptures teach of Him. I know it. I know. I know. And I rejoice in learning more of Him this year. And I share that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.