Episode 114: The Sunday School general presidency on coming closer to Jesus Christ using the 2023 ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum on the New Testament
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman, talk about how the scriptures point to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ
Episode 114: The Sunday School general presidency on coming closer to Jesus Christ using the 2023 ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum on the New Testament
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman, talk about how the scriptures point to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ
In 2022, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints focused their “home-centered, Church-supported” study on the Old Testament, completing the first scriptural cycle of the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum.
Now, looking to 2023, study of the New Testament is an opportunity to learn again that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Son of God, the Savior of the World and that He was, and is, the Promised Messiah.
This episode of the Church News podcast features the Church’s Sunday School general presidency: President Mark L. Pace, Sunday School general president, and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman.
Together they talk about the 2023 “Come, Follow Me” curriculum and how the scriptures point to a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ’s life and restored gospel.
President Mark L. Pace: And we’ve found that we’re not actually doing “Come, Follow Me,” we are reading the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me.” And there have never been a people on the earth that have had access to the scriptures like we do. Think about how many times we’ve read the Book of Mormon and every time is a new journey and it builds on the last. The study of the New Testament in 2019 was the best New Testament study of my life — until 2023, which I know will be even better. But I look forward to gaining additional insights and additional whisperings of the Spirit as the Lord unfolds exactly what we need to understand at this time as we draw nearer to the Savior.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. 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 2022, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints focused their “Come, Follow Me” study on the Old Testament. Now, looking to 2023, we understand that studying the New Testament is a chance to see the Jehovah of the Old Testament make His appearance as the Son of God, the Savior of the World. He was and is the Promised Messiah.
This episode of the Church News podcast features the Church’s Sunday School general presidency: President Marke L. Pace, Sunday School general president: Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor: and Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor. They join us to talk about “Come, Follow Me” and next year’s study of the New Testament and to share their testimonies of Jesus Christ. Welcome, brethren, to the Church News podcast.
President Mark L. Pace: Thank you, grateful to be here.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it is so nice to have you with us. This is becoming a quick tradition to have you on the Church News podcast each year to talk about the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum for the year. So, first of all, I want to give you the chance to look back and sort of celebrate all that we learned from the Old Testament.
President Mark L. Pace: Terrific, thank you very much for this privilege of joining you today. 2022 has been a marvelous year of scripture study. I think if I look at what’s been accomplished, I feel like the Latter-day Saints have had a more profound experience with the Old Testament than they have ever had before in their lives. On numerous occasions, when we have been out visiting different areas, it’s been fun to ask this question: “Brothers and sisters, if 2022 is the best year of Old Testament scripture study in your life, please raise your hand.” And it’s a tsunami of hands going up. I have had my wife take a bunch of pictures of it and it has been really fun. But it has just been neat to see that faithful Latter-day Saints have been filled with the Spirit as they have learned about Jehovah and they have learned about His workings and preparing for the coming of the Messiah. As we have studied the Old Testament. It has been a year unlike any other, in my opinion.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, in 2022 was the first opportunity we had to study the Old Testament as part of “Come, Follow Me,” as part of a “home-centered, Church-supported” curriculum. Brother Camargo, do you think that made part of the difference?
Brother Milton Camargo: I think it made part, because it was a learning curve. We all started with “Come, Follow Me” in 2019, learning how to do this integrated curriculum, all the family studying the same thing. And then comes the Old Testament. And then, at least in the cases that I’ve seen, members were more used to the questions — questions to ponder, questions to check what you felt, what you learned from the Spirit. And I believe that it made a difference in the study of the Old Testament this time. Not much on focusing on the history, on the story, or details of the story. Story is always important — the details of the story — but more on what have you learned and how you apply it to your life? So I think the whole story of “Come, Follow Me” helped a lot.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, Brother Newman, as you’ve traveled and met with members worldwide, have you observed something in their study of the Old Testament as well?
Brother Jan E. Newman: Every time you spend time with members and you talk to them about their Old Testament study, I think sometimes it can be a little difficult and challenging just because the culture that we’re talking about is several thousand years old. And to connect to that has been a little difficult for some people, but I think one of the things I’ve loved to see is how “Come, Follow Me” has really opened that up and opened people’s minds up to the people and the challenges they were going through. And how they trust in the Lord, how the Lord rescued them over and over again, and how the Lord forgave them and always was reaching out to them, even though they went through these difficult things. And if you think about all of our lives, we are always in some kind of state like that. We are having a challenge and maybe we distance ourselves from the Lord for some reason. Which doesn’t make sense, but we do. But He is always there to have us come back. And I think the messages of the Old Testament just resonate with so many people … in so many cultures that may be similar to those of the Old Testament. I think, as people really looked for the Savior in the Old Testament, they started to see how the Lord reached out to His people and wanted them to come back and be more close to Him and to trust in Him more fully.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, if I had used verbs to describe my previous experience with the Old Testament, I would have said overwhelming and intimidating, because it just was something that I never was able to get into, until 2022 when we started to see it differently. I teach 6 year olds in Primary. I think they understood it at a level that I haven’t seen children understand it before.
President Mark L. Pace: Looking back at the Old Testament, there was just wonderful things that happened. The Saints seem to be familiar with the stories, maybe down through Moses and such, and maybe a little bit after that. But we’ve spent a lot of time on things that the Saints typically didn’t spend a lot of time on, such as the chapters in Isaiah, multiple weeks on that, and it’s been an absolute joy. And it’s been an enlightening, inspiring experience to become familiar with the teachings of many prophets who were inspired to talk about how Israel would be scattered, but Israel would be gathered, which we’re seeing today. And to see all the prophecies of Isaiah, which the Lord has quoted so many times in so many books of scripture. Just a marvelous joy and a special treat to be studying the Old Testament this year, made all the greater, because the Saints were so diligent in their study. It has just been a wonderful experience.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I do think “Come, Follow Me” made the Old Testament obtainable for us.
President Mark L. Pace: That’s a nice way to say it.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Now let’s look forward to the New Testament. So, President Pace, what are you looking forward to?
President Mark L. Pace: I’m looking forward to building on our experience that we had in 2019. Some people have said, “So, what are we going to do? We’ve already studied this once.” Think about how many times we’ve read the Book of Mormon and every time is a new journey and it builds on the last. The study of the New Testament in 2019 was the best New Testament study of my life — until 2023, which I know will be even better. But I look forward to gaining additional insights and additional whisperings of the Spirit as the Lord unfolds to me and to the Saints exactly what we need to understand at this time, as we draw nearer to the Savior.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yes, certainly, so much has happened in the last four years, we have experienced the global pandemic, Europe is facing a war, we’ve had political and racial strife here, in the United States, and on and on and on. Many countries are dealing with economic and other social pressures. And so, Brother Camargo, how can looking to the Savior, even during these difficult times that we have gone through in recent years, and will probably continue to experience, help us in our lives?
Brother Milton Camargo: I thought about this opportunity of studying the words of the Lord next year and even thought about your question, in fact. I didn’t know your question. But anyway, it is interesting, because we live in a complex world. We live in complex families and situations. And coming to the Lord is the best way to have solutions for those complexities. As we think about that, as we read the scriptures, we will be able to hear from Him priorities in our lives. I’m just trying to remember some of the scriptures that we are going to read next year. For me, the best sermon in the world is the Sermon of the Mount. So I just look at that and say, “Well, lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” Great help for our complexities and our priorities in life. No man can serve two masters. Served in many ways, this teaching from the Savior about loyalty and when we see so many difficulties, what we’re going to do with work and study and family. It always comes to my mind, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” And then, for me, the teaching “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” So as we come closer to the Lord, we will find solutions for our day to day lives. Because He has the truth, He is the truth and as we learn from Him and try to follow His teachings, we will find peace in this complex situation we live — world, global and even in our city, in our community. We can find peace and we can find solutions that will bless us individually and our families.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you for that. Brother Newman, what is new or different about “Come, Follow Me” when we compare this year’s study, that we’re just about to embark on, with our 2019 experience?
Brother Jan E. Newman: Well, I think the great thing that we have available to us with “Come, Follow Me” just in general, is as we roll from year to year, the first four years, we printed a hard manual, right, a hardcopy manual — paper manual— for all of the books. We won’t be doing that going forward. So the thing that we have before us is the electronic version that can be easily disseminated to the members of the Church around the world and in their own languages. And it gives us the flexibility to modify, pretty much at any time, and add additional content, additional links to talks, that might be more specific to our current day’s situations. So it’s a very, very flexible platform in the Gospel Library app.
So I think if you look from year to year, I don’t know that I’ve pointed out specific things. It will be different, but it’s going to have basically the same format, right? But at any time, we have the ability to enhance the experience that the members will have. And there is, as you know, in the Gospel Library app, there is a lot of content, a lot of great things. And simply being able to connect some of those great — what I would call — really rich content pieces into the scriptures, I think is going to be a great blessing to the Saints. At the end of the day, we have to do more overtime to help families be successful at studying the scriptures using “Come, Follow Me.” That is the goal here: How do we help families? How do we help the home-centered situation become even better?
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, that is a question that I think we all struggle with. When we first started, “Come, Follow Me,” my husband and I were doing it diligently one Sunday morning and we looked down and all three of our teenagers were asleep. We actually posted a picture on social media that said, “Still mastering home-centered, Church-supported curriculum.” But I think most people have come quite a long way. Have you seen a transformation in the way families are approaching this, President Pace?
President Mark L. Pace: Yes, I have. I think at the beginning, there might have been a feeling that, “We have to do a production every day,” that this has to be a huge thing. And I worry that too much of that fell on the backs of the shoulders of the moms of the Church. But I think we’ve settled down a bit and we’ve found that this is actually an experience of reading the scriptures. We’re not actually doing “Come, Follow Me.” We are reading the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me.” And so it is reading a passage or two. It is reading a chapter or two. It is having family prayer. It is perhaps having a hymn. And have a great day. We don’t need to make it complicated and I think the Saints have settled into a pattern that seems to work well for them and their individual situation.
On the issue of the manual, there’s a few little changes from 2019 to 2023. One of the changes is we’re not taking general conference week off. We have 52 weeks in the year and so that we are reading the scriptures every week of the year. The 2019 manual was written with the thought that we were going to have a Sunday School class every week. Now, this manual, as well as Doctrine and Covenants and Old Testament, have been written with the thought that we would be getting together in a Sunday School class every two weeks. So that is one thing — we go right through general conference and that is part of the regular pattern.
The other thing is that this manual has an appendix in it, entitled “Preparing your children for a lifetime on God’s covenant path.” This has not been in any previous manual, but it’s a resource for parents to help teach their children about moving forward to the next step on the covenant path. There are seven different steps, or seven different little sections: baptism and confirmation, teaching your children about priesthood, going to the temple, baptisms and confirmations for the dead. The next one would be: receiving a patriarchal blessing, then going to the temple, the endowment, then serving a mission and finally, going to the temple sealing. Really great material to help families as we are reading the scriptures, but realizing in our everyday lives, we’re walking forward towards covenants and ordinances and we can teach those as parents.
It is good to know that that appendix is included in the Gospel Library app and online. It is actually not in the printed copy. It was added subsequent to the printing.
One last thought I would say about strengthening families, is don’t forget what’s in the introductory materials. Sometimes we feel that if we want to hide something from the Church, we put it in the introductory materials, but that was not our intent. There are wonderful things in there about ways to improve your personal scripture study and other ways on improving your family scripture study and another one about teaching young children, including another section on using sacred music in your gospel learning. So I hope that families would take some time to look at the introductory materials, and see if there is some suggestions and age there, that could help them and bring back to mind some things that we could be doing that we haven’t been doing that would help us in our family situation and lots of great stuff.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so glad that you spoke about God’s dealings with His covenant people and the covenant path. That’s one of the things that we learned and studied so much in the Old Testament, as covenant children of the Lord. There’s so many things we can learn, so many ways we can do that. We certainly want to help our children along the covenant path. Brother Camargo, as families try their best to help their children learn about the Savior and to teach as the Savior would teach, what is the best way to go about that this year?
Brother Milton Camargo: Well, there’s one resource that was developed and presented and introduced to the whole Church in June this year, 2022. It was introduced by Elder [Dieter F.] Uchtdorf in a devotional. It’s the “Teaching in the Savior’s Way” manual. That was an existing manual that was revised and some new things were included there, especially to help parents and families on how to really teach in the Savior’s way. One major focus of this new resource that is going to be distributed to all of the families, members of the Church — we will receive a copy of this manual — and one of the main things and main focuses is Jesus Christ.
There’s one chapter that was not in the old manual, which is focused on Jesus Christ. Everything we do in our home, in our teaching at home, should lead to Jesus Christ. Because He is the Savior. He is the Redeemer. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. That’s why we have to talk of Christ, preach of Christ, prophecy of Christ, every time we’ll have an opportunity with our families, because that is the source of the remission of the sins of our children, and our children will need that. Definitely, all of us need that and our children will need that. So it’s so important if we want to learn how to teach about the Savior, first thing is to teach of the Savior and teach about Him and teach how He would say this, how He would ask this question, how He would answer that question. This manual, this resource, is wonderful, because it has lots of examples of how the Savior would face this question, how the Savior would answer this question.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well and we will link to the Teaching in the Savior’s Way manual from the podcast copy so that everyone can find that. I love that we’re talking about the Savior so much. Also in 2022, the Church also announced a new “For the Strength of Youth Guide,” which encourages the children and youth of the Church to look to the Savior as they make decisions. And Brother Newman, how will study of the New Testament study of the Savior’s life actually strengthen children and youth and the efforts that we’re making right now with “For the Strength of Youth.”
Brother Jan E. Newman: Well, I think it goes back to just the Savior’s invitation to us is to “Come, Follow Me” and become more like Him. And as we study His life and those who were His disciples and Apostles, even, we learn how He handled certain situations, how He made decisions, how He interacted with Heavenly Father’s children. And I think the more we come to know Him, we really will become more like Him. And there are several times in the scriptures where it talks about, there’ll be a time when we meet the Savior and I would hate to hear the words, “And I know you not.” So I think one of the things that studying the Savior’s life does for us is we come to know Him deeply, in some very personal ways.
I think as we study, we always apply the things we learn to our own lives, the challenges we’re going through, difficulties in life, even testimony. Someone may have a doubt or concern about the gospel. But as you truly seek the truth and you seek the Savior, you will come to know Him deeply. And I love what Elder James [W.] McConkie III talked about in conference. He talked about knowing Jesus. He talked about what he would do with his missionaries. They would just dive into the New Testament in certain chapters, and spend a lot of time there, just thinking about Him, trying to understand Him. And I think if we do that this year, that would be our invitation: for every member to just come to know the Savior, come to know Jesus in a more personal, intimate way. And that will help all of us be better at making these decisions.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And when “Come, Follow Me” was first rolled out four years ago, President [Russell M.] Nelson promised that those who quote, “diligently work to remodel their home into a center of learning would see dramatic and sustaining changes in their families.” President Pace, have you seen the fruits of that promise come?
President Mark L. Pace: I have. The promises that he made were that over time, your Sabbath days would be a delight, your children would love learning and living the Savior’s teachings, the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease and these changes would be dramatic and sustaining. I have witnessed those promises being fulfilled in my personal life and I’ve witnessed these promises being fulfilled in my family’s lives — members of my family. And I’ve also witnessed that with other Latter-day Saints in their homes, as we’ve talked about these things. The remodeling that President Nelson was talking about was not one of changing wall covers, or paint or up doing decor, he was talking about making our home sanctuaries of faith. Sanctuaries are someplace where things are safe. A sanctuary is where something is safe and making our home some place where faith is safe. And then also making it that our homes are actually the center of gospel learning. He didn’t say that it’s the place where you’d studied the gospel. He said, “Your home would become a center of gospel learning.” And that is what we have been doing for the last four years. It has been centered in our homes and supported by what we do in the Church.
My Sabbath days are a delight, not just because I’m on the couch and my wife is in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon But my Sabbath days are a delight, because there is a wonderful Spirit in our home. There is a peaceful, wonderful Spirit in our home — even better than what we have had before. We have gatherings with our grandchildren. And when we do, we have a home evening once a month and we talk about things that we’ve been studying the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me.” And it’s amazing to see their heads being raised as they want to answer questions. They’re excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings, the influence of the adversary. Where light is, darkness flees.
And in my home, and in your homes, and in the homes of the Saints: As we fill our homes with light from studying the scriptures, darkness leaves. The adversary’s influence diminishes. And these changes are dramatic, and they’re sustaining and we’re rejoicing. We quote this and talk about this a lot, because we’re seeing the literal fulfillment of the teachings and the promises of a prophet of God, as the Saints are putting on this effort of studying the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me.”
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, President Nelson also promised that if we prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, we will make better decisions. Now, that’s a lot of pressure. I want to study the Book of Mormon everyday, because I want to make good decisions. I also want to do “Come, Follow Me.” I want to support my kids in seminary and on and on and on. How do we find balance and how do we learn to find joy in our study of the gospel, without feeling just overwhelmed? Let’s start with Brother Camargo and then we’ll have Brother Newman weigh in, as well.
Brother Milton Camargo: I would say, yeah, it looks like a lot of things — Book of Mormon and, now, New Testament next year. First thing that I think is we should just continued to do our best. It is not that, “Oh, we’re prescribed to have to read so many chapters of the Book of Mormon, everyday, or so many pages. And then we’ll have to move to the New Testament, now, next year.” I can say this, I’ve never been in a race reading the scriptures, never ever. I don’t have a target of reading many pages in a day or chapters. However, of the Book of Mormon, I read every day until I find something that touches my soul. And that’s enough for me for that day, because then that stays in my mind and in my heart during the whole day.
It is true that for the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum, yeah, I want to read all of the chapters that are there in the week, because the next week I have others. And so I pretty much follow that pace, because the whole Church is walking in the same. And it is so good to go to a place that we can discuss and talk about those chapters. Book of Mormon is something that I do until I feel something touch my soul.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, that’s beautiful. And as President Pace said earlier, even our New Testament study this year, there’s no weeks off. We just gotta keep up and be steady and try and get through it and also experience the joy and the blessings that come from the Book of Mormon. Can you weigh in as well, Brother Newman?
Brother Jan E. Newman: Yeah, first of all, now, you know why we love Milton Camargo. I mean, what he just said was so profound. And I think that will help a lot of people just overcome this anxiety, like, “I’ve got to read 10 chapters today or I’m not going to get done.” I want to just share something that’s in the introductory material that President Pace talked about. It’s under, “Using the ‘Come, Follow Me’” resource. A couple of paragraphs down, it says, “‘Come, Follow Me’ for individuals and families is not meant to replace or compete with other good things you are doing. Follow the Spirit’s guidance to determine how to approach your own study of the word of God.”
So I think a lot of times we try to put ourselves in this little box that, “This is the only way I can study the scriptures.” And I just love what Milton said and I try to do similar things. I tried to go back and forth between books of scripture, “Come, Follow Me,” always try and spend some time in the Book of Mormon. But I’m always looking for that one little verse, or a thought or a feeling I have, and then record that in my notes. And I’m an electronic guy, so I just use the electronic version. But I record my feelings and thoughts about certain verses. I’ll underline a verse and write my thoughts and feelings about that. And then I’ll just sit and just think about that verse and I really, sometimes don’t even move off of that verse. I’ll just stay there and think about it. And I have noticed sometimes when I’m reading, and I’m trying to race through, I’ll just also and I’ll stop, and I go, “I don’t remember what that last verse even said.” I’ll go back and I’ll just sit and just look at that verse for five minutes. And that is a really good feeling, to just what President Nelson said, “Make time for the Lord in your life.” And I think that’s what we would invite the members to do: find some way to be in the scriptures, meditate, ponder, think about these things and this will make time for the Lord in your life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: That’s beautiful. President Pace.
President Mark L. Pace: Just another thought I wanted to suggest is to pay attention to the new Book of Mormon videos, which have just recently come out. It would be a shame if we waited several years before we started enjoying the blessing of the Book of Mormon videos that have been provided. President Nelson showed us one of those in his general conference talk. And I think as we are studying the New Testament and we are watching some of the New Testament Bible videos that are so excellent, that it would be a blessing to families to also become a little bit more familiar with the Book of Mormon videos, which have recently been provided in their entirety for us as a Church.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I think the New Testament is such a beautiful example, because some of the things that we read about in the Book of Mormon prophecy of events in the New Testament. Let’s talk about how all of these scriptures are sort of interwoven together.
President Mark L. Pace: Well, they are interwoven. Isn’t it amazing that the Lord has provided us scriptures from different eras of time. I mean, thousands of years ago in the Old Testament from a relatively short period of time in the New Testament, really. And then he also had another set of scriptures, which was written basically 600 years before Christ until about 400 years after Christ. And then that book of scriptures was buried in a hill and kept safe until it could be translated so that it would come forth in his purity. And then we have the Doctrine and Covenants, which is the revelations to prophets in our era and in this last dispensation.
So scriptures — the speaking and the teaching of God to people at all different times through the history of this earth — there have never been people on the earth that have had access to the scriptures like we do. I don’t think there should be any people on the earth that should be so grateful for the blessing of scriptures as the Latter-day Saints are. And we focus on one book of scripture per year, but we rejoice in all of them. And as we learn more of the teachings of the Savior and the New Testament, we’re also learning about the other books of scriptures as well. And they all bring us to Jesus Christ.
Brother Jan E. Newman: You know, one thing that I love to do, as I’m reading the different books of scripture, is kind of keep my eyes open for phrases and wording that’s used in different books of scripture. I always find it fascinating. Some people may think, “Well, they must have just copied that, because they read it in the Old Testament or the New Testament.” It’s the Savior speaking. He uses the same words. He teaches the same doctrines. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And, so when I see those, it’s just a testimony that it’s the same person revealing the Lord’s will to His people through these writings, through the prophets. I just love that. I always make a note. I go, “Isn’t it interesting that that was used in the Old Testament, or in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants?” And you’ll see some that are in every book of scripture. It’s faith-promoting to me to know that the Lord is the same, to all of His people.
Brother Milton Camargo: The scriptures are interwoven, definitely. The “Come, Follow Me” program also puts all of the resources in our hands. So, we are reading the manual this week and then we have the scriptures not only from that book, we have from the other books and we have general conference messages totally related to what we’re studying. And then we have hymns that are suggested there for us to sing together. And even in the scriptures today, as we read any one of those, especially in the Book of Mormon, we have the videos right there — the electronic version, definitely. We click on that icon, and then it comes the video. So the Church is providing something wonderful for all of the ages of a family, for all of us. We can really study something in all of the books, general conference messages and other resources.
Brother Jan E. Newman: So we had met with the First Presidency a couple of weeks ago and President Nelson, again, told us how much he loved the Book of Mormon videos. He says, “Have you watched those?” And I’m like going, “I haven’t watched all of them.” So I went home and started watching. My wife started watching. And there was one scene where the Savior, He brings the children, He blesses them and He says, “Behold, your little ones.” And these angels descend from Heaven and minister to the people. And right then I had this really strong impression that these angels who came and ministered to these people knew them. I don’t know exactly who they were, but they knew them. And there was a familiarity with these Heavenly beings in the people, you could just see it.
And my wife had watched it earlier that day and then she said, “Hey, I had a really interesting impression about that video.” And I go, “Was it the familiarity of the angelic visitors with the people?” And she goes, “You had the same feeling?” I go, “Yeah, I just had never felt that before.” And I’d never felt that as I’ve read the scriptures, but when I saw it, it really impressed upon my mind. About five minutes later, our daughter called us, said, “Hey, I just watched this video where the angels came and ministered to the people and I had this impression.” And she said the exact same thing. And we’re like going, “OK, that was pretty great.” That three different peoples having different experiences and a similar feeling about — a powerful feeling about — the message that that video portrayed. And it may be something totally different to someone else, but we just lost a little baby in our family. And this daughter that called has been going through a very difficult time and that really touched her heart. And it made Heaven seem a little closer and that one day, her little daughter would be there as a heavenly being and that she would experience that. So, for a family, it was just so touching.
Sarah Jane Weaver: That’s beautiful. I think we all have personal experiences with the scriptures and have received answers to prayers through the scriptures.
President Mark L. Pace: Nothing should take the place of our experiences that we have personally reading the scriptures. And, I noticed something else that I wanted to share at the very front of the manual of talks about conversion is our goal. It’s about three or four paragraphs on the front page of the manual and the introductory materials, again. But it’s all about our experience with the Holy Ghost. It’s all about our experience with the Holy Ghost. And every year I read it, and every year I understand things that jumped out to us. And now I’m looking at my manual here from 2019. And what I underlined here is totally different than what I underlined last year when I read it with the Old Testament. But we are not in the business of entertainment, we are not in the business of discussing history. We are in the business of inspiration. And all that is behind “Come, Follow Me” is to help the saints, study the scriptures, and to have a personal experience with the Holy Ghost that changes their hearts, and converts them again and again and again as disciples of Jesus Christ. And that experience happens in the Old Testament. It’s going to happen in the New Testament. It happens in the Book of Mormon. And it happens in the Doctrine and Covenants. It’s sacred. It’s sacred. And the spirit, the experiences, that Brother Newman talked about in his family with a spirit is powerful. I was thinking about the four gospels. They were written from different perspectives of different people having experiences with the Savior. And their teachings aren’t always exactly the same, but their witnesses are sure of the Savior and of His teachings. I was thinking about their example. And thinking about our examples as Latter-day Saints and the blessings that we’re going to have this year of reading the scriptures at home, being filled with the Spirit, coming to Church and taking the opportunity to share, perhaps in a classroom setting, a thought or two that we’ve had, an impression that we’ve had, but also hoping that we could take opportunities and fast and testimony meeting to bear testimony of the witnesses to the spirit to us, as we have been reading the scriptures in our home. What a blessing that would be this coming year.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Pace, I’m grateful that you would talk about personal experiences and the personal experience that we each can have with the scriptures. And on that note, I’m interested in having each of you share a personal experience that you’ve had with the New Testament. Brother Camargo, can we start with you?
Brother Milton Camargo: Yeah, the one that comes to my mind many, many times, in fact, almost every Sunday, is when the Lord instituted the sacrament. And in Luke 22:19-20, that’s one of the reports of that. And He took bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave unto them saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” Likewise, also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” So, every time I go to sacrament meeting, I remember that and then the learning, specifically from New Testament, comes from Matthew 11. At the end of this chapter, he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So my learning, and that always comes to me, it’s an opportunity to yoke with Him as I partake of the sacrament that He instituted so that I can always remember Him. And as I do that, every Sunday, almost every single Sunday, I have that feeling and that Spirit, touching my heart and saying, “You’re good to go another week. Do better, but you can continue on.” And my willingness to take his yoke upon me, because it’s much easier walking with Him.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Thanks. Brother Newman.
Brother Jan E. Newman: Well, I just love the stories of transformation in the New Testament — specifically, Peter and Paul. How they went from, certainly Peter denying the Savior and then becoming one of the most staunch advocates in testifiers of His divinity. And the same thing with Paul and being a persecutor of the Saints to the point of, even witnessing the death of Steven. And I’ve just marveled at the fact that the Lord would choose someone like Paul who had been involved in persecuting the Saints, but He does that. He reaches in and finds people. He knows their heart and He puts them on a different path.
And the words of Paul in the New Testament are so touching as he testifies of the Savior and he’s teaching the Saints about the Savior and faith and other things. There’s one verse that stands out to me in all of the things that he wrote. And it actually ties into the Old Testament. It’s a quote from Isaiah. So here’s a man that knew the scriptures very well. But it’s in 1 Corinthians 2:9. And it says, “But as it is written,” and whenever you see that it’s usually found in another book of scripture, “But as it is written, I have not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” And I think about that often. There is such a beautiful life that awaits us, those who love the Savior, and will be faithful and true to Him. It’s described in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Celestial Kingdom. And I just love knowing that there will be a time and a place where we will be in the presence of the Lord. And we will not be able to comprehend the love and the joy and the peace that we will feel there. And so I just love that message from Paul.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Pace.
President Mark L. Pace: Thank you for this opportunity today. In John, chapter six, the Savior teaches that He is the bread of life and He says that a number of different times. Referring to it, He says, “I am that bread of life. I am the living bread.” And He taught who He was and what His mission was. And it was interesting, this scripture jumped out at me last time we were reading it and it also jumped out to me a number of years ago when I was serving as a bishop.
In those days, we would meet for opening exercises and you would have all the young men and young women there and we would have a hymn and a prayer and someone would share a message and, and I had the impression to share this scripture with these young people in my ward. Verse 66: “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” They weren’t ready to accept that He was the bread of life, that He was the Son of God. “And then Jesus said unto the Twelve, ‘Will you go, will you also go away?’ Then Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life and we believe in our sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
I shared that verse with the young people in my ward and I was impressed that it was something that they needed to know, that they needed to know for themselves, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. They needed to have their own witness of the Holy Ghost. They needed to experience their own conversion, as the Twelve did here, and others of the disciples. I love this verse. I love what it said, then. I love what it says now, because “To whom shall we go?” The Savior has the words of eternal life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, what a beautiful message. In 2018, as President Nelson was beginning his global ministry, he embarked on a worldwide ministry trip. And he started in Jerusalem, and [members of his media team] were excited to be there and we were looking forward to going to the Sea of Galilee, and so many places that we read about in the New Testament. But we were evacuated, because of some conflict in the area. And for the remainder of the year, I felt bad that I didn’t have the opportunity to walk where the Savior walked. But the next year, as we studied the New Testament in 2019, I came to realize that we don’t have to be there to walk where He walked, because we can walk as He walked. And we can do a little each day to just make an effort to be a little more like Him. It’s one of my great learnings of the New Testament.
And as we close, I’m hoping that each of you will also share what you know now. We have a tradition at the Church News podcast, we always end with the same question and we always give our guests the last word. And so I’m hoping each of you can just tell us what you know now after studying the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. And let’s start with Brother Newman, and go to Brother Camargo and end with President Pace.
Brother Jan E. Newman: The thing that I’ve always known, but even more deeply now, is that He is the Son of God. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I’m so grateful that in the mercy of Heavenly Father that He chose to restore the gospel and to reveal Himself and His son to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because anew, we have a sure witness that They live. Someone who had seen Them and experienced Their persons, Their majesty, Their holiness. And to understand, as Joseph Smith taught, the true nature of God is to have faith in Him. And without that, it’s hard to have faith in Him. If we don’t really know who He is and what His perfections are and about His being, it would be hard to have faith in Him. And so I’m grateful for the scriptures that reveal the Savior to us and that He has revealed Himself to His servants, the prophets, over the millennia. And as I strive to become more like Him, I get a vision of what He must be like, even in my imperfection of trying to become more like Him. I start to get a feel for what He is like and that has truly changed me as a person.
Brother Milton Camargo: What I have come to know more and more is the love of the Savior. The love of the Savior is something that when it touches us, you know, it touches me, I kind of opened my eyes for some things that I’ve never seen before. As I experienced His love, I can see that that is the most desirable thing like, I guess, Mormon said. We’re talking about the New Testament, but I remember Mormon now. Because really, the love of the Savior is something that transformed and can transform the world.
My testimony is that He truly loves us individually. He loves his children. He loves all of His children. With the blessing we have had to visit with some of them, I could feel that, that the Lord is no respecter of person, He loves everyone and He paid for the sins of everyone and is willing to do whatever it takes, so that we can succeed. I’ve known that He, His promises will all be fulfilled. And, of course, I’ve seen many of those being fulfilled in my lifetime and in this year, and those that were not yet fulfilled, will be fulfilled. So that is, I would say, they strengthened testimony I received from the Savior this year.
President Mark L. Pace: When I was a young boy, I remember Spencer W Kimball saying, “You can lean on my testimony until you receive your own.” And I was touched by that. With the passage of time, I didn’t need to lean on his testimony anymore. I have gained my own. President Nelson said in the October 2022 general conference, “I plead with you now to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Work for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth.”
I bear testimony of Jesus Christ. I bear testimony of His divine mission and ministry and majesty. I bear testimony of His atoning sacrifice that made possible the redemption and the resurrection. I bear testimony of the restoration of His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know this better than I have ever known it before, because of my experience reading the scriptures this year. I look forward to further blessings next year as we read the New Testament together as Latter-day Saints.
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. 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.