"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," the saying goes. We can look at something and come away with a different impression or meaning than the person standing beside us.
Perhaps it works the same with the scriptures. I've always been amazed, and sometimes frustrated, by how I can read a scripture and get a totally different meaning out of it than someone else -- if I get any meaning out of it at all.
I'm one of those few people who can say that they've read the "Quad" from cover to cover. However, I'm a very sporadic scripture reader and my success in being a daily (or even weekly) scripture reader has usually been short-lived.
I'm not good with symbolism or poetry. To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed studying Shakespeare in high school, if you gave me the choice between re-growing my 4 wisdom teeth and having them re-extracted vs. having to read and memorize Merchant Of Venice again, I might just choose the 5 minutes of excruciating physical pain over the hours of excruciating boredom. The sad part is that that's maybe not far from an exaggeration. And as for poetry, well, let's just say that the boys of my youth had to take a different approach if they wanted to romance me. At the same time, however, I can respect and appreciate the fact that certain people are mesmerized by Shakespeare or poetry.
The scriptures, for me, actually fare a little better than the above mentioned. I appreciate the historical background and symbolism behind the parables of Jesus. Nevertheless, reading the scriptures and applying them to my personal life is a struggle for me.
In the Spring 2008 issue of Dialogue, I thought that Kathleen Petty put it well when she said:
"The problem with allowing people to find their own meaning in the scriptures is that they will find their own meaning in the scriptures."
This has always been a concern of mine and since I'm the type of person who needs clear and explicit instructions, getting advice or answers from God via the scriptures is not exactly comforting. If I interpret a scripture one way and someone else another, who's right?
We had a family discussion a few days ago about vegetarianism. Some of my family members like to tease me about being a vegetarian, but I take it all in stride. So we put the scriptures to the test on the subject. Here is a good example of how it's possible for people to interpret a scripture differently and both can swear that they are right.
In D&C 89:13 it says:
“And it is pleasing unto me that they [the flesh of beasts and fowls] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.”
Now, a vegetarian would read that as they should NOT be used, and ONLY in times of winter, cold, or famine is it acceptable. (Interestingly, one source says that the comma after the word "used" was added to D&C in 1920.)
On the other hand, a meat-lover's-pizza-lover would say that they should not be used ONLY in times of winter, cold, or famine. And if this meat lover wants an even stronger argument, he can turn to D&C 49 where it says:
"And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance."
I've heard some members use this scripture as justification for vegetarianism being "evil." In my view, the problem is that they don't read further on because then it says:
"But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo be unto that man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need." (D&C 49: 20-21).
Anyways, my point is that I think it can be problematic to find an "answer" in the scriptures and know that you're right. Anyone who has an experience or opinion to share, I welcome ideas.
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