Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Treasure In The Field and Real Intent

This talk was given to a congregation in Everett, Wa on Jan 27th, 2008

When I was ten years old and starting out in the fifth grade, one of my teachers purchased a rather unusual book for her class.  The title of the book was Masquerade. On the plain cover was an embossed rabbit and inside was a children’s story which told of the misadventures of Jack Hare, a rabbit on a quest to deliver a gift from the Moon to the Sun, but who loses the gift along the way.    The introduction page contained the following verse:

Within the pages of this book there is a story told
of love, adventures, fortunes lost, and a jewel of solid gold.
To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes,
And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize.

This introduction was no idle poem.  The thing that made the book especially unique is that it really did contain clues to an actual buried treasure.  The Author, an English artist named Kit Williams, had crafted the treasure himself- it was a gold, rabbit-shaped pendant set with precious gems- and he buried it in a small town in England.  The existence of the treasure was publicly announced along with the publishing of Masquerade.   On each page of the book was an elaborate illustration showing a scene from the story and surrounded by a line of text.  The whole book was one giant puzzle, and if you could solve it, you would know where the treasure was hid.     

Of the puzzle Williams said, “The treasure is as likely to be found by a bright child of ten with an understanding of language, simple mathematics and astronomy”.   The thought that a ten-year-old could solve the puzzle is probably what inspired my teacher to purchase the book.  My classmates and I, believing ourselves to be bright 10-year-olds, were all over that book for a few days, carefully studying the pages and talking about the story and illustrations, but we didn’t make much progress.   We gradually looked at the book less and less until it was forgotten.

We weren’t the only ones.  Millions of other people examined the same book.   Isn’t it interesting the motivation that can come from a little knowledge?  Had there been no actual treasure, the book would have been just another children’s book, with nowhere near the same attention.

Most of the people who read the book had similar results to my classmates and me.  But some were much more determined than we were.  They stayed at the book for years until at last the riddle was solved and the treasure was discovered.  The difference, I think, is that they truly believed they had a real chance at discovering the location of a real buried treasure.  Whereas, in the minds of me and my classmates, we eventually just stopped believing we could find it.  

Hidden knowledge

This story is a useful illustration to us as members of the church, because the kingdom of God can be thought of as a hidden treasure. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; [for which a man]  for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”  (Matt 13:44)  Notice what the savior said: the man bought the field, not the treasure itself.  The man is overjoyed simply to own the field.  Presumably, this is because he believes he will find the actual treasure later. I will return to this idea, but first, I want to show that there are multiple witnesses in the scriptures which testify to the fact that there are indeed great treasures hidden from us, but which the Lord intends for us to find:

In Psalms we read “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Ps. 51: 6)

Paul said to the Corinthians “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2: 7)

John wrote in the Book of Revelation “He that hath an ear, let him hear … To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna” (Rev. 2: 17)

In the revelation Joseph Smith received concerning those who inherit the Celestial Kingdom, the Lord says, “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old…” (D&C 76: 7)

The character of those sacred things hidden from us is quite unique.  Many of the mysteries of God are right in front of us, in plainness, but we are in a spiritual sleep and do not recognize what they are.  Like the man who purchased the field, we may know that what we want is out there, we just haven’t figured out where to dig, or maybe we don’t even know what we are digging for.  This fact, that we can be missing great things in our plain view, is also evidenced in the scriptures.  For example:

Amulek whom we read about in the Book of Mormon, was a member of the church in high reputation, but he did not know the things of God.  He said, “... I have seen much of [God’s] mysteries and his marvelous power; … Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart” (Alma 10: 6)

Nephi taught that we don’t receive all of the gospel at once.  He wrote “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little;” (2 Ne. 28: 30)  In other words, we learn the gospel incrementally, building on what we have learned before. 

When His disciples asked Jesus why he taught in parables, He said, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matt. 13: 11)

Said another way, the gospel is presented plainly to us and may be “found” just as one might find a piece of property and recognize it as something that is good and choice.  However, while we may plainly recognize the goodness of what we have found, the actual treasure, or fruit of the gospel, is hidden and must be discovered with persistence and effort, similar to how a treasure in a field must be found through persistence and effort. 

Do you believe this?  Do you believe there is more for you to learn and discover in the gospel?   Do you believe that you can discover it?

The Field

Let’s take the scriptures, and let’s liken them to a field containing a hidden treasure.  So, Imagine that you have purchased a 100-acre parcel of land (that’s about 75 football fields). Now imagine that you’ve purchased it because you’ve learned that someone buried a vast trove of diamonds somewhere in the property, but you don’t know where.   How would you go about finding those diamonds?    Well, a logical beginning would be to survey the property.  This could be accomplished by walking back and forth to get a feel for the land and to make notes of interesting locations.  Maybe you’ll find an old house, a mound of earth, or a well.   You might also study who has lived on the land, where they lived, or what other people have written about it.  Eventually, however, you would want to start digging in carefully chosen locations in order to actually find and recover the diamonds. 

Questions:  What if, every day, for years, you spent 15 minutes walking back and forth along your property, carefully surveying and taking notes, but did nothing else?   With the treasure hidden somewhere under the surface, could you ever expect to find it?   Of course you couldn’t, you would have to dig for it.  And yet, too often, this is how we approach the study of the scriptures.  We may casually read parts of the holy word; we may read the standard works all the way through; we might even read them through cover-to-cover nine times and think that this qualifies us to understand them, but in reality, when we simply read, all we have done is made a survey.   Now, this kind of surveying is important and necessary, but if surveying is all that we ever do, we cannot hope to obtain the kingdom of God.  We have to dig.  We have to dig in many places.  And we have to dig deeply.  

It may interest you to know the manner in which the leaders of our church study their scriptures.   President Duce recently examined the remarks of the brethren to determine how they go about their personal study and discovered that all of them study by topic- they pick something that they’ve been pondering and praying about and then search for it in the scriptures.   (Indeed, the term “search” is used by the Savior himself when exhorts us to read the scriptures. (John 5: 39))  In addition to searching, the brethren keep a journal and write down the things that they learn, this helps them remember it so they can internalize what they have read and practice it.  This is what is meant by digging:  strenuous mental effort translated into real works.

I would like to relate to you a personal story concerning my conversion to this principle.  A few years ago, I was in a spiritual haze.  You would not have know it from looking at me.   My family life was good, I was active in church, serving in my calling.  And yet looking back, I see that I was asleep to the promises of God.  I was unaware of the enormity and magnitude of the gospel.  I felt at the time, after 35 years in the church, that I had learned most of what the gospel had to teach me.   About that time, President Duce introduced his first stake focus.   As I recall, it the focus was to “Draw nearer to Jesus Christ through daily study of the scriptures.”   This struck a chord in me and I felt inspired to study the scriptures as I had never done before.    I started by sharing my goal with some close friends and we formed a study group over email.  We picked a new gospel topic each week and would find out whatever we could, and at the end of the week, we would write a summary of what we found and share it with the others.  This did not take a lot of my time, just 20-30 minutes each day, yet gradually, week by week, I’ve been able to accumulate over 300 little essays containing my thoughts and spiritual impressions on a wide variety of gospel topics.  This has changed my life and my entire outlook on the gospel.   I can testify that searching in addition to reading the scriptures makes a night-and-day difference as to what we can get out of them.  There really are hidden treasures in there, and there isn’t any other way to get them out.


Our search of the scriptures would not be complete, of course, without prayer.  Prayer is the grand key for unlocking the knowledge God wants us to have.  Consider these words from Moroni:

And when ye shall receive these things (the scriptures), I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  (Moro. 10: 4)

Prayer is means for recognizing truth.  Through prayer we may recognize the treasures of the gospel when we find them.  Through prayer, we are comforted when things seem too hard.  Through prayer, our insight is expanded and we are enabled to accomplish whatever the Lord asks of us.  And not just any prayer- Moroni describes the required character of prayer very clearly:

  1. We must have a Sincere Heart – This means we must be honest.  We need to pursue truth because inside we really want it.
  2. We must pray with Real Intent – This means that we pray with the intent that we will do whatever the Lord reveals to us.  We cannot reserve our decision until we like what the Lord says.  We need to have it in our minds that we will follow no matter what the direction is.
  3. We must have Faith in Christ – Faith is shown by our works.  Having faith in Christ means that we will demonstrate our belief by actually doing the things we believe we should. 

If we desire to find that which is hidden, we need help from God.  This help comes in the form of revelation and revelation comes in answer to sincere prayer as Moroni has described- prayer with real intent.  

Nephi, after giving a great discourse on the gospel of Jesus Christ said this, “Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.” (2 Ne. 32: 4)

We are to both ask and knock. We ask by praying and expressing our desires to God.  Knocking is an action- it signifies doing.  For our prayers to be meaningful there must be a component of doing something.

I want to stress here that prayer with real intent is the key to receiving knowledge.   Our personal study of the scriptures would be meaningless without it.    The pattern is to study, seek revelation, and then do.  Line-upon-line, this is how we build our faith in Jesus Christ into the knowledge in which we are saved.  (See D&C 131: 6)

Stake Focus

We have recently updated the focus of our stake.  This focus has been prepared by the Presidency of our stake under inspiration.  It is to serve as a guide for the local members of the church as they serve in their callings and strive to improve themselves spiritually.  The focus for our stake is:

Increasing faith in Jesus Christ
by studying the scriptures daily
and praying with real intent.

This is revelation given expressly to us through our leader who holds priesthood keys.  As we prepare lessons and talks, as we give family home evenings and hold family prayers, as we seek to draw closer to our Father in Heaven- if we will keep this focus in mind and rally together behind it, we, as a stake and as individuals, will surely be blessed.  

I encourage you to write this focus down, remember it, and teach it to your families and to those over whom you have stewardship.   We will increase our faith in Jesus Christ by studying scriptures daily and praying with real intent.     


Brothers and sisters, let us cast our minds back to the family of Lehi.  You’d think being the child of a prophet, you’d have it made, and yet, we have before us the sad story of Laman and Lemuel, who, though they were well taught, affiliated with the church and acquainted with its customs, decided in the end to rebel.   Lehi, at the end of his life, pleaded with his sons to “wake up”, implying that they were asleep somehow to what he had been teaching them.   They had ears to hear, but they would not hear. 

Laman and Lemuel stand as a warning to you and I, even the members of the church, that we can be asleep to the realities of the gospel.   Modern-day prophets have said that too many of us live “far beneath” our spiritual privileges.  It is possible to come to church each Sunday, serve in a calling, and go through the motions of worship, but yet be spiritually asleep.  The first step to coming out of this spiritual sleep is to build our faith in Jesus Christ by diligently seeking Him in the scriptures and by praying to the Father with real intent, which means that we will do whatever He requires us to do through the spirit.   This is, and will remain, our stake focus for the next few years.  May we all take it to heart and rise to the challenge before us.  As we make the effort, the spirit will guide us and the Lord will sustain us and we will succeed.