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Old Testament laid foundation of doctrine, covenants

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If it was important for Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem, and, in the face of peril, obtain the plates containing Old Testament scripture, then it is just as important for us today to search and study the contents of those scriptures, said Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr.

With the advent of a new year comes a change in the course of study in Sunday School. From the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history of the past year, members of the Church now turn to the Old Testament with its accounts of faith and doctrine.

"The Old Testament has more relevance to us today than it did when originally given," said Elder Samuelson of the Presidency of the Seventy and general president of the Sunday School.

"When we realize that what the ancient prophets taught in their day is now being fulfilled in our day, it gives us a sense of history, perspective and a knowledge of what is to come.

"Note the harmony and the clarity between the various volumes of scripture," he said. "There is a consistency in the teachings of the prophets in the standard works, which offers insight and understanding.

"Members of the Church today belong to a religion that started many thousands of years ago, before the worlds were made. (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:39.) The prophet Amos declared that the Lord would do nothing without revealing it first to His prophets.

"This connects us to the prophets of old, from Adam to Abraham to current-day prophets.

"The more I learn, the more my testimony grows," he said.

One of the great examples of the Old Testament, said Elder Samuelson, comes in the faith of Naaman who sought a blessing from the Prophet Elisha. As a Syrian noble, he knew prestige and privilege, yet despite this heritage he humbled himself and was eventually willing to bathe seven times in the dirty waters of the Jordan River to be healed of leprosy.

"God is a God of order," said Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy and first counselor in the general presidency of the Sunday School. "In the Old Testament we see the order of His purposes for His children. In the Old Testament is laid the foundation of doctrine and covenants for all the ages that has its culmination in this dispensation.

"The Old Testament is part of our culture," continued Elder Groberg. "It gives us some sense of the dynamics of today's problems, that these problems existed anciently and are not original to this day."

Elder Groberg cautions members to not study the Old Testament as a history book but suggests identifying doctrines and principles which are "couched in some very interesting stories."

From the Old Testament, members of the Church gain a perspective of what it means to live in this dispensation with President Gordon B. Hinckley, said Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy and second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency.

The Old Testament, he said, is something of a study in family history. "We come to know, as Lehi learned, that we are connected to the ancient prophets. These people are our fathers. The Old Testament comes alive when we realize that these are our people."

The Old Testament is also a book of solutions, said Elder Samuelson. "We see that warring factions today, who have the root of their conflict in ancient times, also have the solution to their differences in the promises to Abraham. We come to understand that attitudes of some cultures today are long-standing attitudes that existed anciently and haven't changed. Anyone who has a concept of peace in the world will have an understanding of the Old Testament."

Elder Samuelson encouraged all members to attend Sunday School and come prepared to contribute. "If members attend but make no effort to study, they will miss much.

"Sunday School is a great place to be nourished by the good word of God," he said. "If the ancients had great faith, then we can have great faith."

E-mail: shaun@desnews.com