About Daryl M. Williams
I am a commercial trial lawyer who began practicing law in 1976 following graduation as a member of the charter class of BYU’s law school. My wife and I were married in 1971 and have had three children, a son and two daughters. Our son died from complications following hernia surgery in 2006. It was a devastating experience for us, but we are continuing to survive what should not have happened.
My son had a son who was two years old when his father died. He does not remember him, of course. We have four other grandchildren from our eldest daughter who is married to a wonderful man. My youngest daughter was born in 1980 and is unmarried. All of my posterity are faithful in their obligations to the Church, so my wife and I are truly blessed.
This blog is actually at be behest of my son-in-law. I have been a student of the scriptures for many years and propose to publish some important books as a result of my study. Meanwhile, my son-in-law thought it would be profitable for my family and others, perhaps, to have the benefit of my conclusions after my many years of study. In other words, the blogs I will publish are part of a much larger work commenced years ago as part of my individual scripture study. Overall, this larger work has gone through several stages of development and bears, as a result, the marks of a somewhat inconsistent approach, but an attempt has been made to make this part of the work more cohesive and readable.
Some comments about the larger work, though, are in order. My serious study of the scriptures started during my college years when I was called to be the gospel doctrine teacher at a BYU ward. I prepared studiously, keeping copious notes, typed on a portable, manual typewriter, which I indexed and attempted to cross-reference. I wanted to preserve my work for later reflection, and I wanted the benefit of my work as a resource for future study. The course of study was the New Testament, and beginning with that effort I always thought to write a comprehensive and comparative commentary on the scriptures for my personal use.
My first year of law school in 1973 was the first time in my life that I studied anything so consistently and carefully. The law was very demanding, and I worked hard. One evening I was tired of studying the law of torts in my basement study, so I closed my casebook, a hornbook on the law of torts, an outline of torts, Black’s Law Dictionary, Webster’s Dictionary, put away my class notes, put away my study notes, and put away the 3×5 index cards on which I wrote vocabulary words. I picked up my triple combination and went upstairs, thinking I would study the scriptures because I felt guilty that I had not really studied them since my mission. I climbed the stairs and walked through the kitchen on my way to the living room. My wife asked what I was doing, so I told her I had decided to study the scriptures. She asked if I ought to be studying the law instead.
I am not sure what she meant, and I am not sure what I said to her, but I sat down in the living room of our small house to study. My son came crawling over to me. I picked him up and put him in my lap and said, “Let’s study the scriptures, Jeremy.” I began reading the Book of Mormon, tracing the words with my finger as I read them aloud to my son. It did not take long before I realized an incongruity. I had been ensconced in my study studying the law a few minutes before, but now I was in the living room with my son in my lap telling him we were studying the scriptures?
It was too incongruous. I put my son down and walked back through the kitchen toward the basement door. My wife, again, asked what I was doing, and I told her, again, that I was going to study the scriptures, but I added that I was really going to study them.
Sitting at my desk in the basement, I opened up the Book of Mormon. I did not have any reference or text books about the scriptures, so I pulled down Webster’s Dictionary, got out my notepad, and put that stack of 3×5 cards near me. I then read the most well-read scripture in the church, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents . . . .” I realized I had no idea what goodly meant. I knew it did not mean good, because it was spelled differently. Like a law student, therefore, I looked up the word.
It was revelatory. Goodly does not mean good; it means “pleasantly attractive or significantly large or considerable.” As I parsed the meaning of this obscure word, even using the Oxford English Dictionary, it became clear that Nephi was born of rich parents, so he was able to be educated, probably sent away to Egypt for his education. I wrote goodly on a 3×5 card, and thus began my real study of the scriptures.
The vagrancy of a law school gave way to the demands of a career, so my nascent commentary on the scriptures was relegated to a time when leisure would return or efficiency could be enhanced. More leisure has never returned, but the computer brought efficiency. I was called again to be a gospel doctrine teacher midway through a year on the Book of Mormon, so I renewed my conversion of weekly lessons to commentary. A year studying the Doctrine and Covenants and church history followed before being released, and my work was well underway. I started to teach seminary, what seemed like a daunting task and time commitment, because of the encouragement of a great friend, John C. Ogden; figuring that his time constraints were probably greater than mine, I undertook the commitment.
Providence shines on volunteer seminary teachers because they are exempted from many meetings and undertakings that otherwise consume their leisure time, so I was able to spend the time I wanted on my study of the scriptures and the ongoing addition to what has become an exegesis. I expanded my study to include a broad range of material both in and out of the church. I prepared for seminary classes by adding to my work, but the curriculum and demands of a daily lesson required me to leave for later study and thus incomplete many things I wanted to investigate further.
After four years as a seminary teacher the blessing of unconstrained, individual study returned, so I began a program of early-morning study for at least an hour each day, too little time, really, for my purposes, but very rewarding. This is a practice I have maintained, because I want to know and understand the scriptures—meaning, in this context, the standard works of the church—and, thereby, have my own views, opinions and understanding of them. Too many, it seems to me, parrot the opinions of others and lack the necessary background and familiarity with the scriptures to discuss them in depth. Study of the scriptures requires scholarship. Intense study. Comprehensive knowledge. Discipline. It is a cumulative process.
The inconsistency of my approach to my exegesis is the result of an increasing sophistication that has come with my study of the scriptures over time. What began as just thoughts, sometimes superficial, matured and continues to mature as the depth of the scriptures have been and are plumbed.
There is a general approach to my scripture study. It can be characterized as historical, but it is wrong to view to think of it as an historical approach; rather, I have attempted to understand the mise-en-scene and perspective of both the writer and the audience for the scriptures when they were written, without which it is not possible to understand the original intention conveyed to the original audience.
Stylistic elements of the writing, including imagery and figures of speech and rhetorical devices, are essential because the presentation of divinely illuminated thoughts are shaped by the stylistic forms used in the day. Only when the original message is gleaned can one confidently and appropriately embark on any likening to present-day applications.
My ongoing study has been revelatory for me. The following part of Joseph Smith’s letter to the saints and his wife, Emma, dated March 20, 1839, explains this revelatory process as it warns against fanciful talk and traditional interpretations of the scriptures and doctrine
A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.
Joseph Smith said what every serious student knows. Knowledge comes from hard work, stretching the mind, not merely taking what someone else says about the subject as right or just asking for revelation. The Lord admonished Oliver Cowdery in a way that should inform all of students of the scriptures:
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
This admonition is a reprise of what the Lord told Oliver Cowdery when he so wanted to translate, but he missed what is bolded in the Lord’s grant of his wish:
Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit. Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
Almost everyone loses sight of an essential fact about acquisition of knowledge when it comes to the gospel. They forget that they must stretch their minds and work diligently. The faithfulness required is the faithfulness of working at it. Study. Research. Thought. Work. The epiphany does not come without the foundation of knowledge first. Almost everyone reading the foregoing scripture separate what is an hendiadys: in your mind and in your heart, joined by a conjunction and describe the same thing; heart has been a metaphor for the mind until the twentieth century or so.
The work-at-it approach to revelation has sometimes seemed at odds with the admonition of the church leaders to just teach what is in the lesson manuals and the ostracism I have seen of people, pejoratively called intellectuals, who have ideas provoked by their study. I have resolved this problem by distinguishing between those who study from the presumption of truth rather than those who are skeptics of the truth. I put myself in the former group. Young children learn about the world around them by accepting what they see and experience as truth until it is disproved to them. The skeptic is not like this little child. The skeptic demands that a truth be proven to him, which it never can be, before he can accept it. The skeptic’s study does not lead to the truth; it leads to a negative view of life and the world and the gospel. The child-like approach leads to a positive view of the gospel, the world, and life: the truth.
Sir Francis Bacon wrote a worthwhile book on learning to King James I in ad 1605 where he wrote, “opertet discentum credere [quod] opertet edoctum judicare. I have written this credo on the flyleaf of my triple combination. It means that the learner should believe what he is taught, but the learned should exercise judgment. Sir Francis, also, wrote, “[D]isciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief and a suspension of their own judgment til they be fully instructed.”
I have continued to study and mature, and I have continued to have a better basis for my own judgment as I have become more fully instructed.
At some point I determined that there should be a grander purpose for this work than merely a personal reference: I decided this would be a trove for my children and, perhaps, their posterity. Perhaps, this work will help them appreciate and study for themselves the great truths of the restored gospel, and, perhaps, reading this they can have some advantage that will enable them to understand and know more about the scriptures than I.
For my children, there is an added hope. I am in this book. In his Areopagitica John Milton wrote:
For books are not absolutely dead things, but . . . do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. . . . Many a man lives a burden to the Earth; but a good Book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
What I hope to do is preserve something for my children and my posterity that will be of worth to them as they study the gospel. Edward Gibbon wrote, “The style of an author should be the image of his mind, but the choice and command of the language is the fruit of exercise.” Both my mind and the fruit of much exercise will be reflected in this blog just as it is in my exegesis. My exegesis will never be complete because my study of the scriptures is ongoing. And I wonder about the wisdom of accepting something I may have said three years ago.
I hope you enjoy my blog and are provoked by it. Let me know if you think I am wrong. I tell people I have strong opinions that are loosely held. I have changed a lot of my views over the years as I have gained more knowledge. I expect I will continue to change.