Let the Holy Spirit Guide

A Day in the Life with Pearls of Great Price

The Joy, Journey and JuxtapositionA few years ago, my daughter and I received interesting gifts from my mother-in-law:  individually canned gift oysters.  I was appreciative and intrigued by them, but for some reason I had a feeling that we should wait to “open” them. I wasn’t sure what we were waiting for exactly; I just knew that when we received them wasn’t the time, so I tucked them away with other “ocean stuff.”

Fast forward something like five years, to this week, when I discovered that today was the day to open the oysters!  I didn’t know today was the day until this morning, but when I realized it, I was sure glad I’d been given the gift and had saved it.  I was also glad for a marvelously wise Father in Heaven who knows all, and for the communication of the Holy Ghost who told me when to wait, and when to act.

My family is currently doing an astronomy unit.  In my preparations to bring the scriptures into the unit, I was studying the book of Abraham.  It occurred to me that before delving into what was revealed to Abraham, we should talk about who he was and how we came to have his revelations.  Using the Pearl of Great Price Student Manual produced by the Church, I went to make sure I had my facts straight.  In the process, I came across a statement that affected me:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith never communicated his method of translating these records. As with all other scriptures, a testimony of the truthfulness of these writings is primarily a matter of faith....”

I then thought of all the books we Latter-day Saints call scripture and it came to mind that three of the four originate with Joseph Smith:  he translated the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants is the collection of revelations received mostly by him, and the Pearl of Great Price contains his history, his translations, revisions of the Bible as revealed to him, along with the statements of our faith written by him.  I realized that I had never stopped to consider how much Joseph Smith’s hands had touched all of my core beliefs.  I guess I’d always just thought of the scriptures as, well, scripture, and accepted that in a matter-of-fact way.

As I sat pondering this, I realized that it was “Testimony Tuesday.”  (In my home we’re doing rotating daily devotionals, with recurring daily themes.)  I decided it was the perfect dual lesson; we’d diagram what all of our scriptures are and where each book came from, talk about how you really have to have a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God to accept most of our scriptures (or, if you have a testimony that these scriptures are the word of God, it must then follow that Joseph Smith was a prophet), and it would segue into Abraham and astronomy.

I sat down with my children to begin.  In a flash, by direction of the Spirit, a powerful lesson was laid out before me.  We read Matthew 13:45-46:  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:  Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

I pulled out the string of pearls my husband and children gave me for Christmas and asked the kids if they knew where pearls come from.

pearls on the halfshell

 I then pulled out the canned gift oysters and everyone watched, fascinated, as I pried open the shell and then poked and squeezed the wet, fleshy tissue of the shellfish in search of a pearl.

We talked about why pearls are so valuable.  This led to a search as to the history of pearl gathering, which sheds enormous light on Matthew 13:45-46.  Unlike gold or precious gems, pearls are not mined from the ground, nor must they be cut and polished; a pearl’s beauty is natural and needs no intervention from man.  Pearls are the only gem made by a living organism, emanating a warm luster like an inner glow rather than a cold, shiny sparkle.  In ancient times, pearls were extraordinarily rare, and finding them was difficult and dangerous. It took searching (and destroying) beds of many mollusks to collect just a few gems.  It’s written that at the height of the Roman Empire, and entire military campaign was financed by Roman general Vitellius by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings.[1] And while these days we’ve learned to culture and farm pearls, naturally occurring pearls are still rare and expensive.  It’s no wonder we refer to pearls in the way we do with phrases like “pearls of wisdom,” and that the Lord spoke of “casting pearls before swine.”[2]

So, the kingdom of heaven, meaning the kingdom of God on earth, meaning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is compared to a pearl of great price,[3] and we have a book of translations, narrations, and revelations named as such.  How, then, should we consider this book of scripture?  Why should this particular book of scripture be named “Pearl of Great Price”?

“Elder Milton R. Hunter, who was a member of the Seventy, said that the Pearl of Great Price is ‘a pearl indeed.’ He then explained the uniqueness of its sacred writings:

“’They are compacted in approximately sixty pages, but every page is dynamic and powerful. It is a wonderful book.

“’The Pearl of Great Price...contains revelations on certain subjects superior to any other scriptures or writings on those subjects found in the world...”[4]

“Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified that the Pearl of Great Price ‘contains some of the greatest revelations of God to man.’”[5]

So, that was our lesson, with all its layers. I think that having to dig out those pearls from the squishy body of the oyster made an impression that nicely demonstrated the importance and value of scripture. I recommend the object lesson.  But more than that, I want to bear my testimony that the Holy Ghost is real and that God does indeed know all. It was at least five years ago that we received those oysters and I knew I shouldn’t open them then. I could never have known I’d need them for today. And I didn’t have a real plan for our discussion this morning until this morning—it came to me, along with the reminder that I had those oysters. (And it was a miracle I could even find them! That was the Holy Ghost’s doing as well.) I know that as we seek, ask, and listen, we’ll be directed to those lessons, methods, and experiences that will mean the most and make lasting impressions.  Homeschooling is so much more effective when we partner with the Lord.

[1] Monica’s of Melbourne. (n.d.). Pearl Jewelry, The Magic of Pearls. A 2 Z of Health, Beauty and Fitness. Retrieved  March 13, 2012.  From http://health.learninginfo.org/pearl-jewelry.htm

[2] Matthew 7:6

[3] McConkie, Bruce R. (1966). Mormon Doctrine (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City, UT:  Bookcraft, Inc.

[4] Intellectual Reserve (2000). The Pearl of great Price Student Manual.