I was doing some reading the other day and came across a statement made by Lowell Bennion many years ago. Lowell Bennion was an educator and author who was well-known in
the world as well as in the Church in his day. He has long since passed away and you may not recognize his name. Based on my own experience the little incident he shared in his book struck a chord with me as being very true and very important. Below is the passage:
"There is a doctor in Salt Lake who will only take patients over sixty-five. One time when I was teaching college students, he said, "Bennion, the saddest patients I have are not the poor and not the physically disabled, but those who didn't use their minds when they were young." He said "the body breaks down, but the mind only slows down. It gets richer as you go through life and you have more things to relate to one another, more memories, if you keep it alive, like a muscle. Don't spend all your time socializing, working, eating, sleeping. Get something intellectual in your life. Get excited about some intellectual dimension of life. Read, read, read, and think, think, think, and be creative in that role. And you will find life taking on an increasing interest even when the old body breaks down, practically, as my back is." (Lowell L. Bennion, The Best of Lowell L Bennion: Selected Writings 1928-1988, edited by Eugene England [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 35.)
When I had my accident a number of years ago, I began the process of understanding what this doctor that Lowell Bennion quoted was talking about. In a split second I completely lost the use of my physical body and all I had left was my mind and spirit. Soon after the accident the thought occurred to me that this must be very much like dying and entering the spirit world. We won't be able to take anything into the spirit world with us except what we have in our minds and in our hearts. During those first two weeks in the trauma center what a blessing it was for me to be able to indicate by blinking my eyes while family and friends pointed at items on a specially prepared chart, the scriptures I wanted read. I knew and loved the scriptures and as favorite passages were read to me by my friends and family it was a great source of comfort and peace at a really difficult and terrifying time in my life. The thought came to me then, "What if you had not searched the scriptures for so many years of your life, where would you be now?" It came forcibly to me then and has been impressed upon me even stronger during these past 13 years how important it is to constantly read the scriptures as well as other good books. I am convinced by my own experience that there are few things more important that we can do in mortality to prepare for eternity than this.
How grateful I am that I love to read good books as well as the Scriptures. Because of it, even though my physical body doesn't do much for me, my days are filled with happiness and fulfillment. At my age I feel a real sense of urgency to try to read really good things. I don't know how much time I have left here but I have a desire, perhaps greater than at any other time in my life, to search the Scriptures and other great books in an attempt to be prepared for my mission in the spirit world.
I hate to say it but we are not much of a reading people in our generation. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and so many others would put us to shame. They were voracious readers and profound thinkers and they didn't even have Google. I notice how when our family gets together the majority of the time is spent in discussing the movies and videos we have seen, but almost never does anyone talk about a great book they have read or a significant insight into the Scriptures that they have recently discovered. I don't want to appear to be fanatical regarding this, but I do believe we need to seek for greater balance in our lives. I also realize how busy everyone is going to school, working, and raising families. Time is precious and at a premium. I think however, we could all improve the quality of our lives by disciplining ourselves just a little bit more "to seek learning by study and faith out of the best books."
Take it from one who has in a sense had the opportunity of entering the spirit world that what I am saying is vitally important.