5 short scripture verses that say more than you think

Every once in a while, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints find themselves in a position where they are spontaneously asked to share a spiritual message. As has been said, “when the time for performance arrives, the time for preparation is past.”[i] As a youth, I overcame this dilemma by memorizing the shortest scriptures I could find to have ready at a moment’s notice. Now as an adult, I’ve found that many of these scriptures are actually quite profound.

Below is just a sample of some of the short but meaningful scriptures I have come across in study throughout my life and as I searched for hidden gems over the past few weeks for this post.

(1) Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot's wife.”

While speaking to the Pharisees regarding the Second Coming, Christ inserts this brief, enigmatic comment. The verse makes reference to the story in Genesis when, while leaving the crumbling, wicked city of Sodom, Lot’s wife turned to look back and “became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). But why did Christ say this and what does it have to do with the Second Coming? Given Christ’s skill with language and discourse, we can only assume this verse has multiple meanings (and I could probably spend the rest of this post discussing the possibilities); but at least one lesson we can take from this verse is how important it is for our hearts to be in the right place when the end comes. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back.”[ii] In answer to the Pharisees’ original question, then, which was really about the timing of the Second Coming, Christ seems to be saying, “It doesn’t matter so much when it will happen; all that matters is which direction you are facing when it does.” So when the Savior does return, where will our hearts be? Will we be seeking and facing Him, desiring to enter His rest? Or will we, like Lot’s wife, look longingly on the things of the world and resent the Lord for making us leave them behind? The answer to that question may mean the difference between salvation and destruction. And all the Lord needed to teach that lesson was three simple words.

(2) 1 Nephi 13:22, “And I said unto him: I know not.”

After the prophet Lehi recounts his vision of the tree of life to his family (see 1 Nephi 8), his son Nephi also desires to see the vision. Nephi’s desire is answered a few chapters later with four subsequent chapters in which the Spirit of the Lord shows Nephi not only the tree of life but also essentially the entire story of the earth from Christ’s birth to the modern day. As a missionary trying to develop my teaching, I noticed that the Spirit teaches Nephi primarily by asking questions. While that’s a good lesson, what has struck me more recently is Nephi’s humility and teachability in responding to those questions. More than once, his answer is “I don’t know.” As an academic, I think about that humility in the context of our world of “the learned [who] think they are wise” (2 Nephi 9:28), and it is a powerful reminder that admitting ignorance is really the only way to ensure continued learning. Related to spiritual things, those who claim to know everything already live in danger of missing out on some of the most profound and meaningful principles that God has to offer us. On the other hand, if we desire to learn and admit what we do not yet know, we have the promise that “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19).

(3) 1 Chronicles 1:25, “Eber, Peleg, Reu,”

This is just one example of the many short verses in the standard works that seem to provide no more information than a few names of people who appear no where else in scripture. I must confess I usually skip over these genealogical lists during my personal study. But whenever I do, I have to pause to ask myself, why did someone find this important enough to add it to scripture? The answer I most frequently come to is that the Lord really cares about family history. Perhaps these specific names are not very relevant for me as an individual, but they were to someone, and they certainly are to God. Searching for our ancestors and knowing our family history not only provide a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives, but also provide the basis we need to perform sacred, saving ordinances on their behalf that “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). I’m grateful that these simple scriptures are there to remind us of that.

(4) Alma 18:27, “And he said, Yea.”

In this verse, we have King Lamoni’s concise answer to Ammon as he first begins to teach the king and asks, “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” (Alma 18:26). I have frequently heard people reference the scriptures around this verse as an example of building on common beliefs when teaching others the gospel; and certainly, that is an excellent lesson we can take from this story. At the same time, if we focus on Ammon’s teaching approach and only skim over Lamoni’s response, I think we may miss another important principle—the power of man’s innate belief in a supreme creator. Coming to this earth through the veil of forgetfulness, we may not remember our premortal childhood, but God has not left us completely alone. In addition to sending prophets and His Spirit as guides, He has instilled in us a belief in Him that can drive us to seek Him. For Lamoni, this innate belief was not only the beginning of his own personal conversion, but also the basis for the conversion of his entire household and most of his kingdom. This story takes on even more significance when contrasted with another passage later in the Book of Mormon, in which Alma asked Korihor a similar question and Korihor simply “answered, Nay” (Alma 30:38). After asking for a sign and being struck dumb, we learn that Korihor allowed himself to be deceived by the Adversary and, as a consequence of his disbelief and actions to lead others astray, he ultimately loses everything he has and meets an untimely demise. So while we all begin with the same inborn belief, the key is to not subdue that belief before it has time to blossom.

(5) John 11:35, “Jesus wept”

To my knowledge, this is the shortest verse in all of scripture. In spite of that, it is probably the most significant of the five listed here, since it provides one of the more poignant illustrations in recorded scripture of the love and compassion of the Savior. The verse appears following Christ’s arrival to Mary and Martha’s home, who had sent for Jesus days earlier to heal Lazarus, their brother and one of Jesus’ dear friends. But Lazarus died before Christ’s arrival, leaving Mary, Martha, and the other Jews to mourn his loss. Arriving at the scene, Jesus also wept and, seeing Christ’s emotion, the Jews assumed he was sorrowful because of the loss of a friend. They remarked, “Behold how he loved him!” (John 11: 36). But the Jews’ assumption was not quite correct. While Jesus certainly loved Lazarus, he did not mourn his death. On the contrary, we know from earlier verses that Christ not only knew before arriving that Lazarus had died, but had purposely delayed his coming, “that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). In other words, Jesus purposely waited until Lazarus was dead so that he could raise him back to life as a symbol of His own, imminent resurrection. Given that, why did Jesus weep? In Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage explains, “the sight of the two women so overcome by grief, and of the people wailing with them, caused Jesus to sorrow, so that he groaned in spirit and was deeply troubled.”[iii] What compassion and sympathy must Christ have had for Mary and Martha to weep with them, knowing as He did what would soon occur! I believe our Savior similarly mourns when any of His other brothers or sisters suffers. Even though He can see the end from the beginning, and ultimately knows the blessings that are in store for His followers, when we encounter pain or heartache in this life, Christ feels our pain and is there to comfort us.

This list just goes to show that, if you’re studying the right way, you can find hidden gems just about anywhere in the scriptures. What are some unexpected treasures you’ve discovered? Share your own short scriptures in the comments!

Joseph Harrison is the proud father of an adorable little girl and the husband of an incredible and accomplished wife. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration and worked for several years in management consulting before coming to Texas A&M, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in strategic management. His passions include his family, the scriptures, serving others, teaching, and college football. His favorite teams include Clemson and Texas A&M -- Go Tigers & Gig 'em Ags!

[i] Thomas S. Monson, Our sacred priesthood trust.
[ii] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Remember Lot’s wife”: Faith is for the future.
[iii] James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Chapter 28: The last winter, p. 459.


  1. When a my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon is where Nephi says "And my father dwelt in a tent." When I was younger, I didn't understand why that verse was included. As I read it more, I realized what a wonderful thing it was. Lehi was a very wealthy man in Jerusalem. That he dwelt in a tent shows how he humbled himself before the Lord.

  2. I love this article. Thanks for your insight Joseph!