by RI Editors
Today’s forum post is integral to the life of a disciple, and simple.
Is there a right way to study the scriptures?
What is your preferred method?
Read, ponder, discuss…easy as that.
No, there isn’t a right way, if that means a universal prescription, in my opinion.
The right way for me today might differ from the right way for you. And the right way for me today might be different that the right way for me five years ago.
Today, I love to read for the story and to imagine the persons acting out the story, sort of like imagining that I can see it like a movie.
“Search, ponder and pray.”
Over time I’ve tried a number of things, from quick novel-style reading to subject study to historical settings to comparing translations, and so on.
Most of my “study” is reading, noting things that strike me on that day, and pondering those things. Sometimes I’m reminded of something else that’s on my mind (either a talk or lesson I’m preparing or a question I’m dealing with) and sometimes not.
Our family scripture reading is just that — front to back, stopping to clarify for meaning. And we tend to focus on the Book of Mormon, though once in a while we’ve ventured into other books. (Our NewTestament reading fell apart after we got through the gospels; it was really challenging to keep the kids engaged during the epistles.)
I do less and less “subject” study because I’m wary of proof texting, and even if I do, I tend to read much more than the referenced verses to try to capture context and meaning.
Sometimes I like to read the Book of Mormon in German or Spanish, just to see how we’re translating a particular word or phrase — kind of a reverse textual analysis.
Personally I like to look for broader themes in my study rather than specific moments.
I seek by asking Heavenly Father to guide me thru whatever difficulty I’m facing, then I go to topical guide that directs me to those specific scriptures and ponder how God deals with that situation and individual. I believe the Spirit needs to be involved always ~however, one must be disciplined to make the time to receive the benefit of study.
A right way? I don’t think so. I’ve used several different study tactics that I think have worked great. I always use a study journal (mine is just a cheap spiral bound notebook) to write down things that come into my mind. Reading slow helps me get really deep into the doctrines; reading fast helps me better understand context and remember similar phrases I may have heard earlier. I’ve gone start to finish through the Book of Mormon and I’ve also studied by topic. My favorite way has been to pick a color code (e.g. blue-references to Christ, purple-Atonement, green-faith, red-repentance, etc.) and then get a cheap blank copy of the Book of Mormon and mark it according to the color code with some colored pencils. (Supposedly this is also one of Elder Bednar’s favorite study methods.)
After forty years or so, I think the wind bloweth where it listeth- we can’t force it. Our scripture experience grows as we do.
I also think that those who spend less time in study because of force of circumstance are blessed to receive what they need-it’s not been my experience that the Lord diminishes His blessings when I am unable to spend time studying His words when I have been busy administering to others or performing needful tasks providing for family. Time does not equal spiritual experience.
Over the past few years I’ve discovered that I am holding my scriptures back farther to be able to focus on them, both literally and figuratively. A couple of years ago I decided to read the standard works in a year, which works out to 7 pages a day, and I added resources materials as I went along. It was phenomenal. There were many things that I saw that I hadn’t when I had been reading at a slower pace – connections made across the book or historical trends. It was truly an eye-opening experience. Then I decided to read the Book of Mormon through in one sitting. I didn’t make it. Then I realized that I didn’t have to to get the intense experience I was looking for. Then, in answer to a prayer, I read the Doctrine and Covenants last November and December, and kept a detailed journal as I went. It ended up at over 400 manuscript pages and has become a jewel to me personally. A powerful tool to improve personal revelation. Over the years I’ve had a habit of praying for guidance and then letting my scriptures fall open, and that has been enlightening many times. And I keep my scriptures as a journal, writing the date beside scriptures that come to have a revelatory meaning for me at a specific time. It is a beautiful experience to stumble across these dates in my reading or research and remember what was happening then and how the Lord reached out to teach me. I am getting ready to read through again, noting people, creating little mini-biographies of them. And there are certain books that I return to over and over, like Isaiah and Revelation, the Gospels and Moroni, Job and Genesis. And committing some to memory has allowed me to carry the thoughts with me when I can’t be sitting studying.
I’ve been struggling with the paper/digital dilemma, and I would appreciate some discussion on it as it relates to studying. What you describe , like letting your scriptures just fall open, can really only be done with the paper version, unless there’s an app that lets you search the scriptures in a roulette style!
Curious you should point that out! I tried it once with my son’s ipod. Pray, ask for guidance, touch, touch, touch, touch, touch, read. It was hard to turn my brain off while I was touch, touch, touching, because I knew what was underneath those numbers. Still, it worked, in its own funny way! Anymore, I don’t do the fall-open method quite as often, because after reading for 30 years the stories or lines tend more often to pop into my mind when I need them. Still, when I’m completely stumped or can’t remember the context very well, the fall-open method still works to stimulate my thinking. The digital age does force some adjustments!
I’m late in my reply. One way I have studied in the past to to circle any time the Godhead is mentioned- every his, he, them, Thou, and of course the names and his titles- creator, redeemer, etc. There are TONS in the BOM. Then in the BOM I look for the 3 pillars of eternity- the creation, fall and atonement. Those 3 get one color. Then I look for the 4th article of faith, with enduring to the end too. That is one color. I did that in many different set of scriptures and it gets different each time. I see more and more that I hadn’t seen before. I also have a “qualities and Attributes” color- I guess that goes with creator and redeemer, great God, etc. Start with the 12 mentioned in the Lectures on Faith- that can become a faith building experience over time.
The apostles have been known to give us ideas too. Take Elder Bednar for instance: In Oct 2006 Elder Bednar gave 2 invitations in his talk “And Nothing Shall Offend Them.” His first was to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.
Here are some helps in our study: In the Topical Guide, the word Jesus Christ takes up 18 pages of entries. The entry God has 12 pages. I encourage you to look at them and maybe you’ll learn something from just the list itself.
Here is how I study General Conference: http://becksome.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-i-study-general-conference.html
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I’ve been struggling of late in relation to the beautiful and miraculous experiences related in scripture,and my own continuing struggle with trials that leave me harrowed up and overwhelmed by anxiety regarding my families health. As I read the Book of Mormon this week alongside my son during seminary, I was struck by Alma’s comments that the peoples of the Book of Mormon had had an especial witness that would stand against them should they refuse it, and I contemplated the many answers to prayer they had received and the nature of scripture as a religious account of people’s interaction with the Lord. Such records must present a concentrated account of God’s interventions-there would be no dramatic tension in the ‘real time’ wait fro prayer to be answered. And so I was able to begin to see that it was not so much that blessings were being with-held from me, a thought which can only leave me feeling more wretched, but that it is often enduring to the point of blessing that is the experience of being human. God’s work is being brought to pass but it is a big picture, and we are pixils in the universe.
I think the fundamental truth is that scripture is there to comfort us, to enable us to see that we are not alone in an indifferent universe, and that there is a plan unfolding.
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