Ways to Study the Scriptures

“I have read the Book of Mormon (or other scripture) 5 (10, 20, 50, 100) times. I pretty much know all of it by now, so I don’t see much point in reading it again.” 

I don’t hear this kind of reasoning very often, but I do occasionally run into versions of it (sometimes in my own thoughts, even!!).

 

Another lesson on Lehi’s dream??”
I get it – Laman and Lemuel murmured a whole lot.”
“If someone quotes 1 Ne 3:7 again, I will scream! ” 

(No, I haven’t personally thought/felt those things. In fact, I recently wrote an article on 1 Ne 3:7: hope you don’t scream if I post it on the blog!)

I firmly believe we can never be “done” studying the scriptures, not in this life anyway. Sure, we can probably go overboard in the amount of time we spend studying the scriptures (reading straight for fifteen hours a day, ignoring work, family, etc), but how many people actually do that??? The majority of us are struggling to get in fifteen minutes of scripture study a day!

Although I’m not going to delve into all the reasons I believe we’re never “done” studying the scriptures, I will mention two. One: The scriptures change as we change – we notice different scriptures at different times in our lives because our lives are different. Two: Heavenly Father (if we let him) communicates with us through the scriptures, and he is a master at bringing hidden things into light.

When we are tempted to feel “done” with the scriptures, one way to overcome that temptation might be to change how we approach the scriptures. I’m not talking so much about our attitude toward the scriptures (though that’s definitely important, too!), but our actual approach in reading and studying the word. Maybe we come to find we were just tired of reading the scriptures the same way all the time!

Right now, for example, I am reading the Book of Mormon from beginning to end, page by page. I like it, and it’s definitely something I do a lot. I have a notebook and pen handy (something I’ve only done on one entire read-through before): makes a huge difference! Especially when I am scrounging for things to post on this blog…

But there are plenty of other ways to study the scriptures, and techniques to enhance that study. Below, I list several – maybe you want to try a few? Some of these I found online, others I thought of myself.

-Read by topic. One way to do this is by using the Bible Dictionary.

-Outline events and people. Looking at a sequence of events, for example, might help us identify repeating patterns. (The Book of Mormon pride-cycle comes to mind!)

-Read the last chapter (of the entire Book of Mormon, of Alma…) and keep reading “backward” by chapter. Reading backward by verse could be interesting, too, but also a little confusing!

-Prepare “talks,” referencing the scriptures. When we have to explain a topic (e.g. faith), we sometimes realize we don’t understand it as well as we thought. (or don’t live it as we ought!!)

-In addition to reading the standard works, read the words of the living prophets – they are scripture, too! Studying the General Conference issues in the Ensign/Liahona can also direct our “standard” scripture study. After we read a talk, for example, we can deepen our insight about the topic by searching for related information in the scriptures. You may remember Elder Bednar’s talk about “the tender mercies of the Lord” a few years ago: though the phrase is straight out of the Book of Mormon, many of us had never really paid attention to it before. Going back to the scriptures to look up every reference to “tender mercies” would be a great way to honor Elder Bednar’s talk.

-Color code scriptures by subject.

-Reference the footnotes, and reference scriptures to each other.

-Record notes and thoughts in the margins, on post-it notes, and/or in a spiritual journal.

-Use study guides – some are even available online. (You can find the Book of Mormon Institute guide here, for example)

-Memorize scriptures

-Search for connections, patterns, and themes.

-Ask yourself questions about what you’re reading. (e.g. Why did Laman and Lemuel murmur so much?)

-Dissect each verse.

-Highlight two (and only two) words in each verse – that way, you have to think about which words to highlight and why. (you might want to do this in a cheap copy rather than in your regular scriptures…)

All right, I think that’s enough for now. After I finish the Book of Mormon this time around, I plan to try out a few of these. I hope you do, too!

Do you have a favorite way of studying the scriptures? What approaches have you employed in your scripture study?