There is something for everyone in this blog. From short easy ways to study the scriptures to long and in-depth pondering. Sit tight, and look for what speaks to you.
When I was younger I was taught to read my scriptures daily. That includes the whole Standard Works: Bible (OT and NT), The Book of Mormon-Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, along with modern General Conference Talks by Prophets, Apostles, and General Church Authorities.
So, I began reading and studying my scriptures at the age of 13 to 14, thanks to the example of my older sister, Kalley, who read her scriptures every night. Since I shared a room with her we couldn’t go to sleep until she was done. One night, feeling frustrated that I had to wait for her, I gave her a hard time. She said to me, “You should read your scriptures too.” After a few moments of feeling angry, upset, and resentful, my conscience spoke very clearly to me and it was emphasized by the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I should read my scriptures. I could have ignored it. But, I chose to listen to the still, small voice.
At that time, I assumed a front-to-back reading of the Standard Works. You know, start at page one and read, in order, to the end. And, as a young teenager, that worked for me. I was still at that age where during family scripture study, if my mom dared try and stop and have a cool doctrinal discussion, I would grunt, groan, and urge her to move on so we could “wrap it up.” (Sorry Mom!)
But, very soon, as a high school freshman, I started early morning Seminary. This is a 40-50 minute early morning scripture study course, which is free, and which is open to all (members and non-members alike) IF you are willing to get up before 6:00 a.m. and get there on time prepared to hasten off to high school immediately after.
In Seminary, I was led through the scriptures almost chapter by chapter. My mother happened to be my Seminary teacher for my first three years, and she taught me with her passion and her own deep study, how to look a lot deeper at what at the time had still been a lot of black-and-white pages. I began to see from Seminary how the scriptures fit into God’s plan. I saw how the stories taught me about how God works with His children. I saw covenants that I was making as a young member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being made by people from a time in the world I didn’t think I could relate to. Suddenly, I could relate.
Light bulbs began to go off in my mind and in my heart (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3). The Holy Ghost began to work with me. He began to teach me then how to study my scriptures. And, He’s still teaching me. I learn more about how to study God’s word every single day.
And, that’s the key. It’s the Holy Ghost that instructs each of us how best to study for our lives and our needs. You need Him to guide you in what’s most effective for you. My mom didn’t actually ever teach me how to study my scriptures. People at church didn’t teach me how. No mortal actually can. It takes your desire and your efforts PLUS the Holy Ghost to learn how to study the scriptures in a way that will change you into something better. That’s how you get the most out of it, by getting a personalized guidebook from a member of the godhead.
However, suggestions help. You can try them and then the Holy Ghost can help you tweak them just for you.
But, before you study the scriptures you have to have a strong motive. I mean, after all, what’s the point? Why read when you can watch videos or pick up a host of other much more easy to read and interesting books? You have to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If you don’t know, then you need to figure it out, otherwise, there simply isn’t sufficient motivation.
Some people read because it’s a commandment from God (D&C 1:37-38). Some people read because they are list checkers. They feel better about themselves for being able to check off something good. Some people read because they see it as a way to earn blessings or grace, or to avoid consequences and condemnation.
While none of these are bad reasons, they aren’t going to keep you going for long, or they certainly won’t help you be consistent; and they certainly will not magically create effective study. If you want to get a lot out of reading God’s word, you’ve got to establish a sincere, heartfelt desire as your motivation.
For me, reading my scriptures is about three very important things:
- Getting to know God so that I can have eternal life (John 17:3)
- and by consequence coming to truly know myself
- Understanding how He works, how His plan works, and where I am in that plan
These are my motivators. I can’t come to know God without learning how He speaks, directs His people, shows mercy, blesses, curses, guides, etc. Sure, I can pray and stuff, but He isn’t going to reproduce answers for me about Him and His plan that He’s already put at my fingertips.
The more I come to understand God, the more I recognize about myself. It’s amazing all the things you can discover about yourself as you come to know God. He reveals them to you as fast as you are willing and able to stomach them. It leads to deep peace. It leads to firm faith. It leads to joy.
God’s plan for His children is everywhere in the scriptures. If you don’t understand it, you will never understand life. That’s because “life is the plan.”
So, if you need a boost to get going, here are some ways you can practice, or try out, studying your scriptures. If you try them prayerfully, you will figure out which ways the Spirit is best able to communicate to you. Then, He will instruct you further on how to get the most out of reading your scriptures.
Suggestions for Studying Your Scriptures
- Try to read all of the Standard Works front-to-back at least once. If you’ve not read them all at least once, do it. Context is important.
- Don’t commit yourself to a certain number of pages per day. Instead, commit yourself to read until something stands out to you. Then stop, and ponder what stood out to you.
- Read the scriptures with a narrow focus and choose only one focus at a time:
- Look for only those verses that talk about covenants
- Look for only those verses that talk about God’s love for His children
- Look for only those verses that talk about grace (whether using the actual word grace or whether it’s there when you see between the lines)
- Look for only those verses that talk about women
- Look for only statements of truth/doctrine
- Look for how God deals/works with/instructs/ His children, etc.
- When you find these focused verses, STOP and ponder what they mean and apply them to your life
- Write down what you learn (or else you will forget)
- Memorize. Read each day until you find a verse you want to commit to memory (at least for that day/night).
- Keep a journal of them. Write down the verse.
- After you commit it to basic memory, write down how you feel about the verse and why you chose it.
- Are you a music person? Then start at the front of the hymnbook. Each and every hymn has scriptures at the bottom. Use both the words of the hymn and the accompany scriptures to learn more about the power and truth behind that hymn.
- Sing it to yourself
- Read it to yourself
- Write down what lines from the hymn stick out to you and why
- Teach yourself how to lead it, as if you were leading a choir.
- What words would you have them sing loud? Soft? Intense? Joyful?
- Record why you would have them sing certain lines certain ways.
- Study to assist you in your own life. Do you have an illness? Are you depressed? Are you without work? Do you struggle to find the money to buy food? Do you have temptations and desires you simply can’t seem to fight another day?
- Read the Standard Works looking for others who share your same struggles.
- Record who they are and what their issues are, how they dealt with it, how they were blessed or cursed based on their choices
- Record how you saw God work with them
- What was He trying to teach them?
- How was He trying to bless them? What help did He offer?
- Was His help accepted and recognized? Or rejected and resented?
- Study with a need for a blessing, trait, or power. STOP reading when you come upon verses that speak to you about this need. Write down the inspiration and guidance you receive for that need. Then, MAKE PLAN and PRAY FOR UNDERSTANDING on how to act on and implement this inspiration in your time of need.
- You want to have more faith
- You want to have more patience
- You want to be prepared and able to make and keep temple covenants
- You want to strengthen your marriage
- You want to understand how to better teach your children
- Read a chapter or story as if you have to teach it to others (see a video on this here)
- Read to find a daily quote. Then, STOP, and write that sentence or phrase down. Write it in your own words!
- Hang the quote on your fridge or front door
- Find a way to share it with at least a few other people during that day (or the next if you read at night)
- Share it on social media testifying why you know it’s true and how you plan to make it a part of your life that day (application is important)
- Read to serve. Immersing yourself in God’s word is a great way to open your mind up to personal revelation.
- Say a prayer to ask God to reveal to you who you need to serve to today and how
- Open your scriptures to anywhere, or where you’re currently reading
- Read until you understand how God wants you to serve that day
- Read to eat/feast. Read your scriptures until you find a quote that talks about eating (spiritually or temporally). Type the quote/verse up and put it by everyone’s plate in your family for dinner that night. Have a family discussion about it before eating dinner (or during dinner).
- Read to Read. I’m sure that sounds funny. But, if you’re a story person. Read until you come upon a really good story in the scriptures.
- Focus on the story
- Who are the characters?
- What problem are they struggling with?
- What do they do?
- How is God a part of the story? What role does He play?
I could go on and on. The scriptures are so rich and wonderful. Read to find psychological advice. Read to find what you like! Big on battles? The scriptures are full of them. Just take note of why they were fought, who the opposing parties were, what their political platforms are, and which side trusted in God.
See, you can do it with anything.
Finally, study in faith. The things of the Spirit can only be understood by those who are spiritual, or seeking to be so (1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 14).
I can say, with absolute certainty, that there is no greater power in my life than scripture study. Since I began (thanks to my sister, Kalley) all those years ago I have never been able to put them down. They are a daily companion. I tried to set them aside one night, at the age of 15, and the Spirit whispered, “If you set them aside, what does that say about your life right now? Why would you want to set them aside?” I knew the answers to those questions and though that night I didn’t feel spiritual, I read. Reading changed the actions I took the next day. Those actions made a very clear fork in the road my life took—one that I’m forever grateful for.
May each of you seek to get the most out of reading your scriptures. It will change you—forever.