Do you struggle with studying the scriptures? Here are three ways I’ve found to make scripture study more vibrant and accessible to me.
Focus on One Scripture or One Word
When I find one scripture I like, something that resonates with me, I love to dig in and spend time on just that one verse. Maybe even a couple days studying just that one scripture. I look up cross references and creating scripture chains – linking additional scriptures that build upon the meaning of the original scripture. (e.g. Baptism by fire: Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:4; 2 Nephi 31:4; 3 Nephi 19:13-15; Moses 6:66)
I sometimes write the scripture on a 3×5 card and put it in my car or refrigerator or write it on my mirror. I ponder that scripture for one week. If I’m especially motivated by the scripture, I’ll memorize it. Elder Scott suggests that “to memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship.” Further insight or questions always come to me as I ponder and memorizing helps me ponder in a completely different way.
Sometimes I’m struck by one word. One word like ‘bondage’, ‘miracles’, ‘heart’, or ‘wilderness’. I love going to LDS library and searching for that word, looking up every reference, and writing down the phrases and verses that stand out to me. I then look for conference talks or hymns. I start to notice themes, and eventually I start seeing that word everywhere! For words that have been incredibly meaningful to me, I have long lists of references. Sometimes it’s a short 20 min study with that word, sometimes the study of that word lasts for years! It is always enlightening. Here’s an example of one such study of the word ‘led’ or ‘lead’. As I studied this word, my understanding and testimony was deepened as I realized that God is consistent in leading his children— and he will also lead me along.
Translate the Scripture for You!
If you want answers to your questions, or hear God’s voice for you, read the scriptures. Joseph translated the scriptures for us today, but he never stopped working on it. For him, translating was a skill and became a way of life. Adam Miller in his great essay on scriptures suggest that we each share the task now of translating the scriptures again for ourselves: “Word by word, line by line, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, God wants the whole thing translated once more, and this time he wants it translated into your native tongue, inflected by your native concerns, and written in your native flesh. To [truly study the scriptures] is to do once more, on your own small scale, the same kind of work that Joseph did.”
This one thought motivated me to take that same 3×5 card, flip it over and translate the scripture for myself, for my life. Here is an example of my own translations from 2 Nephi 27:23:
“Listen: Did you not remember that I am God – omnipresent, full of love, merciful, perfect? But more than that, I am a God who performs miracles! And I’m determined to show unto my world that I am consistent. I worded miracles with Abraham, and w/ Joseph Smith, and I will do the same for you — but only as much as you have faith in me. In direct proportion to the amount of faith you have in me.”
How would you translate this same scripture? As I translate a scripture for myself, it becomes mine. My own personal scripture, directly from God to me, given at the right time and circumstance in my life. These verses mean so much to me. I’m guessing Joseph felt the same way about scripture that he did the hard work of translation for.
Ask a Question
If you want answers from God to your questions, the scriptures set the stage of revelation. Come to your scriptures with a question. For example, recently I came to the scriptures with this question: What is faith? How can I increase my faith in miracles? Because I really wanted to know, I found endless sources of scriptures that helped to answer this question for me: Moroni 7:43; 1 Cor 13:2; D&C 58:26-27; Bible Dictionary: Faith; Jacob 4:6; Matt 7:13; and Matt 9:21.
Additionally, when I read sequentially, I have recently found immense value in connecting all of my reading to Jesus Christ. This powerful talk changed my paradigm, and taught me to ask questions such as these:
What does this story or circumstance reveal to me about the character of Jesus Christ? About his attributes?
How did the Savior exemplify this attribute? (e.g. patience, love, obedience, humility, etc.)
How is this person or story a type of Christ? How does it testify of him?
How does this chapter lead me to the Savior, Jesus Christ?
For example, consider the story of Ammon and Lamoni through the lense of these questions above. Ammon typifies the Savior in his example of Service, he was humble and waited until King Lamoni desired to believe, he powerfully testifies of God and who he is, and Ammon fiercely loves Lamoni and his people. The answers are endless! I as consider these questions, I immediately feel closer to my Savior and full of love for Him as well as this record of Ammon’s experiences with Lamoni. Since the scriptures are His words and inspired of Him, I love pondering Him more deeply as I read.
We are commanded to search the scriptures and mediate on them – and if we do, we will be given guidance and direction (2 Nephi 32:3), revelations (D&C 138:1), prosperity and success (Joshua 1:8), and ultimately eternal life (John 5:39). I believe this is true! But I’ve also have experienced more immediate blessings in my life – more peace, more love, and more desire to be like the Savior.
What ideas do you have for more meaningful scripture study?