One of the main topics I’m invited to speak on when I visit other church units is the topic of personal scripture study. So many people wish they were better at studying the scriptures, but very few are sure what to do about it. They just don’t have a lot of confidence when they’re alone, out of church, with their scriptures.
Let’s try to fix that.
So, I’ll share a principle of scripture study and then illustrate it. If you already do this, stop reading. But if you are looking for a way to take your scripture study from “duty” level to “meaningful”, this might help. Here’s the principle: The power of the scriptures is found in the doctrines and principles. Once you can pull out the principles from the stories or scripture blocks, you can act on these truths and invite the power of the Lord into your life daily…
According to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook, people who are studying the scriptures should:
Identify, understand, feel the truth and importance of, and apply gospel doctrines and principles. (Gospel Teaching and Learning, 2.0)
Granted, that is easier said than done. But, it isn’t that hard, either. Here’s a couple tips:
- Take scripture blocks one small chunk at a time (ie., don’t study the whole Book of Daniel in one long sitting. Instead, focus in on just Ruth 1 and 2, or Matthew 25:1-13, or even just a couple verses like 2 Nephi 32:1-3).
- Start by trying to gain a basic understanding of the context and main story line (if there is a story line, which there isn’t always). Understanding the context means that you have at least a rudimentary understanding of who is speaking or writing (and who is being spoken or written about or to) and what circumstances they’re in. Where are we in the time line of history? What do you know about the person speaking?
- Now for the big deal of scripture study…What is the truth from this block that was not only true for the person in the story, but is true for anyone, anywhere, anytime? When you find what is not only true for the person in the scriptures but is also true all of the time, you’ve found the principle! We’ll talk more about this in a second, and illustrate it.
- Once you’ve determined a principle found in the particular scripture block that you’re studying (surely there may be more than one principle taught in any given block), you work to really understand the principle. What does it really mean? As you grow in understanding, your feelings about the principle will strengthen. You will begin, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to know the principle is true.
- Once you feel like you understand the principle, what are you going to do about it, specifically? When and where will you act on this principle? Finding this newly discovered principle will not invite power into your life until you act on what you know.
Here’s one example of what it might look like:
I sit down a begin to study Mark 5:25-34. This is one version of the story of the woman with the “issue of blood” who touches the hem of the Savior’s garment and is healed. I know this is during the Savior’s mortal ministry. I know the woman is sick with a problem that involves hemorrhaging. I have a basic understanding of the story. In the story, in verse 27, the woman reaches out and touches the Savior’s clothes in an act of faith, believing that she will be healed (v. 28). She is healed. It works and is a miracle from Christ.
Here’s a question: Why was she healed? Why did this work? I believe that she reached out for the Savior in an act of faith, and our acts of faith combined with the merciful healing power of Christ healed her. Wait. Maybe that is a principle. Here it is, one one simple, succinct line: When we reach out to Christ in faith, His power can strengthen and heal us. There’s one of the principles taught by this story! Here’s how I know: it isn’t just true for the woman in the story. Anyone, anywhere, who reaches out to Jesus Christ in faith really will experience His power, strengthening, and grace in their life. This is true even if they never lived in the Jerusalem area. Even if they didn’t live during Jesus’ life time. Even if they’re, well, me.
Now, what could this look like in my life? How can I “reach out” to Christ in my life. Well, maybe I need to reach out to Him in faith by being a little more diligent in serving others. Maybe I need to reach out to Him by improving the frequency and intensity of my prayers. Maybe I need to reach out to Him by being more forgiving to my spouse or siblings. There are many ways to apply scriptural principles, but what does the Lord want me to do about this now, in my life?
Once I begin to apply this principle in my life, I will start to really understand how personal scripture study can be a blessing to me and invite the power of Christ into my life…
This isn’t too hard. In fact, try it. Today. Choose a small block of scripture and search for a true principle and then determine how best to act on it. You can do it. I know you can!