“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Why Should We Study the Scriptures?
The commandment to study God’s word is nothing new, it has been around since before the Savior was born and it is repeated today.
The Lord told Joshua: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Paul instructs Timothy “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13)
Howard W. Hunter said: “The portion of scripture known as the Old and New Testaments is often referred to as the great literature of the world. These books have been regarded to as scientific treatises, as philosophic dissertations, and also as historical records; but if we understand the true purpose of these and other scriptures, we realize that they are really the fundamental literature of religion” (Reading the Scriptures).
Clearly we should seek after and study God’s word. Some have gone to great lengths to obtain the scriptures. Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem (a multi-day trip one way) to retrieve the scriptures from Laban. Two young pioneer girls risked their lives to rescue portions of the Doctrine and Covenants from mobs in Independence, Missouri (Caroline & Mary Elizabeth Rollins).
Why do people go to such extremes for a book? Because they are that important.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He goes on to tell us to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39). What better way to lean about the Savior than to read about him in the Scriptures. The teach us the qualities and characteristics we should emulate. When I was in the Air Force, I went to classes where we studied the great men throughout history. This taught me the skills and characteristics of these men (with the intent that I might develop those skills). Reading about something or someone helps us to become like that thing or person.
There are so many opportunities in today’s society to get dragged down the path of filth and obscenity. It is so easy to slip into a mentality of violence and oppression. I don’t believe that is a good way to live. I know it doesn’t make me feel good inside. Based on those feelings, I have made it one of my daily goals to shun evil and pursue good. In the words of President Marion G. Romney, “I am persuaded, my brothers and sisters, that it is irrational to hope to escape the lusts of the world without substituting for them as the subjects of our thoughts the things of the Spirit, and I know that the things of the Spirit are taught with mighty power in the Book of Mormon” (The Book of Mormon).
How Can We Study the Scriptures?
How then can we best study the Word of God? I believe there are several ways, depending on what your goal is. Remember, you should always begin scripture study with prayer. Let Heavenly Father know what your intent is and you will find you are better inspired by the Holy Spirit.
1. Study by topic. My family really enjoys choosing a topic and then finding a verse from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants that pertain to that verse. It has been very enjoyable listening to my children find and read verses that I never would have thought of. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes” (Psalm 8:2).
2. Search for answers to particular questions. The scriptures contain answers to almost every situation in life. These answers aren’t outlined in the index though, they are woven among the stories of great prophets like Daniel, Moses, Paul and Peter and require you to read and ponder upon the meaning.
3. Study the words of the Savior. Sometimes it’s good to simply read the words of the Savior. I don’t recall where I heard or read this, but someone once said that if we want to be able to recognize the voice of the Savior when we hear it, then we ought to study his words in the scriptures. This is similar to the advice given in Preach My Gospel (pg 114).
4. Start at the beginning. When all else fails, start at the beginning and go to the end. The scriptures build upon themselves. I’ll never forget when I realized that the scriptures are really just a collection of journals. That time I read the scriptures like a journal—the recordings of someone’s life—and they took on new light.
5. Study as a family and individually. Elder L. Tom Perry shared counsel on family scriptures study:
“My sincere counsel to you today is to recommit yourselves to these two basic practices…. Never let a day go by without holding family prayer and family scripture study. Put this, the Lord’s program, to the test; and see if it does not bless your home with greater peace, hope, love, and faith. I promise you that daily family prayer and scripture study will build within the walls of your home a security and bonding that will enrich your lives and prepare your families to meet the challenges of today and the eternities to come” (Back to Gospel Basics).
I like this study advice I read on the www.oneplace.com:
There are a number of ways we can study the Bible, but one of the most effective and simple approaches to reading and understanding God’s Word involves three simple steps:
Step 1: Observation—What does the passage say?
Step 2: Interpretation—What does the passage mean?
Step 3: Application—What am I going to do about what the passage says and means?
What Blessings can come from reading the Scriptures?
President Marion G. Romney once said:
“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (The Book of Mormon)
When I was in college, a mentor once promised me that if I would read the Book of Mormon for 5 minutes each day, I’d have more time to study and do better at school. I didn’t really try that back then. I have since tried that promise and have found it to be true. Spending as little as 5 minutes a day in God’s word makes a difference. This brings me to my next point: reading vs pondering.
I believe the Lord will bless you for reading the Scriptures no matter how much or how little. I also believe the blessing will be commensurate with the effort we give. If we give a “reading” effort, then we’ll receive a “reading” blessing. When we give a “pondering” effort, the Lord responds with a “pondering” blessing. Is this doctrine, no. Is this an across-the-board statement, no. But I do believe it is fundamentally true. The harder we try…the more effort we give…the greater the blessing from the Lord.
I have seen the benefits of reading from the Book of Mormon in my family. One of my children has had challenges in school. Once we began a diligent effort to read as a family every day, her studies improved. In fact, she went from repeating a grade to performing at the top of her class.
I also have a son with significant developmental delays. This past year, I resolved to read the Book of Mormon to him every day. There were days that I missed, but overall, we’ve been pretty successful. I also have seen him improve—if nothing else, he often looks forward to bedtime and his “story.” My heart is full when he refers to the scriptures as “his story” and we can read about the Savior together.
This past year I’ve tried to spend more time pondering the scriptures. It’s very cool because I find that when I start my morning with God’s word, I am more inspired in ways to fulfill my obligations. The Spirit whispers to my mind how to better serve my fellow man.
The covenants we have made
The direction we need in our lives
Scripture study is a preparation for and prerequisite to receiving personal revelation