Is scripture study becoming more of a chore than a spiritual experience? All of us go through ruts in our scripture study when we lack the motivation to truly study these ancient words. However, there are a few tips to help you jumpstart your scripture study and get the most out of your reading.
1. Start and end with a prayer
Starting scripture study with a prayer helps invite the Spirit as you read. Just like the scriptures were received by revelation, you too can receive revelation to help you understand them better. A prayer helps set the tone for your study and will help you become more humble and teachable.
2. Use study aids
Understanding the scriptures is no easy task. Don’t be afraid to turn to study aids to help you comprehend difficult passages of scripture. Study aids like The Book of Mormon Made Easier by David J. Ridges are great tools for personal or family scripture study because they provide scriptural commentary, visual imagery, and interactive content to help you get more out of your studying.
3. Read conference talks
Scripture study doesn’t have to include just studying from The Bible or The Book of Mormon, but also includes studying modern scripture that has been given to us through the prophets and apostles. Reading or listening to conference talks and devotionals from church leaders is a great way to enrich your scripture study and keep you from falling into a rut.
“As the Latter-day Saints go home from this conference, it would be well if they consider seriously the importance of taking with them the report of this conference and let it be the guide to their walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day.” –Harold B. Lee
4. Refer back to the maps
When reading the scriptures, we often brush over the places and keep reading. However, understanding the geography can give you insight into the topography, prominent features, and climate of a region, which can provide deeper meaning and understanding to the passages you read. For example, understanding that Jerusalem is located at a higher altitude than Jericho can add a new dimension of meaning to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). Also, knowing the physical conditions through which Nephi and his family traveled can help you appreciate their sacrifice.
5. Write down your thoughts
Writing down what we learn through our scripture study, along with questions or impressions we receive, is another way to improve daily scripture study. Writing something down promotes well-formulated thoughts. It pushes you to go beyond fuzzy thinking or skimming and can help you understand more clearly. Additionally, your own notes can be a great resource for you in future study sessions, lessons, and times of doubt.
“…There may be a phrase or a paragraph that will stand out and possess our attention. If this occurs, I hope we will write it down and reflect on it until we savor the depth of its meaning and have made it a part of our own lives.” –Gordon B. Hinckley
6. Look for lists
There are many lists included in passages of scripture. As you begin to look for lists, they will become easy to recognize. Making note of lists in the scriptures can provide specific instruction that you can apply in your life. One example of a list is in found in 3 Nephi 17:3. Christ instructs the Nephites to:
- “Go ye unto your homes”
- “Ponder upon the things which I have said”
- “Ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand”
- “Prepare your minds for the morrow”
How can you apply this list of instruction? Can these things help you in your scripture study? Church attendance?
7. Look for repeating phrases and patterns
When something is said multiple times in the scriptures, there is most likely something we can learn from it. Looking at how repetition of phrases and patterns is used in the scriptures can help us identify key themes and important messages. For example, in The Book of Mormon, Alma repeats the phrase “remember” when speaking to his sons (Alma 36–42). What does the repetition of “remember” teach us today? What can we learn from Alma’s instruction to his sons?
8. Find a personal application
While the scriptures were written a long time ago, there are many things that we can learn and apply in our own lives today. Nephi teaches that we should “liken all scripture,” meaning apply it in our own lives (1 Nephi 19:23). This application can be difficult, especially when we are reading long passages about topics unfamiliar to us. For example, we can learn that the Lord will help us through difficult tasks from Nephi’s experience of building a ship (1 Nephi 17). What else can you learn from this chapter?
“Act upon what you have learned in your study and apply what you have learned in your family.” –Ann M. Dibb
9. Study specific topics
Instead of trying to read the scriptures cover to cover, try studying just one topic at a time. You can read the scriptures with this topic in mind, or study the topic specifically using the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary. In addition to these materials, reading books on gospel topics is another way to study by topic. For example, Visions of Glory: One Man’s Astonishing Account of the Last Days by John Pontius is a great resource to help you study topics like the Ten Tribes, New Jerusalem, and other aspects of the Second Coming and Millennium.
10. Set goals
Setting goals for your scripture study can help motivate you to start and keep a habit of scripture study. Your goals should be something that you can actually achieve, like reading for just 5 minutes a day or reading your scriptures at least 5 days in the week. Hold yourself accountable and be honest. If needed, adjust your scripture study goals so you can achieve them.