Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Notes on Being Mormon: Studying the Scriptures

I'm not a young duckling anymore, and I probably should have mastered the skills required to truly study the scriptures years ago, but... I haven't. Much of my scripture reading is just that: reading. I push through my fatigue, my busy-ness, my anxiety to get to the next thing, and I read some stuff. Then I get on with my day. 

This is not enough, though. I need more, and that means I need to DO more.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (one of our church's Apostles), said, "What makes us different from most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. For us, the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge, but what precedes the ultimate source. The ultimate knowledge comes by revelation." (Ensign Jan 1995)

I have not been using the scriptures for revelation much lately, with the exception of when I'm preparing to teach a class in church. 

"But I'm so buseeeeey!" I whine, feeling like there's only so much I can do and that my offering of a few minutes of plow-through reading ought to suffice.

Well...I'll be frank here. It doesn't. It's not good enough. For a card-carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who considers herself a disciple of Christ, it's not good enough. 

So I'm setting some new standards for myself. Nothing huge at first, just baby steps, but... I need to do better.

First up, this quote by Elder Howard W. Hunter, "We should not be haphazard in our reading but rather develop a systematic plan for study. There are some who read to a schedule of a number of pages or a set number of chapters each day or week. This may be perfectly justifiable and may be enjoyable if one is reading for pleasure, but it does not constitute meaningful study. It is better to have a set amount of time to give scriptural study each day than to have a set amount of chapters to read. Sometimes we find that the study of a single verse will occupy the whole time." (October LDS General Conference 1979)

This is humbling instruction from a man I consider to be inspired by God, so I need to seriously consider how to apply it in my life. Thanks to the religion class I'm taking through BYU-Idaho online, I have assigned reading that takes about 30 minutes a day. I'm using this class reading to develop the habit of more meaningful study, setting aside 30 minutes of study time for scriptures, just as I do for my other coursework. Because the class is on the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price, I'm focusing on those right now, but when the class ends, I will probably move to the New Testament and Book of Mormon. 

Instead of setting the goal to read the whole Book of Mormon in a set amount of time (which we are encouraged to do regularly, but I just don't ever accomplish anyway!), I'm going to focus on the TIME spent studying. If I can spent 30 minutes every day researching, reading, pondering, praying and seeking inspiration, I will have a much more enriching experience, I think.

I look forward to seeing what happens when I more fully immerse my mind and spirit in the scriptures this year. As promised by Elder Oaks, "The idea that scripture reading can lead to inspiration and revelation opens the door to the truth that a scripture is not limited to what it meant when it was written but may also include what that scripture means to a reader today. Even more, scripture reading may also lead to current revelation on whatever else the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time. We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation." (Ensign January 1995)

Who wouldn't want personal revelation from our Heavenly Father? 

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