Thursday, December 29, 2011

Understanding the Importance of Scripture Study

Why is it that we don't always do what we know will make us happier? Studying the scriptures daily, exercising and eating healthy foods, attending the temple frequently, controlling our tempers...the list is probably endless. It's a question I often ask this time of year, when I realize that I am making a few new year's resolutions yet again. I know better, why don't I act better?

This week I've been immersed in Elder Bednar's recent book Increase in Learning, and feel like I am closer to understanding the answer to my challenge. He drives home the point made by President Packer, "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior." So, what is the doctrinal reason for studying the scriptures? If we find ourselves struggling to read the scriptures daily, perhaps a greater understanding of this doctrine will motivate us.

One of the most articulate and succinct summaries of this doctrine is found in a devotional talk given by Elder Bednar, at BYU-Idaho in 1998. You can find the transcript here:

Here are the three doctrinal reasons Elder Bednar suggests:
  • Studying the scriptures is important because of the covenants we have made.
  • Studying the scriptures is important because of the direction we need in our lives.
  • Studying the scriptures is important because scripture study is a preparation for and prerequisite to receiving personal revelation. (Elder Oaks gave an excellent talk on this called Scripture Reading and Revelation.
He uses the scriptures and personal experience to expound these reasons. I highly recommend reading the whole talk. Who doesn't need the promised blessings of increased faith, protection and guidance?

Elder Bednar also suggests principles that can help each of us become more effective in our personal study of the scriptures:
  1. Pray. Ask and seek for understanding, and invite the help of the Holy Ghost.
  2. Work. "We cannot expect to reap scriptural insight unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study."
  3. Consistency. A specific, scheduled time and place for study is recommended.
  4. Ponder. Consider, contemplate, reflect upon, think about. This cannot be forced, hurried or rushed. Questions to keep in mind as you study: "What was the question that brought about the inquiry and the revelation?" and "Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?"
  5. Look for connections, patterns and parallels. See A Reservoir of Living Water, a CES fireside by Elder Bednar for more great insight on this.
  6. Write your thoughts and feelings. I love President Eyring's talk, O Remember, Remember, about keeping a spiritual journal. See the sidebar for tips on scripture journaling.
I hope that Elder Bednar's words are as inspiring to you as they have been to me. Remember, true understanding comes through the Spirit as we act.
"You and I may know the right things to do, but intelligence involves more than just knowing. If you and I are intelligent, we will consistently do the right things. Knowing that the gospel is true is important, good and necessary. Intelligence is consistently being true to the gospel that we know."
~from Increase in Learning, p. 74-75