When I was a little boy I was given a small Bible. If I remember correctly, it was only the New Testament. As I read I was drawn to 1 Corinthians 13, which is about charity, and, even as a child, I knew that for me that chapter was about the family I would someday have. Years later, before I was married, I received a patriarchal blessing. In that blessing the patriarch described the feeling that would someday be in my home. He described exactly what I had felt years before when I read 1 Corinthians 13, and I knew that the scriptures were a way that God speaks to me.
Since my needs have changed over my lifetime, God has communicated to me different things at different times. He has used the scriptures to counsel me about my needs, my situation, and my life. But I learned that I must go to the scriptures in order to find that counsel.
Sometimes I go to the scriptures for doctrine. Sometimes I go to the scriptures for instruction. I often go to the scriptures with the questions “What would God have me do?” or “What would He have me feel?” Invariably I find new ideas and thoughts I have never had before, and I receive inspiration, instruction, and answers to my questions that benefit me personally.
Here are some of the things I have learned about effective scripture study and the ways scripture study can benefit you personally.
Make scripture study a priority.
The only way I can be sure that my busy schedule doesn’t crowd out scripture study is to use a regular time to study the scriptures. I have found that the beginning and the end of the day work well for me. Those are times I can usually control. I established that pattern when I was a boy, and it allowed me to read the Book of Mormon many times before I was 18.
When I am in situations where I break out of that pattern, it’s hard on me. I’m so used to regular scripture study that I miss it if I find I can’t fit it in my day. It’s like food—I have to have it! I usually don’t miss a regular meal, and I don’t miss regular scripture study
The scriptures can teach what to do.
When I became an Apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott suggested I buy an inexpensive set of scriptures and mark the insights and revelations gained in my new calling. So I did, but I also went further. I asked Heavenly Father what He would have me do as an Apostle. I wrote down what I felt His answers were. I typed, color coded, and pasted those answers in the front of my scriptures. For example, the first one was “I am to be a witness that Christ is the Son of God.” Then I read my scriptures looking for ideas that taught me how to witness that Christ is the Son of God. Every time I came to something, I marked it in blue. Soon I developed my own topical guide around what I thought the Lord wanted me to do. I developed a clear understanding of what God wanted me to do as His Apostle.
Going to the scriptures to learn what to do can make all the difference. When I have come to a crisis in my life, I have gone to the scriptures looking for specific help. The Lord seemed to anticipate all of my problems and needs, and He put help in the scriptures for me—if only I seek it.
The scriptures teach the importance of family.
Through the Book of Mormon, the Lord has taught me about serving those around me, particularly my family. This book reveals the will of the Lord for family life in a way that the other scriptures don’t even approach. I believe that is largely because of its interesting structure. It’s about families; it’s about people’s relationships. It starts with families, it ends with families, and as I have studied the Book of Mormon, I have come to love those families.
It has been meaningful for me to study the scriptures with my family. When my children were little, gathering them around and reading the scriptures together was easy. As they got a little older, it could sometimes be harder to do. I realized early on that our family scripture study worked better when my wife and I were able to show our children how much we love the scriptures. My wife was essential in helping our family build a relationship with the scriptures. She absolutely loves the scriptures. If I ask her, “What would you like to do?” she says, “Oh, read me the scriptures.” As we gathered as a family to study the scriptures, I think our children saw that it wasn’t a duty for us to read the scriptures—it was a pleasure.
The scriptures can bring peace into our lives.
I’ve taught deacons. I’ve been an assistant Scoutmaster. I found that when the boys began to get restless, I would, just for a moment, read a scripture or two and we would feel the peaceful influence of the word of God. The words of the scriptures themselves bring the Holy Ghost, and even energetic boys can feel the difference. So, when I am in a situation where I feel unrest, I find a way to read a scripture. It has a calming effect on me because it invites the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost confirms to me the word of God when I read it. That confirmation, repeated often, has strengthened my faith. And it is by faith that I have found the ability to overcome obstacles and resist temptation, which has brought peace into my life.
I have learned that over a lifetime the scriptures can become a part of me. I remember listening to Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and wondering to myself, “Now is he quoting the scriptures, or are those his own words?” I have the dream of someday having the word of God be so much a part of me that the Lord can draw upon it and I can learn to think as He does. And in the process, I will have come unto Him.