“How I Learned to Feast on the Word,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 64–65
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13). I read these familiar words again and thought, If charity is the greatest of all, I need to learn more about it.
With that thought, I started my first real scripture study. Though I had read the scriptures since I was a child, taken religion classes, highlighted my favorite scriptures, and used the Topical Guide to prepare talks, I had never really studied them. I wanted to learn to “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:3).
First, I checked the Bible Dictionary for the meaning of the word charity. Next I went to the Topical Guide and began to look up the references to charity. As I located each scripture, I read it, thought about its meaning, and marked those scriptures that seemed to reverberate within me. Then I read the footnotes. I also looked up the scriptures listed in the footnotes and the cross-references to every scripture. Eventually, the references would lead me back to charity in the Topical Guide.
Often it took an entire study period to search out a single scripture and its expanding network of cross-references. After I finished tracing one scripture and everything linked to it, I went back to the Topical Guide and lightly marked the original reference. Then I moved on to the next scripture. By studying this way, I found myself eager for each day’s scripture study and reluctant to stop.
As I continued to follow this process, I found scriptures and ideas that fed into each other like waterways, illuminating each other and filling me with insight. The scriptures began to stir deep swells of thought in my mind, almost below words, like a subterranean river pushing its way into light. I often pulled out my journal along with my scriptures so that when an idea occurred to me, I could jot down a reference to whatever scripture I was reading. I also noted questions or related areas to search as a result of my reading.
For example, the following is an entry from my journal: “1 Tim. 1:5. Can you have charity from an impure heart? The commandments are meant to bring us to charity. JST, 1 Pet. 4:8. ‘Charity preventeth a multitude of sins.’ Of what kind? Offense against brother? Misunderstanding? Is it because the pure in heart naturally, almost instinctively, will do no wrong, will communicate clearly regardless of circumstance? Alma 34:26–29. Charity is the key to effective prayer. D&C 88:125. What is ‘the bond of charity’? To whom does it bind you? The Lord? Others? Your better self? It is ‘perfectness and peace.’ What is the relationship between having charity, becoming perfect, and receiving the Second Comforter? Look up sanctification after finishing with charity and heart.”
Somewhere deep in my search of the scriptures for the word heart, I felt a pouring over, around, and through my soul of an endless flood of the living word. It was an immersing in eternity. My understanding exceeded anything I had felt before, the same way a boundless ocean exceeds a quiet pond.
The scriptures have never been the same for me since that experience. Charity led to heart, heart to contrite heart and sanctification, sanctification turned me to repentance and the Holy Ghost, and so it has continued, one area leading my understanding into the next, the scriptures coursing together into one great whole.