Lesson 4: Studying the Scriptures
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“Lesson 4: Studying the Scriptures,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 4,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 4

Studying the Scriptures


This lesson can help students learn how to better understand the scriptures, identify the gospel truths they contain, and apply those truths in their lives. As students discover and act on the eternal truths found in the scriptures, the gospel can sink deep into their hearts. Consider ways to review the material in this lesson throughout the year.

Suggestions for Teaching

The importance of studying the scriptures

Invite students to list some of the benefits of good friends. Write their responses on the board. Display a set of scriptures, and ask if any of the benefits written on the board can also apply to the scriptures.

If possible, provide as a handout the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the benefits of having the scriptures as friends:

Scott, Richard G.

“[The scriptures] can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed. … Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world. …

“… [Memorizing a scripture] is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change” (“The Power of Scripture,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 6).

  • According to Elder Scott, how can the scriptures become like a good friend to you?

You may want to invite a few students to share experiences they have had when the scriptures have helped them in the ways Elder Scott described.

To help students better understand how scriptures can help them, write the phrase “If we study the scriptures …” along with the following scripture references on the board: Deuteronomy 17:19; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:105; 2 Nephi 32:3; Jacob 2:8; Alma 31:5. Assign students a passage to read, and instruct them to complete the phrase on the board with what they find in their assigned passage. You may want to do one with the class as an example.

After sufficient time, invite students to write their completed phrases on the board. Students may use different words, but their answers should reflect the following principles: If we study the scriptures … :

  • … they will help us learn to fear (respect) God and keep His commandments.

  • … they will tell us what to do to be prosperous and successful.

  • … they will light our path.

  • … they will tell us all things that we should do.

  • … they will heal our wounded souls.

  • … they will lead us to do that which is just (righteous).

Invite students to ponder which of these blessings they have experienced through studying the scriptures. As time allows, invite a few to share their experiences or their feelings on the blessings of studying the scriptures.

To help students understand the importance of daily scripture study, show them a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Announce that in an effort to use your time more efficiently, you are thinking about changing how and when you brush your teeth. Instead of brushing for a couple of minutes every day, you’ve decided to brush for 15 minutes once a week. You will also use seven times the usual amount of toothpaste so that your teeth will be thoroughly clean. Ask students what they think of your new plan.

  • Why would this new plan not be a wise way to care for your teeth?

  • How can this example relate to our study of the scriptures?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Howard W. Hunter:

Hunter, Howard W.

“It is certain that one who studies the scriptures every day accomplishes far more than one who devotes considerable time one day and then lets days go by before continuing” (“Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).

Invite students to share what they have done to develop a habit of studying the scriptures daily. Invite students to set a goal to study their scriptures daily.

How to study the scriptures

Ask students to imagine that as they are exploring an area outdoors, something shiny catches their eye. They look more closely and discover that it is a large diamond.

  • How would you feel? Why?

Explain that Elder Richard G. Scott taught that there are “diamonds of truth that … must be carefully mined from the pages of the Old Testament” (“Four Fundamentals for Those Who Teach and Inspire Youth” [Church Educational System symposium address, Aug. 14, 1987], 1; We refer to some of these diamonds as doctrines and principles. Write these words on the board, and ask if students can define them.

Correct or add to students’ answers by explaining that doctrines are fundamental, unchanging truths of the gospel and that principles can guide us in making decisions.

Explain that the following skills can help students identify, understand, and apply the doctrines and principles found in the scriptures.

Understanding the context and content of the scriptures

Show a picture of a diamond on a dark background, or draw a simple illustration on the board.

  • Jewelers often display diamonds on dark backgrounds. Why do you think they do this? (A dark background helps the diamond stand out.)

  • Explain that an important part of identifying the doctrines and principles contained in the scriptures is to first understand the context and content of the scriptures. (Write this phrase on the board.) This includes understanding the historical and literary background, story line, people, events, and sermons in the scriptural text. The context and content of the scriptures provide the background that helps doctrines and principles stand out more clearly.

  • What has helped you understand the context or content of a scripture passage?

The following teaching ideas can help students learn and practice tools to help them understand context and content.

Use scripture study aids: Invite students to identify some of the scripture study aids in the LDS edition of the standard works. These include footnotes, chapter headings, topical indexes, the Bible Dictionary, the Guide to the Scriptures, and maps.

Point out that a particularly helpful aid in studying the Bible is the Joseph Smith Translation. Joseph Smith made inspired revisions to the Bible that restore lost content and clarify certain passages. Many of these changes can be found in the footnotes or the appendix of the LDS edition of the Bible. If students have the LDS edition of the Bible, you could invite them to read Exodus 4:21 and use the footnotes to identify the correction that Joseph Smith made.

  • How does this correction affect our understanding of what is happening in this verse?

Symbolism: Draw a simple picture of a fire with hot coals on the board.

  • What could fire possibly symbolize in scripture?

After students respond, explain that the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in the temple. Invite a student to read Isaiah 6:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Isaiah.

  • What could the live coal possibly symbolize?

To help students discover what the live coal symbolizes, help them locate the footnote to verse 6.

Explain that the scriptures are full of symbols that can teach us important gospel truths. Words such as like or as can help identify symbols. The footnotes, Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, and Guide to the Scriptures can also help with the interpretation of symbols.

Word definitions: Invite a student to read Jeremiah 9:15 aloud while students follow along and look for words they don’t understand. Write the words wormwood and gall on the board, and ask if anyone knows what these words mean.

  • What can you do when you read a word you don’t understand in the scriptures?

Explain that dictionaries, footnotes, and scripture study aids can often help students understand difficult words and phrases. Invite students to look in the Bible Dictionary for the definitions of the words on the board.

Identifying and understanding doctrines and principles

Explain that as we study the context and content of the scriptures, we should search for doctrines and principles. Point out that some principles in the scriptures are clearly stated in the text and are easily identified by words and phrases such as “thus we see,” “therefore,” “wherefore,” and “behold.” Explain that other principles may be contained in the story line, events, parables, or people’s lives.

Explain that asking the following questions as they read can help students identify principles:

  • What is the moral or point of this story?

  • What can I learn from these passages?

  • What gospel truths are taught in this passage?

To help students practice identifying doctrines and principles, show the picture David Slays Goliath (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 19; see also, and invite a student to read 1 Samuel 17:32–37 aloud while the class follows along.

David and Goliath
  • What gospel lesson do you learn from this passage? (As students respond, write their answers on the board. They may identify a variety of principles, including the following: If I exercise faith in the Lord, He will help me overcome life’s challenges.)

Applying gospel doctrines and principles to our lives

Explain that as we identify doctrines and principles in the scriptures, we can ponder how they relate to our personal experiences. When we do this, we invite the Spirit into our hearts. When the Spirit testifies of doctrines and principles, we can have a greater desire to act on and apply them in our lives. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Ballard, M. Russell

“As you receive counsel and instruction, extract principles that will be eternally important in your lives and then make them part of your lives” (“How to Solve Problems,” New Era, July 2013, 48).

  • When have you identified a doctrine or principle from the scriptures and then made it a part of your life?

After students respond, invite them to identify a doctrine or principle from the scriptures during their personal scripture study and to come to the next seminary class ready to explain the doctrine or principle and how they found it.

Commentary and Background Information

The scriptures can answer every question

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question—personal or social or political or occupational—that need go unanswered. Therein is contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel. Therein we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it” (“Teach the Scriptures” [address to CES religious educators, Oct. 14, 1977], 3–4;; see also Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings [2004], 74–75).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“We often hear it said that the scriptures have the answers to all of our questions. Why is this so? It is not that the scriptures contain a specific answer to every question—even to every doctrinal question. … We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer. …

“… This is because scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which, as the scriptures say, will ‘guide [us] into all truth’ (John 16:13), and by whose power we can ‘know the truth of all things’ (Moroni 10:5)” (“Studying the Scriptures” [address given at BYU–Hawaii, Mar. 14, 1986], 18, 19; see also Scripture Study—The Power of the Word Teacher Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2001], 45).

Scripture study requires effort

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“The combination that opens the vault door to hidden scriptural treasures includes a great deal of work—simple, old-fashioned, hard work. … We cannot expect to reap a rich scriptural harvest unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study. … The scriptural treasures we seek in our lives cannot be borrowed or loaned or obtained secondhand. We must each learn to open the vault door by applying the principle of work” (“Because We Have Them before Our Eyes,” New Era, Apr. 2006, 6).

Identifying principles in the scriptures

President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency taught:

“One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit” (“The Message of the Old Testament” [Church Educational System Symposium on the Old Testament, Aug. 17, 1979], 3;

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).

Applying principles of the gospel

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught:

“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ blesses lives not just when we believe it—but much more when we live it. It is in the application of gospel principles that individuals are uplifted and families are strengthened. It is our privilege and responsibility not just to talk the talk but also to walk the walk” (“Four Titles,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 60).

How to read scriptures

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Read more slowly and more carefully and with more questions in mind. … Ponder, … examine every word, every scriptural gem. … Hold it up to the light, and turn it, look and see what’s reflected and refracted there. … Such an examination may unearth a treasure hidden in a field: a pearl of great price; a pearl beyond price” (“Students Need Teachers to Guide Them” [address to CES religious educators, June 20, 1992], 4;

Daily scripture study

President Harold B. Lee stated:

“If we’re not reading the scriptures daily, our testimonies are growing thinner, our spirituality isn’t increasing in depth. We, ourselves, must be studying the scriptures and have a daily habit” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 66).