“7: Developing a Personal Plan to Study the Gospel,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching (1999), 16–17
“7,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 16–17
Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “It is incumbent upon each of us to do everything we can to increase our spiritual knowledge and understanding by studying the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. When we read and study the revelations, the Spirit can confirm in our hearts the truth of what we are learning; in this way, the voice of the Lord speaks to each one of us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 40–41; or Ensign, May 1998, 32).
The following suggestions can help you develop a study plan to “increase [your] spiritual knowledge and understanding,” as Elder Ballard counseled. Your plan should not be overwhelming, but it should help you be consistent in your gospel study. You may want to record your plan in a journal or notebook so you will not forget it.
Center your gospel study on the scriptures. You may choose to study a book of scripture in its entirety, or you may focus on one or more subjects, reading what all the standard works say about them. You may combine these two methods, studying a book of scripture and focusing on topics and themes as you find them. You should also study the teachings of latter-day prophets in general conference addresses and Church magazines.
If you have a calling as a teacher, your lesson manual is an essential part of your study plan.
You should also consider including the following in your gospel study: (1) the course material for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society, (2) assigned scripture passages for the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School, and (3) articles in Church magazines.
If possible, set a regular time when you can study without interruption. Elder Howard W. Hunter counseled:
“Many find that the best time to study is in the morning after a night’s rest has cleared the mind of the many cares that interrupt thought. Others prefer to study in the quiet hours after the work and worries of the day are over and brushed aside, thus ending the day with a peace and tranquillity that comes by communion with the scriptures.
“Perhaps what is more important than the hour of the day is that a regular time be set aside for study. It would be ideal if an hour could be spent each day; but if that much cannot be had, a half hour on a regular basis would result in substantial accomplishment. A quarter of an hour is little time, but it is surprising how much enlightenment and knowledge can be acquired in a subject so meaningful” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 91–92; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).
Before you begin to study, pray for insight and understanding. Ponder what you read, and look for ways to apply it in your life. Learn to recognize and hearken to the promptings of the Spirit.
Consider using some or all of the following ideas to enhance your study:
Use the helps provided in the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures, such as the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary, the excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation, and the maps (see “Teaching from the Scriptures,” pages 54–59, for suggestions).
As you read, ask yourself, “What gospel principle is taught in this passage? How can I apply this in my life?”
Have a notebook or journal available so you can record your thoughts and feelings. Commit yourself in writing to apply what you learn. Frequently review the thoughts you have recorded.
Before reading a chapter of scripture, review the chapter heading. This will give you some things to look for in the chapter.
Mark and annotate your scriptures. In the margins write scripture references that clarify the passages you are studying.
Memorize verses that are particularly meaningful to you.
Substitute your name in a verse of scripture to personalize it.
After studying, offer a prayer to express thanks for what you have learned.
Share what you learn. As you do this, your thoughts will become clearer and your power of retention will increase.
One Church member tried many times to follow specific programs for scripture study, but it was always difficult for her. She later reflected:
“It seemed that with trying to raise a family and fulfill my Church responsibilities, I never completely reached the goal. I would designate a certain time and place to study each day, only to have the schedule interrupted by the needs of children who were ill or other crises typical of a growing family. During that time of my life, I never really thought of myself as someone who was good at scripture study.
“Then one day my mother was in my home. She looked at a large table which was covered with Church materials—among them my scriptures—and said, ‘I love the way you are always reading your scriptures. They always seem to be open on one table or another.’
“Suddenly I had a new vision of myself. She was right. I was consistently into my scriptures, even though it was not part of a formal study program. I loved the scriptures. They fed me. There were scripture verses tacked to my kitchen walls that lifted me as I worked, scriptures I was helping my children memorize for talks they would give. I lived in a world of scripture reading, and I realized that I was being nourished abundantly.”