“Successful Scripture Study,” New Era, Jan. 2012, 26–28
So you’ve committed to study the scriptures every day because you really want to learn—you want to gain a testimony of the gospel. You may start with the Book of Mormon. After all, so many prophets both modern and ancient have reminded us that a testimony of the Book of Mormon is essential for each of us to have. You open to 1 Nephi 1:1 and start reading: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents …”
Every day (hopefully) you read a few more verses or even a few chapters until several months later you reach Moroni 10:34 and read Moroni’s parting words, “And now I bid unto all, farewell. …” But reading the scriptures from the first verse to the last is only one of the ways to study. By putting a little variety into your approach to scripture study, you just might bring some new life and excitement into your daily reading.
Just remember that no matter which approach you use to study the scriptures, if you always begin with prayer, you’ll have a much easier time understanding and finding answers as you read. As you make daily scripture study a habit, be sure to have prayer become a consistent part of your pattern.
Choose a few of the following study suggestions that strike your fancy, or modify them to help you take a fresh look at the scriptures as you study the gospel every day.
One great way to read the scriptures is to study a specific topic. Maybe your seminary class had a lesson on honesty or in family home evening you talked about prayer, and now you want to learn more. Why not use your personal scripture reading time to learn on your own? The Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures offer some great study helps both online at scriptures.lds.org and in print, including the Guide to the Scriptures, Bible Dictionary, Topical Guide, Index, and Joseph Smith Translation. Look up “Honesty” or “Prayer” in the study helps, follow the references, and start learning.
Choose a particular person or prophet you’d like to understand better, and let that quest guide your scripture study. Maybe you’d like to know more about Mary the mother of Jesus, Haggai, or Ammon. You can use the scripture study helps to find references to learn more about these people and their lives. You’ll begin to learn how great people in the scriptures lived the gospel. As you read about others, think of ways you can follow their righteous examples to become more like them.
Ask questions as you read. If you’ve been wondering why Sunday is a day of rest, approach your scripture study with that question in mind. You could start by looking up “Sabbath” in the study helps and see where it leads you, or continue reading in a section you’re already studying. When you are reading a particular scripture story, ask yourself, “What in my life is like this story?” Try to understand and apply the scriptures in such a way that they will apply to your life and to your current situations, challenges, and questions. As you pray and read to find answers to a specific question, you’ll find that you often discover answers in verses you’d never realized related to your topic.
What was the first thing the Savior taught to the people of Nephi when He appeared to them in the land Bountiful? Read in 3 Nephi 11 to find out. What did Christ teach in His Sermon on the Mount? You can read about it in Matthew 5–7 and Luke 6. What can you learn from the parable Jesus told about the good Samaritan? Study the parable in Luke 10, and decide who is your neighbor.
Create a list of scriptures that have special meaning to you. You could start with scripture mastery verses or some of your personal favorites that have inspired you in the past. Maybe you want to work on memorizing a few verses. As you read these special scriptures, try following the cross-references given at the bottom of the page and see where they lead you in your study.
However you choose to study the scriptures, your study will help strengthen your testimony and increase your understanding of the gospel. In other words, there is no one correct way to study the scriptures. So don’t be afraid to branch out and try some new approaches to the way you read.
You will be richly rewarded for the time you spend studying the scriptures: “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come” (1 Nephi 10:19).