Monday, July 6, 2009

Ways of Getting Answers from the Scriptures

Today at work when I was reviewing the big stack of textbooks on the shelf looking for useful texts for writing tutoring, I ran across these interesting paragraphs from the book Content Area Reading by Richard T. Vacca, Jo Anne L. Vacca, and I thought it perfectly applied to how we find answers to life’s questions in the scriptures.
A reader draws on two broad information sources to answer questions: information in the text and information inside the reader’s head. For example, some questions have answers that can be found directly in the text. These questions are textually explicit and lead to answers that are “right there” in the text. (Richard T. Vacca, Jo Anne L. Vacca, Content Area Reading, 5th ed., HarperCollins, NY: 1996, p48.)
When I’d get in a situation when I didn’t know what to do, often I’d open the scriptures and find a principle explicitly stated with I could apply to my problem and get a clear answer.
Other questions have answers that require students to think about the information they have read in the text. They must be able to search for ideas that are related to one another and then put these ideas together in order to answer the questions. These questions are textually implicit and lead to “think and search” answers (ibid).
Think and search. Doesn’t that sound like it fits so well with “search, ponder, and pray”? I think this passage has clarified for me just what can go on when I search, ponder, and pray. I can be pondering a question, then searching for the answer in the scriptures, then pondering how what I’ve found might fit together with my previous knowledge. And sometimes the Spirit brings to our memory some scriptural phrases that are applicable. And I pray for understanding when I'm really stuck.

Sometimes I try to think of scripture stories that are similar to the one that I am reading and then I think about how they are the same and how they are different. How is the story of Paul preaching to King Agrippa like or unlike the story of Abinadi preaching to King Noah? How is the story of Joseph helping Pharaoh understand his dreams the same or different from the story of Ammon helping King Lamoni out with the sheep? How is the story of Lehi leaving Jerusalem like or different from the story of the brother of Jared leaving Babel? How is the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers like or different from the story of Nephi’s relationship with his brothers? Is there anything we can learn from those differences or similarities?
Still other questions require students to rely mainly on prior knowledge and experience. In other words, responses to these questions are more inside the reader’s head than in the text itself. These questions are schema-based and lead to “author and you” and “on my own” answers (ibid).
So, when you get the answer “on your own”, the text has gotten you thinking and then you use your prior knowledge to answer the question.

I don’t know how far I’ve gotten into this kind of studying of the scriptures. Do any of you have experiences of this kind to share?


Chas Hathaway said...

Wow, that's cool! When you look at it that way, you can discover all kinds of connections in the scriptures.

It makes you wonder if it's no coincidence when similar events happen to different people in the scriptures. Like how many of the patriarchs and their wives have difficulty having children, and how prophets seem to so often be cast into prisons.

Why? Maybe seeking the answer can lead to more insights and teachings.

Great post!

- Chas

Michaela Stephens said...

I know! The infertility issue in particular REALLY makes me wonder. I can see that infertility is a particular trial to patriarchs. They are so full of faith in the gospel, so far ahead spiritually that it is painful to be "so far behind" familially. The promise of eternal posterity being so real and yet so far away, the worry of stagnation and fear of becoming too set in one's ways to deal with children, wondering if inability to parent on earth will deprive them of valuable experience when parenting in heaven...

I also wonder about the difference and similarities of prophets being cast into prison. Or on trial. You're right, those would be interesting things to study.