Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answers to 7 common excuses for not reading the scriptures daily

Excuse #1 : The scriptures are boring.

From Gordon B. Hinckley:
I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine. (“The Light Within You”, Ensign, May 1995, 99, emphasis added)
President Hinckley was not saying that you’ll have to deal with days and years of tedious reading before the scriptures begin to seem interesting. He was talking about every time you pick up the scriptures. Each time you do it, the reading may seem tedious at first, but then it will change into a wonderful experience.

Further, he’s giving us HIS PROMISE that if we just started reading, we will be enlightened and lifted. Put that promise to the test. Experiment upon his words.

I know that promise is fulfilled. I’ve seen it be fulfilled over and over and over in my life. I’ve seen it happen so often that the beginning tedium doesn’t bother me any more. I’ve also learned that if I pray for Heavenly Father to teach me something, then He will. You can read about how I got started reading the scriptures on my own and how I study the scriptures and apply them in my life.

Excuse #2 : I don’t understand what I’m reading, so why would I want to read every day?

From President Joseph Fielding Smith:
It has always been an astonishment to me that so many members of the Church fail to prepare themselves by study and by faith to know the truth. (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 5, 46-47)
Has it ever occurred to you that if we don’t understand something we are reading that it means we need to PREPARE ourselves to understand it? This is just barely becoming clear to me in my own study. To understand some things in the scriptures we need a strong foundation, so we have to get really familiar with what we do understand and then use that when examining what we don’t understand. For example, I found that remembering the events of the Exodus helped me understand some things in Isaiah that I hadn’t before.

Excuse #3 : I don’t see what the big deal is about reading the scriptures every day. I don’t think it matters.

From President Ezra Taft Benson:
Let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts he has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you. (“The Power of the Word”, Ensign, May 1986, 81, emphasis added)
I've written elsewhere my thoughts on why we need the scriptures.

Excuse #4 : I don’t have time to read. There’s just too much to do.


From President Howard W. Hunter:
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. (Ensign, November 1979, 64)
It is easy to think that President Hunter is only talking about how we learn more about the scriptures studying them consistently than we would if we read sporadically. But He’s also saying that when we read the scriptures every day first thing, Heavenly Father then helps us accomplish much more in the rest of the day than if we didn’t read.

One of my classmates in my seminary preservice class testified to this. He said that he always seemed to have so much homework and he found that if he read his scriptures FIRST, then he was always able to get everything else done on time. I can also second that witness because I’ve found the same thing happened in my life. When I have oodles to do, I can study my scriptures first and everything else works out. (I’ve seen classes get cancelled or due dates get moved back in unexpected ways.)

Excuse #5 : Daily reading is too “churchy” for me.

From President George Q. Cannon:
I have noticed….that where the people of God pay attention to the written word, and cherish and observe the written word, they are always better prepared to hear the oral instructions of the servants of God…they have greater interest in seeking to obtain instruction, than they have when they are careless about the written word of God. (CR 1897, October, 38)
From Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
I think that people who study the scriptures get a dimension to their life that nobody else gets and that can’t be obtained in any way except by studying the scriptures. (in David Croft, "Spare Time’s Rare to an Apostle", Church News, 24, January 1976, 4)
When we think of something as “too churchy,” fundamentally it means we have noticed that there is a major difference between the world and the things of the spirit. Discomfort with the spiritual happens when we haven’t had enough experience with those things to learn how wonderful they can be. It’s part of the natural man. (I remember this discomfort well from my earlier teenage years.) Daily scripture reading is how you overcome that discomfort with spiritual things so that you can enjoy them more. It’s something you do by yourself, so you don’t have to worry about how you look or what others are thinking about you. It’s a time when you’ll learn how it feels to be encouraged, enlightened, and edified by the Spirit so that when it happens other places, you’ll recognize it and embrace it rather than feeling like something weird is happening to you.

When we become accustomed to a daily dose of the word of God and recognize it as delicious, we will have been changed by the Spirit enough to be more interested in hearing the word of God.

Excuse #6 : Right now I’m working on improving something else related to my church activity. Improving scripture study will have to wait.

From President Ezra Taft Benson:
Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage to our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple.

All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow. (“The Power of the Word”, Ensign, May 1986, 81, emphasis added)
The scriptures are a conduit to personal revelation by which the Spirit will teach us everything we need to do. By incorporating daily personal scripture study, we will learn for ourselves and become agents anxiously engaged in good causes and bring to pass more righteousness than if we waited to be told by our leaders what to do.

Excuse #7 : I can find answers to my questions better by searching the internet.

From President Joseph Fielding Smith:
I think many members of the Church will be condemned for their failure to search for knowledge which is given in clearness in our Standard Works. (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 5, 46-47)
From Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the seventy:
This world is full of so many self-help books, so many self-proclaimed experts, so many theorists, educators, and philosophers who have advice and counsel to give on any and all subjects. With technology today, information on a myriad of subjects is available with the click of a keystroke. It is easy to get caught in the trap of looking to the “arm of flesh” for advice on everything from how to raise children to how to find happiness. While some information has merit, as members of the Church we have access to the source of pure truth, even God Himself. We would do well to search out answers to our problems and questions by investigating what the Lord has revealed through His prophets. (“Our Very Survival”, General Conference, October 2010)
I had a question that I pondered over from time to time as a teenager. I had noticed that I tended to have a little pride cycle going on in my life and I wanted to know what I could do to avoid the negative end of it. One day I happened to find the answer in a phrase in the scriptures—“weary not of well doing.” I realized that I always started on the downward end of my pride cycle when I got tired of doing good and decided to coast for a while. So I decided to try to rejoice in doing good instead.

If you have to have the convenience of internet speed in your searching, at least try searching the scriptures on lds.org. Both the topical guide and the little search box are extremely handy and fast. (The little search box can help you find things that aren’t in the Topical Guide. ☺)

The scriptures can help us with our modern problems; we just have to get creative with our search terms. Let’s say you’re having issues in your family with cell phone usage. If you want to find the doctrine of cell phones explicitly stated in the scriptures, you’re not going to find anything. But if you search with such terms as “communicate,” “distract,” “idle,” “vain,” “vanity,” and “talk,” you’ll find some principles that are applicable to establishing fundamental standards of cell phone usage. (I tried it myself using the search box in lds.org's scriptures and I was able to accumulate at least a page worth of helpful scriptures in a document file.)

To sum up…we will be blessed if we develop a daily habit of scripture study.



To those of you who have a daily scripture reading habit, how have you overcome your obstacles to daily scripture study?

3 comments:

Matthew said...

Well, excuse 1 and 2 are pretty easy to address: Abandon the KJV entirely and read a modern translation of the bible.

Suddenly, the scriptures become more accessible and understandable, and with that, they become more interesting as well.

My personal favorite is the 2007 New Living Translation, although I do find it helpful to refer to more literal translations at times.

I really think that the continued use of a translation that uses archaic language and incoherent grammatical structures (especially in the NT) inhibits our ability to engage with the scriptures. I love certain parts of the KJV, and the poetical value of some of it is priceless, but for day to day use, it needs to be retired.

Just my 2 cents. :D

Great post!

Paradox said...

Anyone who has a problem reading the KJV should take a semester or two of Biblical Hebrew. The translation isn't perfect, but those translators did an amazing job with what they had, and what they knew. They didn't just translate a copy--they created some of the most beautiful arrangements of the English language, doing the best they could to preserve the original language from which they were translating. The places where it's "incoherent"--that's the integrity of the translation showing through from the original language.

I can't speak personally for the Greek, but I know from studying Hebrew that there's a lot to be gained from using the KJV and doing our own study and work to gain our understanding--in a certain sense, learning to translate them for ourselves. Sure, God could've plopped the NLT in front of us. But considering how much He's given us in the past 200 years or so, we can at least TRY to do some work for ourselves.

It's amazing to me that people think reading the scriptures should be easy. Read the D&C. Does Christ talk like us? No. So why in the world should we read a Bible that talks like we do? There's something to be said for formality and dignity of the language in which we read His word. God has chosen for His Church to use the KJV for a reason, and He hasn't changed it despite all the alternatives which are currently available. I imagine there's a reason for that.

Gdub said...

Thanks for those awesome quotes and thoughts. I can see that being very helpful in helping my friends who struggle with this.

As for the excuses themselves, i've found that more often than not, the excuse is the same. It's less "I don't think they're important" and more, "I know they're important, but I can't make myself do it". That's why simply starting a daily habit of study is so crucial. No easier translation, no better scripture markers, no super-duper scripture calendar will fix that. It takes the spirit to give that gentle nudge that helps people move to action from the comfort of being acted upon.