Saturday, November 20, 2010

28 Ways to squeeze every drop of insight from your scripture reading

I went to observe a seminary class and on one of the classroom walls was a cluster of scripture study strategies. There were so many of them and they were so good that I just had to write them all down for reference. If you want to squeeze every last bit of wisdom and insight from your scripture study, or add extra breadth and depth to it, these are very helpful.
  1. Insert your name in place of other names. This helps you feel like the scriptures are speaking to you.
  2. Link a scripture mastery scripture to its surrounding context and then to your life. This helps you see where you need to change and repent. It is the best method spiritual growth. This can also be done with other scriptures as well.
  3. Look for lists and number them. This helps us see how big they are and understand them better.
  4. Look for words of emphasis, attention, and focus (verily, O, wo, Lo, truly). These help us know what the writer considered important.
  5. Look for blessings and how to obtain them. Some people think this creates a faulty transactionalist view of the scriptures, but if you want blessings, nothing beats learning what the scriptures say about how to obtain them.
  6. Look for if-then statements. Often this is an easy way to find blessings and warnings.
  7. Compare and contrast. Contrast good people and bad people. Contrast leaders and followers. Contrast God and mortals. Anywhere there is a conflict, there is potential to contrast.
  8. Look for characteristics of the Godhead. This helps us understand who we worship better and helps us have faith in them.
  9. Look for power phrases. These are the really memorable lines like "Wickedness never was happiness." They pack a huge punch of truth.
  10. Look for principles and doctrines. These are general statements that can be used to guide you in a bunch of different situations.
  11. Look up word definitions. Sometimes word meanings change over time. For example, the word "peculiar" in the Lord's command to become a "peculiar people" has changed from "special" to "weird," so we need the reminder of what it used to mean.
  12. Look for patterns and repetition. Patterns can involve events, idea repetition, word repetition, and more. We know about the pride cycle because someone noticed a pattern. Repeated words in a scripture block can indicate emphasis on a certain principle or doctrine.
  13. Look for problems and their solutions. The problems we have in our lives will very much resemble the problems that people had in the scriptures, and their solutions will also work for us.
  14. Look for questions in the text and answer them. This will help you improve your ability to explain scriptures to people, which you will always use when sharing the gospel.
  15. Ask the writer a question, then look for the answer. The Lord listens and wants to answer our questions when we ask them.
  16. Ask what the author intended to teach. This can help us keep from going off into left field with interpretation. It also helps us notice what the writer emphasized most.
  17. Check footnotes. Sometimes there are translation issues. You might find the Joseph Smith Transation has something to add.
  18. Look up cross references. This can broaden our view of the meaning of our reading.
  19. Study by topic using the Topical Guide. This can REALLY expand our understanding of a topic so we can see it from a number of different angles. It can help us find the underlying connection between two gospel principles that seem to contradict each other. (Ex: grace and works) This is best started when there is an attribute that you want to learn about so you can become it.
  20. Create scripture chains. This allows you to connect together in a linear fashion scripture verses that are closely related. It is useful for when you have to teach someone about, say, baptism and build a foundation for their understanding.
  21. Create scripture clusters.* This helps broaden your understanding and helps develop the skills of discernment as to what principles are most important and which are more peripheral.
  22. Use manuals. These can fill in the holes when we lack cultural or historical insight.
  23. Find out background and read in context. Context can help you pick out significance that you may have missed earlier.
  24. Use maps and photographs. They help make the scriptures real. These things happened in real places with real people!
  25. Find a supporting hymn. Music can teach what words alone can't.
  26. Ask how it relates to the Plan of Salvation. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you return to Heavenly Father someday.
  27. Ask how it might relate to the Proclamation on the Family. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you strengthen your family.
  28. Write what you discover in a scripture journal. This is the depository for all the great insights you will get. The Lord can reveal more to us when we show we value what He has already given us.

*A scripture cluster is a list of scriptures all dealing with the same topic and represents the best scriptures you can find on that topic. Each scripture in the cluster must add a special bit of knowledge or insight to the topic that none of the other scriptures in the cluster have.

Are there any other methods that you use that you can share with me?


Annmarie said...

Great ideas thanks for sharing. My favorite study aid is my scripture journal. I love the I spiration I recieve as I write while I study. I learn and retain so much from this.

One way I studied this fall was to just pick out the stories and study them in detail. Why were they included ? How can I relate this to my life and so on. I learned amazing things. It has also been easier to pull these ideas and relate them to things happening in my children's lives because I have studied them in such depth. It has sparked some great conversations.

Thanks for sharing.

Heather M. Collins said...

The most important one isn't on this list.

Begin with a prayer to Father in Heaven to use the scriptures to converse with you as you read.

We often emphasize that to study is better than to read the words on the page. But do we emphasize that to interact with Heavenly Father is better than studying? Studying has its purpose in helping us to internalize crucial information. But if that's all we ever do, we pay the price for a blessing we never receive.

It's like how pointless it would be if one of the wise virgins spent all her time collecting oil, but never lit the lamp. What would be the purpose?

Michaela Stephens said...

Ann Marie: I agree, a scripture journal is a great study aid. I've started keeping one myself this fall and it has helped me a lot.

Paradox: You're so right; prayer is an important part of scripture study. I never used to think so until the last few months. I've been doing it more and it has made my study more fruitful, especially in parts of the text that I thought were "tapped out."