By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What Does It Mean to Ponder, Anyway?

As long as I am asking strange questions, here is another one. What does it mean to ponder the scriptures, or to ponder the things of God?

I know what "ponder" means. I would like some insight, though, into what people do when they are pondering, in hopes that it will give my own pondering more direction and purpose.

Do you ask questions? What sorts of questions? Do you read a verse of scripture or a paragraph from a talk or article and then break it down to find its meaning? What helps you know what direction to take in your pondering? For example, if you are pondering the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," would you consider all the possible ways that a person might steal with the idea of making certain that you aren't doing any of them?

Do you take notes? Do you write down the questions that come to mind and the answers you come up with, if any?

Do you try to think outside the box or do you stick to the generally accepted interpretation of the verse? What is your purpose--to understand the scriptures? To make certain you are applying them in your life? To look for ways you might improve? To look for characteristics of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ so that you might become more like them? To look for ways to seek after the gifts of the spirit?

I suppose all of those are ways to ponder. I don't think there is any one answer to my questions, but I wonder what other people do. I wonder if I am just spinning my wheels and imagine that others make great strides in gaining insight because they know how to ponder. Therefore, I ask these questions in hopes that some of you would be kind enough to share your methods. No need to tell of personal insights or things that you don't want to share on the internet--I just would like some idea of what kinds of questions you find helpful to ask yourself, or anything else you do that you have found useful, and also what sorts of things you gain or want to gain from said pondering.

Thanks in advance for your comments and ideas.



Blogger s'mee said...

I have such a hard time commenting on your blog; usually because I feel I have nothing interesting to add. All the same I enjoy what I read.

Today I will comment. I do have a tendancy to break apart certain things. I think that the Prophets have learned to use their words wisely, so I focus in on certain words or phrases. I focus on which scriptures they use and how often those scriptures are repeated. Which hymns they quote and why.

I do take notes while reading scripture. I can go back and reread those notes in the sidebars and think, "wow, I was into the Spirit when I wrote that" or "what was I thinking that time?lol".

Sometimes I write the random thoughts that come to me during a particular set time, and then review those thoughts at a set later date to find their meaning. (journal or otherwise)

I have a habit of reading fairly accepted text or verses (interpreted one way), one that most people think is point blank or direct, with as much symbolism as I can muster to see if there is anything hidden there that applies to me. (such as replacing words like water, blood, etc. that *can* mean baptism, atonement, whatever.) I rarely share these symbolic readings, but at times have felt really connected to something deeply Spiritual.

I guess for me the purposes change from day to day, circumstance to circumstance. I look for somethings to just get me through and others to enlighten my understanding. Sometimes it's just for fun and entertainment. MOstly it is that little voice in my head saying I need to really know these things so that I will "have so much more the advantage" in the world to come. I am lacking in formal education because of $$ and time. I can afford to read the scriptures if I make the time.

I try to listen with my scriptures open during talks etc., so that I can take notes in the margins. My daughter ALWAYS brings a journal to church, conference, etc.

Sometimes I will let the book fall open, begin at a certain scripture, read it and all of the references that are linked to it, and on and on in a rambling way to find a connection that will lead me to an answer.

Sometimes I land on a question and begin in the topical guide or bible dictionary. I am alone a lot during the day so I do have enough quiet moments to think and rethink what comes.

I am beginning to ramble so I'll stop. I hope this was some of what you were looking for.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

s'mee, that's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I guess I just feel insecure about whether I'm "doing this right." But I thought, too, that if I got ideas from others, it might help me find some new ways to look at the scriptures. I liked what you said about symbolism--I hadn't thought of making those types of substitutions to help clarify meaning. Thanks for taking the time to comment! (And, no, you weren't rambling!)

3:36 PM  
Blogger s'mee said...

Mary, I don't know that there is a right or wrong way. I think we just need to do it, lol!

I had a gal tell me that whenever she was tempted to watch something she had seen before, to just get up and take ten minutes to study the scriptures and another ten minutes to let what she studied sink in. Then she allowed herself the movie or whatever.

I am not that disciplined; although at times I have been. grr, got to get back in the habit.

About the symbolism, in most of my ventures there it actually makes the whole story completely different in meaning. For instance one which is a very popular version, for smee, ended up being a type of "plan of happiness", completely not what you would hear explained in G.D. class or over the pulpit. Another "story" came out as a discription of the Saviour and His importance in the Atonement. O.k. very wierd, but it kind of fit; and it was a cool new way to think of that section of scripture for me. One that I don't mind sharing is Proverbs 1. I have read it as it is and then also as if someone were talking to a contemporary kid who is perhaps contemplating joining a gang. Sounds totally freaky, but it works. "Let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily...cast thy lot among us and let us all have one purse...the net is spread in the sight of any bird..." It goes on and on, but to me it's cool to think how it fits symbolically for today.

yada yada yada...see you soon, thanks Mary. : )

6:15 PM  
Blogger miss sarah said...

I know you're not looking for a definition, but there's one comment about pondering that totally defines how I approach it. It's from Elder Marvin J. Ashton when he said, "Pondering is a powerful link between the heart and the mind." I love this thought and made it my model; I think it's incredibly effective.

When I am pondering, whether the subject is spiritual or otherwise, I am looking for the way the concepts as my mind understands them can merge with the promptings, emotions, gut feelings, and intuition I may be receiving from my heart. For me, it's the attempt to continually process and blend the two into a cogent and compelling moment of understanding and spiritual confirmation. If that makes sense. Great post!

1:58 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

s'mee, I think that's probably what Nephi means when he says to liken the scriptures to ourselves (or our times) for our profit and learning. It helps us see how to understand and apply scripture.

Miss Sarah, I like that definition. Thanks for sharing it! That really helps.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

I need to take notes here on the suggestions. It is funny that I ponder subjects at often and yet when I read the scriptures, my mind often wanders so much. I do not tend to drink deeply there. There are times when the beauty of the scriptures language or message really speak to me. Or the patterns and the rhythm really impress upon my mind. And when I really like a scripture and think that there is application to me, I tend to think of it as "my scripture". I love the scriptures and what they teach, but as of yet have not really learned their deeper layers for the most part.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Same here, Barb! My mind does tend to wander. I think I don't get all there is out of the scriptures, but when something really resonates with me, it's wonderful!

2:15 AM  
Anonymous Barb said...

Mary, I like your "socrates" method of teaching by asking questions. :) Keep on asking!

6:47 PM  
Blogger chronicler said...

Hi Mary. good post and comments. I will add that what seems to work for me is to set something aside for a time and then be willing to allow the spirit to teach me. How I do this is study something out for myself and then ask the Lord to show me my errors or expand my thoughts. Then I allow myself some time and space, go about other tasks, and then go back to it in a completely quiet place devoid of other stimulants. My best place to d othis is the shower. The noise of the water takes away outside stimulants and I can really think. It is incredible to me some of the things that have come to me at those times. Other places have worked as well also.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

chronicler, that's really helpful to me. That's a great approach--you do your part, then let the Lord do His part. I pray for help in understanding the scriptures, but I don't carry through like you suggested. That'll help me to use your approach. Thanks!

You-all have really given me some useful help. Anyone else out there with ideas--feel free to keep 'em coming!

12:01 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

There are so many ways to ponder and many have them have been mentioned. I loved S'mee taking notes, I mark my scriptures often. I also learned to write questions I have down in a journal and when I find answers to them to jot them down. These answers fit 4 categories, faith, hope, charity and gratitude. It is a very interesting way to learn. You give each category their own color and a set of scriptures just for this purpose and you tab the scriptures with those stick on tabs, that way you can find those marked scriptures easily. I know this sounds complicated but it really isn't. I suppose I should blog about it sometime.

The other thing I do is just think about the question. Sometimes I'm searching for that answer for years. I had one question that I finally found the answer for in a book I bought. I knew the answer wasn't in the scriptures and I really wanted to understand why. I often find the answers come to my mind when I'm not thinking about them. Generally when I'm driving with good music, or doing my hair. Something rather mindless, that is when I have the majority of my Ah-Ah moments. Not when I'm studying or praying.

I have to be receptive to the teachings at any moment.

I have also been taught to write down my first impressions after prayer. Now I have to say I'm not good at that. It is something I would really like to perfect because I think many insights would come to me in those quiet moments.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

I have heard mention of scripture journals--perhaps that would help me, too--to write down questions and impressions. A prayer journal (writing down one's impressions right after prayer) would be useful, as well. Many things slip through my mind and are forgotten--even things that impress me enough that I think I won't forget them!

I like your idea of categories, Tigersue, and marking scriptures that way. I recently bought an extra-large print Bible and Triple Combination (the economy set, which still ran almost $50) to use for study. Plenty of room to write in those margins! They are HUGE--and heavy. Best read at a table. :D

There really are a lot of different ideas out there so I appreciate all of your thoughts. They are helping me already!

2:00 PM  

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