By Study and Also By Faith

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

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Because We Have Them Before Our Eyes"

In the June 2006 New Era Elder David Bednar wrote an article titled "The Message: Because We Have Them Before Our Eyes". His subject is scripture study, which is a subject that always captures my attention. Although written with the young folks in mind, this article contains insights and ideas that can help any of us, whatever our age, improve our scripture study.

In answer to the question of why studying the scriptures is important, Elder Bednar wrote:

The Lord has declared that it is His work and His glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He has established His Church to help in this great work. Accordingly, the grand mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to “invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59) and “be perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32). Thus, all that we learn and know and do as disciples of the Savior and as members of His Church is intended to assist us in responding affirmatively to this supernal invitation.

Coming unto Christ is not a single event with a fixed point of beginning or ending; rather, it is a process that develops and deepens during a lifetime. As an initial step in the process, we certainly must obtain knowledge and learn about Jesus and His life, teachings, and ministry. But truly coming unto Him also requires consistent obedience and striving to become like Jesus in our thoughts, motives, communications, and actions. As we “press forward” (
2 Ne. 31:20) on the pathway of discipleship, we can draw near unto the Savior with the expectation that He will draw near unto us; we can seek Him diligently with the hope that we shall find Him; we can ask with confidence that we shall receive; and we can knock anticipating that the door shall be opened unto us (see D&C 88:63).

One of the best ways to draw near unto Him and to both learn about and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ is to consistently study the holy scriptures—to daily “feast upon the words of Christ” (
2 Ne. 32:3).

That sums up the eternal importance of studying the scriptures. There is something else, too. Have you ever wondered if you would know the voice of the Lord and thus be able to follow Him, as it says several times in the scriptures? How do we know His voice? Elder Bednar writes as follows:
The scriptures, in essence, are a written “recording” of the voice of the Lord—a voice we feel in our hearts more than we hear with our ears. And as we study the content and feel the spirit of the written word of God, we learn to hear His voice in the words we read and to understand the means whereby the words are given to us by the Holy Ghost. As is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36:

“These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;

“For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;

“Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.”

How important it is for each of us to return repeatedly to the holy scriptures and thereby gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice. As we regularly study the holy scriptures, “Behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (
2 Ne. 32:3).

I feel encouraged that I can "gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice" and am therefore less likely to be led astray by false voices. If we learn to hear and feel His voice and are very familiar with His teachings and, therefore, what He is likely to say, we can be confident that we are on the right track, or "the strait and narrow path."

Elder Bednar then lists five principles with some commentary to make our gospel study more effective and edifying. He writes:

Principle 1: Pray for understanding, and invite the help of the Holy Ghost. The things of the Spirit can be learned only by and through the influence of the Spirit. Each time we begin a session of sincere scripture study, an earnest and humble prayer in which we petition our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son for the assistance of the Holy Ghost will greatly improve our learning, understanding, and recall. It is helpful to pray not only at the beginning, but to plead for understanding as you study. Also, I find it helpful to express gratitude for what I have been taught as I conclude the session.

Principle 2: Work. Gospel knowledge and understanding come through diligent study of the scriptures and tutoring by the Holy Ghost. The combination that opens the vault door to hidden scriptural treasures includes a great deal of work—simple, old-fashioned, hard work. A farmer cannot expect to harvest a crop in the fall if he does not properly sow in the spring and work hard during the summer to weed, nourish, and cultivate the plants. In like manner, we cannot expect to reap a rich scriptural harvest unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study. The scriptural treasures we seek in our lives cannot be borrowed or loaned or obtained secondhand. We must each learn to open the vault door by applying the principle of work.

Principle 3: Be consistent. Given the hectic pace of our lives, good intentions and simply “hoping” to find the time for meaningful scripture study are not sufficient. My experience suggests that a specific and scheduled time set aside each day and, as much as possible, a particular place for study greatly increase the effectiveness of our searching in and study of the scriptures.

Principle 4: Ponder. The word ponder means to consider, contemplate, reflect upon, or think about. Pondering the scriptures, then, is reverent reflecting on the truths, experiences, and lessons contained in the standard works. The process of pondering takes time and cannot be forced, hurried, or rushed.

The Prophet Joseph Smith provided an important guideline about pondering and reflecting upon the scriptures. He taught: “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” Thus, striving to understand the question that preceded a particular revelation, parable, or episode can assist us in obtaining a deeper understanding of the scriptures.

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) emphasized a similar approach to studying and pondering the holy scriptures in general and the Book of Mormon in particular:

“If [the Book of Mormon writers] saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’ ”

President Benson’s teaching helps us to follow the counsel of Nephi to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (
1 Ne. 19:23). Thus, asking questions about and pondering the things we have studied in the scriptures invite inspiration and the assistance of the Holy Ghost.

Principle 5: Write down impressions, thoughts, and feelings. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles frequently has emphasized the importance of writing down spiritual impressions and thoughts:

“You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life. Always, day or night, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, seek to recognize and respond to the direction of the Spirit. Express gratitude for the help received and obey it. This practice will reinforce your capacity to learn by the Spirit. It will permit the Lord to guide your life and to enrich the use of every other capacity latent in your being.”

Writing down what we learn, think, and feel as we study the scriptures is another form of pondering and a powerful invitation to the Holy Ghost for continuing instruction.
There is a lot of insight there to help us as we study the word of God. I was particularly struck by what the Prophet Joseph Smith said. “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” It makes sense that knowing the context of what the Lord is teaching can help us understand it better and know how it applies to our lives.

Writing a scripture journal can also help us focus and remember and we will have a record of insights that come to us as we study the scriptures--insights that are all too easy to forget in the midst of all the activity of daily life.

There is much more in this article that I found inspiring and useful and I hope that you will read it and see what you can find that will give your scripture study a boost, as well.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Barb said...

I will comment on the post later when I have a chance to read and think about it.

I wanted to wish you a Happy Valentines Day. Also, in case you have not swung by Nauvoo as of late, I wanted to let you know that I have a new niece. Bridget was born on Feb. 5.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Thanks, Barb! A very Happy Valentine's Day to you, too!! And congratulations on your new niece, Bridget. Aren't babies wonderful?! Nothing like holding a baby to warm your heart and cheer your soul!

1:54 AM  

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