Anonymous asked: I really struggle with reading the scriptures. I try to do it often, but it's hard for me to comprehend what I'm reading, and I usually don't really retain what I've read. How can I make my scripture study more meaningful and beneficial? Will God be disappointed in me for not knowing the stories in the scriptures very well?
Ok first off, God will never be disappointed if you do your best. We all know those members in Sunday School who seem to have every last nuance of the Old Testament stories crammed in their cranium. Will God hold these people to a higher standard than the rest of us? No. The stories of the scriptures are important for our benefit, when we read them, but it is not necessary to our salvation.
I feel one of the problems in our church is when we read scripture, we read it like a novel instead of a text book.
Here are a few suggestions to read the scriptures like Herminone Granger, who is a great example of studying and treasuring bookly knowledge:
1. Pray, A LOT!
Start your study with earnest prayer, asking for help and inspiration. And when you’re reading and find some gem of wisdom, pray again. Show gratitude and ask if there is more to be learned.
2. Make it an assignment
When you sit down, make a list of things you want to learn from this session. Ask yourself questions like “Who is speaking? What are they saying? Why is this important? How do I apply it?” And then write it out, as if you were to turn it in to your teacher.
3. Write your thoughts
Keeping a journal of scriptural insights increases our retention dramatically. Imagine where we would be if Nephi decided not to write his spiritual experiences. Or if Alma didn’t think it was cool to write down his sermons. Expressing ourselves in writing builds our testimonies.
I’m not asking you to go overboard, over highlighting and underlining can be distracting, but here are some examples I’ve actually done in my studies: Highlight the words of Christ in one color, teachings about his ministry in another color, and circle each reference to Him or His titles. Another time I’ve highlighted all the scriptures in the BofM pertinent to the lessons in Preach My Gospel, color-coordinated to each of the 5 lessons. Presently I’m studying the Atonement and highlighting the different missions of our Savior.
5.Study by subject
Perhaps you need inspiration on how to develop charity. Or maybe you’re curious about repentance. We have great study helps (the Topical Guide, Index, and Bible Dictionary) that have been cross-referenced and what not. Make use of them and you can learn a lot as you study subject by subject.
6. Try bite-sized portions
Too often we break up our studies in to time periods (10 minutes a day) or linear breaks (5 pages), and our end becomes the goal, instead of the journey. Try to study in smaller portions, and then dissect what you’re reading. Reread verses over and over until you understand them. Look for meaning before you plug on.
7. Study with a goal
Instead of just sitting down and reading, make a goal for your studies. Perhaps you have a struggle or trial you need help overcoming. Or you need inspiration for your decision making. What ever you decide, make a goal before you study, and often the answers will come as you study.
I hope any one of these suggestions helps. Also, I’m thinking of expanding on these thoughts and writing a short book about study habits. If any of you have similar concerns, or ideas for this book, let me know.