"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." - Katharine Hepburn
Question #89516 posted on 04/28/2017 8:25 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

How do you personally approach scripture study and in what sorts of ways do you switch it up to keep it interesting? President Nelson recently gave the challenge to study all the scriptures about Christ from the Topical Guide. I've heard many people talk about studying by topic. I've also considered reading through the Book of Mormon and taking note of every significant individual and what I learn from them. Do you often take notes or keep a study journal? How do you categorize it and what is included in it (i.e. do you mainly write only your personal thoughts or do you also include doodles/cross-references/etc.)? Do you mark your scriptures in any particular way? And do you have any other method of scripture study you have tried and liked or that you would like to try? I guess I just want to hear about each of your scripture study experiences and what has been effective and interesting for you.

-Jordan Rivers


Dear Jordan ~

In general, I don't have a specific method. When I have done various colors, I just picked the one that felt the best for that. I had a few themes. If/then statements got boxes around the if and then with lines connecting them. But nothing that was consistent. 

As for various study methods, I'm not consistent there either. But I will describe what has proven to be my most effective methods.

  1. Read one page at a time, three times. The first time through, read it just for comprehension, so you know what's going on, story-wise. The second time, read it to apply it to yourself. Write down all of your thoughts and inspiration. The third time, read it for all the things you missed. I almost always start this one thinking that I won't be able to add anything. It is almost always the longest section in my journal. If you have a specific focus in mind, read it a fourth time with that focus. (I did this with a calling I felt like I needed help with. Perhaps I should do that again now...)
  2. Pick a subject you don't understand. Talk to people you trust about it. (My persons of choice are Yellow and a few of my closer girl friends. Sometimes family, if I happen to see them in person.) Let your mind be open to new ideas. If they mention any scriptures or talks, write them down. Then go read them, and do your own study to learn more. Talk to those people again with the knowledge you have learned. Repeat until you feel like you have an acceptable understanding on the topic.
  3. Teach a lesson or give a sacrament talk. You always learn more when studying for those. (Young Women lessons have actually been the best thing that has ever happened to my scripture study. They are brilliant catalysts.) 
  4. Relatedly, and not mine, Yellow's mission president used to write a book whenever he wanted to understand a topic better. I think this is awesome. I may try it someday.
  5. Find a friend to go to the temple with every week. Afterwards, in the Celestial Room (if you're endowed) or on the grounds or in the waiting room  (if you're not endowed), chat. Talk about what stood out to you, or ask what questions you have. It doesn't have to be about your temple experience. Sometimes it's just thoughts I have while there, or thoughts I've been pondering. Learn from that person, then go home and do your own research. Next week, report on what you've learned. (It occurs to me that this is very similar to #2. I learn best by talking to others, I guess.)

~ Dragon Lady


Dear Jordan,

A few semesters ago, I took Foundations of the Restoration from Dr. Anthony Sweat. The class was fantastic, and I highly recommend him as a teacher. During one of the lectures, he was talking about translation in relation to the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible, and how translation doesn't always mean converting a text from one language to another. Sometimes it's about adapting the text to make it more easily understood and applied to the reader. He challenged us to make it a habit to study the scriptures well enough to be able to translate them for ourselves. Recently, I decided to take that advice more literally than he meant, and I've been going through the Book of Mormon and rewriting it in more common terms. It has been slow going (I just got to the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi and I've been doing it for several months), and I'm sure I will have to go back through it for a second pass if I want to make it a document worth keeping, but it has helped me to think about what the words mean beyond the language that we're used to reading all the time.

That's my current approach, which may or may not work for you, but it's been pretty good for me.

-The Entomophagist


Dear Jordan,

Try reading the Book of Mormon backwards, one chapter at a time. I enjoyed this: you end up seeing the consequences of actions very clearly, as well as how longer sermons build on themselves and so forth. 

I tend to do a lot of through-reading for my daily study, but I do take some notes in Gospel Library and I also have a doctrinal reference type thing (intent is for it to eventually become a book for my kids) where I categorize key insights.

~Professor Kirke


Dear Jordan,

Sometimes a book about theology or religious doctrine will include a scripture index at the back, which is basically a separate index that points you to where a particular scripture is mentioned in the text. It's a nice tool if you're studying one particular book of scripture, because it points you directly to the author's analysis of or thoughts pertaining to that scripture. (It's similar to how scriptures.byu.edu works, if you're familiar with that resource.)

Lately I've been doing my scripture study by basically creating a scripture index of a work that I really like (either a blog post or a book). When I find a scripture reference, I'll read through the entire chapter where that scripture is found, then I'll read the section/chapter/blog post that mentions the scripture in context, then I go back and read the chapter again. Adding the thoughts and analysis of another writer to my own scripture study has really enlarged my understanding of the scriptures and made me view a lot of old stories in a new way (as well as led me to books of scripture that I've never really studied much on my own).

The hardest part of this type of scripture study is identifying a book that you want to read this way that also has a lot of scripture references. I've really enjoyed recent publications by the Maxwell Institute and Kofford Books as well as the anthology A Book Of Mormons: Latter-Day Saints On A Modern-Day Zion, which was published in 2015 by White Cloud Press. Many books published by Deseret Book or Cedar Fort could also work for this type of project (and some may already include a scripture index). As mentioned above, scriptures.byu.edu is another tool if you wanted to do the same thing with conference talks (or with the talks of one particular speaker or session of conference).

- Katya


Dear JR,

See also Board Question #77112.

- The Librarian