Putting the “Personal” in Personal Gospel Study

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg, Church News staff writer


A young adult studies the gospel. 

Article Highlights

  • Pay attention to impressions, even seemingly unrelated ones.
  • Include personal prayer, scripture study, and time spent pondering.
  • Good gospel study habits lead to spiritual self-reliance.

“No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less what it will become, without personal inspiration.” —President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

To improve the impact of personal scripture study, one must seek personal revelation, said David B. Marsh at the 2016 BYU Campus Education Week in Provo, Utah. “Pay attention to impressions even if they have nothing to do with what you are reading.”

Brother Marsh mentioned that, as a young returned missionary, he was hungry for spiritual strength. He started to attend local firesides on the weekend to stay spiritually strengthened. He enjoyed these events, but the enlightenment he felt lasted only a couple days and he wanted more. “I decided to start a lifelong search for those things that helped people cultivate more spiritual experiences in their lives,” he said.

“As part of my doctoral work at BYU, I researched things that would be sure to increase the possibility of spiritual experiences for young adults,” Brother Marsh said. “Personal gospel study was the most influential thing that led to consistent, constant spiritual experiences.”

Defining personal gospel study as personal prayer, personal scripture study, and time spent pondering, Brother Marsh said, “The number one thing that helped youth to do their own personal gospel study was family gospel study in the home.”

Spiritual self-reliance has been encouraged by many General Authorities of the Church, said Brother Marsh. He then quoted President Boyd K. Packer from the talk “Reverence Invites Revelation” given in the October 1991 general conference. President Packer said, “No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less what it will become, without personal inspiration.”

Brother Marsh then offered a few points to help increase personal revelation during scripture study. “First you should record impressions, ponder them, and ask the Lord to give you further understanding.”

Abbie Gregory from Provo, Utah, speaks with David B. Marsh on Monday after his presentation at BYU’s Campus Education Week. Photo by Katie Harmer.

He then quoted from Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” in which Elder Scott shared how he recorded spiritual impressions during a Church class. Elder Scott said: “I began to receive personal impressions as an extension of the principles taught by that humble instructor. They were personal and related to my assignments in the area. They came in answer to my prolonged, prayerful efforts to learn. As each impression came, I carefully wrote it down.”

The next point to help with personal revelation is to ponder the impressions that are received. Brother Marsh said, “The definition of pondering means to reflect or to consider something deeply. Make sure nothing escapes attention.”

Next Brother Marsh said a person can rewrite a verse of scripture in his or her own words to help with understanding and to emphasize what the Spirit directs to be the most important for him or her. It can also help to cross out some words in a verse to decipher meaning.

Two final points to increase personal revelation in scripture study, said Brother Marsh, are to formulate three questions that can be answered by scripture study and to teach others. “You can articulate things to others by teaching them what you have learned. It will help you understand things in new ways,” said Brother Marsh.