Like many other Latter-day Saint women, I married a man who had served a mission, studied the gospel, and memorized many scriptures. Early in our marriage I found myself turning to him for my gospel understanding. At first I felt comfortable relying on him, but I soon realized I was receiving without paying a price. And his answers never seemed to remain with me.
After our first child was born, I challenged myself to come to an understanding and testimony of the gospel through my own study and diligence. President Kimball’s words reinforced my decision: “I ask us all to honestly evaluate our performance in scripture study. It is a common thing to have a few passages of scripture at our disposal, floating in our minds, as it were, and thus to have the illusion that we know a great deal about the gospel. In this sense, having a little knowledge can be a problem indeed. I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again” (Ensign, Sept. 1976, p. 4).
I looked for a realistic way to “discover” the scriptures—and I found one. My method of scripture study involves five things:
1. Pray and study regularly. I began to study the course outlined in the Sunday School study program, which gave organization and direction to my efforts. Since I can’t think as clearly at night, I chose morning as my study time. During a short period my attempts seemed desultory; what I studied seemed fragmented. But I stayed with it. Soon I looked forward to arising early to learn and to have my questions answered. Gradually, a consistent study pattern emerged. My husband, Rich, and I began to share gospel ideas more equally. Now I hungrily anticipate that time each day when my spirit can be fed and can gain power for the day.
2. Select applicable scriptures to memorize. Because I had long believed that memorization is an effective method of learning, I began to commit to memory scriptures and words of the prophets. I cautioned myself about the danger in simply learning scriptures. Instead, I wanted to internalize gospel principles to benefit my family and myself. Reciting verbatim Paul’s masterful sermon on charity (1 Cor. 13) would not alone make me charitable. I must strive to comprehend and live those teachings.
As I worked on memorizing certain scriptures, I discovered a marvelous fact: The more we learn, the more we can learn. The human mind is elastic, able to expand and stretch as information is fed into it; there is no limit to what it can do. Like a tree whose root system absorbs nutrients, my mind gradually expanded as I allowed my “root system” to grow and to search out knowledge. Knowledge already in my mind joined with new information, so I was discovering new ideas, new relationships. I became able to know—not guess—the answers to questions my children asked.
Becky Brewster, a young mother who memorizes three scriptures a week, says: “Memorization has given me a firmer grasp of the standard works. Pieces of the gospel are beginning to connect like a puzzle. I can be sitting in a Sunday School class, and a verse I’ve learned will be the answer to a question asked. I have more confidence now to contribute.”
Vicki Williams, a former high school English teacher who memorizes scriptures, challenged her Laurel girls to memorize the Lord’s counsel. Each girl determined how many scriptures she would commit to memory during the month. Their enthusiasm grew, and most of them decided to try it a second month. What they learned helped them solve their problems and understand their needs.
3. Record discoveries. As I select scriptures to study or memorize, I record the verses on index cards according to subject—such as Priesthood, Creation, Nature of God. I note the subject and key words at the top, and the source or reference. I then type the parts of the scripture I want to retain. For example, in the account of Adam’s baptism (in Moses 6:64), I found I didn’t need to memorize the entire verse to remember or understand it. Certain words and their order were significant: “caught away by the Spirit,” “carried into the water,” “laid under the water.”
On the back of the card I record the context, a personal comment, and the date the verse was first memorized. I keep the cards alphabetically arranged in a file box (a child’s shoe box is just the right size), and carry one or two cards with me to study in free moments. The once random scriptures “floating” in my mind now fit together in a framework that grows steadily stronger.
As I continued to study I soon realized there were more scriptures I wanted to claim than I was able to learn at one time. So I began to file scriptures I wanted to learn in a separate box. I picked up this method of keeping track of them from a friend: As I’m studying I keep a few blank cards handy; then when I read a passage I want to record, I write the subject heading (“Creation,” “Atonement”) at the top of the card and list the source and a concise one-line explanation in my own words. This forces me to focus and sort out my ideas. I use these cards almost daily. Thus I have my own personal concordance to help in preparing talks and lessons and in encouraging my friends.
4. Review both current and already learned scriptures. I’ve found that a scripture may slip forgotten into a back pocket of my mind. Also, regular review often brings greater insight and comprehension as my spiritual understanding increases.
5. Use “butterfly moments.” The success of my scripture study has come in between loads of wash and skinned knees, making use of those small times which would otherwise flutter by unnoticed. I study while waiting for appointments or the children, or even while waiting for the toast to pop up. I like nothing better for my few quiet moments than to get out my scripture cards. I have had to get used to concentrating for short periods of time, but with practice it works.
Applying this study method may not be the answer for everyone. Whatever method we use, we have the responsibility to “evaluate our performance in scripture study,” as President Kimball counsels.
I can only say that as I have consistently and diligently studied, I have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life more powerfully than before. I am far from being a gospel scholar. Yet even on my most frustrating days I know there is at least one productive effort—my moments of scripture discovery. When discouraged by sorrows, pressures, or transgressions, I find emotional and spiritual renewal in the scriptures. And when I’m joyous, the Lord’s words lift me even higher.