Unit 1: Day 1, Studying the Scriptures

Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, (2012), 1–3


Introduction

The purpose of this lesson is to help you learn how to study the scriptures and to invite the Holy Ghost to inspire and teach you as you do so. This lesson will also teach you skills that will help you better understand the scriptures and apply their teachings in your life. As you study this lesson, look for ways you can invite the Holy Ghost into your gospel study.

Learn by Study and by Faith

Imagine that you want to improve your own physical fitness, so you ask a friend to exercise for you. How much would your friend’s exercising affect your physical fitness? Relating this example to your spiritual growth, just as one person cannot exercise for another, one person cannot learn the gospel for another. Each of us is responsible for our own gospel learning and spiritual growth.

In Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, the Lord described how to learn the gospel. As you read it, identify what you need to do to learn the gospel and complete the following statement: “Seek learning, even by ____________________ and also by ____________________.”

To seek learning by study and by faith requires individual effort. Your efforts to prayerfully study the gospel will invite the Holy Ghost into the learning process. Some of the ways to put forth effort in your gospel study this year are to pray for understanding, fulfill your seminary assignments, share your testimony and your experiences in living the gospel with others, and apply the things you learn in your life.

One essential effort you can make to invite the Holy Ghost to be a part of your spiritual learning is to study the scriptures daily. Daily personal scripture study helps you hear the voice of the Lord speaking to you (see D&C 18:34–36). Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles promised: “When we want [God] to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit” (“Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 26–27).

As you read the scriptures and invite the Holy Ghost into your study, you will receive the blessings of greater spiritual growth, a closeness to God, greater revelation in your life, added strength to resist temptation, and a greater testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture Study

President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency identified one of the key purposes for the scriptures when he said, “The scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit” (“Records of Great Worth,” Ensign, Sept. 1980, 4). We learn the principles and doctrines of the gospel as we study the scriptures. These principles and doctrines will guide us as we apply them to our lives.

gem

Finding the priceless principles and doctrines contained in the scriptures takes effort and practice. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles compared studying the scriptures to the work of mining valuable gems: “Find the diamonds of truth that sometimes must be carefully mined from the pages of [scripture]” (“Four Fundamentals for Those Who Teach and Inspire Youth,” in Old Testament Symposium Speeches, 1987 [1988], 1). The process of studying, or mining, the scriptures has three important parts: (1) we must understand the background and setting of the scriptures, (2) we must identify the principles and doctrines being taught, and (3) we must apply those truths to our own lives.

  1. journal icon1.

    In your scripture study journal, answer the following question: What are the similarities between a miner searching for diamonds and someone searching the scriptures for gospel principles and applying them in his or her life?

Understand the Background and Setting of the Scriptures

Understanding the background and setting of a scripture passage prepares you to recognize the gospel messages it contains. President Thomas S. Monson counseled: “Become acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach. Learn the background and setting. … Study them as though they were speaking to you, for such is the truth” (“Be Your Best Self,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 68).

When reading the scriptures, it is useful to ask questions like: “Who wrote these verses?” “To whom were they written?” “What is happening in this account?” and “Why did the author write these verses?” Chapter headings (the italicized summaries at the beginning of each chapter) provide an overview of the main events in the chapter and often answer these questions.

It is also helpful to look up difficult or unfamiliar words in a dictionary. When a phrase or passage of scripture is unclear, referring to any available footnotes can help you understand it better.

To practice using these tools, read 3 Nephi 17:1–10, and look for answers to the following questions: Who was the speaker? Who was He speaking to? What was happening? Remember to look at the chapter heading for a quick overview of the events taking place.

  1. journal icon2.

    Using the footnote in 3 Nephi 17:1, answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What did Jesus mean when He said, “My time is at hand”?

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    In your scripture study journal, write in your own words what happened when the Savior was preparing to leave the multitude. Why did He stay? What did He do for the people?

Identify the Doctrines and Principles

Doctrines and principles are eternal, unchanging gospel truths that provide direction for our lives. The ancient prophets teach us these truths through the events, stories, or sermons they recorded in the scriptures.

Once you understand the background and setting of a passage of scripture, you are prepared to identify the doctrines and principles that it teaches. Elder Richard G. Scott described a helpful way to understand principles: “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle” (“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86).

Some gospel principles are made clear by the use of phrases such as “thus we see” or “nevertheless.” Most principles, however, are not stated directly. Instead they are illustrated by the lives of the people in the scriptures. These doctrines and principles can be discovered by asking yourself questions like: “What is the moral or point of this account?” “Why did the writer include this account or event?” “What did the author intend for us to learn?” and “What truths are taught in this passage of scripture?”

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    To practice identifying some of the principles and doctrines taught in 3 Nephi 17:1–10, write an answer for either activity a or b in your scripture study journal. Remember to read the heading for a quick overview of the chapter.

    1. a.

      Who is speaking in these verses? Who is He talking to? What is the moral or point of 3 Nephi 17:1–10?

    2. b.

      What are some things the writer of verses 1, 5–6, and 9–10 intended for us to learn from this account? What are some important truths you learned from these verses?

One of the gospel truths you might have identified from these verses is: The Lord responds to our genuine desires to draw closer to Him.

Apply Doctrines and Principles

After you have identified the gospel doctrines and principles, you are ready to act and do something about them. As you act on what you have learned, you will feel the Holy Spirit witness to the truth of the principle (see Moroni 10:4–5). Every lesson taught in the home, at seminary and church, and in each Duty to God activity and Personal Progress experience aims to help us act on what we have been taught.

Thomas S. Monson

President Thomas S. Monson said: “The goal of gospel teaching … is not to ‘pour information’ into the minds of the [learners]. … The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).

To help you apply the principles you learn, ask questions like: “What does the Lord want me to do with this knowledge?” “What spiritual impressions did I receive to help me improve?” “What difference can this principle make in my life?” “What can I start or stop doing now to live according to this truth?” “How will my life be better if I do what this scripture teaches?”

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    In your scripture study journal, write a short paragraph describing how you can apply a principle or doctrine you learned from 3 Nephi 17:1–10.

Scripture Study Skills and Methods

Using the following study skills and methods will help you understand the background of the scriptures and identify and apply the doctrines and principles taught in them. These methods will be mentioned throughout this manual. Read each skill, and select one or two you feel you need to use more frequently in your personal scripture study.

Cause and Effect. Look for if-then and because-therefore relationships. Examples: 2 Nephi 13:16–26; Alma 34:33.

Cross-Reference. Group, link, or cluster scriptures together to clarify meaning and unlock understanding. For example, compare Mosiah 11:2–6, 14 and Deuteronomy 17:14–20. You can also use footnotes to find scripture cross-references. Example: 3 Nephi 12:28–29, footnote 29a, references Doctrine and Covenants 42:23.

Determine Setting. Define the who, what, when, and where of scriptural events. Example: Alma 31:1, 6–11; 32:1–6 gives the setting for Alma 32:21–43.

Key Words. Words and phrases like “nevertheless” or “thus we see” are invitations to stop and look for explanations of what was just written. Examples: Alma 30:60; Helaman 6:35–36; 3 Nephi 18:30–32.

Marking Scriptures. Highlight, circle, or underline important words and phrases in your scriptures that give special meaning to the verse. Also write important short thoughts, feelings, insights, or principles in the margins. This will help you remember what made the scripture important to you.

Name Substitution. Insert your name for one in the scriptures. Example: Substitute your name for Nephi’s in 1 Nephi 3:7.

Pondering. Pondering means to think deeply about something. Pondering involves asking questions and evaluating what you know and what you have learned. Pondering often results in knowing how to apply a principle in your life.

Repeated Words. Words or phrases that are repeated may be important for the reader to pay attention to. They are clues to what the writer felt was important. Examples: The word awful in 2 Nephi 9:10, 19, 26–27, 39, 46–47; the word remember in Helaman 5:6–14.

Scripture Contrasts. On occasion, prophets place accounts of different people, ideas, or events next to each other in the scriptures. The contrast between the two makes it easier to identify and understand important gospel principles being taught. Look for contrasts in single verses, scripture blocks, or chapters. Examples: 2 Nephi 2:27; Alma 47–48.

Scripture Lists. Finding lists within the scriptures can help you better understand what the Lord and His prophets are teaching. When you find lists, you may want to number each element. Example: The list of wicked practices among the Nephites found in Helaman 4:11–13.

Scripture Symbolism. Words such as like, as, or likened unto help identify symbols. Try to determine what the symbol stands for. Use the footnotes, Bible Dictionary, and Topical Guide to help find the symbol’s meaning. Example: Compare Jacob 5:3, 75–77 with Jacob 6:1–7.

Visualization. Picture in your mind what is taking place as you read. Ask questions about the event, and imagine being present when it took place. Example: Try to visualize what is taking place in Enos 1:1–8.

Word Definitions. The scriptures often use words that are not familiar to us. When you encounter an unfamiliar word, use the Bible Dictionary, footnotes, or a regular dictionary to find its meaning.

  1. journal icon6.

    Select and use one of the skills from the preceding “Scripture Study Skills and Methods” section. In your scripture study journal, write about how that skill helped you in your personal scripture study.

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    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied the “Studying the Scriptures” lesson and completed it on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: