Methods for Teaching the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 287–91


After you have decided what to teach, ask the Lord to help you decide how to teach. Use this section, as well as Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders (1994), for ideas on methods for teaching the scriptures.

Read

  • Read aloud to your students, and ask them to take turns reading aloud. (Note: Though this manual includes frequent instructions in the form “Read Doctrine and Covenants 89:1 and ask … ,” it is a good idea to divide reading assignments between yourself and your students.) Have those who are not reading follow along in their scriptures. Be careful not to embarrass students who do not read well.

  • As the scriptures are read, pause to explain words and phrases, gospel principles, or other items you feel impressed to discuss.

  • If a part of the scripture block is easy to read, you could ask your students to read it silently.

  • Identify who is speaking in the scripture block and who the speaker is addressing.

Summarize

  • Prepare what you will say about the verses or chapters that will not be read in class. This should help students see how the last verses they read and the next verses they will read go together.

  • Use the chapter or section headings to tell what is in chapters or sections you do not read.

  • Use pictures that show the stories or principles in the verses you do not read. For example, as you tell about Joseph Smith—History 1:5–13, show the picture Joseph Smith Seeks Wisdom in the Bible (Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 402).

Apply

  • Teach your students that they can find answers to their questions and problems if they “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell [them] all things what [they] should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).

  • Invite students to share experiences in which they found help in the scriptures. Tell of such experiences of your own.

  • Help students liken the scriptures to themselves (see 1 Nephi 19:23). Ask questions such as: “How is this person in the scriptures similar to us?” and “How is this story similar to what happens to us?”

  • Ask students how people in the scriptures found solutions to their problems.

  • Invite students to answer questions that are in the scriptures. For example, have them answer the question asked in Doctrine and Covenants 88:33.

  • Use a student’s name in place of a pronoun in the scriptures. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 11:12, use the name of a student instead of the word thee. (Note: Be cautious about verses that are addressed to specific individuals and might not apply generally. Do not use verses that might associate a student with a sin or otherwise prove embarrassing.)

Cross-Reference

  • Teach students how to find and use cross-references in footnotes or other scripture study helps.

  • Have students tell how the cross-reference explains or adds meaning to the verse they are studying.

  • Have students create scripture chains by cross-referencing the first scripture in a list to the second, the second to the third, and so on to the end, and then cross-referencing the last scripture to the first.

Mark

  • Teach students to mark important items in their scriptures so they can find them easily and remember them.

  • Teach students how to circle, underline, or shade words or phrases.

    Circling Underling and Shading Scriptures
  • Have students circle verse numbers, draw a box around verses, or draw a line in the margin.

    Circling Boxing Scriptures
  • Draw a line from one word or phrase you have circled to another.

    Line Connecting Scriptures
  • Circle the footnote letter by the word or phrase in the scripture and in the footnote. You could connect the reference to the footnote with a line.

    Footnoting Scriptures
  • Write notes in the margin.

    Side Notes for Scriptures

Use Words of Apostles and Prophets

  • Study the words and teachings of the General Authorities, especially those sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, as you prepare your lessons. Study regularly what they say in general conference. Use these teachings to help your students understand and apply the scriptures.

  • Read the words and teachings of the General Authorities to your students. Ask questions such as “How do these words help you understand the verse we are studying?” and “How do they help you understand how you can apply the message of the scripture in your life?”

  • Have students write in the margins of their scriptures short quotations by the General Authorities that you read to them or that they find on their own.

Discuss

  • Encourage students to tell what they have learned and how they feel about the scriptures. The Lord said, “Let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege” (D&C 88:122).

  • Read “Ask Questions,” “Compare,” “List,” and the other methods in this section for ideas on how to start discussions.

  • Divide the class into groups, and give each group something in the scriptures they can study and discuss.

  • Involve students who do not usually say anything in discussions by asking them to tell how they feel or what they think.

  • Always try to keep discussions positive and uplifting. When the teacher and the student seek to have the Holy Ghost, “he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).

Ask Questions

  • Ask questions that cause your students to search the scriptures for the answers. For example, before teaching Doctrine and Covenants 129:1–3, ask students to find in the scriptures what two kinds of angels there are.

  • Ask questions that students care about and to which they want to know the answers. For example, before teaching Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19, ask students what we can take with us when we die.

  • Ask questions that encourage students to think about and apply the scriptures or a principle of the gospel. Questions with answers that are either too easy or too hard may frustrate students. Questions that can be answered yes or no usually do not encourage discussion.

  • Ask questions that begin with who, what, when, where, why, or how.

  • Ask students to explain why they gave the answers they did.

  • Invite students to comment on answers given by other class members.

Compare

  • Have students compare principles or events in the scriptures to see how they are similar or different. For example, students could compare the effects of lust (see D&C 63:16) with those of love and virtue (see D&C 121:45–46).

  • Have students compare lists (see “List” below). For example, students could list the condition of the sons of perdition (see D&C 76:32–38, 44–48) and that of those who inherit the celestial kingdom (see vv. 55–70) and then compare the two lists.

  • Have students look for the words like or as. These words are often used in the scriptures to show how one thing can be like another. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 29:2 the Savior says He will gather His people “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.”

List

  • Sometimes it is helpful to make a list of the events or ideas that you are studying. You can write a list for the students to see, or have the students write the list on a piece of paper, or just have them think of the list in their minds. When you make a list, you should also discuss what you learn from the list.

  • Have students find and write down the events in a scripture story, and then discuss what they have written. For example, students could review the events that led to the vision of the three degrees of glory (see D&C 76:11, 15–19) and the vision of the spirit world (see D&C 138:1–11). Then the class could discuss the kinds of activities that can lead to revelation in our lives.

  • Have students list and discuss the reasons a person in the scriptures did the things he did. For example, students could review the events that led Joseph Smith to pray in the Sacred Grove (see Joseph Smith—History 1:5–14).

  • List and discuss each part of a principle of the gospel. For example, students could list and discuss what they learn about the Atonement and the Lord’s love for us in Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–20.

  • Have students mark or number in their scriptures principles or events that can be listed. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 43:25 students could mark or number ways the Lord calls people to repent and come to Him.

Memorize

  • Have students say the words of the scripture out loud several times.

  • Have students write the scripture several times.

  • Write the scripture and have the students repeat it several times. Cover or erase a few words each time they repeat it until you have covered or erased all the words.

Use Hymns

  • Start or end class by singing a hymn that helps teach something from the scripture block.

  • Invite individuals or groups of students to sing or play hymns.

  • During your lesson, have students sing or read the words of hymns that help teach something from the scripture block. For example, students could sing or read “Called to Serve” (Hymns, no. 249) when you teach Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–3.

Show Objects

  • Show objects mentioned in the scriptures that your students may not have seen before. For example, you could show a picture or drawing of a sickle to help students understand Doctrine and Covenants 4:4.

  • Show objects that your students have seen before but that will increase their interest and understanding. For example, when teaching Doctrine and Covenants 88:125, you could show a coat and tell students that the mantle in this verse is like a coat or cape.

  • Have students draw objects mentioned in the scriptures (see “Draw”). For example, after reading Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18, students could draw the armor described in these verses.

Draw

  • Draw pictures for your students that will help them understand the scripture block.

  • Have students draw pictures that show what they think the people, objects, or events in the scriptures might have looked like. Drawing helps students remember what they read and discuss. Be careful not to embarrass students when you ask them to draw.

  • Have students draw maps that show where people in the scriptures lived, where people went, or where events took place. For example, before you study Doctrine and Covenants 98, have a student draw a map showing the distance between Ohio and Missouri. Help them see that, though the Prophet Joseph Smith was far removed from the Saints in Missouri, the Lord revealed to him the dire circumstances of His people.

    Maps with Scriptures
  • Have students make charts that explain what happens in a story or that make clear what someone is teaching. For example, make a chart showing how each priesthood office includes the responsibilities of the lesser offices. Include the scripture references only and have students fill in the offices.

    Priesthood Responsibilities
  • Have students make charts that show a sequence of individuals or events. For example, make a chart showing how the priesthood was passed from Adam to Moses.

    Priesthood Line of Authority
  • Have students make a timeline by drawing a line and writing dates and events along the line in the order they happened. For example, have them draw a timeline showing events leading to the organization of the Church.

    Church History Timeline

Act Out

  • Have students act out stories in the scriptures. Have them use the words and actions that the people in the scriptures used.

  • Discuss how students felt or what they learned as they saw the story acted out.

Look For

When you have students read scripture passages, give them something in advance to look for as they read. If they begin reading with a principle or detail in mind, they will pay closer attention and retain more of what they read. You could have students look for:

  • Gospel principles illustrated by the lives of people.

  • Questions asked in the scriptures.

  • Scriptural lists, such as the qualities of charity (see 1 Corinthians 13).

  • Definitions of words or concepts, such as Zion (see D&C 97:21).

  • Difficult words or phrases that students might have trouble understanding.

  • Imagery, types, and symbols.

  • Prophetic commentary (for example, Book of Mormon passages that begin “and thus we see”).

  • If-then relationships (see Isaiah 58:13–14).

  • Traits that please or displease God.

  • Patterns (for example, the covenant pattern in the sacrament prayers; see D&C 20:77, 79).

Note: When you see the phrases “look for” or “looking for” in this manual, use the “look for” method as described here.