The Lord commanded, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). As a missionary, your faith in Jesus Christ prepares you to learn from the scriptures and from the Lord’s anointed prophets and apostles. When you exercise your faith by praying for understanding during personal study, your faith will increase. As your faith increases, you build a more secure doctrinal foundation for teaching the restored gospel and inviting others to come unto Christ. Personal and companion study are key components of missionary work.
Prayer and pondering the scriptures help prepare us to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost.
We must seek to obtain the word.
We obtain the word by study and by preparing to teach the restored gospel.
■ Obedience to the Lord’s commandments is an important spiritual prerequisite for having the Holy Ghost influence your life. In the mission field, obedience to mission rules is necessary for building spirituality. Along with obedience, prayer and pondering the scriptures help prepare you to receive inspiration from the Lord through the Holy Ghost.
■ While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder L. Lionel Kendrick talked about prayer as a means of communication between God and His children: “When we speak to Heavenly Father, we do so by means of prayer. When he speaks to us, he does so by means of personal revelation. This two-way divine communication is critically important to our success, to our sense of well-being, to our feelings of security, and to our spiritual salvation. It is imperative that we understand the process of receiving personal revelation. We always pray to our Father in Heaven, and to him alone. Our prayers are rendered in the name of the Son and communicated by the power of the Holy Ghost. We do not pray to the Savior or to anyone else. To do so would be disrespectful of Heavenly Father and an indication that we do not properly understand the relationship of the members of the Godhead. The Savior and the Holy Ghost have important roles to play in the process of personal revelation” (“Personal Revelation,” Brigham Young University 1996–97 Speeches , 251).
■ President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught the following about prayer: “Learn how to pray and how to receive answers to your prayers. When you pray over some things, you must patiently wait a long, long time before you will receive an answer. Some prayers, for your own safety, must be answered immediately, and some promptings will even come when you haven’t prayed at all” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 47; or Ensign, May 1976, 31).
■ As a counselor in the Primary general presidency, Sister Anne G. Wirthlin taught that a pattern of pondering deepens understanding: “The Savior has given us a pattern to follow as we study the scriptures. We hear the word, we ponder upon its meaning, we ask our Heavenly Father to help us understand, and then our minds and hearts are prepared to receive the promised blessings. … The Spirit bears witness to our hearts as we prayerfully seek to know the things of our Heavenly Father” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 10; or Ensign, May 1998, 10).
■ A missionary must study and learn the restored gospel as taught in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles. Learning gospel truths increases understanding of Heavenly Father’s eternal plan and our ability to teach it clearly to others.
■ President Ezra Taft Benson taught about what is necessary before we can teach with power: “Before you can strengthen your students [or investigators], it is essential that you study the doctrines of the kingdom and learn the gospel by both study and faith. To study by faith is to seek understanding and the Spirit of the Lord through the prayer of faith. Then you will have the power to convince your students” (The Gospel Teacher and His Message [address to religious educators, Sept. 17, 1976], 3–4).
“‘Missionaries aren’t just memorizing one message to be given all the time, like turning on a tape player,’ says Elder [Richard G.] Scott. ‘They are to fill their minds and hearts with the basic doctrine, the supporting scriptures, and how that relates to their own experiences that they can call upon. We now have missionaries who are much better equipped to introduce individuals to the magnificent message of the Restoration’” (in “Be One of the Greatest,” New Era, Mar. 2004, 15).
■ There is no substitute for studying the scriptures and the words of the prophets and apostles. There are wonderful promises made to those who immerse themselves in the study of the gospel, particularly in the scriptures. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the blessings that will come: “I hope that for you [reading the scriptures] will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (“The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).
■ President Ezra Taft Benson explained what would happen when we make the scriptures a vital part of our study:
“Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul—these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. Does the Lord promise and not fulfill? Surely if He tells us that these things will come to us if we lay hold upon His word, then the blessings can be ours. And if we do not, then the blessings may be lost. However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life. …
“… I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82).
■ Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reflected on how missionary scripture study benefited him:
“[A] fond memory I have as a missionary is that of daily engaging in scripture study. The discipline of following a scripture-study plan of learning the gospel was a wonderful, rewarding experience. The knowledge of the teachings of the scriptures would unfold in a glorious way through individual study. …
“We would also take an hour or more each day to study as companions together. Having two sets of eyes examine the doctrine of the kingdom seemed to multiply our understanding. We would read together, then share our insights.
“Our minds were sharpened as we followed the daily practice of individual and companion study. The practice brought us closer together as companions and increased our understanding of the doctrines of the kingdom” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 93; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 76).
■ President Howard W. Hunter urged regular, daily scripture study: “We should not be haphazard in our reading but rather develop a systematic plan for study. There are some who read to a schedule of a number of pages or a set number of chapters each day or week. This may be perfectly justifiable and may be enjoyable if one is reading for pleasure, but it does not constitute meaningful study. It is better to have a set amount of time to give scriptural study each day than to have a set amount of chapters to read. Sometimes we find that the study of a single verse will occupy the whole time” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 92; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 64).
■ The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that study of the restored gospel is not a casual activity: “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 137).
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley suggested that we study the gospel as he does, from the scriptures, rather than from lengthy commentaries:
“I do not concern myself much with reading long commentary volumes designed to enlarge at length upon that which is found in the scriptures. Rather, I prefer to dwell with the source, tasting of the unadulterated waters of the fountain of truth—the word of God as he gave it and as it has been recorded in the books we accept as scripture. … Through reading the scriptures, we can gain the assurance of the Spirit that that which we read has come of God for the enlightenment, blessing, and joy of his children.
“I urge our people everywhere to read the scriptures more” (“Feasting upon the Scriptures,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 45).
■ Scripture study methods and strategies. The following methods and strategies can help make our scripture study more effective:
Look for principles. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 117; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86). Many principles can be found succinctly stated in the scriptures, such as the Savior’s teaching on repentance (see D&C 58:42–43) and Mormon’s declaration regarding Satan (see Alma 30:60).
Mark scriptures. Marking scriptures helps you remember where certain scriptures are located, arrange scriptures into related groups, follow certain topics, and so on. Ways to mark scriptures include underlining, outlining, shading, circling, numbering, and cross-referencing. Develop a method of marking scriptures that will best help you understand them.
Use the study aids in the scriptures. The Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures include study aids such as the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary, cross-references, word and phrase helps, excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), Bible and Church history maps and photographs, and chapter headings, section headings, and verse summaries. (The Guide to the Scriptures is a collection of study aids prepared for languages other than English. It can also be found on the Internet at scriptures.lds.org.)
Ask questions relating to the text. Ask such questions as: Who is speaking? To whom is the person speaking? What is the message of this verse or chapter? When and where did the events described in this scripture occur? What are some of the key words and phrases in these verses? What do these verses teach about Christ or the plan of salvation? How does this scripture apply to me right now?
Notice questions asked in the scriptures. Questions often cause us to pause and ponder important gospel truths and how well we are personally living them. For example, consider your personal response to a question the Savior asked His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) or “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Look for definitions of unfamiliar words or phrases. Sometimes the scriptures follow a word or phrase with a definition. For example, Nephi taught that some people “trample under their feet … the very God of Israel,” and then he explained that the phrase meant that “they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels” (1 Nephi 19:7).
Notice and learn about symbols. The scriptures often use symbols and imagery. Symbolism can be found in colors, animals, names, clothing, and so on. Many symbols lead us to Christ (see Moses 6:63). For example, use the Bible Dictionary or the Guide to the Scriptures to learn the meaning of Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’s birth. How does its meaning testify of Christ? (see John 6:35).
Insert your name. Use your name in a verse to help make scriptural teachings more personal. For example, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [your name]” (Moses 1:39).
Notice scripture lists. The scriptures contain numerous lists that illustrate and teach the Lord’s will and doctrine. For example, qualifications for baptism are listed in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37. King Benjamin listed what we must do to put off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19).
Memorize key scriptures. The ability to recall important scripture references and their content is beneficial to missionaries. Following are some ways you might find helpful in memorizing scriptures:
Write or print the scripture on a small card or piece of paper and carry it with you. Read it several times a day.
Divide a scripture passage into phrases. Repeat the first phrase until you can recite it. Add the second phrase, and repeat the phrases until you can recite them both. Add the third phrase, and so on.
Write the passage down numerous times each day.
Record yourself reading the passage several times, and play the recording back while traveling to school, work, or other places.
Using your scriptures, copy the first letter of each word of the scripture on a piece of paper. Then try to write the scripture from memory.
Ask family members, roommates, or friends to help you learn the passage by listening to you recite the scripture, reading the scripture to you and leaving out groups of words that you must fill in, or reading to you random phrases unique to a particular scripture and having you identify and recite the scripture.
Ponder and pray about specific passages. Pondering and praying are essential elements in scripture study. You may choose or even feel prompted to seek the meaning of a specific verse or passage of scripture. Take time to think about the scripture, pray specifically for understanding, and then be prepared for insights that enter your mind as you listen for impressions. Look to other scriptures and the teachings of the current prophets and apostles to be sure your understanding is consistent with the doctrines of the Church. When impressions come, write them down in a study journal.
■ Creating a lesson plan enhances learning and teaching. A written lesson plan helps us organize our thoughts. It is a means of organizing information in a clear and brief manner. A lesson plan begins with a single idea or topic and is supported by information that relates to the main idea. An organized lesson plan makes the information easier to recall and present to an investigator. It also helps us identify principles we may have overlooked in our preparation. Lesson plans can be as basic as writing a topic and listing under it a few related items. Or it can be a more complex collection of related information divided into several subcategories.
There are many ways to make lesson plans. Try several to determine what methods work best for you. In preparation, you may develop some general questions to answer or categories of information to look for whenever you study a doctrine, or you may change them each time to fit a specific situation. You may find that organizing material visually with simple pictures is helpful to you, or you may prefer a simple table or list. Learn the principles of preparing a lesson plan, and then choose the methods that best serve the needs of those you will be teaching.
Use a lesson plan as an aid, but speak from the heart as directed by the Spirit while you are actually teaching. Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy stated, “What we’re asking is for the missionary to prepare an outline [lesson plan] during personal and companion study, personalized for who will be taught that day” (in “Be One of the Greatest,” New Era, Mar. 2004, 14). He also explained: “Every investigator is different. So the missionaries prepare outlines to plan how they are going to teach an investigator according to his or her needs. The outline [lesson plan] helps the missionaries conceive the presentation in their own minds. If the presentation is well conceived, it is clear, and then the words will come easily as missionaries teach by the Spirit” (in “Teaching from the Heart,” Ensign, June 2004, 8).
The following are some general guidelines for preparing lesson plans:
Determine the main ideas and supporting concepts that are to be taught, and organize them in a logical order.
Use the scriptures and statements of the living prophets as your main resources. You may also use the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary (or the Guide to the Scriptures in some international settings), and True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference for additional insights.
Allow for sharing your personal testimony of the principles you teach.
Your general lesson plans can be enlarged and modified as you use them throughout your mission. From those you will be able to develop specialized lesson plans for the various investigators you teach. Each teaching experience is different, and a variety of ideas and approaches will help you teach effectively.
The following lesson plan considerations are provided to help stimulate ideas of how you may develop or outline a lesson presentation. A sample lesson plan is also included.
How would you describe the difference between scripture reading and scripture study?
What is the value of written preparation in teaching the restored gospel?
Think about where you are in your gospel knowledge compared with where you would like to be when you enter the mission field. Determine what you will need to do to reach that level and write some goals to help you gain that growth in your gospel understanding.
Select a doctrine or principle of the restored gospel that you would like to understand better. Study that doctrine or principle, and develop a lesson plan for teaching from your study. Use your lesson plan to teach a friend or family member.
Begin or enhance a scripture-marking program for your own set of scriptures.
Education” (pp. 50–51)