Lesson 4: Studying the Scriptures

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


This lesson will help students understand the importance of studying the scriptures daily and reading the entire New Testament as part of this course of study. Students can also learn ways to improve their study of the scriptures.

Suggestions for Teaching

The need for effective daily scripture study

handout iconGive each student a copy of the following survey. Invite students to consider the statements and mark their responses on the continuum. Assure students that you will not ask them to report their responses.

After students complete the survey, invite them to ponder during the lesson how they might improve their scripture study.

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder David A. Bednar

“The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. …

“Through normal activity each day, you and I lose a substantial amount of the water that constitutes so much of our physical bodies. Thirst is a demand by the cells of the body for water, and the water in our bodies must be replenished daily. It frankly does not make sense to occasionally ‘fill up’ with water, with long periods of dehydration in between. The same thing is true spiritually. Spiritual thirst is a need for living water. A constant flow of living water is far superior to sporadic sipping” (“A Reservoir of Living Water” [Church Educational System fireside, Feb. 4, 2007], 1, 7, broadcast.lds.org).

  • What principle can we learn from Elder Bednar about what we can receive from daily scripture study? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: As we study the scriptures daily, we receive the “living water” we need. Write this principle on the board.)

The value of the holy scriptures in our day

video iconTo help students understand the value and importance of the scriptures in our day, you may want to show the video “The Blessings of Scripture” (3:04), which is available on LDS.org. In this video, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles describes the sacrifice one man made to enable more people to read the Bible. If you show the video, consider pausing after Elder Christofferson asks, “What did they understand that we should also understand?” (time code 1:56) to ask students how they would answer his question. Then continue showing the video. At the conclusion of the video, continue the lesson at the paragraph that begins, “After the video …”

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If you do not show the video, invite four students to come to the front of the class and read the following portions of a talk given by Elder Christofferson.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

1. “On October 6, in the year 1536, a pitiful figure was led from a dungeon in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels, Belgium. For nearly a year and a half, the man had suffered isolation in a dark, damp cell. Now outside the castle wall, the prisoner was fastened to a post. He had time to utter aloud his final prayer, ‘Lord! open the king of England’s eyes,’ and then he was strangled. Immediately, his body was burned at the stake. Who was this man, and what was the offense … ?” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 32).

2. “His name was William Tyndale, and his crime was to have translated and published the Bible in English.

“… In a heated exchange with a cleric who argued against putting scripture in the hands of the common man, Tyndale vowed, ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost!’ …

“William Tyndale was not the first, nor the last, of those who in many countries and languages have sacrificed, even to the point of death, to bring the word of God out of obscurity. … What did they know about the importance of scriptures that we also need to know? What did people in 16th-century England, who paid enormous sums and ran grave personal risks for access to a Bible, understand that we should also understand?” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” 32).

Ask the class:

  • Why do you think people made such great sacrifices to have access to the scriptures?

Ask the third reader to continue reading Elder Christofferson’s statement.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

3. “In Tyndale’s day, scriptural ignorance abounded because people lacked access to the Bible, especially in a language they could understand. Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books. Consequently they have forgotten things their grandparents knew” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” 33).

Ask the class:

  • Why do you think some people in our day are not reading the scriptures as they should?

Ask the fourth reader to continue reading Elder Christofferson’s statement.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson.

4. “Consider the magnitude of our blessing to have the Holy Bible and some 900 additional pages of scripture, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. … Surely with this blessing the Lord is telling us that our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” 35).

After the video (or after the fourth reader has finished reading Elder Christofferson’s statement), invite students to explain what they believe Elder Christofferson is saying about our need to study the scriptures. After students have responded, write the following truth on the board: Our need for the scriptures is greater today than in any previous time.

  • Why do you think that our need for the scriptures is greater today than in any previous time?

To help students understand how studying the scriptures can benefit us in our day, explain that the Apostle Paul wrote a letter in which he described some conditions of the world in the last days. Invite a student to read 2 Timothy 3:1–5, 13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the sins and attitudes that would be common in our day. (You may want to refer students to the footnotes for help in defining difficult words and phrases in these verses.)

  • What are some of the sins and attitudes listed in these verses that you have witnessed in our society today?

Invite a student to read 2 Timothy 3:14–17 aloud. Ask the class to look for how we can find safety in these perilous times.

  • How can we find safety in these perilous times?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: As we study the scriptures, we can receive 

  • According to 2 Timothy 3:15–17, what blessings are available to us as we study the scriptures and live their teachings? (After students respond, complete the statement on the board so it reads as follows: As we study the scriptures, we can receive wisdom, correction, and instruction that will lead us to salvation.)

Explain that the statement on the board is an example of a principle. Principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ are fundamental, unchanging truths that provide guidance for our lives. One of the central purposes of the scriptures is to teach doctrines and principles of the gospel. We can make our personal scripture study more meaningful by searching for doctrines and principles, pondering their meaning, and applying them in our lives.

Refer again to the principle you wrote on the board.

  • What do you think it means that we can receive wisdom, correction, and instruction as we study the scriptures?

  • When have you felt that you received wisdom, correction, or instruction as a result of studying the scriptures? (You may want to share an experience as well.)

Reading the New Testament daily

Explain that one of the expectations for this seminary course of study is that students read the entire New Testament. This is a requirement to receive a seminary diploma.

Explain that reading the entire New Testament will take consistent determination but is worth the effort. To illustrate this, display two transparent glasses filled with water (or a soft drink). Invite two students to each stand next to a glass. Give one student a straw. Give the other student seven straws taped together in a bundle. Instruct them to drink all of the water as quickly as they can using the straw or straws. (The student using one straw should be able to steadily drink the water and finish first; the other student should struggle to get all of the water up the straws.) Invite the two students to be seated, and ask the class:

  • How would you relate this activity to our goal of reading the entire New Testament during this course of study? (The student with seven straws is like someone who tries to read large portions of the scriptures all at once. The student with one straw is like someone who reads a smaller amount daily.)

To help students see how they can read the entire New Testament by reading small portions consistently, invite them to divide the number of pages in the New Testament (404 pages in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible) by the number of total days until the end of the course. For example, if the course were to be taught in a school year of 280 days, students would need to read about 1.5 pages per day to finish the New Testament by the end of the course.

Testify of the blessings that can come to students as they diligently study the New Testament. Students will receive wisdom, correction, and instruction from the scriptures and be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Refer again to the principles on the board, and testify that by studying the scriptures daily, students will experience the blessings described by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:15–17. Encourage students to make goals to set aside time every day for personal scripture study and to read the entire New Testament. Invite students to write their goals in their scripture study journals.

Commentary and Background Information

Blessings come as we study the scriptures daily

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

“God uses scripture to unmask erroneous thinking, false traditions, and sin with its devastating effects. He is a tender parent who would spare us needless suffering and grief and at the same time help us realize our divine potential. …

“In the end, the central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ” (“The Blessing of Scripture,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 33–34).

Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society general president, taught:

“If you have not already developed the habit of daily scripture study, start now and keep studying in order to be prepared for your responsibilities in this life and in the eternities. …

“… The key to unlocking important knowledge is to keep studying. … The scriptures testify of Christ (see John 5:39). They tell us all things we should do (see 2 Nephi 32:3). They ‘make [us] wise unto salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:15).

“… Through your habit of daily scripture study, you will be ‘led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written’ (Helaman 15:7). You will be the mothers [and fathers] and leaders who will help prepare the next generation with gospel understanding and testimony” (“My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 108–9).

The miracle of the Holy Bible

In a general conference address entitled “The Miracle of the Holy Bible” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80–82), Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the importance and value of the Holy Bible and acknowledged the efforts of Christian martyrs and reformers who helped make the Bible available to all. He encouraged us to be grateful for the Holy Bible and testified that “it is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” 80).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

Scripture study methods and skills

handout iconTo help students understand study methods and skills that can enrich their study of the scriptures, you may want to give them a copy of the following handout and discuss it with them:

Scripture Study Methods and Skills

Name substitution: To help you relate doctrines and principles from the scriptures to your life, substitute your name for a name in the scriptures. Try using this scripture study skill with Peter’s name in Matthew 16:15–17.

Cause and effect: To help you identify gospel principles in the scriptures, look for “if–then” and “because–therefore” relationships. Try using this skill with Matthew 6:14–15.

Scripture lists: The scriptures often contain lists of things such as instructions or warnings. When you find lists, consider numbering each element. Try using this skill with Galatians 5:22–23.

Contrasts: The scriptures often contrast ideas, events, and people. These contrasts emphasize gospel principles. Look for contrasts in single verses, in chapters, and across chapters and books. Try this skill with Matthew 5:14–16.

Visualization: Look for descriptive details that can help you create a mental picture as you read. Imagine being present at certain events. This can strengthen your testimony of the reality of what you read in the scriptures. Try this skill with Matthew 8:23–27.

Symbolism: Words such as like, as, or likened unto can help you identify symbols. Look beyond a symbol by exploring its nature and pondering its attributes. Scripture study aids such as footnotes, the Bible Dictionary, and the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures can help you interpret some symbols. Try using this study skill with Matthew 13:24–30.

Cross-references: Often, one scripture passage can explain or clarify a phrase or concept found in a different passage. Link scripture passages to each other by using the footnotes, the index, or the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures to help unlock the meaning of a scripture passage. Practice this skill by reading John 10:16 and then following the cross-reference in footnote a to 3 Nephi 15:21. How does reading 3 Nephi 15:21 help you better understand the meaning of John 10:16?

Pondering: Pondering includes thinking, meditating, asking questions, and evaluating what you know and what you have learned. Pondering often helps us understand what we need to do to apply gospel principles. Ponder how you might apply the truths in Hebrews 12:9.

Applying: As you identify and understand doctrines and principles found in the scriptures, you can gain deeper knowledge by acting on the truths you have discovered. Jesus Christ said that “if any man will do [Heavenly Father’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). Look for opportunities to apply what you learn as you study the scriptures on your own.

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Tools for effective scripture study

Display or draw on the board some tools similar to those in the accompanying drawings. Ask students to name a type of scientist who would use these tools.

  • What type of scientist would use these tools? (Answers might include archaeologists, paleontologists, or geologists.)

  • What do archaeologists do? (Archaeologists study the remains of past cultures. Often this involves searching and digging for preserved artifacts that can help us understand the past.)

  • If you were an archaeologist, when might you use a pick or shovel in an archeological dig? When might you use a small brush?

Explain that just as archeologists use specific tools to help them find and carefully uncover valuable artifacts, there are tools we can use to help us in our study of the scriptures.

  • What are some of the tools we can use to help us as we study the scriptures?

Invite students to turn to the appendix in the LDS edition of the King James Bible and look for the names of some of the tools we can use to study the scriptures. Ask students to report what they find.

Explain that these resources, as well as the footnotes and chapter summaries in the LDS editions of the scriptures, are valuable tools that can help us understand the context and content of the scriptures. (Explain that context includes the background or historical setting and the information in the verses surrounding the scripture passage being studied.)

  • How might you use each of these tools to help you understand the context and content of the scriptures? (You may want to take a moment to help students understand how each tool can be used in their scripture study.)

  • How can understanding the meanings of words as well as the cultural and historical background of scripture passages help you identify doctrines and principles?

To provide an example of how to use scripture study tools to help discover doctrines and principles, invite students to turn to Matthew 7. Invite those who have an LDS edition of the scriptures to notice the chapter summary before verse 1; ask students who the speaker is.

Invite a student to read Matthew 7:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for doctrines and principles in these verses. You may want to suggest that they mark words or phrases that teach valuable truths. Encourage students to use the selections from the Joseph Smith Translation found in the footnotes to help them understand these verses. You might point out that they can also find selections from the Joseph Smith Translation in the Bible appendix or the Guide to the Scriptures. Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation is an inspired translation, or revision, of the King James Version of the Bible.

  • What principles did you identify in these verses? (Write students’ answers on the board. One principle they may identify is that if we judge righteously, then we will be judged in like manner.)

  • How did the Joseph Smith Translation of these verses help you identify these principles?

  • In what ways did understanding the background and the content of the verses help you identify this principle?

Consider sharing your testimony of the scriptures and the importance of using available scripture study tools, methods, and skills to increase our understanding of the scriptures.