Methods for Teaching the Scriptures

“Methods for Teaching the Scriptures,” New Testament Teacher Resource Manual (2002), 266–70

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 aloud to your students, and ask them to take turns reading aloud. (Note: Though this manual includes frequent instructions in the form “Read Hebrews 1:7and 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.


  • 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 headings to tell what is in chapters you do not read.

  • Use pictures that show the stories or principles in the verses you do not read. For example, as you discuss Matthew 17:10–13, show the picture John Preaching in the Wilderness (Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 207).


  • 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 like us?” and “How is this story like 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 Matthew 16:13–15.

  • Use a student’s name in place of a name or pronoun in the scriptures. For example, in James 1:5–6, use the name of a student instead of any of you and him. (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.)


  • A cross-reference is a reference to a scripture that explains or adds meaning to a verse you are studying. For example, when you teach Matthew 3:8, you can cross-reference it with Moroni 8:25–26by having students write Moroni 8:25–26in the margin.

scripture 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.


  • 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.

marked scriptures
  • Have students circle verse numbers, draw a box around verses, or draw a line in the margin.

marked scriptures
  • Draw a line from one word or phrase you have circled to another.

marked 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.

marked scriptures
  • Write notes in the margin.

marked 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.


  • 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. Have them find the answers in the scriptures. For example, when teaching Matthew 5–7(the Sermon on the Mount), ask students what they have learned that will help them become more like the Savior.

  • Ask questions that students care about and want to know the answers to. For example, when teaching John 7:17, you could ask students what a person can do to know that the gospel is true.

  • 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.


  • Have students compare things in the scriptures to see how they are alike or different. For example, in Matthew 25:31–46, they could compare the kind of people who will be on the right hand of Jesus with those who will be on His left hand, and what will happen to each.

  • Have students compare lists (see “List” below). For example, students could list the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:19–26, 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 Mark 4:30–32Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a tiny seed: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth” (v. 31).


  • 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 write the events of the story of Simon in Acts 8:9–24. Then the class could discuss the lessons they learned from the story.

  • Have students list and discuss things that can influence people toward either righteousness or wickedness. For example, when studying Jesus’ answer to a rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–23, students could list and discuss how they might obtain eternal life.

  • List and discuss each part of a principle of the gospel. For example, students could list and discuss what they learn about charity in 1 Corinthians 13.

  • Have students mark or number in their scriptures things that can be listed. For example, in Matthew 13, students could number what happened to the seeds in verses 3–8 and then put the same numbers by Jesus’s explanations in verses 18–23.


  • 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 “Love at Home” (Hymns, no. 294) when you teach Colossians 3:18–21.

Show Objects

  • Show objects mentioned in the scriptures that your students may not have seen before. For example, you could show some yeast and some bread dough rising in a bowl to help students understand Matthew 13:33or Matthew 16:6–12.

  • Show objects that your students have seen before but that will increase their interest and understanding of the scripture block. For example, when teaching Matthew 5:13–16you could show some salt and a candle.

  • Have students draw objects mentioned in the scriptures (see “Draw”). For example, when teaching Hebrews 4:12, have students draw a two-edged sword.



  • 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, when you study Mark 1–5, have students draw a map showing the places where Jesus went.


Mediterranean Sea





Country of the Gadarenes

Sea of Galilee

Jordan River

  • Have students make charts that explain what happens in a story or that make clear what someone is teaching. For example, make a chart that shows what Jesus, His disciples, and the leaders said and did in Matthew 26:48–75.



Jewish Leaders

Said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?”

Said, “Put up again thy sword.”

Said, “Are ye come out as against a thief?”

Said that He was the Son of God.

Judas kissed Jesus.

Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.

They forsook Jesus and fled.

Peter followed Jesus to the high priest’s palace.

Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Sought false witnesses against Jesus.

Condemned Jesus to die.

Hit and spat on Jesus.

Ridiculed Jesus.

  • Have students draw charts that show the relationship of concepts or events to each other. The following chart shows what John the Apostle saw in his vision of the end of the world (see Revelation 19:1–22:5).

relationship of concepts

Voices in heaven announce Christ’s coming.

Revelation 19:1-10

Christ comes as King with His armies.

Revelation 19:11-16

Christ destroys the wicked.

Revelation 19:17-21

Satan is bound for one thousand years.

Revelation 20:1-3

The righteous rule with Christ for one thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6

Satan is loosed for a short time and then is cast out.

Revelation 20:7-10

The dead stand before God and are judged.

Revelation 20:11-15

Christ dwells on earth with the righteous.

Revelation 21:1-9

The holy city, the New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven.

Revelation 21:10-22:5

  • Have students make a time line by drawing a line and writing dates and events along the line in the order they happened. For example, as they study Acts 8–9, have them draw a time line showing the things Saul (Paul) did.


Persecuted the Church.

Saw a light, heard the voice of Jesus, and was blinded.

Healed by Ananias and baptized.

Preached Christ in Damascus; the Jews planned to kill him.

Met the Apostles in Jerusalem; the Jews tried to kill him.

Sent to Tarsus.

Act Out

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

  • Have students tell how they think the people in the scriptures felt. 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.