In May 1829, just after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “felt a great concern over what his own work was to be.” Hyrum questioned Joseph concerning “his [own] place in the great work of restoration” (Pearson H. Corbett, Hyrum Smith—Patriarch , 48). In response to this humble request, the Lord gave Hyrum a revelation through the Prophet. Part of this revelation applies to our preparation to teach the gospel:
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).
President Ezra Taft Benson said that this counsel gives us “the sequence to possessing the power of God in [our] teaching. … Seek first to obtain the word; then comes understanding and the Spirit, and, finally, the power to convince” (The Gospel Teacher and His Message [address to religious educators, 17 Sept. 1976], 5).
Learning “by Study and Also by Faith”
The Lord has told us how we should obtain His word: “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). We follow this command by studying the scriptures diligently, with a believing heart and a commitment to obey the principles we learn. We also follow this command when we approach scripture study with prayer and fasting.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks counseled:
“Scripture reading puts us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. …
“Because we believe that scripture reading can help us receive revelation, we are encouraged to read the scriptures again and again. By this means, we obtain access to what our Heavenly Father would have us know and do in our personal lives today. This is one reason Latter-day Saints believe in daily scripture study” (“Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8).
When we study the scriptures regularly and diligently, earnestly seeking guidance from the Spirit, we will be receptive to enlightenment about how to prepare lessons. We will also be prepared to receive and follow promptings from the Spirit while we teach. As we “treasure up in [our] minds continually the words of life, … it shall be given [us] in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
Moroni counseled that we should “doubt not, but be believing” (Mormon 9:27). We should approach scripture study with this attitude. For example, Joseph Smith had a believing heart when he read James 1:5, which told him to ask God for wisdom. He did as the scripture instructed, asking the Lord which church he should join. Because of his believing attitude, he received an answer to his prayer. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:11–17.)
We should strive to live according to the principles we study, even before we understand them completely. As we trust in what the Lord has said, our knowledge of the gospel will increase. The Lord declared, “If any man will do [the Father’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17).
Prayer and Fasting
Studying the scriptures is different from reading a novel, newspaper, or textbook. We should pray before we study the scriptures each day. We should seek for the Spirit to give us understanding as we study the Lord’s words.
As we pray for understanding, we should sometimes fast. Alma is a good example of someone who fasted and prayed to learn gospel truths. After testifying of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the need to experience a mighty change of heart, he said: “Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit” (Alma 5:45–46). (See also
Recommitting Ourselves to a Study of the Scriptures
President Benson counseled: “Let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. 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. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82).