When I was young, I spent many hours watching my mom in the kitchen. She would make the most delicious meals, breads, cookies, and pies for our family. After some time, I began reading recipes, following the instructions, and making food. I didn’t have to rely on my mom—I could do it myself.
As with learning to cook, we learn the gospel and develop our testimony by doing. After Lehi told his family about his dream of the tree of life, Nephi said he wanted to “see, and hear, and know of these things” himself (1 Nephi 10:17). In other words, for Nephi it wasn’t enough to listen to his father’s testimony. He wanted to learn what his father already knew.
The recipe for gospel learning has a few simple steps. You can use the following four ideas to help your gospel learning with your family, at church, or during your personal study.
Begin your personal study with a prayer. Ask Heavenly Father to help you understand what you are reading. Write down one or two questions and look for the answers. The Holy Ghost will bear witness of the truth as you read, ponder, and pray (see Moroni 10:5).
Prepare for gospel learning at church by reading the lesson before you go. The Come, Follow Me lessons can be found on LDS.org and in the Gospel Library app.
Read for understanding. The number of pages you read or how fast you read is not as important as understanding what you read. You may have to re-read some sentences several times. Use a dictionary to look up words you don’t know. For example, what does dispensation mean? You can use the Guide to the Scriptures to find out.
Ask questions about what you are reading. Maybe you wonder, “What was happening in Jerusalem at the time Lehi and his family left? Why didn’t the people listen to Lehi?”
Try to answer these three questions about any gospel teaching: Why was this important to the people at that time? How does it apply to us today? How does it apply to me?
Search for patterns and connections. For example, what are the patterns in the way Nephi responded to adversity? How is his family’s journey in the wilderness like the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt?
Write your feelings and impressions in a journal. “As you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life” (Richard G. Scott, “To Acquire Knowledge and the Strength to Use It Wisely,” Ensign, June 2002, 32). Especially write what the ideas mean in your life.
Draw a picture. Another way to record what you are learning is to draw it. One time when I was visiting a friend for family home evening, her grandmother shared personal stories about faith and prayer. Before the lesson began, my friend gave her young children paper and crayons so they could draw the stories while their great-grandmother talked. Drawing pictures helped them pay attention, and they even asked questions along the way to clarify parts of the story.
Learning takes effort; we need to apply ourselves to understanding (see Mosiah 12:27). Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled us to “establish a time and place to study the scriptures on a daily basis, even if it is only for a few minutes” (“When Shall These Things Be?” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 60). When we study regularly, learning becomes easier. For example, I found that when I actually read the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon (instead of skipping them), they started to make sense to me.
When it comes to gospel learning, it’s not enough to know something intellectually. We also need to put into practice what we learn. As we act on truth, the Holy Ghost confirms it to us, and our testimony grows. As we live that truth consistently, we begin to change, becoming converted to Jesus Christ.
Telling others about a gospel principle in our own words helps us remember that principle and feel the Spirit, which strengthens our testimonies. Often a good time to share is during family home evening. You can also share when you talk with friends at school or with family members at dinnertime.
As we follow these four simple steps and diligently seek to know the Savior, we are promised that “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto [us], by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19).