Thursday, March 18, 2010

How I study the scriptures

I was asked about how I study.  It was a good enough question I thought I ought to address it here.

First, I spent over 20 years teaching Gospel Doctrine weekly.  To prepare for a class I would read the assigned scriptures on Sunday evening.  Beginning Monday I would research in commentaries what others had said about the passages in the assigned lesson.  Then before going to bed I would re-read the scriptures for the next lesson.

I would continue this process daily until Thursday.  Beginning Thursday I would start to outline what I intended to cover in the lesson on Sunday.

Throughout the week I would listen to the relevant scriptures for the next lesson on tape/CD whenever I was in my car.  So on the way to and from work I would listen and re-listen to the scriptures.

On Saturday I would pray then put a final lesson plan together. It took about 10 hours a week for me to prepare a 50 minute lesson. 

In all the time I taught I never repeated a lesson.  I tried to go deeper and deeper into the meaning of the material every time I taught it.

Today with that background I read books and scriptures daily.  However, I take what I learn back into my scriptures and add cross-references or margin notes to make scriptural passages more meaningful for me.  My scriptures have very little underlining and no coloring, but there are many notes and cross-references in them.

I try to tie any new concept I learn, no matter the source, back into the scriptures.   Lately I have also taken to using an electronic version of the scriptures to help locate material or passages which relate to a topic.


  1. I'll share (but by no means recommend) what I have felt to do the past 2 years with regards to marking, notes, cross-references:


    Personally, being a bit of a "control freak" I have always loved (since my youth) marking my scriptures. I have many well worn sets from high school, mission, college, and teaching seminary.

    So two years ago I bought a new set when some of the pages started falling out of my set that was about 10 years old.

    Then I received a very strong impression to not mark this set. That I should read them as if they were new each time and the Lord would teach me and help guide me to those areas which would be of most import.

    I can't tell you how hard it has been to refrain from even making a note but I have done it. Then at Christmas time I felt strongly that I needed to give away my prior sets of scriptures, so every one of my children got a set of their father's old scriptures. Now I just have the blank set and the Spirit of the Lord to rely on...

    But I feel really good about it. I trust that he will let me know what I need to know when I need to know it.

    An amusing anticdote related to this--my 17 year old son loves to comment during family scripture study using my notes from the old set he received. He finds it funny now when I will comment on a scripture differently than the notes written i that set.

    Oh and learn I guess. Emphasis on learn.

  2. I love this entry. I have wanted this information for several years. I've been in some of your classes and wondered how you came up with the information you pack into them. So I appreciate this entry because it makes it seem like something I could do rather than requiring special skills and ability to remember. So thanks for this insight. And as a follow-on question, have you ever put together a bibliography of the books you've learned the most from or would you just refer us to the book lists at the end of your books?

    Hardy Cherry

  3. I attended a lecture about Hugh Nibley last night given by Eric Huntsman a BYU Religion Professor. Brother Huntsman went through some of Hugh Nibley's notes that he used in preparation for articles, etc. Your study method reminded me of how Brother Huntsman described Brother Nibley's method. He would go wide assembling as many references on the topic as he could. Then he would go deep on each source and compare it with the other sources. And when he was done he would draw his article from these comparisons.

  4. WOW, your hard core. Now I know why I am I'm reading about the 2nd comforter instead of living it. I mean I love and have a good working knowledge of the scrips, but I see some room for improvement. No doubt the Spirit can help me with me attention deficits.

  5. I like to give this link whenever I encounter questions on scripture study:,4945,538-1-4040-1,00.html

  6. I also feel that reading 'marked' scriptures ties me in to previous interpretations which may or may not be relevant to what I need now. Lately I've been getting the blue BOMs (free at DI!) and start a new one each time I read. (I still can't refrain from marking... but when I start over, I want clean text.)

    The scriptures are a means to an end... I'm trying to teach myself to fish, as Elder Bednar would say, not living off past fish feasts.

    Carry on.


What Say You?