Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scripture study

In our little ward here in American Fork, we are very blessed to have a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Jay E. Jensen, living among us. Several weeks ago he gave the 5th Sunday lesson to all the adult members of our ward. He shared so many wonderful insights and gave me lots of food for thought. I thought it might be of value to share my notes from the meeting. So here you go:

Elder Jay E. Jensen
Presidency of the Seventy
“Searching the Scriptures “
31 August 2008 – Combined Adult meeting
Meeting began by our singing “Teach Me to Walk in the Light.” Elder Jensen (hereafter referred to as EJ) said that this hymn expressed his hopes for the meeting, that the Spirit would be our teacher.
The best way to change lives is by teaching pure doctrine. The focus of his teaching would be on better ways to study the scriptures.
Specifically, he wants to teach the “how” and the “why” of scripture study, while making sure he discusses the “what,” “when,” and “where?”
In answer to a question regarding how to balance study of all the standard works, he suggested using the Book of Mormon as the foundation while branching out to the other standard works.
When EJ studies he likes to have the “what” in front of him (meaning the scriptural text) as well as a good dictionary. This is because understanding words unlocks principles.
“When? – when we’re alert and awake. Preach My Gospel suggests that missionaries exercise and shower before they study, and that they sit at a desk rather than reading in bed (pg. 22 under the heading “Search, Ponder and Remember.”
“How often?” – used the analogy of daily manna. We need to eat everyday. We need to make time for scripture study everyday.
“Where?” – You want to be where you can get revelation. Laying bed is not the place to study the word of the Lord. Too easy to fall asleep or get distracted. Referred to D&C 138 to give us an example of how a prophet studied the scriptures. Had a ward member read excerpts from several verses, stopping him after reading a portion of the following verses:
vs. 1-6 “Pondering over the scriptures” “reflecting,” “my mind reverted,” “as I read I was greatly impressed.”
v. 11 “As I pondered over these things which are written…”
v. 25 “I marveled…”
v. 28 “I wondered…”
v. 29 “And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived…”
Scriptures are by nature “multi-doctrinal.” We should always have something to write down the things we are being taught as we study. If we don’t honor what the Lord teaches us as we study, He’ll stop teaching us until we repent and record what we’re being taught.
EJ then focused on how to obtain scripture mastery. He said there are four approaches or patterns of study he follows to help him learn:
1 – By theme: Studying different doctrinal themes.
2 – Chronological: Reading in order.
3 – Combination of theme and chronology: Focusing on a theme while allowing for departures from it. Used analogy of driving into American Fork canyon with a specific destination in mind. Okay to explore side canyons while still getting back to point of departure.
4 – Frameworks or paradigm, i.e. “the great plan of the Eternal God” or “the pride cycle.” This is an approach to organizing the doctrine into outlines. An example of how pride destroyed the church on several different occasions is found in Alma 4, Helaman 3-4, and 3 Nephi 6. Study of these chapters reveals a common theme or framework.
He then taught some techniques or principles that have made his scripture more effective and meaningful. He first shared a story about Elder Scott, who was once on assignment in Mexico. While sitting in a meeting, some impressions began to flow into his mind. He left the room and found a quiet place to write down what he was feeling. After doing so he did two important things: He asked two questions, which were “Have I got it right?” and “Is there more?” He also expressed gratitude for everything that was given.
Prayer - We should pray before, during, and after scripture study.
Reverence – We need to treat the scriptures differently than anything else we read. Mentioned once getting on a plane and flipping through magazines. He then pulled out his scriptures and started to also read them in a casual manner. He had the thought that this wasn’t appropriate and that he was treating the scriptures like a magazine.
Pay the price – No where in the scriptures do we find commandment to “read” them. The words used include “study,” “search,” “feast,” “treasure,” etc.
Link/connect ideas – Regularly, prayerful study allows the Spirit to teach you between study sessions.
He mentioned that he has an imaginary shelf in his study area where he puts his unanswered questions. Occasionally he takes them down, dusts them off and adds a new insight to them, and then returns them to the shelf. Just because he doesn’t have an answer doesn’t mean that there isn’t one to be found.
Mark/annotate – we need to be more discriminating in our marking of the scriptures. How you mark them is a reflection of how you study them. An entire page marked (i.e. seminary students) means the text wasn’t really studied. The two main reasons we mark are to remember and to open the door to revelation, including writing that revelation down inside scriptures.
Create outlines – this allows us to organize doctrines and principles using a skeletal outline. He uses a t-form: left side above the “T” line is the word “What.” On the right side above the “T” line is the word “How.” All this is designed to organize and accelerate your learning. Using a study journal also helps to improve what you learn and how well you remember it.
Purpose of all gospel study should be to lead us to know, worship, and love the Father and the Son.


  1. Thank you again. I was away doing what I do in Primary. I am so glad you took great notes. I sure hope lots of people will read this blog.

  2. Those are some great pointers as to how I can study more effectively. I have recently had to start reading the scriptures first thing in the morning. I found that if I try and make time for them during the day or evening it usually just got pushed aside. It's been so nice to start the day off like that while most of the world around me is quiet. I recommend reading with an in depth student manual at least once through. I sometimes only read a chapter or even less each morning but I feel I get more out of it. I really like the idea to write down your inspirations. Thanks Scott.