The End Of All Scripture Study
Posted by NathanG on September 12, 2011
The other night I struggled through a portion of Paul’s writings and was feeling a bit smug that I had successfully made sense of what he was trying to say. Later, as I was mentally patting myself on my back, I thought, “Now how does this actually help me?”
For quite some time, for me to consider my scripture study of any worth it would need to either strengthen my faith in Christ or bring self-awareness about my imperfections, which has brought about many important insites. (Notice I’m not using the word “apply” which has been discussed many times on this blog.)
There are plenty of times, however, where my scripture study seems to have other ends. Time has been spent trying to work through what the scriptures are really saying, comparing word origins, different translations, commentary, etc. While this in and of itself isn’t wrong, I have been left from time to time wondering “Now just how does this knowledge help me?”
Why do we study the way we study? What is the end we are striving for? Below are some of my experiences
It’s the end of the day and I’m supposed to read something from the scriptures. I admit, this happens. It’s not totally bad, as it has had the effect of a quick reality check on my day.
Goal directed reading. I’m going to read through entire standard works four times this year!! I’m going to read the Book of Mormon in a week!! No time to stop and smell the roses with this approach, but this has been helpful to understand the overlying story within the scriptures, as well as important themes within the scriptures.
Church/group directed reading. Keeping up with the lessons to be taught in church, or in preparation for lessons I may give. There is something neat about a group united in discussion about the scriptures, sharing their collective understanding and experience. It helps me participate when I have actually read ahead of time.
Question directed reading. When the question is so motivating that I can’t stop studying the scriptures, this is my favorite study. Unfortunately every question is not equally useful, however interesting it may be.
In spite reading the scriptures quite regularly for years, I know I fall short from some standards the scriptures set.
Alma 17:2-3 “Yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently…they had the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” Maybe I over exalt their teaching, maybe I’m too modest about my experience as a missionary (or elsewhere), but when do I ever read with the intent of gaining power like the sons of Mosiah had?
1 Nephi 10:17 “And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father…I…was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him”.
D&C 76:114-117 “But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom…which he commanded us we should not write…neither is man capable of making them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; to whom he grants this privilege of
seeing and knowing for themselves.”
While I love these promises, and I enjoy pointing them out to others, when I have my scriptures in my hands, I have no expectations of divine manifestations of the scriptures. Should I?
But maybe I’m really most worried that this message is to me.
D&C 84:54-57 “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received…and this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon…not only to say, but to do according to that
which I have written”. When this condemnation ends will I “exercise faith…even as the brother of Jared” then will all the revelations be unfolded unto me? (Ether 4:7).
I fear that perhaps my approach to studying the scriptures has been full of the superstition and logic of Nephi and crew’s first attempts to obtain the plates of brass. I fear that I may need to let go of my own understanding and allow myself to be “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” Sounds good, but perhaps this will require me to do things that my soul would shrink from. When I am through trusting in my own understanding and ready to trust God, maybe I will no longer finish studying the scriptures just to wonder “how does this actually help me?”
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