I went to an awesome presentation Saturday morning and wanted to share what I learned. (Also so I could write it down to save it for myself, sorry if it's a little personal.) This lady, Sylvia Allen talked about scripture study and I perked right up because that was one of my goals for the year was to improve that. She was a single mom to 4 boys for twenty years and has recently remarried. After her husband left her she found out that her youngest was mentally retarded and two of her other children were handicapped. Her one garden variety is now serving in Iraq. So while she was going through all these trials, not to mention working and going to college at the same time, she was really desperate for a little help from above. She went to a fireside given by a stake president/professor who had just completed his thesis on a twenty year study of how we study our scriptures. She decided to try his way out and has been successful ever since. And I thought, okay, if this poor lady can put in the time and effort, I definitely can. I have been doing this since Saturday and have been actually quite amazed at how well it's been going. I'm excited to commune with the Spirit and feast instead of feeling guilty for forgetting to put in my four minutes to read a chapter before I turn out the light. My brain has been picking things up so much better and I actually feel instructed and guided.
So, the handout mentions that this is not a "system" or a "method", it is the Lord's way of study. It should include these things. I'm going to number them but they didn't.
1. A place to study where you can have privacy. I would add, enough privacy where you could pray aloud if you wanted. You also need to be at a table or desk instead of in a lounging position if you are going to accomplish all this stuff, I would add. That's been a big thing for me.
2. A time to study that you can be consistent, alert, and unbothered. She quoted Pres. Hunter's scripture study talk on this where it says something like, an hour is required, half an hour would still be substantial, and in fifteen minutes maybe you would still accomplish something. She dove in headfirst and to try for an hour, and the first time she actually went almost three hours without hardly noticing, the kids missed the bus and she was late for work. I've been very easily doing between 30-40 minutes. She wakes up at 5:30, even if she's been up in the night with her kids having seizures, etc., and it has worked for her. There's no way (5:30!) for me, plus my day is not that strict, so I've been going down to my very quiet and private basement after I feed Cooper in the morning at about 7:30. Mark always gets up with the other kids anyway and gets their cartoons going and their breakfast, so really, my services aren't really required until I have to do Leslie's hair at about 8:25 or so for her to catch the bus. We kind of got into that habit so I could sleep in after being up with the baby all night, but now he sleeps through the night and so do I. I do have to wear sweats, wrap up in a blankie and sit in the sunshiny window spot to help it feel cozier, though. I figure on doing it later in the day during Cooper's nap (and plugging Boston into the animated babysitter) when Mark has to go to his breakfast meeting or the gym. The Lord has really helped me have an easy time getting up. I guess I just needed to show a little faith.
3. Start with prayer to ask (lots of ask and ye shall receive scriptures here...) for help with whatever problems or questions you might have, for guidance from the spirit or about what you should study. Also stopping and praying at anytime during study when prompted to do so by the Spirit.
4. Searching. She shared a funny quote about Satan's greatest tool against studying the scriptures is reading the scriptures. Sequential reading is fine if you are trying to get an overview or cover material quickly for a class or something, but usually it is not the best way to study. (This has been good for me to change.) They suggest that you do topical study, pursuing promptings and interests, using the topical guide and other tools, be flexible and use various materials like dictionaries, commentaries, teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith, conference talks and your patriarchal blessing.
"Scripture study is highly personal." and "As we sincerely study the scriptures in the Lord's way, we are given more and more of the power of the Holy Ghost. It is through this power that we are given more and more faith and hope and charity and more and more personal revelation." were some of their quotes.
5. Pondering. Stop often to think and feel. Do you remember that talk by Pres. Eyring about getting personal messages from the book of Mormon? She also shared a story about Pres. Kimball. He asked a bunch of missionaries if their minds ever wandered while they were reading and what they should do about it. One missionary suggested that you try to focus and keep reading. Pres. Kimball said that's the last thing you should do. He suggested that you write down your thoughts because they might be the spirit instructing you on a completely different matter than you were reading about. Pres. Hinckley said, "I like to just think, meditate a little, underline, and write out in longhand some of the things that I read because I remember them better if I write them out in longhand." Which leads us into our next principle.
6. Writing. She talked a lot about this part. She says that if you really want this to work you CAN'T leave this part out, even if you think you hate writing and will have nothing to say. I actually read a cool scripture this morning that said we are COMMANDED to write (2 Ne 29:11). Get yourself a scripture journal right away. I actually got myself a "tender mercies" journal after Elder Eyring's last talk, so it has made a smooth transition since I can take a little of my time to include that stuff, anyway. Have it out and highlighter and pen ready to go. At your private study table spot. The handout says, "Writing down inspired feelings, insights, discoveries, and personal applications. As we record personal revelation we send a very important message to our Father in Heaven. The message is: "I do care about what you are saying to me.""
7. Thanking. Pray again, expressing gratitude for the Spirit you've felt and the things you've learned.
Their diagram of these principles have arrows going back and forth, so if you feel like studying more after you write, or however, go for it.
That's basically it. She kept saying, "Oh, I am so excited for you guys tomorrow morning!" Like it wasn't studying but more like an appointment with our Heavenly Father. She does this presentation a lot and has people send her their success stories about how they finally learned how to do it right after struggling for thirty years, or how they conquered addiction., etc. She has an amazing collection. I was excited myself and thought about it all day long.
I know that my "tomorrow morning" was fabulous and very individualized.