It’s nearly midnight. You’re struggling to keep your eyes open, but remember it’s time for scripture study. You open up to your current chapter in 2nd Nephi and remember you are in the Isaiah chapters. After struggling through a few verses about butter and honey and some king named Uzziah, you collapse into a deep, much-needed sleep.
Sound familiar? I have experienced many nights where my scripture study was right along these lines. I’m just emerging from the Isaiah chapters in 2nd Nephi. Let’s just say I was one step short of clapping for joy when I read that he wants to write in plainness for the upcoming chapters.
If you’re like me and find yourself not gaining much from scripture study some days, then maybe it’s time to rethink how you study the scriptures. We are lucky to have plenty of apps, tools, and techniques at our fingertips for deepening our scripture. Start with these tips:
1. Follow along in an institute manual.
If you close your scriptures and think to yourself “I understood about 10% of what I just read,” then the institute manuals are for you. These are available in the Gospel Library app free of charge. After reading a chapter, glance through the institute manual to see which verses in that chapter are highlighted and explained in deeper context.
Making this change has been the biggest improvement in my scripture study. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone back and highlighted or noted scriptures that I first skimmed over that now had more meaning after studying it in the institute manual. I even went out and purchased an institute manual because I’m more of a paper-and-pencil person when it comes to scripture reading.
2. Commit to reading everyday after a specific task.
Do you put your kids to sleep everyday at 7pm? Maybe you have a bowl of cereal every morning. Whatever task is a certain part of your daily routine, add scripture study right after it.
This is something I learned from my Bishop. His formula is basically: “After I [insert something you already do every single day], I will [insert scripture reading goal].” Even if your goal is to crack open your scriptures and read one verse, at least you’re doing it at a specific time each day.
3. Study general conference talks
Especially ones from the chapter you are reading. Ever heard of the LDS Scripture Citation Index? It’s a serious scripture study game-changer. It’s an app that’s a database of general conference talks arranged by scripture chapters. Reading in Matthew? Open up the Citation Index to the chapter you’re studying and see what Elder Holland has to say about it. This practice levels up your reading into a true scripture study that deepens and expands your learning of the gospel.
4. Become a Gospel Library app power user.
Most of us have the app downloaded, but very few are logged in, marking scriptures and taking notes on our promptings. The Gospel Library app integrates seamlessly through the web and mobile version. And the best part is that you have The Book of Mormon, The Bible and additional scripture. Not to mention every Ensign, every manual and tons of other resources. Any notes you take will be easily accessible next time you have to give a talk. Highlighting and taking notes also promotes active reading, so you won’t finish a chapter with your mind in off in la la land with Ryan Gosling.
5. Follow a scripture study chart.
Whether you are coloring in individual chapters on a scripture printable, or checking off chapters in an app, there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment for visual learners who can see they are chipping away individual chapters. One of my favorite websites for this purpose is Scripture Charts, which tracks progression through various scriptures or LDS books and manuals. It also works on mobile for tracking on-the-go.
6. Take notes.
We all know that writing down impressions greatly improves scripture study, but what about taking notes while we are reading? If you’re a notetaker during conference or in classes at school, then it’s likely that jotting down specific notes from different verses can greatly impact your study.
There are so many tools available for this kind of thing, including a notebook within the church’s scriptural interface. The blog Mormon Lifehacker also recommends using Evernote and other free tools that may have additional features compared to the notebook in LDS tools. Whether you use a digital or pen-and-paper notebook, there’s no doubt that it can enhance your scripture study and take it to the next level.
7. Set a deadline.
I’m the type of person who only accomplishes goals if I set them with a date in mind. If my goal is to “read the scriptures,” I probably will not progress much. But if I want to “finish the Book of Mormon by the end of 2017,” now we are in business. Make sure the goal is attainable By planning how many chapters you would need to read so you don’t get overwhelmed. The LDS Scripture Tools website is a simple one that lets you time out how many chapters you need to read daily to meet your deadline. Side note: When you make these goals, make sure you reward yourself when you meet them.
8. Memorize verses.
Remember in seminary when you spent hours learning scripture mastery verses? No? Well, now is your chance. Memorizing meaningful verses can give them an entirely new meaning. Now they aren’t only highlighted in your scriptures, but also accessible in the back of your mind for anytime you need them. Make a list of “power verses” that are your favorites and get you excited about the gospel. Choose from this list and memorize a verse each month (or every week, if you’re ambitious).
9. Listen to the scriptures.
If you listen to podcasts or audiobooks, why not add the scriptures to your list? Playing audio of your scriptures can be powerful. Whether you are following along word by word or driving to work, listening to someone else read the scripture aloud can open up new ideas and promptings in a different way.
The best way to access this is at LDS.org, or within the Gospel Library app. You can also download the audio files onto your phone for on-the-go listening that doesn’t require data or cell phone coverage.
10. Add verses to your daily routine.
Beyond improving your committed study time, you can also add small opportunities to study scriptures. There are several social media accounts you can follow that add inspiring scriptures to your feed. One popular option is @LDSdailyscripture on Instagram, in addition to the church’s own social media accounts.
Taking the extra time to read and ponder these can make a big difference in the caliber of social media content you view. Another option is to install the scripture a day widget for Android phones, which displays a daily scripture on the home screen of your phone.
Scripture study doesn’t have to be methodically checking a box and moving on with your day. There are so many ways to make it personal, meaningful, and the best part of your day. What are you favorite ideas for optimizing scripture study? Let us know in the comments below!