Chapter 5 – We Learn to teach By Study and Also By Faith Part 1
As a counselor in the Primary general presidency, Sister Anne G. Wirthlin taught that a pattern of pondering deepens understanding: “The Savior has given us a pattern to follow as we study the scriptures. We hear the word, we ponder upon its meaning, we ask our Heavenly Father to help us understand, and then our minds and hearts are prepared to receive the promised blessings. . . . The Spirit bears witness to our hearts as we prayerfully seek to know the things of our Heavenly Father”
(in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 10; or Ensign, May 1998, 10).
D&C 11:21 – 21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
One way to obtain the word by study is to learn to identify and apply principles from scriptures to our own lives.
Principle: fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for belief or action.
Some principles are obvious, some you need to think a little more, and some have more than one meaning. We should not “stretch” or “twist” meanings from the scriptures or identify concepts that are not there, but often we don’t ponder carefully enough to perceive many of the principles embedded within the scriptures.
Exercise: Let’s look at these scripture passages and try identify the principles:
Matthew 5:14-16- note: a light under a bushel will go out. If we don’t shine our light, we will lose it
Alma 30:60 – God comes even before family. We need to follow him no matter what. Our lives should be a confession of Christ.
President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the blessings that will come: “I hope that for you [reading the scriptures] will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (“The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99)
President Ezra Taft Benson explained what would happen when we make the scriptures a vital part of our study: “Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul—these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. Does the Lord promise and not fulfill? Surely if He tells us that these things will come to us if we lay hold upon His word, then the blessings can be ours. And if we do not, then the blessings may be lost. However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life. . . .
“. . . I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82)
Scripture study methods and strategies.
Look for principles.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 117; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 86). Many
principles can be found succinctly stated in the scriptures, such as the Savior’s teaching on repentance (see D&C 58:42–43) and Mormon’s declaration regarding Satan (see Alma 30:60).
Marking scriptures helps you remember where certain scriptures are located, arrange scriptures into related groups, follow certain topics, and so on. Ways to mark scriptures include underlining, outlining, shading, circling, numbering, and cross-referencing. Develop a method of marking scriptures that will best help you understand them.
Use the study aids in the scriptures. The Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures include study aids such as the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary, cross-references, word and phrase helps, excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
(JST), Bible and Church history maps and photographs, and chapter headings, section headings, and verse summaries. (The Guide to the Scriptures is a collection of study aids prepared for languages other than English. It can also be found on the Internet at scriptures.lds.org.)
Ask questions relating to the text.
Ask such questions as: Who is speaking? To whom is the person speaking? What is the message of this verse or chapter? When and where did the events described in this scripture occur? What are some of the key words and phrases in these verses? What do these verses teach about Christ or the plan of salvation? How does this scripture apply to me right now?
Notice questions asked in the scriptures.
Questions often cause us to pause and ponder important gospel truths and how well we are personally living them. For example, consider your personal response to a question the Savior asked His disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) or “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Look for definitions of unfamiliar words or phrases.
Sometimes the scriptures follow a word or phrase with a definition. For example, Nephi taught that some people “trample under their feet . . . the very God of Israel,” and then he explained that the phrase meant that “they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels” (1 Nephi 19:7).
Notice and learn about symbols.
The scriptures often use symbols and imagery. Symbolism can be found in colors, animals, names, clothing, and so on. Many symbols lead us to Christ (see Moses 6:63). For example, use the Bible Dictionary or the Guide to the Scriptures to learn the meaning of Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’s birth. How does its meaning testify of Christ? (see John 6:35).
Insert your name.
Use your name in a verse to help make scriptural teachings more personal. For example, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [your name]” (Moses 1:39).
Notice scripture lists.
The scriptures contain numerous lists that illustrate and teach the Lord’s will and doctrine. For example, qualifications for baptism are listed in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37. King Benjamin listed what we must do to put off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19).
Memorize key scriptures.
The ability to recall important scripture references and their content is beneficial to missionaries. Following are some ways you might find helpful in memorizing scriptures:
- Write or print the scripture on a small card or piece of paper and carry it with you. Read it several times a day.
- Divide a scripture passage into phrases. Repeat the first phrase until you can recite it. Add the second phrase, and repeat the phrases until you can recite them both. Add the third phrase, and so on.
- Write the passage down numerous times each day.
- Record yourself reading the passage several times, and play the recording back while traveling to school, work, or other places.
- Using your scriptures, copy the first letter of each word of the scripture on a piece of paper. Then try to write the scripture from memory.
- Ask family members, roommates, or friends to help you learn the passage by listening to you recite the scripture, reading the scripture to you and leaving out groups of words that you must fill in, or reading to you random phrases unique to a particular scripture and having you identify and recite the scripture.
Ponder and pray about specific passages.
Pondering and praying are essential elements in scripture study. You may choose or even feel prompted to seek the meaning of a specific verse or passage of scripture. Take time to think about the scripture, pray specifically for understanding, and then be prepared for insights that enter your mind as you listen for impressions. Look to othe scriptures and the teachings of the current prophets and apostles to be sure your understanding is consistent with the doctrines of the Church. When impressions come, write them down in a study journal.
Chapter 5 – We Learn to teach By Study and Also By Faith Part 2
“It is not unusual to have a missionary say, ‘How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony would that not be dishonest?’ “Oh, if I could teach you this one principle! A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it. Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is
that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and step into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two” (Boyd K. Packer “That All May Be Edified” , 339–40).
Note: You can bear your testimony without saying “I bear testimony” or “I testify.” Other examples of bearing testimony are:
- “I know as you keep the Sabbath day holy, you will find more peace in your heart.”
- “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
- “I have learned for myself that the Book of Mormon is true.”
Ezra Taft Benson said, “The sequence to possessing the power of God in your teaching is to seek first to obtain the word; then comes understanding and the Spirit, and finally the power to convince” (The Gospel Teacher and His Message [address to religious educators, Sept. 17, 1976], 5).
Exercise: flow chart for Doctrine and Covenants 11:21 and Alma 17:2–3
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how gospel study works together with faith: “Profound
spiritual truth cannot simply be poured from one mind and heart to another. It takes faith and diligent effort. Precious truth comes a small piece at a time through faith, with great exertion, and at times wrenching struggles. The Lord intends it be that way so that we can mature and progress” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 119; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 88).
Elder Henry B. Eyring used the Prophet Joseph Smith as an example of how the Lord blesses those who study the scriptures with faith: “Pondering the scriptures will lead you to ask the right questions in prayer. And just as surely as the heavens were opened to Joseph Smith after he pondered the scriptures in faith, God will answer your prayers and He will lead you by the hand” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2002, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 2002, 76).
Elder Eyring also spoke about two keys to receiving the Spirit: “There are two great keys to inviting the Spirit to guide what words we speak as we feed others. They are the daily study of the scriptures and the prayer of faith. “The Holy Ghost will guide what we say if we study and ponder the scriptures every day. The words of the scriptures invite the Holy Spirit. . . . “We treasure the word of God not only by reading the words of the scriptures but by studying them. We may be nourished more by pondering a few words, allowing the Holy Ghost to make them treasures to us, than by passing quickly and superficially over whole chapters of scripture. “Just as pondering the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost, so does daily pleading in prayer. If we do not ask
in prayer, He will rarely come, and without our petition He is not likely to linger. . . . Heartfelt, constant pleading for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, with the pure intent to nourish our Father’s children, will surely bring blessings to us and to those we love and serve” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 114–15; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 83–84).
PEM Chapter 7 – Teach how to pray
Do not assume your friends know how to pray. Ask them how they pray and what they say when they pray. Show them how to pray by praying with them.
Advice for how to pray:
Public and private prayers are different. In a public prayer, you say things that pertain to everyone. In a private prayer, you have a personal conversation with Heavenly Father.
You don’t always have to pray aloud, but do so when you can to make your prayer more like a real conversation.
After addressing Heavenly Father, thank Him for specific blessings. This helps him know that you love Him, and helps you realize just how much He loves you.
Explain things to God, tell Him of plans, and then ask for His guidance. We do this because Heavenly Father loves us and wants to hear from us. He wants us to think, make our own decisions and then ask for His advice. If He always told us what to do, we wouldn’t grow.
You can pray about anything. Anything that is important to you is important to Him.
Advice for how to hear answers to prayer:
Heavenly Father isn’t going to speak to us the way we speak to each other. He answers our prayers through the Holy Ghost, who speaks to our spirits or minds, bringing thoughts or feelings to us. Sometimes we just get a warm peaceful feeling that lets us know something is right.
Ask your friends to start praying the way you taught them. Follow up to make sure they are doing it.
PEM Chapter 8 – Teach how to study the Book of Mormon prayerfully.
It is best to have your investigators read specific passages in the Book of Mormon that relate to questions they have. Find out what their questions are and find chapters/verses that answer those questions. Give them a list of questions to ponder while reading.
Here is the method Brother Christensen suggests:
- Pray aloud to Heavenly Father for help in understanding the passages you will read.
- Read the passages.
- Write a draft of the answers to the questions.
- Pray aloud again telling Heavenly Father the answers you found. Tell Him you will read the passages again and ask for Him to help you see the answers He would want you to find.
- Read the passages again.
- Revise your answers based on your deeper understanding.
- Pray aloud again, asking Heavenly Father if the things you have read and understood are true.
How to give the prayer in step 7 comes from Moroni 10:3-5. Think about how Heavenly Father has blessed you to help you feel His love for you and your love for Him. Ask sincerely to find the answer, and tell Heavenly Father your intent if He answers that it is true.
Writing down the answers makes the person think about what he is reading more.
Brian, the friend that did this assignment in the book, said this when Clay asked him if he would be baptized:
“At first I thought I should wait until all my questions about the Mormon church have been answered. But then I realized that’s not the purpose of baptism. If I wait until all my questions are answered, I’ll be waiting forever. See, it says right here, the purpose of baptism is to make a commitment to God that we’ll follow Him. Baptism is the start, not the finish.”
Clay said that many approach him saying that most people wouldn’t want to do the homework, and Brian had an MBA and was more able to do the assignment. He said that is true, but homework can be scaled to fit anyone’s background. Always remember that we want to teach the gospel to those who have questions and we want them to think about and ponder the answers.
PEM Chapter 9 – Teach how to keep the Sabbath Day holy
When you invite someone to attend church, you need to tell them how to do it. They may not honor their commitment if they are nervous about what will happen there.
- Give your investigator a tour of the building beforehand. Show them the rooms. Help them see that the church isn’t intimidating, but that it is sacred. People like to be in sacred places. If possible, have the missionaries teach a spiritual lesson to them in the chapel.
- Ask friends to fast and/or pray for your investigator who will be coming to church. If it is testimony meeting, ask your friends to bear their testimonies in hopes that your friend will feel the spirit.
- Teach what to wear, how to act, how to get to church, what time it starts, where to sit to get the most out of it.
- An investigator may feel the Spirit at church, but if he/she doesn’t keep the Sabbath Day holy, that feeling can quickly go away and be forgotten. Teach how to keep the Sabbath. For example, ask your investigator to pray and tell Heavenly Father you are attending church today and ask that you will be able to feel the spirit.
- Ask your investigator: What are some of the holy and unholy things people do on the Sabbath? Will you do the holy things only this Sunday?
Challenge: Think of a question you have about the gospel of Jesus Christ – something you don’t have a strong testimony of yet. Find scripture passages that discuss it, and follow Clayton Christensen’s formula to find answers in Chapter 8 of PEM.