Recently, I’ve really struggled with my scripture study. I never know what to study, so I just kind of read for a while and stopped when I got bored or fell asleep. Knowing that’s what I had to look forward to was not motivating.
The common suggestions are, “Study by topic.” “Underline your favorite verses.” “Look for answers to questions.” I needed more help than this, though. So I browsed through my husband’s study journal for ideas. (He’s given me permission.) His mission study journal is a treasure. It is neat, well-organized, and thorough. He’s included intriguing diagrams and lists.
Using his example and thinking about how I’d like to study, I’ve also redesigned my study journal. It has made all the difference.
My first attempt at a study journal like this was unsuccessful. It was mostly organized by topic. For some reason, topic study just doesn’t work for me. It’s difficult for me to think of a topic I want to study about, sometimes I can’t fit certain insights into one topic; I lose track of what topics I already have a page for; and these problems make me not want to study my scriptures. I’m sure topic study works for a lot of people… just not me. So here are some ideas of other scripture study activities.
Keep a To-Do list. The first few pages of this section just contains all the ideas you can think of. Here are some of mine. Take the Christlike attribute quiz, page 126 of Preach My Gospel. Find scriptures about the temple. Write answers to questions on your Mormon.org profile. Read the Old Testament, looking things up on Wikipedia (Bible scholars are very active and knowledgeable there.) Listen to an audio recording of the New Testament. Read Isaiah with a commentary guide. Memorize scriptures and hymns.
Study one chapter every day for 10 days. You learn something new every day, and reach a depth of understanding you’ll not get otherwise. My husband loves this activity, but he does it for 30 days. And he still learns something new every day.
Focus on a chapter or a verse and record your notes in your journal. Organize them like the scriptures are organized. Every once in a while, go through and only keep the pages where you learned something significant.
Prepare for Sunday School. I cut apart and hole-punched my Sunday School student manual. I prepare for the lesson on lined paper between the manual pages. I take notes during class there too. (Okay, I don’t take notes. I try to keep my one-year-old busy. Theoretically, I could take notes.)
Prepare for Relief Society. Cutting up the Relief Society manual was a little too intense for me. So, while I study out of the manual, I write down three categories of things: Insights, Questions, and Things to Gain a Testimony About. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ, the church, the scriptures, Joseph Smith… but what if I had a testimony of each principle of the gospel? When answering questions of non-members, I can say boldly, “After we die, our spirit leaves our body and goes to a place called the Spirit World.” Instead of the less powerful and lame-sounding “Our church teaches…” During my preparation for a lesson on the Priesthood, I wrote down that I wanted a testimony that the Priesthood exists only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During the lesson, I received that confirmation from the Spirit. My goal is to be ready to receive revelation like that each week.
Talks and Hymns. Print off landmark talks (Like Beware of Pride or Mothers Who Know), and mark them up. Print off hymns and follow the scripture references, write the lyrics in your own words, define some words.
Exploding Scriptures. Write the scripture in the middle of the page. Follow the references, copy the good ones down. Write down the definitions of words. List questions, and answer them. Think of personal applications. Each of these should be connected to the scripture with a ruler-drawn line. This is the mental process you should be going through anyway, but your thoughts are so much clearer and on-track when you write them down neatly.
Prepare lessons you haven’t been assigned yet. This is not to save time when preparing talks or lessons. When you are asked to teach, you are teaching people in unique circumstances. Pretending to prepare a talk or lesson helps you study more earnestly and seriously.
Continue to work on Personal Progress. Design your own experiences around your own weaknesses.
Personal Questions. President Eyring suggests two while reading the scriptures: ‘What would God have me do?’ or ‘What would He have me feel?’
Keep track of promptings, spiritual experiences, and where you can see the hand of the Lord in your life.
List people and things you want to remember to pray for. Does this sound hokey? Try it… I kept a whole journal one time, making lists of what I was grateful for and what I wanted to ask for. Then I’d go back a couple weeks later and check off what things were given to me. The results surprised me.
Take notes during other meetings (not sunday School or Relief Society).
Brainstorm and keep track of assignments for your calling.
Make a study of the prophets. Keep track of these things for each prophet: “teachings, personal characteristics, relationship with family, relationship with God, God’s relationship with him, and ways he received revelation. (“Keeping Scripture Study Alive,” Ensign, Aug 2008, 17–19)”
Each of these paragraphs represents a section in my study journal. I have a little binder, that holds half-sheets. I like it because it is the same size as my scriptures, but the paper is a little more difficult to come by.
The idea is to put a lot of effort into it to create something of value. Something you want to look back on, something your kids will find intriguing.
The Red-Headed Hostess was the unchallenged authority on the bloggernacle about scripture journals. She’s marketed some journals which are books of templates designed to help you study. She has some good ideas, like studying chapters by writing down People in the Chapter and What I Learned from Them, Other Scriptures I Looked Up, Principles I Found, and Questions I Asked Myself. She creates her own page for the topical guide, called a topic blitz.
But the more important thing she taught me was this: put a lot of effort into your journal. A Lot. Here are some diagrams and maps she’s created.
When I stumbled across these photos on Pinterest, I was like, holy cow. This girl needs to do something else with her time… but then I repented. Imagine what her study journals look like. You are drawn to them. You just want to read what all her little boxes say… There is a good chance her children will want to look at them. I compare that to my old study journals… which I recently threw away because they were illegible, useless, boring, and embarrassing.
So I’ve decided to take a leaf from her book. I’m going to put effort into my journal to make it something I want to look back at. I want to make something that will help me study in the future. Maybe my family will learn about the gospel through it, which is my main purpose in life.