What’s the Secret to Scripture Study?

We often feel like there’s no time for meaningful scripture study. Even when there is time, we may be lost as to how to make the most of it.

"What you do with scripture, including the neglect thereof, is a wonderful way for the Lord to get a measure of your soul." - Joseph Fielding McConkie

Joseph Fielding McConkie—son of Bruce R. McConkie, grandson of Joseph Fielding Smith, and longtime professor of ancient scripture at BYU—tells of how his students often came to him wondering what the secret method was to studying the scriptures like a prophet, apostle, or gospel scholar. The secret, McConkie reveals in “The ‘How’ of Scriptural Study,” is that there really is no secret.

McConkie says effective scripture study doesn’t depend on the color of your marking pencil, the size of your scriptures, or whether you study topically or chronologically. It depends on the intensity and consistency with which you study.

For those of us who still need a little help studying intensely and consistently, McConkie offers seven basic principles:

  • Seek the spirit of revelation to understand revelation.
  • Remember that the principles of the gospel are always the same.
  • Bring faith to the act of study. Develop faith by exercising it.
  • Keep scriptural lessons in context.
  • Learn to navigate conflicting principles; don’t focus on one principle at the expense of another.
  • Take advantage of commentaries—and your own common sense.
  • Tailor the lessons of scripture to fit your challenges.

As we learn to study with intensity and consistency, applying these seven principles, we can reap the benefits promised to those who spend time with the scriptures. The insights we gain may not come quickly or easily, but the effort will teach us to truly value the scriptures.

Read Brother McConkie’s article to find specific examples of each of these principles.

Source: BYU’s Religious Studies Center
—Alison Brimley, Mormon Insights

Find more insights

Read a discussion with President Henry B. Eyring about his own approach to scripture study.

Discover or rediscover Preach My Gospel’s strategies for effective scripture study.

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3 Comments

  1. I love the seven principles that Brother McConkie lists. At first they seem a little cryptic, but after thinking about it, I realized that they aren’t cryptic at all–they are actually very simple. I love the first point especially. In order to understand revelation, we must seek it.

  2. This article made me want to read the whole talk by Brother McConkie. In fact, I did.

  3. It’s been difficult for me and husband to really study the scriptures, not just read them without thinking about them. This is great advice to keep scripture study interesting, fresh, and worthwhile. I especially like tip #5 “Learn to navigate conflicting principles; don’t focus on one principle at the expense of another.” I like the idea of trying to reconcile seemingly conflicting principles in the scriptures as a way to study them. I’ve never done this before, and I am excited to try it out.

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