Background: I teach Gospel Doctrine, which is a Sunday School class, for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and it has been an amazing experience thus far. Last year I was blessed to teach the History of the Church and a book of canonized scripture that we call the Doctrine and Covenants. This contains revelations, doctrine and covenants (hence the name) given through the Lord to prophets in the latter-days of the gospel to the faithful adherents of the church and the world as a whole (Specifically covering the historical time period of 1820-present while utilizing all other scriptural time-frames as well). That book of scripture contains great insight into the organization, leadership, priesthood responsibilities, and teachings that pertain to family, missionary and individual responsibilities to those who desire to live in the Gospel covenant.
That's quite a mouthful, and not even the main purpose of my post today, but wanted to give that information as background, because biographical information is fun. (light applause, laughter)
With that, when writing about this sort of subject matter, I should also put one of these:
Disclaimer: This blog is a way of expressing my personal opinions thoughts and anecdotes, as well as my personal understanding of the scriptures, and conference addresses. It is not meant as a statement of doctrine, and may not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, or doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Anyways. Time to get started. So, I teach Gospel Doctrine, as stated before. In my personal studies of the topic at hand (This year is the Old Testament, or Torah), in addition to reading certain scripture 'blocks' at a time, it is also of use to find some supplementary material to assist. While I do enjoy the occasional article or commentary, there are a couple of good ways to go about studying that may not seem as daunting or academic, while still providing a great path to Gospel Scholarship.
Seek the Spirit (Prelude)
Whether you are overly spiritual or not, there are multiple ways to follow this concept even to one who is not religious, spiritual, etc. I have attempted to do this while pursuing academics, working throughout the day, or just spending time with family and friends. Before doing something from which you desire to learn, it is important to get in a situation where you are prepared to do so. Meditation can do this; listening to peaceful, serene or appropriate music while spending a few minutes or more on something important, or nothing at all.
Practice: to better understand what I mean, take a few minutes (which, if you are a busy mom, dad, individual, etc can be a challenge in and of itself) and listen to something peaceful, joyous, and ideally without words. Instrumental. One of my favorites is "My Joy is Full"
but Paul Cardall and Lex de Azevedo are both very good, depending on individual mood and style. Orion by Metallica is also a personal favorite for obvious reasons.
[Share your favorite meditation/uplifting instrumental music in the comments below]
Spend a few minutes listening and focusing on something uplifting, or the end result of a currently arduous task. Focus on you: First being, then becoming.
It can be an awesome experience.
No matter what your process is for seeking the Spirit, doing it in a meaningful and prayerful way is crucial to studying, especially on concepts that are to improve oneself. Much like an athlete will do everything possible before an event besides the obvious training and repetitions, focus also centers on what goes into the body and mind during those sessions. This will make the event and trainings that more meaningful. Trust and rely on the Spirit as you study. It will be a key and a guide, and the greatest aspect of anything else I mention in this post.
These can be asked through a number of ways:
a) Prayer (See James 1:5, 1 Nephi 15:8-11)
b) To yourself as you study (Journal while you do. Explore through writing. Be the Indiana Jones of words and thoughts. It's much less prestigious, but still adventurous. And without the Snakes and Helicopters.
c) Mentors, teachers, and leaders
d) Your Spouse and Children. Children provide great follow up questions and even great insight into key concepts.
Let's spend a moment on that last one: Elder David A. Bednar gave a great address relating to family study, prayer and time.
Study: My intent of this post was to provide study aids for the weeks lesson coming up. I will try and do this every Wednesday (#WeBlogWednesday) so that it will give people enough time to read some of the addresses, articles, and be able to study some various insights into key concepts of the weekly Sunday School Lessons seen here.
Most of the posts shouldn't be this long. They will follow more in line with 3-5 conference addresses linked to the concepts of the lesson with a few quotes attached and include some personal insight. Hopefully as we go throughout the year, I would love you to provide some great additions, insights and ways that you study and learn. They could be much different and extremely helpful to know, so feel free to request a concept to be explored more.
Old Testament Scholarly Articles from BYU Studies that tie in with the weekly lesson plan.
Neal A Maxwell Institute This contains a great number of scholarly research projects and books. (Most readable online). There is not a very definable path for lesson material, but some good articles from Apologetic scholars like Hugh Nibley, John Welch and Truman G. Madsen, along with a host of many others. They attempt to see things from the historical context more, and utilize a good amount of other sources that are contemporary with ancient church history.
Amazing Articles like this one: The Calling of Lehi as a Prophet in the World of Jerusalem.
BYU New Testament Commentary Series While this primarily contains a wealth of information regarding the New Testament, it is a key to helping understand the principles and doctrines of the Old Testament.
Scripture Citation Index: Great tool to utilize! (and there's an App for that!)
This one's my favorite... Don't tell the others...
Just to explain this one, basically if you are fond of, or confused by a certain scripture, or just want to see who has addressed certain aspects of the verse(s) in mind, there is an extremely easy way to do that, thanks to these wonderful people.
For example, Songs of Solomon has only been mentioned once in conference since 1942. While Moses 1:39 has been referenced close to 300 times. Just that one verse! Since 1942.
That's one of the great things about it as well, is that it is able to pull entire addresses of conference since 1942 plus all of the Journal of Discourses series. (It won't print those very easily, but Conference will print, or direct to lds.org article).
In case you run out of material there, (doubtful) or want to review conference talks in full from a quote in the book/manual that you read, there's a way to review.
If, in studying the Old Testament Institute Manual, you come across the following quote regarding the creation found here:
or this one regarding the lost tribes of Israel found here:
Then you can go Right HERE!! and find the conference reports that go back to 1897. It is amazing the wealth of information that we have access to in this day and age. There are scanned PDF documents of every report, and very legible. There are audio and video recordings. Utilize the senses by both hearing and reading an address or the scriptures to capture some things that are easier heard than read or vise-verse.
In addressing all of these wonderful and useful tools, I cannot stress enough how amazing it is to find time to just be immersed in the scriptures. I would strongly encourage you to (at least one day a week) to spend close to an hour reading strictly and solely to the scriptures.
I would encourage you to record thoughts, feelings, and insights. Journal. Personal revelation will be given, so attempt to personalize it when applicable, using "I and Me" Language. To get an idea of the blessings of this process, recall what experiences Elder Richard G. Scott had from simple yet profound promptings here.
If you made it this far, I commend you. I am here in the journey as well. I have not taken full advantage of all that has been presented, but wanted to share some ways that I have gained daily strength and insight.