Religion professors share personal scripture study advice

Written by: 
Courtney Bow Nielsen

BYU-Hawaii religion faculty gave advice on how to enhance personal scripture study, from looking at the context, studying in the morning, and not getting caught up in reading a certain number of pages or chapters.


Quality over quantity

Assistant Professor Matthew Bowen emphasized the importance of meditation instead of focusing on the number of pages or chapters being read. He explained how the key to revelation is through pondering, even if it’s just a few verses a day.


“Do not focus on length,” Bowen counseled. “Do not try to focus on getting a certain number of chapters read and then speed through it. Be sure that you focus on quality over quantity. Be willing to ponder individual words, phrases, and concepts even if it’s just a small block of scriptural text that you get through in the day.”


Professor Marcus Martins also stated the importance of pondering rather than speed-reading. “It’s not a race. I feel that it’s necessary when you’re dealing with something sacred like the scriptures to savor the words.”



Bowen also explained the importance of understanding the context of what’s being studied. He said the only way to fully understand the scriptures is to have an understanding of the historical and contextual background of whatever book or chapter is being read.


An example he used was the Isaiah chapters in Second Nephi. He explained how knowing about the Assyrian empire in the eighth century helps readers gain an understanding of what’s going on in those chapters.


Bowen said, “Once you know the history, then you start to understand what Isaiah is talking about. We tend to read a lot of those chapters out of context and we just kinda go through them to get through them.”


Eric Rackley, a professor of education and the author of “Developing Scripture Literacy: What Good Scripture Readers Know and Do,” said knowing the scriptures you’re reading is supposed to make sense is better than reading the words on a page, turning it, and calling it good.


“I think most of us have been in that situation. The real heart of scripture is nestled among the words, ideas, and the narratives, so looking for those intentional connections goes a long way to help us understand what we’re reading.”


Continually asking questions

Rackley explained the importance of continually asking questions and being curious. “Asking questions is important because it shows what we’re willing to understand. The nature of our questions as we read scripture indicates what the spirit is able to tell us.”



Martins said he thinks studying scriptures in the morning is more effective. He said the First Presidency reads the scriptures in the morning because they rely on the promise in D&C 88:124 that if they retire early to their beds their minds will be invigorated.


“Phones usually don’t ring,” said Martins. “There isn’t a whole lot of noise coming from the street so there are fewer distractions, and so that seems to be something to be taken into consideration.”


Martins said when students ask him for advice on scripture study, he tells them he doesn’t have a specific method he follows. “Do what works best for your brain. As long as you do it, it doesn’t matter how.”

Date Published: 
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Last Edited: 
Saturday, November 18, 2017