Tuesday, January 26, 2016

3 Ways to Encourage Pondering After Personal Scripture Study

There's a difference between reading and studying the scriptures, and we're advised to do the latter. There are several resources available to help us search and understand the scriptures. Some of these are seminary and Institute manuals, the Church magazines, general conference talks, other LDS books, and even the dictionary.

Yet, there is a second step we're supposed to take after studying the scriptures, and that is to ponder. This means to think about what we've read in order to make connections, discover personal application, and receive revelation. Here are three things you can do to take the time to ponder after reading.

1. Listen to Heavenly Music

my favorite album

Maintain the Spirit you've invited through scripture study by listening to uplifting music, such as that from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It will aid in keeping away distractions, both externally and internally, so you can focus on the words you've read and what they mean. If you enjoy doing so, sing, hum, or play an instrument instead to create your own music.

2. Color or Craft

If you're like me and need to keep your hands busy, try an adult coloring book. I found one with Bible verses and floral designs that appeal to me. The simple activity helps me avoid reaching for my phone or any other distraction that can drive away the Spirit, make me forget what I'm pondering, or make me want to move on to something else. It also helps me stay calm and relaxed so I'm more receptive to spiritual promptings. 

If you don't like to color, other options include:
  • knitting or crocheting
  • needlepoint
  • drawing or painting
  • writing or blogging (about your study)
  • whittling or carving
  • sculpting
  • flower arranging
  • origami
If you're not artsy or crafty, you can wash dishes or fold laundry. Choose anything you can do on autopilot so your mind is free to dwell on spiritual matters, though make sure it doesn't detract from the Spirit.

3. Move Your Body

photo by Michael Lorenzo

Going out for a leisurely walk, run, hike, or bike ride allows you to see God's glorious work all around you as you exercise your body, mind, and spirit. The fresh air and sunshine can elevate your mood and keep the Spirit close by. Meditative yoga or graceful dancing also can invite peace and revelation after scripture study. Combining an enjoyable physical activity with a mental and spiritual one connects and opens up your whole soul.

For a more enriching experience, do all of these tips. For example, you could study and then go for a walk while listening to inspiring tunes. Try different combinations to find out what allows for the best pondering. Be sure to write down what you learn so you can remember and reference it in the future.

Sharing Time: What do you do to help you take time to ponder the scriptures?

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Prodigal Son: Other Perspectives

I recently read the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) during my scripture study, and it reminded me of this talk from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in which he discusses the older brother. The Mormon Message video below shares excerpts from it.

This talk by Elder Brent H. Nielson from last April discusses the point of view of the waiting father. Both of these general conference talks remind us there is more to the story than just the wayward son and his return. Parables are often multifaceted, and the more we study all their facets, the better we understand the deeper meanings and applications.

Discussion: How does studying the perspectives of the faithful brother and the father help us better understand the parable and its application in our lives?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"I Know My Savior Lives"

The talk I gave today to introduce the Primary program. I didn't even have an outline for this one! I pondered over the topic yesterday and felt inspired as I spoke aloud to myself. I relied on the Spirit today to help me remember what I needed to say. I couldn't remember it all as I wrote this though, but this is it for the most part.

The purposes of Primary are to:
  • teach children who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are
  • teach children to love Them and to feel Their love
  • help children develop feelings of self-worth and understand they are children of God
  • give children positive church experiences
  • teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to follow His example
  • help children become familiar with the scriptures
  • prepare the boys for priesthood responsibilities and the girls for Young Women
Each year we're given a theme, along with monthly themes and weekly lessons that build upon the yearly theme. This year, the theme was "I Know My Savior Lives," and the scripture was, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25).

When I was thinking about what I wanted to say today, I asked myself, why is it important that the children know their Savior lives? The first thing that came to mind was the words to the song I chose for us to sing this morning, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives":

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

3. He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I'll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Text: Samuel Medley, 1738-1799. Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.
Music: Lewis D. Edwards, 1858-1921

When the children know their Savior lives and loves them, it will help them trust and have faith in Him. This knowledge will help them to become like Him as they keep the commandments. It will give them a foundation for their testimonies upon which they can build.

We need to remember to see them as Jesus does. Jesus loves children. We have two accounts from the scriptures, one from the Bible and one from the Book of Mormon, that share when Jesus gathered the little children around Him, held them, and blessed them. He also told us to become like them (Matthew 18:1-4).

These children are so precious. I hope you are able to feel their sweet spirits and the Holy Ghost as you watch and listen to the program.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Blessings of Having the Spirit Always With Us

Part 4 of the talk I gave at stake conference on Saturday, October 17. As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

We receive an abundance of blessings when we have the Spirit always with us. Elder Kim B. Clark promised:
I know that if we will do these things, the Holy Ghost will come! . . . We increasingly will see all of our brothers and sisters the way God sees them . . . . We will hear the Savior’s voice in the scriptures, in the whisperings of the Spirit, and in the words of the living prophets. . . . We will see and understand ourselves and the world around us the way the Savior does. We will come to have what the Apostle Paul called “the mind of Christ.” I bear you my witness that through the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ will cut through the confusion, the pain, and the darkness. Whether it comes in a remarkable burst or in a gentle flow, that glorious spiritual power will infuse healing love and comfort into the repentant, wounded soul; dispel darkness with the light of truth; and cast out discouragement with hope in Christ.
President Eyring said, “When we accept that promise of having the Spirit with us always, the Savior can grant us the purification required for eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

We often forget the Holy Ghost's role as the Holy Spirit of Promise, who sanctifies us and ratifies the covenants we make if we've kept them fully so that we become worthy of exaltation. Without the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can't obtain the greatest gift of all, eternal life in God's presence.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Tell If We Have the Spirit in Our Lives

Part 3 of the talk I gave in stake conference on Saturday, October 17.As with my previous talk, I used an outline, so this isn't word for word.

After we've done everything to invite the Spirit into our lives, we need to know how to tell if he has come or given us the inspiration we seek. We can tell by the feelings we have, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). We also know that the Spirit “leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously . . . . which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:12–13).

When it comes to personal revelation, President Eyring told us in general conference that prayer and scripture study help us become familiar with the voice of the Holy Ghost. In a CES devotional, Sister Linda K. Burton reminded us that learning to recognize the Spirit is like learning a new language and takes time and practice.

If we still struggle, President Uchtdorf has uplifting counsel for us:
[S]tart where you are. 
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.” Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying. 
I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. 
God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord. . . . 
My dear brothers and sisters, if we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny. 
The Savior’s sacrifice opened the door of salvation for all to return to God. His “grace is sufficient for all [who] humble themselves before [God].”
Sister Burton also asked us to be patient with God's timing in when we receive answers. Perhaps we need more spiritual refinement, preparation, or experience before we will receive guidance. We must continue to invite the Spirit into our homes and hearts in the meantime.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4