Feast Upon the Word

scriptures2Last week during a special time of the month for me I cried to my husband about what a horrible person I am. I don’t know if you do this, but I start to feel a bit like a big ball of flaws, with nothing good to offer to the world, no talents, no hope of ever changing or improving. Sometimes it’s worse than others; inevitably I figure out it’s hormonally induced and things get back into perspective. But often before balance returns I create a list of goals to work on (remember my lists?). I try to figure out what I’m doing wrong and set goals to do better. Though the emotions are cyclically disproportionate to the problems, generally the goals I set are things I really do need to work on.

My biggest concern last week was scripture reading. I read with my family in the evenings before family prayer. I take the scriptures with me to church and read the references that are part of the Sunday School and Relief Society lessons. But my personal scripture reading has been inconsistent and half-hearted at best. So before I could get to sleep after despairing with my husband about why I am so awful, he helped me iron out the details of a new plan to make scripture reading a habit again. A time I can actually get answers to prayers, think about gospel principles, find guidance as a parent and friend.

The first night of my plan I decided I’d study the visiting teaching message. Do you know what the message is this month? Not even kidding, it’s “Search the Scriptures Diligently”. One of the quotes is from President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994): “Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul—these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. . . . Certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it. . . . ”

I’ve stuck with my plan for five days in a row now. I’m not to the point I want to be yet. I want to have the feeling that I cannot imagine not reading my scriptures each day because I am so reliant on the spirit it brings, how it blesses me. But it has been something more than just feeling like I’m checking a to-do off my list. I hope with time and effort it becomes a preposterous thought to miss my scripture reading for any reason. I believe it’s that important, but I need help with “mine unbelief”.

Part of my plan is not just to read, but look for ways and ask others how the scriptures help and bless them. In the current issue of Segullah, Harvest , there is a beautiful essay by Heather Sullivan called, My Place in the Garden“. She recounts her experience carrying conjoined twin daughters to 28 weeks and then losing them. As she concludes her story she shares some of the peace that has come to her through her understanding and connection with someone from the scriptures. She writes, “So many times I have thought of Abraham. He had been promised posterity to rival the sands of the sea, a family tree with branches unnumbered, bringing the promised Messiah. Yet he had been commanded to cut off the birthright branch. I marvel that given the choice whether or not to obey, he did obey. I think given the option I probably would have chosen to have my daughters stay. But Abraham trusted so completely in the Lord that he consented to sacrifice his dearly loved son. Knowing that Abraham could trust the Lord so fully gives me courage to trust too. I have made covenants regarding my posterity, and though I can’t see the whole design from my place in the garden, I trust that the finished product will be beautiful beyond my imagination.”

Without coming to know Abraham through the scriptures, this portion of peace she has found wouldn’t be possible. Reading her story helped my unbelief.

Now I invite you to share. I need all the help I can get to keep building my belief. What gets in the way of your scripture study? How do you make scripture reading a meaningful habit? Does it bless you when you do it regularly? How has it?

22 thoughts on “Feast Upon the Word

  1. What I love about daily scripture study is how I find specific help for pertinent concerns, even when my plan is just reading “from beginning to end.” For example, I’m currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants. Today was section 46 on gifts of the Spirit. At noon our enrichment activity is a birthday lunch, and I wanted to put together a “Happy Birthday” poster for the occasion. Reading this section reminded me of a quote by Elder Marvin J. Ashton (Oct 1987 conference) that listening, caring for others, being agreeable, and not passing judgment are all gifts of the Spirit. It’s just what I needed. (And I could come up with an example like that several times a month if not more often.)

    As far as my study time goes, “life” gets in the way. We’re all just busy. I’ve found that leaving my scriptures out where I can see them (and also having multiple sets available) helps me remember. As I’m passing by I can stop for a couple of seconds and read a verse or two. That doesn’t take the place of sitting still for a half hour, but it works. When I had young children, I found the best time of day for personal study was lunchtime. When a crying baby wakes you up and a toddler won’t go to bed, morning and evening times were not conducive to contemplation. I’ve also found that setting measurable goals (a topic a week, or a chapter a day, or finish the Book of Mormon before school starts) keeps me motivated.

    It takes time and patience to form the habit, but the blessings that come from the effort are indescribable and innumerable. It’s worth it!

  2. Your post was personable and real, often that is what I feel is missing in the urgings we get to read scriptures. Instead we get guilt and platitudes. I want to hear real life examples of how a scripture story has applied to someone’s real life problem, like the amazing Segullah article you mentioned. Those real life examples remind me of the personal and sacred experiences with the scriptures in my own life and urges me on to more. Instead of just turning “read the scriptures” into a phrase we repeat in Sunday school. It is about a beautiful relationship with our Savior, partnering with prayer (like Elder Bednar’s talk from last Oct Conference).

    Recently my scripture study has been about savouring the scriptures – no time frame, no set length, just reading to find what the Lord wants to open to my understanding. It has been a beautiful and peaceful experience as I quiet my heart at the end of a long day and open myself to the spirit. I do miss it when I don’t read, because I need the peace it brings and celebrate the light and knowledge the Lord allows me.

  3. Just yesterday I blogged, not as eloquently as you, about this same thing, after I returned from visiting teaching and couldn’t shake the feelings of hypocrisy. Why haven’t I taken the feelings I’ve had for so many years of wanting to love and master the scriptures, and turn the desire into action? I will be eager to check back and read the comments.

  4. What a wonderful reminder to me, Heather. I read this morning and felt so great and prepared for my day. I thought to myself, “Why don’t I long for this every day!?” I tend to go in waves, being really great for a while, until something disrupts my schedule, then it all falls apart.

    I’ve gotten better in the recent past, and my husband is a really good example to me. He will read every single day, no matter what, and he’s really motivated me to be better. And the Spirit constantly reminds me what a blessing it is to read, which is comforting.

  5. I like to set a stage for reading my scriptures, one that immediately calms and refreshes me, helping to bring the Spirit. I use the same comfy chair and ottoman every time I read. I use the same scriptures, which sit on the table next to that chair. I use a favorite pen for markings and a blue highlighter that is pleasing to my eye. I light a candle, which has become symbolic for me of Christ’s light. I listen to a CD I burned with my favorite songs of inspiration on it. I wrap myself in a warm, soft throw that is the color of Christ’s robe in my favorite picture of Him.

    And then I read.

    For me, these small preparations make all the difference…and make me willing to get up early enough to start my day with this spiritually grounding and centering gift to myself.

    =)

    PS. Sometimes I add to the mix a crystal goblet filled with ice water, or a china cup filled with peppermint tea.

  6. Sue, that sounds lovely!

    I was talking to my newly-ordained deacon boy last week about scripture study because we were going over the goals in his Duty to God handbook. I told him that this was not likely to be something he could check off in two years (unless he creates an amazing habit), and that it’s okay. I told him that I’m still working on it. I’m like Justine–I’ll do great for a while until something happens that disrupts my life (a move, birth of a baby, etc.). Life is about learning to adapt, and those changes are what give opportunities to figure out how to make time for priorities. I want him to feel the hunger, even if he doesn’t yet regularly feast on the word.

    As for myself, I’ve been trying (again). I’ve been getting up early and reading first thing in the morning. It’s working so far, though I’ve missed a couple of days. Weekends are harder. But I’m making progress. Years ago when I was in a good groove, I found it helpful to find one phrase in my reading that I could reflect on throughout the day–something to focus my thoughts on (ironically, today’s is “help thou mind unbelief”). That approach is helping me this time around too. Otherwise, it’s too easy for me to have the words go in and out and not really make any difference during the day.

  7. I greatly appreciate the open and honest essay and comments – that the sharing I have grown to love here.

    I also have ran into these issues. The bad person thing….yeah. – …about once a month and it passes. I keep a diary that I use during those times – it helps.And looking at the calendar when it happens so I know that that is just what it is.

    Bible time – i love this topic! Newly married with a husband not of the same persuasion has pushed me to be creative.

    I have found the readings to read thru the bible in a year online – also the prescribed readings for my denomination and office. So while we “blog” in the morning – together, separately, I do my readings first. It takes me about 15 – 20 minutes, sometimes 1/2 hour.
    I also have a hymn sent to my email each day and read 1 – 2 hymns a day.

    The Book of Morman and other LDS is online here:
    scriptures.lds.org
    http://www.bookofmormononline.net
    http://www.bookofmormononline.org

    we are all on the computer so much as we have talked about before – might as well use it.

    I also do not go anywhere without a Bible and a hymanal in my purse. If the morning as been busy or I find myself in a ER room or something – I am prepared at all times. The Bible has a list of my readings in it so I can stay consistant.
    My mother in lay sends me a daily devotional – I am working to memorize the selected Bible verse each day.

    My goals each day are to feed everyone, do my scriptures and exercise – all else is gravy – that helps – it puts it in perspective.

    Also realize during a busy day it might be done anywhere or piecemeal – just as long as it is done.

    My mother says that how she managed it was that her kids were in bed, depending on the night, between 7 and 8. No exceptions until college when it was 9. Then she had 2 – 3 hours for such things. We did not participate in anything that kept us out late so that we missed our bed time – yes, even in the summer! It kept my mom sane and don’t believe it hurt us a bit. Actually it showed us how important those things were to her.

  8. sorry i accidently hit the button.

    the most important thing that i have learned tho – is to keep on no matter how I feel. Even if I feel i am not getting anything out of it – the Holy Spirit knows his work. I cannot let my feelings dictate whether I do devotions or not – it has to be in my head as normal of a thing to do as eating, dressing, taking my medicine – and isn’t it truly all those things and more?

    With anything spiritual – first it is medicine, then habit and then what i build my life around.

  9. The reality of scripture reading for me is that I have created the habit and I do it every day since it is a commandment. I put my scriptures right next to my bed and read them just before I sleep. Now that means that most of the time I really am just reading the words, hearing the story again, but not doing anything deep – just feeling good in that I am trying to keep this commandment. I really do think it is fine to be at that stage.

    The blessing comes in that since I do read my scriptures every day, when I need the extra comfort or insight or blessing, the words of the scriptures are there. I have often just opened them and that added meaning was there since I was there.

    An example of this was last year when my 5 year old daughter broke her arm at gymnastics. It had been a busy day already, then the broken arm that had to be fixed by surgery. I was quite overwhelmed with lots of emotions. It was late that night by the time I finally made it to bed, but I opened up the scriptures just planning to read a few verses. I was somewhere in the Book of Mormon and the scripture said something like “Do not put your trust in the arm of the flesh…” but to trust Heavenly Father. First of all that made me laugh, which I needed, since it was her arm that had broken. Second, it helped me realize again that through the atonement the Savior understood all these feelings I had and that He could help me.

  10. Thanks for a lovely post Heather. I love the responses you’ve had so far. For me the best way to read every day is keeping my scriptures on the desk next to my computer. They nag me when I can see them right there and I always end up reading at least a bit.

  11. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for the scriptures! I was ecstatic when I read this month’s VT lesson — I have learned of those fruits of feasting!

    My soul suggestion: Think of a question you have — I’ve asked a whole spectrum — and then prayerfully search.

    Some answers are there on the first page you read. Others come as you continue to read. Others take searching the index. There are a myriad of ways.

    If you cannot find it in the index, don’t despair! I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon taught about modesty one day. I didn’t find it in the index!

    But as I read that day in Alma 43:17-21 and verses 36-39, I realized the Lord did teach us about modesty, as a defense and a protection for all who would be modest!And that answer was in the war chapters — pretty cool!

    Another great blessing comes as you continue to read faithfully. As you become more familiar with the scriptures, the Spirit can bring them to your mind when you need them — another way answers to prayers can come!

  12. P.S. Thanks for your blog — good to know I’m not the only one who goes through that hyper-self-evaluation every month! I’m working on recognizing it before it gets ugly :-)!

  13. This post is what I have gone through recently. The RS message reminded me of a Q&A in the Ensign some years ago with President Eyring that I remembered loving at the time. So I found it online (http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=34c82ee01e31c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____) and re-read it. It is gorgeous and inspiring. I took his advice for making scripture study more meaningful- think about what the Lord would have you be/do and write it as a statement in the front of your BOM and then as you find phrases that teach you how to be/do that highlight them in a certain color. My current phrase is “I feel the love of the Lord in my life and it fulfills me.” This is something I struggle with (feeling loved) and it has been so inspiring as I read to find all the ways he loves me and to make it real in my life. I have really been loving this. I have tried getting up in the morning early to read because otherwise the day gets ahead of me and I really want to have it in the morning to help influence my day. But I also know that sometimes it just doesn’t work and I do it at night.

  14. I am always impressed at how when I really meaningfully study a topic- I have a profound experience. One that remains in my consciousness and affects my daily actions. It isn’t always an easy habit for me it’s style and time is constantly changing- It takes work and focus and in our busy lives we like things handed to us.

  15. Sue–what a lovely idea for scripture study. I have made it my goal to read scriptures at night before I go to bed, no matter what (usually it’s two chapters, but lately it’s three pages. That seems to work better with my attitude than chapter length.) As a night owl it can be pretty late. If I’m tired I don’t read in bed since we all know how fast sleep comes. Usually I read perched on the edge of the tub. No falling asleep possible!

    I’m very peevish in the morning–as well as a world-class procrastinator–so morning is not a good time for me. I’m always rushed and scripture study would most likely be shoved to the back burner.

  16. I need to work on my personal scripture study. It could be a LOT better than it is. But I have felt truly blessed as my boyfriend and have met every Sunday night for more than a year now to read the scriptures together. Last year we read the New Testament. It averaged out to just under ten or so pages a Sunday. And there were evenings where those ten pages took us four hours to read and discuss. It now doesn’t feel like a Sunday unless we’ve sat together on the couch and read the scriptures. I’ve learned about myself, about him, and most importantly, about the scriptures.

    Now I just need to get that daily for myself, by myself.

  17. What great ideas!

    One thing that helps me get more from my scripture reading is taking notes while I read. Sometimes I copy down a verse that strikes me — either as inspiration or as something I hadn’t noticed before — and sometimes I write my thoughts and feelings about the passage.

    I find that I have *something* to write each time I read, even if it’s only a line or two, but when I look back through my scripture journal, I can see knowledge slowly collecting in its pages.

  18. First, I’d like to say that as a menopausal woman now in my fifties – it is so great not to have PMS. I related to your feeling of low self-worth, etc during that time of the month. I’ll take the hot flashes over the hormonal PMS any time!

    Second, I learned to love the scriptures while serving with my husband as mission president. Elder Kikuchi set me apart and told me in that blessing that I needed to have my own “sacred grove” every day. A time of scripture reading and prayer and revelation.

    I took his counsel to heart and began a habit that has continued to this very day. I can’t imagine a day without scriptures and journal writing.

    This is a favorite quote of mine from Gordon B. Hinckley on scripture reading:
    “I hope the reading of scriptures will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine.”

    It’s true! Don’t give up!

  19. Sue’s got it right! It’s important to set the stage. When I first started I had a picture of the sacred grove by my bed and I woke up to instrumental hymn music – reminding myself that the most important thing I could do today is spend some quiet time with my scriptures. I also light a candle and have pens and markers I love. It’s really important to write in a scripture journal and keep a record of what you learn. I have a desk that I use for scripture study (my computer is no where near there!) with my scriptures, journals, pens, candle and pictures of the Savior and my family and it overlooks a window where I can see mountains and trees and hear the birds sing in the morning.

  20. Thanks everyone for sharing and for the fabulous ideas. I am doing better. I am seeing blessings. I still have a lot of work to do.

    I am not giving up!

  21. I taught early morning Seminary for 14 years and occasionally still substitute. Before I started teaching, reading the scriptures was a chore. But over the years I developed a great love for the scriptures as I realized the peace that came into my life and my students that read. The scriptures help keep me centered and help me see the eternal perspective.

    BS (Before Seminary) I would devour ‘Bodice Buster’ novels, you know the kind, woman on the cover with dress bursting at the seams. My husband would often remark, “shouldn’t you be reading something good for your mind?’ The Lord must have thought so too, the call to teach came. I have become known in my ward for the quote “If you’re too busy to read the scriptures, you’re too busy.”
    Last summer I had to under go some serious eye surgery on my “good” eye. What was suppose to be a 2-3 day recovery, turned into 4 weeks where I was unable to read. It was really hard but I developed a greater appreciation for those with vision impairments. I remember late one night sitting in my recliner (scripture reading chair), and pleading with the Lord, if it was at all possible, please don’t leave me unable to read. I felt I would rather be dead. (Yes, I have been accused of being a drama queen). It was 10:00 pm on a Friday night and I got a call from my doctor. He sounded a little hesitate, apologized for calling so late but he had been looking over my records and felt the need to call. He explained a little of what he had done in surgery and that it would take a little longer for the healing but felt confident that I would have good eyesight for the rest of my life. After I hung up I sat there stunned. I knew it had been my doctor who called, but I felt like the Lord had answered me personally and I promised him I would read faithfully, BUT if it wasn’t meant to be and I would need to adapt, I would with His help. So I would let my husband read the scriptures out loud to me, listen to tapes and when the fear crept in, I would replace it with faith, thinking about that night. 3 weeks later, on a Sunday, I picked up my scriptures to see if I could make anything out and tears over came me (and then I had trouble reading) but I realized I could see the words. Corny but true, I was filled with JOY.
    I have days when I get too busy and forget to read but I remember how it could be and I give thanks for my eyes and the ability to read. Then I find my quiet place, curl up and read.
    As you allow the beautiful spirit to spirit communication to take place (something I learned from a seminary video with Elder Holland) your love for the scriptures will come. Believe me it will come. It’s something we can hear about all the time, but when we do it, then we will know for ourselves what Pres. Hinckley, Pres. Benson, Elder Eyring, and all the others, are telling us about the power of scriptures.

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