Archives: studying the scriptures

Whenever I feel like a post was kind of cut off a bit, I feel the need to explain myself a bit, and give a bit of background to the overall story.

Basically, a recent occurrence in my life for the past couple of months has been a renewed effort to find out what purpose the Lord has in store for me in this life.  I really have no idea, to be honest, but I’m trying to find out a lot of answers.  Not just my purpose generally, but what I’m supposed to do with all this free time and resources that I have.

Well, one habit I used to hold dearly was that I would study the scriptures a lot.  That hasn’t really been a focus in my life as much as it was before, for probably eight years or so.  I mean, I have been reading them on a regular basis, but generally not more than anything other than a sense of obligation at times.  Never anything I’d really call “studying”.

Not too long ago, though, I got a new idea for an approach I could develop towards studying.  It mostly came because I was getting exasperated a bit by following the letter of the commandment (read your scriptures daily) rather than the spirit (feast upon my word).  I like to mix things up now and then, and this time was no different, and I don’t doubt that this current idea will eventually fade away and I’ll be trying something new later on.

For now, though, what I do in the morning is I read the scriptures (the Book of Mormon) until I find a passage that I find interesting.  It doesn’t matter how much I read, but as long as I find something that stands out — that either makes me ask a question, or consider the passage, or something I just find kinda cool.  Then I write it down in my little notebook.  There’s nothing cooler than going back to old notebooks, where I’ve recorded previous thoughts and questions, and seeing what I wrote years ago.  It’s a lot of fun.  So far though, my new method has been very effective, if not the most effective I’ve had yet.  The reason I say that is because I find myself thinking about that scripture during the day or week.

One thing that I do to get myself to ask questions while reading, is I’ll look at a passage and say, “Now, why did they put *this* in there?  Who cares?  What does it matter?  Is that important?”  And that kinda stirs the mind and gets me thinking about why it would be included, what importance it could have had to the author (think of all the stuff we write in our journals that seem important to *us*, but to anyone else it would be a bunch of fluff).

As an example, I’ll use the one I found this morning.  It’s in the book of Mosiah, chapter 10, verses 4 and 5.  They read:

4. And I did cause that the men should till the ground, and raise all manner of grain and all manner of fruit of every kind.

5. And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the land–thus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.

Now, aside from the comment about continual peace, there’s not really anything of substance there on first glance, it would normally seem like to me.

However, this time when reading it, verse four caught my mind, and I thought it was interesting how he said “all manner of fruit.”  When I was thinking about it later during the day, I realized that it may stand as a bit of a description of how their culture was advanced and organized that they could have not only the technology to raise all different kinds of fruit, but the agronomy and sciences to do so.  Like, for instance, grapes grow differently from bananas, and they are not the same as pineapples, apples, oranges and peaches.  It would take some skill and organization to be able to handle *all* manner of fruit.  I dunno.  I just find it interesting.  The same thing with the cloths as well … the different types have to indicate that there were artisans trained in different skills.  Anyway.  Interesting.

So, that approach of study is working for me well so far.  I’m having fun with it.

Going back to my earlier point, though, and with my recent discoveries, I’m remembering how much I enjoy studying the scriptures.

When I served my mission in Argentina, I studied them voraciously during all my free time.  Early on, I had the goal to finish reading the entire standard works.  Every free moment I had, I would read, and I got through it rather quickly.  Once I was done with that, I colored all my verses with a coloring scheme I had developed, and marked up my scriptures quite a bit.  I still have that set today, and it’s great to reference them, because I can flip open my books to almost any chapter in any book and find something I’ve highlighted.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist though, or more accurately, fixated on progression and refining my processes.  My original approach to highlighting verses was to do it on a dialogue basis, which works well for the Book of Mormon or the Gospels where there are a *lot* of conversations, but that doesn’t apply to every other book.  So, I’m taking it much slower this time around and I’m trying to categorize each book and see how I can distinguish it as to what a good markup scheme would be.  Doing that entails reading through the book first and getting a feel for what the common themes and topics are … something that gets pretty frustrating at times, because I’m so eager to start marking things up.  In fact, I’m already planning on doing a third refinement of my approach that I’ve done with Isaiah (the first book I’ve looked at, yet), because I couldn’t wait started using colors before thinking it all through.

It’s fun, though.  But really, I’m glad to have found something I can do with some of my time.  Some of the happiest moments in my life so far have been me hunched over a little desk in 25 de Mayo or Neuquen or Esquel, trying to understand the scriptures.  I’m not nearly at the same level as I was before, but I’m having a fun time trying to get there.  Good times.  I tell you what.

Archives: studying isaiah

I’m still reading (well, re-reading) and studying the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (King James Version, for the reference geeks).  I already finished my preliminary run-through of coloring the verses, and now I’m just going through it again trying to see if I missed anything or can understand the scriptures better.  This is the part I really don’t like.

It’s difficult to do a secular study sometimes, because it’s so easy to look beyond the mark.  I was reading a favorite commentary on the Old Testament the other day called The Fourth Thousand Years (by Cleon Skousen), and while I was reading, it occurred to me that I was studying the secular history of the people, the promises and the events that were to happen.  It kind of bothered me a little bit — not the text, but the discovery of what I was doing.  This is a difficult point to make, so I’m going to try and carefully explain it.  I believe there is great worth in studying the history, background, and relationships of the history in general surrounding the scriptures, but I do not believe that studying the gospel should be an academic exercise only.

One scripture that can help illustrate my point is Isaiah 6:8.  In this chapter, the prophet accounts his calling from the Lord.  It reads:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

I’m finding it hard to think of any real commentary that I can add to that.  One thing I like, that Skousen pointed out in his book, is that Isaiah didn’t know or ask what it was the Lord wanted him to go and do … and it didn’t matter to him.  He volunteered, and asked the Lord to put him to use.  I can testify that when we ask the Lord to use us in His service, He will.

Okay, well, I can’t think of a good ending to write up to that, and I have a *really* hard time writing up these posts.  I feel okay about the first part, but can’t come up with anything else, and in my experience it’s better in those cases to say nothing. 🙂

Edit: It occurs to me after walking away for a few moments that my sense of high expectations of self will only serve to keep me from writing any more similar posts in the future, so I think I’m going to go back to my usual mix of stream of consciousness mixed with an overall sense of not trying to offend anyone. 🙂

Archives: the book of isaiah

I bought a second set of new scriptures a few months ago, because I’ve been wanting to do a new markup for an entire set.  This week, an idea came to me of how I could do that, two themes in particular to focus on: the restoration, latter-day work and personality traits and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I wanted to start in the Old Testament, and settled on the book of Isaiah as the first one to tackle.  It seemed like a reasonable choice, and a good sampling of what most of the Old Testament is like anyway — difficult passages to understand, but with persistence, inspiration and study, you can find some gems.

I’ve been studying it all week, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.  My initial markup of the entire book went fast — I got it all done in two days (Sunday and Monday).  Since then, I’ve been going back over it, and finding more stuff.

The prophets writing style is pretty amazing.  He will switch from theme to theme all the time, sometimes mid-sentence.  The topics he seems to cover the most are: the restoration, the last days, the final judgement, the second coming of the Lord and the millennial reign.  On top of that, there are constant promises, reminders, and prophecies to and concerning the house of Israel (the saints who have accepted the covenant).  There’s just so much.

I’ll quickly share a few verses that have really stood out to me lately, though I can’t go into much detail because of time right now.

Isaiah 5:1-7 is a cool parable of sorts.  I like it because it paints a cool picture of what the Lord has done.  Here’s the actual text from the King James version:

1. Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

2. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

3. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

4. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

5. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

6. And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

7. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

This one touches upon the apostasy of Israel, an event that has happened on numerous occasions.  One thing that stands out to me is in verse 2, documenting all the things the Lord did for His vineyard, he “planted a tower in the midst of it.”  That phrase, “in the midst of it” has been popping up in my brain lately, and it’s interesting to see where it occurs.

When the risen Lord visisted the Nephites in America after his ascension … well, I’ll just quote the verses from 3rd Nephi 11 and point it out there:

And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.

2. And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.

3. And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

4. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

5. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

6. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

7. Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name–hear ye him.

8. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.

9. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

10. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

11. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

12. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.

Okay, I didn’t intend to quote that much, but I didn’t want to take it out of context, and it’s easier to follow this way.

Verse 8 though, what fascinates me is that when the Lord descended, “he came down and stood in the midst of them”.  When I read the verse in Isaiah, it jogged my memory about this event, and I find it interesting because I had always envisioned Him, for some reason, as appearing on the edge of the crowd and having them come to Him.  That’s not the case, though — He was right there among them.  I think that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, lots of little realizations like that … I could probably write a whole series of posts on the stuff I’m finding in here.  Good times, though.  It’s really fascinating to study, I would recommend and encourage it yourself.