The New York Times publishes games every day. My favorite is Connections. It is a grid of sixteen words that players group into four categories. I made a Connections game to illustrate a principle of scripture reading vs. scripture study. If you will, quickly read the sixteen words.

Now, solve the puzzle.

When you just read the words, it took no effort and there was no benefit. But when you read the words, with intent to solve the puzzle, your effort was rewarded each time you saw how four of the words were connected. Often, I have to admit, my scripture reading is like the quick reading of words rather than studying to make connections. (Answers are at the end of the article.)

The connection to connect the game of Connections to scripture reading/study started when my California daughter told me about a survey she did in her stake. She is the stake Relief Society president and is planning a stake women’s conference. She told me that she asked the sisters of the stake to suggest topics they would like discussed in a conference workshop. The top request was how to study rather than read scripture.

​ I have tried many techniques throughout the years to glean the most benefit from time in scripture. Somewhere along the way, I realized that scripture reading as an individual and as a family change with the seasons of life. When we had young children, my personal time in the scriptures was often interrupted. To solve the problem, I read each morning, just a verse or two, until I found something to think about for the rest of the day. I still like to read and ponder that way. Pondering allows time to make and receive connections. As a family, we tried to get up early before anyone left for school to read a chapter, but that was hard on the younger children, and it wasn’t fulfilling because there was no time for questions or to make connections. Reading scripture as a family worked much better in a family home evening setting when we were relaxed and had sufficient time. When the five oldest children were away on missions or college, I tried to read the Book of Mormon with the three youngest children before each left for school. We could have been more successful, but we kept trying.

I appreciate those who have shown me their ways to read and study scripture. I’ll mention three.

Richard, my husband, has been my best example. He reads/studies scripture because he loves it. It’s a joyful hobby, habit, and source of nourishment. Early on in our marriage he suggested we read together a chapter a day. It has been a binding and loving part of marriage. He reads on the odd days and I read on the even days. (You can make of that what you will.)

In the women’s session of General Conference, October 2018, President Nelson said: “As you read [the Book of Mormon], I would encourage you to mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior.” This reminded me of when my ministering showed me her scripture underlinings with various colors to identify different subjects. Reading by topic has sometimes brought more connections to mind than reading chronologically.

One beautiful day in Mill Creek Canyon (and when is it not a beautiful day in Mill Creek Canyon) an unknown person taught me where to read scripture or Church magazines. I was hiking with grandchildren. We were following a path alongside the creek when the path narrowed and narrowed and finally dead ended. It was then we noticed what could be called a sanctuary, a private place where large boulders, like stairs, went down to the edge of the creek. Then we noticed a Liahona magazine on one of the boulders with two large rocks holding the pages open. We didn’t see the person, but I thought it was an inspired idea to bring a Church magazine or scriptures to read in nature.

I have been guided by the Holy Ghost toward other experiences in the scriptures. I’ll share two that happened in the Salt Lake Temple when I was an ordinance worker.

As a temple worker, there are many unbusy assignments where the worker can read scripture, at least that is how it used to be in the Salt Lake Temple. On one of the first days I was serving, the thought occurred to me to take the less demanding posts as an opportunity to read scripture with which I was unfamiliar, scripture that perhaps would be made clearer because I was in the temple. Two choices came to mind—Isaiah or the Book of Revelation. I decided on Revelation because it is shorter. For the ten years I served in the temple, I read Revelation over and over and over. I don’t know if it was the consistent repetition or the blessing of being in the temple, but I have to say, I love the book and even understand some of it! I especially love, love, love the last six chapters and especially the last two verses—Revelation 22:20-21!

Again, in the temple, I was assigned to the lower foyer, which is next to three elevators and two staircases that lead to the dressing rooms. This is a station where the worker mostly smiles and points the way. In this foyer is a very large painting of President Joseph F. Smith. Whenever I was at this post, I thought about his life. I particularly liked thinking about section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which is his vision of the spirit world when Jesus went there while His body was still in the tomb. On this particular day, the thought came to read section 138 under President Smith’s kind eyes. The Spirit blessed me to feel, as never before, the intensity of the vision.

My most earnest scripture study has come with callings to teach. Being called as a teacher is really a calling to become a student of the scriptures under the direction of the Spirit. One of these memorable teaching experiences was when I told a small Primary class of four-year-olds about Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Their eyes were wide with wonderment. Oh, did the Spirit fill the room. I had the opposite experience teaching seminary to teens. We had read Moses 1 and the students began to ask more and more questions about Satan. As the discussion continued, the room grew uncomfortable and cold. At some point, I asked the students what they were feeling. They validated my feelings. We prayed and the Spirit returned.

Technology has greatly aided opportunity to connect with scripture. Years ago, I first listen on cassette tape, then CD in the car, and now I can listen anywhere on my phone. Sometimes I play an audio recording and read along. Listening and reading increases my retention because I both see and hear the words. It also helps with names in the scriptures I’m not sure how to pronounce. When I read scripture online, technology has made the footnotes almost immediately accessible. Those blue, underlined words are hyperlinks. Click on a hyperlinked word and footnotes pop up on the right side of the screen. For example: Moses 1:1 has two hyperlinks: “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain.” If I click on mountain, four scriptures with the full text pop up on my screen. Another name for footnotes is connections.

One thing I have notice as I read for connections under the direction of the Spirit, is

that questions pop up in my mind. For example, when reading Moses 1:2, “And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence,” I wondered, what does “caught up” mean? What is the “glory of God”? How was Moses able to endure God’s presence? Has anyone else seen God and talked to Him face to face?

The Church provides many resources to answer such questions. Here is the list of “Study Helps” found on the Church website:

  • Guide to the Scriptures
  • Topical Guide
  • Bible Dictionary
  • Index to the Triple Combination
  • Reference Guide to the Book of Mormon
  • Reference Guide to the Holy Bible
  • Bible Chronology
  • Harmony of the Gospels
  • Joseph Smith Translation Appendix
  • Bible Maps
  • Bible Photographs
  • Church History Maps
  • Church History Photographs
  • Abbreviations
  • Pronunciation Guide

There are other online sources to augment my understanding and answer questions. Podcasts by faithful members of the Church can also provide answers. Another example is the Joseph Smith Papers, which is an excellent source of accurate historical information and user-friendly.

Searching online sources, however, comes with a warning. I have run into anti-faith sites that teach myth, hearsay, and scripture taken out of context as fact. Enemies of testimony do much of their proselytizing online. They use propaganda-like techniques to spread biased information and false ideas for the purpose of planting seeds of doubt in members and injuring the Church as a whole. Many online sources distort the doctrine of Christ with lies, misquotes, speculation, historical revisionism, and sensationalism. Be vigilant. Anti-Mormon rhetoric can be addicting like pornography.

The umbrella over making connections in scripture rather than just reading is prayer. When I remember to pray before reading scripture, connections come from my personal database of things I have learned in the past. It amazes me when a connection to a general conference talk connects with the words I am reading in scripture. It surprises me when a connection comes in the form of an idea to help solve a problem. I feel these connections are tender mercies.

In 1995, then Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “The idea that scripture reading can lead to inspiration and revelation opens the door to the truth that a scripture is not limited to what it meant when it was written but may also include what that scripture means to a reader today. Even more, scripture reading may also lead to current revelation on whatever else the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time. We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8).

(Connections Answers: Things in a living room, Lehi and Sariah’s four oldest sons, Meridian Magazine, and ways to study scripture.)