Have you ever been afraid to ask for help? Have you missed out on important information or opportunities because you didn’t dare speak up? I know I have. On my first day of Junior High, I was seated in class, proud to have earned a place in the advanced 7th grade math group. I had always loved working with numbers. Basic math came easily to me, and I often created long division problems at home to solve just for fun. However, when my new teacher stood up, chalk in hand, and began to explain a new mathematical concept, I felt like he was speaking a foreign language. As the minutes ticked by and I struggled to understand what he was saying, I glanced around the room expecting to see confusion on my classmates’ faces. But no. Apparently, I was the only one in the dark.
Why was I so confused when everyone else seemed to “get it?” I was too shy to approach my teacher for help, and too embarrassed to ask my parents. Each weekday I sat through another perplexing math lecture, understood almost nothing, then spent the remainder of the class period slumped over my math book, holding back tears. I was in over my head and needed to be transferred to the regular math class. My failure to seek help resulted in years of mathematical deficiencies. How I wish I had asked for assistance on the first day of the semester. Why was I so hesitant to let anyone know I was floundering?
Several years ago, during a discussion with one of my teenaged daughters, she surprised me with her honesty, saying, “I just don’t get what the big deal is about The Book of Mormon.” I was shocked, having never sensed any hesitation or confusion on her part during family scripture study. As I spoke with my daughter at length, she opened up about her inability to find much meaning in the stories and teachings of scripture.
I was grateful that she shared her concerns, and I was reminded of other people who struggled with the scriptures for various reasons. One was my husband’s former co-worker. As the two men conversed one day, the subject of scriptures came up and the friend told my husband that scripture study was hard for him simply because he hated to read. Another person informed me that she had Dyslexia, which made it difficult for her to read anything, but especially the scriptures. Reading and appreciating God’s word does not come easily to everyone.
So, what if you don’t love the scriptures? What if reading them feels like a chore, or what if you have a learning disability that complicates things? As a struggling math student, I learned that my failure to ask for help got me nowhere. There is no shame if we don’t automatically embrace the scriptures. I’ve realized that part of the reason scriptures appeal to me is that I enjoy the act of reading. I also enjoy being still, while many people are high energy and the prospect of being tied to a chair for a half hour of reading sounds like torture. I am drawn to poetic language, and much of scripture has a poetic or symbolic element. But not everyone enjoys that type of writing.
We know we’re commanded to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39) and to “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Ne. 32 3). As Nephi said, “…the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7) So there must be a way to increase our ability to enjoy and understand the scriptures. Because searching the scriptures is a commandment, every effort we make–however simple–to increase our understanding of God’s word is an act of obedience and will be answered with a blessing, even if the blessing doesn’t come in the way we expect.
When digging through the scriptures feels frustrating or unrewarding, how can we change things up? How can we dig differently? Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen to the scriptures instead of reading them.
- High energy people might benefit from listening to the scriptures while walking or running.
- Read the scriptures aloud with a friend or family member or ask them to read to you.
- Find a friend who will discuss scriptures or the Come Follow Me lessons with you–perhaps a ministering sister or brother.
- Are you a visual learner? View beautiful artwork inspired by scriptures. There are hundreds of inspiring works of art that can be enjoyed for free on ChurchofJesusChrist.org or found elsewhere online. Stroll through a store or museum where religious works are displayed. If you have artistic talent, choose a favorite scripture story or theme and create a simple drawing, painting, or sculpture to represent it.
- Take advantage of the scripture videos produced by the church. This is a great way to become familiar with the powerful stories in the Standard Works.
- Study by story or by topic. If plowing straight through The Book of Mormon or New Testament doesn’t hold your attention, choose a gospel principle to research. Or select an attribute of Jesus Christ that you want to develop, as outlined in “Preach My Gospel,” and look up the associated scriptures. (1)
- Choose someone you admire from the scriptures, such as Esther or Captain Moroni, and ponder their examples and teachings. Record which of their characteristics inspire you.
- Read The Book of Mormon with a new focus, as President Russell M. Nelson counseled: mark every reference to God or Christ. Read with questions in mind: what does The Book of Mormon affirm? What does it refute? Make a list of what it teaches you that you would not know otherwise. (2)
- Remember that scripture study doesn’t have to be long. We may feel that unless we can devote significant time each day to delve into the scriptures there’s no point trying. But even 15 minutes a day of sincere study–by whichever method you choose–can be a blessing.
- Don’t underestimate the value of the simplified/illustrated versions of the scriptures such as the Book of Mormon reader.
- If you struggle with the Old Testament, try reading it while searching for themes such as idolatry or temple worship. Consider listening to “Saints” volumes 1 and 2, then explore the Doctrine and Covenants again with fresh eyes.
- Pray before studying–confide your scripture struggles to the Lord and ask for the Spirit to teach you. Pray for the spiritual gifts you need to increase your understanding.
- Choose a verse or passage of scripture that is meaningful to you and memorize it, then ponder it throughout the day as you’re driving to work, folding laundry, or mowing the lawn.
A true story in recent history has many parallels to the study of scripture: On March 29, 1974, a handful of farmers in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China were digging a well when they struck something hard. Further digging revealed pieces of clay pottery, including part of a sculpted human head. The farmers had no idea they had stumbled upon one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.
Archaeologists were called in, and the time-consuming work of excavation slowly revealed the extraordinary scale of the discovery: an army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses had been buried with China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, 2000 years earlier. To date, more than eight thousand terra cotta warriors have been found.
Current photographs of the figures are deceptive. The pictures show row upon row of six-foot-tall warriors. But the warriors were not discovered as perfect statues standing in orderly lines. No, they were in broken, scattered piles. For decades, thousands of archaeologists have painstakingly sifted through the debris, slowly collecting pottery fragments of various sizes, then patiently reassembling the pieces, like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. The process of reconstructing a single figure usually takes several workers two or three months. Putting together the fractured remnants of a particularly elaborate army general statue took two full years. A close examination of the photos of the terra cotta warriors reveals that even some of the restored figures are missing a head or a hand.
INSERT PHOTO OF PARTIALLY EXCAVATED WARRIORS
The scriptures are like the terra cotta warriors. Most scriptural discoveries are not elaborate, fully formed ideas. They come to us in pieces and parts. We are required to engage in the sometimes-tedious process of assembling the fragments, rearranging and fitting the pieces together until we can make sense of them. It may take months or even years to grasp certain spiritual concepts. But as we keep digging, we gradually uncover more spiritual treasure which builds upon our previous finds.
Forty-seven years after the first terra cotta warrior was unearthed, the discoveries at the excavation site continue. How long are we willing to search the scriptures for promised treasure? A lifetime will not be enough to uncover all the beautiful truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, if your current search for scriptural treasure feels unfruitful, I encourage you to dig differently. Dig from a new angle, try a new approach, ask for both human and heavenly help. But keep digging. As Sister Joy D. Jones taught, “The Lord loves effort, and effort brings rewards…We are always progressing as long as we are striving to follow the Lord.” (3)
- Preach My Gospel, lesson six.
- President Russell M. Nelson, October 2017 General Conference.
- Joy D. Jones, “An Especially Noble Calling,” Apr. 2020 general conference .