The power of slow reading and asking questions is immediately apparent when one does it. This is the benefit of a tool like Scripture Notes.
Printed journal editions of the scriptures is also good for this, but has some significant weaknesses compared to digital.
However, you can slow down in your reading and write your questions in many ways, and regardless of how you choose to do it, it is powerful and unlocks revelatory experiences.
For example, we read of Nephi’s visionary experience with an angel in 1 Nephi 11. He is shown the condescension of God in coming down to earth and being born of a virgin woman. The Spirit says to him:
14. …Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15. And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17. And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
We skim over this verse 18 and know that Nephi is being shown Mary. But he’s also having something else confirmed to him. The angel tells him this is the mother of the Son of God after the manner of the flesh, implying there is also a mother of the Son of God after the manner of the spirit. The angel is distinguishing the two mothers. One earthly, one Heavenly.
There are other verses that also identify a mother in heaven as well. Genesis says let “us” make man in “our” image, clearly plural terms, and then both man and woman are created in the image of God, which implies a Heavenly Mother is the pattern for women. However, this verse in Nephi is a more direct witness of the existence of a Mother in Heaven.
The key here is slow down your reading and think about the words. Ask questions and write them down.
Last year I introduced a framework for studying the scriptures. You may recall the infographic (click it to see the full size version):
This chart is useful for digging into the scriptures, showing how to ask a variety of questions, sorting out what you find, and most importantly, writing it down. Journaling can be done in a variety of ways, but Scripture Notes makes this incredibly easy so you always have your notes next to your scriptures and can search them just like the scriptures can be searched.
A friend of mine by the name of Lynn Stoddard, was an educator for many years. He had a program he called the Great Brain, which was essentially a way of giving students their agency in studying a topic at a depth they chose on a scale of 1-4. Level 1 is surface level. Level 4 is a deep project. One might say, “I’m interested in learning about dinosaurs at a level 2” and that would entail a certain amount of research they would do.
When we study the scriptures, we also have to choose what level we want to study at. The deeper we go, the more revelation the Lord is going to give us.
I know some of you are using Scripture Notes to write books or do projects. These are great examples of searching the scriptures for topics and themes that cause you to go deep. I think everyone should have a project from time to time, something you study deeply like priesthood, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the scattering and gathering of Israel, and so on.
If you don’t have a topic to research, a simple way to get started is to turn to the Topical Guide and find one.
President Nelson challenged us to study the 50 some topics related to Jesus Christ. Turning them into Collection Notes is a powerful way to study.
Another way to get started is to just pay attention while reading the scriptures and listen for opportunities to dig deeper. For example, lets take this verse:
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
There is a lot to unpack here. If I wanted to do a level 4 project, I would do the following.
First, I want to understand the verse itself. I know this is a big project so I create a collection note with this verse in it. Then:
Next I’m going to write the following questions in my collection note:
Having laid a foundation of definitions, I would then proceed to do some searches. I would want to see how words are used together in scripture and find related relevant verses. Here are some I would do:
In the Study Helps section of the library, I do a search for Cross and see study sets in the Topical Guide, and Index to the Triple Combination (TC).
From the TC set, it also links to:
(TC) Jesus Christ, Death of
(TG) Jesus Christ, Crucifixion of
Each of those link to other topics. This is why I wrote a previous blog post called the 3+ levels of the Topical Guide because studying one topic in depth and then surrounding topics makes your understanding of the initial topic deeper and wider.
Now we get to ask more questions as we do our research:
These questions will lead to further searches and making notes as you go.
If you will do this prayerfully and listen for inspiration, you will receive revelation and insight that you didn’t have previously. God will open your mind, particularly as you write while you have the Spirit with you.
Doing this type of exercise will change the way you study the scriptures.
You will move from reading, to studying, to searching the scriptures, which is what the Lord commanded us to do.
You don’t have to write a book to do this. You just need to desire to be closer to God, desire to receive more revelation, and want to taste the fruit of the tree of life. When we step toward God, he steps toward us. Study deeper, and be closer. Write your questions, search for answers.
Scripture Notes is the best tool available to do this.