This is part 10 of our continuing series on scripture study techniques. Watch or read for information on the deductive and inductive methods of studying the scriptures.
Some years ago, I attended a church meeting where a Sunday School teacher said, “now nobody quote me on this, but I think baptism is required for salvation.” I was a little surprised but was grateful the class just gently reassured the teacher that baptism was required, without criticizing him. I don’t know his background, but this was a question that could easily be answered by a search of the scriptures.
A deductive approach to scripture study starts with a premise or idea which you then take to the scriptures to find verification. For example, the idea, “baptism is necessary for salvation.” By reviewing the scriptures that deal with this topic, one would find that yes, baptism is necessary.
The danger with this approach is if you have an answer in mind that you are looking for, you may be seeking to justify your answer rather than engaging in a search for truth. Humility is critical. The scriptures are full of inspired if/then statements, but if we aren’t careful, our conditional “if” statements will lead to false “then” conclusions.
For example, I have seen some people seek to justify socialism as a scriptural doctrine by an appeal to a few verses that indicate people were sharing their substance with each other. This is a dangerous justification. When pride enters the picture, because you are attached to your conclusion, a subset of verses might be used to justify a belief without looking at the context of all verses on a topic. The meaning of the scriptures gets twisted and false conclusions can be reached.
To try a deductive approach to the scriptures, think of a gospel question you are interested in, identify your hypothesis, and seek all the information you can about it to come to a true conclusion.
About 20 years ago, I was privileged to have a conversation with Cleon Skousen. As I asked him what he was studying in the scriptures, he told me something pretty deep he was searching for an answer on. It reminded me of this quote by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
“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.” Deductive study can be very profitable searching for answers.
Now the inductive study of scriptures is more what we are used to doing. This is where you study specific information and make broader generalizations about it. The goal is to draw the best conclusions possible but realize you might not have all the information available or needed to make those conclusions.
The easiest way to do this is taking a topic or doing a search for a word, studying all the verses related to it, and writing down what you can infer from those verses. You didn’t start with a premise. You are developing ideas as you study. You are determining what you can infer from the information available and the more good information you can gather, the more evidence you have for what the truth is. As you refine your ideas, some of those ideas will in turn become hypothesis for which you can use deductive study to dig deeper and find if those ideas are possible.
It’s important to just keep an open mind. I know I’ve been guilty of thinking I knew something, only to get more information later and discover my thinking was deficient.
Your efforts will be rewarded as you begin a serious study of the scriptures and utilize the deductive and inductive methods of scripture study.
Scripture Study Technique 11 – Lists and Patterns
How to Study the Scriptures More Effectively – Infographic
Single Scripture Verse Study Sessions
Scripture Study Techniques & Tips – 1 through 5
Scripture Study Technique 8: Diagramming the One Lesson
Inasmuch – Tangents in the Book of Mormon