We Should All Be Gospel Scholars + How to Build a Scripture Study Plan for 2021

God has big plans and great intentions for each member of His Church.

In this Church, we are promised more blessings than we can find anywhere else; it is only natural that it is also a Church where we are asked to do much. This is definitely not an only-on-Sundays Church or something you can just do. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ means taking on a challenging lifestyle and struggling to allow Christ to make us into new beings.

Sometimes, it feels like He asks a lot of us!

We’re supposed to keep a strict health regimen, stay virgins until we’re married, and even give up 10% of our income.

We’re supposed to go to church on Sundays, take time on whatever calling we’re given, attend the temple regularly, watch 8-10 hours of general conference twice a year, and hold family home evening activities every week.

Despite all of these things, it’s that scripture study that gets really overwhelming for me.

We are supposed to, at minimum:

We have also been invited to:

  • Study general conference talks throughout the year.
  • Study about the promises to the house of Israel.
  • Read everything about the Savior and that the Savior said in all the standard works.
  • Review the proclamations from the Church.
  • Read Saints.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Read your patriarchal blessing.
  • Read any additional readings assigned by your youth leaders, relief society/elders’ quorum leaders, bishopric, or stake leaders.
  • Read any additional content as prompted by the Spirit.

This is a freak ton of reading.

How on earth can any one person living a normal life possibly read all of these things!?

Don’t panic: We don’t have to do all of these things at once.

There may be days or seasons in your life when you can only hang on by that minimum few verses a day in the Book of Mormon.

But before you take a total sigh of relief, what I’m about to say is probably not easy to hear. It wasn’t for me, when I heard it for the first time from the Lord:

God wants us to become scholars of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t need us to have every verse memorized or be ready to Bible bash to prove a point in an argument.

He needs us to know this content deeply so that it changes us.

Catch the vision

Knowledge is power, and God wishes to grant His power in full force upon His people.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

1 Nephi 14:14

I remember a mentor once saying something to the effect of the following: “Oh, of course [Sister]’s Relief Society lesson was great. She is such a gospel scholar. She just understands the scriptures so well. I’ll never be able to know the gospel as well as her.”

She continued, “When I read the scriptures, it usually just goes over my head. I’ve read the Book of Mormon lots of times, but I don’t know if I know it really well. And I just haven’t read the Bible so much either.”

I was surprised and saddened by the idea. This mentor had been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ for more than 40 years, her whole life!

Granted, I’m sure my mentor was talking down her knowledge and abilities in an excess of humility. I’m sure she knows a lot more than she gives herself credit for.

The conversation led me to conduct some introspective evaluation and intent prayer. How well should I know the scriptures? How should I be studying the Word of the Lord?

I felt the Lord answer my prayer, and I started to catch the vision:

We are supposed to be as fully immersed in the doctrine and teachings of Jesus Christ as much as our lives permit—and if our lives don’t make much room for those things, we probably need to reevaluate our lives and make changes, sometimes big changes.

As a Church, I feel that we have begun to move toward the vision with the introduction of Come, Follow Me, but let’s take it further than the bare minimum.

Can you see what that would look like if we all tried to maximize our time in studying the scriptures?

Do you see the vision of the stay-at-home parent listening to general conference talks instead of podcasts while they clean? Do you see the young man or young woman picking up their phone to read the Bible instead of open Snapchat when they’re bored? Do you see the empty nester reading the Liahona as they eat instead of watching television?

I confess I am not anywhere near this vision right now. I need your help to achieve it.

Help me see what it looks like. I need your example to know how to become a gospel scholar.

Why become a gospel scholar?

There will always be people who know more than us in some areas, or even all areas, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Becoming a gospel scholar is not the main goal, however. (Conversion Is Our Goal,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families)

Rather, I believe it is a state of increasing knowledge that highly correlates with becoming the most righteous and faithful follower of Jesus Christ we can become in this life—and will eventually become in the next life.

Granted, there are some who may become very righteous and faithful followers of Jesus Christ in spite of little access to the written words of Christ and His prophets. Such a disciple will also increase in knowledge about Christ, but most likely at a much slower rate and with greater exertion, because they will need to learn more strictly through personal revelation from God.

Thankfully, in this era, we have been blessed with much easier access to God’s word. The Gospel Library app includes an immense amount of information to learn from.

Of course, along with this access to existing scripture, we are also to employ prayer and seek personal revelation from the Lord, but we have a much quicker path to knowledge. Most of the time for most people, the Spirit only gives confirmation or denial, yes or no answers. To learn truth, it is extremely helpful to come to the Lord with something to confirm, rather than ask for specific detail.

This is not because of God’s unwillingness to give more complex answers, as He is eager to answer us; rather, I feel that it has more to do with our limited capacity to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, which is a skill that comes gradually with frequent practice.

How to start becoming a gospel scholar

Becoming a gospel scholar doesn’t have to mean that you don’t do anything besides recite scripture and read the Joseph Smith Papers all day.

You can still have other hobbies, watch television, and do personal activities.

But hear me out: I suggest a couple two things we need to stop ruling out entirely.

a) Don’t rule out cutting back on hobbies or television—or even cutting them out of your life, if prompted by the Spirit, and

b) Don’t rule out having a 1-, 2-, or 3-hour scripture study.

We usually talk about scripture studies over 30 minutes (or even over 10 minutes) as unreasonable, unrealistic, or only for old people who live alone.

But why? We should be maximizing our time with the Lord, and I believe nearly all of us have the time and energy to increase our time in the Word of the Lord if we make room and listen to the Spirit.

We live in a paradoxical world; we are time-poor, but we spend more time on entertainment than ever before. Think about the amount of time we spend consuming media. Muster the courage to look at your Screen Time data. Think about your yearly report from Spotify and the number of hours you spent listening to music or podcasts. Look through your Netflix history.

Now think about how long your scripture study usually is.

Can you replace even a fraction of that time with listening to general conference talks or reading the scriptures?

I know girls (and grown women) who have planned on their future spouse being their spiritual rock because he will have served a mission and had 2 years of 2+ hours of scripture study a day.

But what if she became her own spiritual rock? What if she decided to dedicate 2 hours (or even just 1 hour) to daily scripture study and come to know the Lord on her own?

Imagine if we all took the personal responsibility to become a gospel scholar!

Do you see the vision? Do you see what kind of a people the Lord is raising up in these last days?

Everyone a gospel scholar? Is this reasonable?

“…it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come…”

Foolish people speaking in Helaman 16:18

For most members of the Church, I believe that becoming a gospel scholar can be a reasonable goal—at least, increasing our time with and commitment to the scriptures is something attainable and necessary. I concede that most people don’t need to spend several hours a day fully immersed in the scriptures.

For me, my best scripture studies happen after 45-60 minutes of reading, praying, and writing, and they end with the Spirit telling me what I should do now with the rest of my day to live what I learned. I usually fill in my planner with things I am personally prompted to do: fulfill my Church calling, plan extra time for work, reach out to an old friend, practice music, or just to schedule a walk with my husband and baby. Personally, when I start passing 60 minutes of study, usually I begin to feel inspired to put down my scriptures and “go and do.”

I believe the Lord needs us to give Him some of our time to work with. He has big plans for us, but if we don’t give Him the time of day, we limit what He can do (while still respecting our agency).

No, you might not be able to live a “normal” life if you spend more time studying, pondering, and praying over the scriptures. You might need to get up earlier or cut out some activities from your life to be able to devote this increased time to the Lord.

But we aren’t called to be normal by the world’s standards. We are called to be a “peculiar people.” (1 Peter 2:9)

So how do we choose how long to spend in the scriptures?

You should, as guided by the Spirit, maximize your time in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Building a balanced schedule of scripture study

I believe in choosing a schedule and a study plan, but also being ready to change it as needed and prompted by the Spirit.

If you’re like me, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of maintaining the great study we practiced last year in the Book of Mormon while adding on the study of the Doctrine & Covenants, as outlined in the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families manual.

You should pray to know how you need to go about this! Here are some ideas, however:

Book of MormonDoctrine & CovenantsAdditional Study
Individual • Read quickly (e.g., 5-10 pages/day)
Read slowly (e.g., 1 chapter/week)
Find and record all blessings promised to the House of Israel
Ponderize a verse/day
Read all the cross references as you go along
Write down one thing you learned/day in your CFM manual
Find and record all blessings promised to the House of Israel
Listen to/watch talks as you drive, clean, etc.
Read Saints like a novel
Study a topic/week across Gospel Library
Study your patriarchal blessing weekly
Memorize the proclamations
Read the Old or New Testament from the beginning
Family Read a few verses together/day
Share verses and why you like them in a group chat
Read and discuss a chapter together on Sundays
Read a few verses together/day
Choose and share a story from the D&C, its context, and message family home evening
Read and discuss a whole section together on Sundays
Teach family home evening lessons about a topic/week from For the Strength of Youth
Sing and memorize hymns as a family
Memorize the Articles of Faith with your kids
Use the Circles app to share spiritual videos and thoughts
Watch and discuss talks together as a family/week

Feel free to choose one or more of these suggestions to start building your 2021 scripture study plan, or just use these ideas to inspire you to think of your own choices.

Remember, you don’t have to pick something from every intersection. I recommend using what’s called the “step-up” method.

Think about what you are doing right now. If you are struggling to do any scripture study whatsoever, I recommend just starting by choosing one square to get you started (ideally from the Book of Mormon column). If you are doing personal scripture study but struggle to do family study, try to choose an item from the individual row and from the family row.

Or, if you’re really rocking your studies, pray to decide if you’re ready to up the challenge and pick something from 4, 5, or even 6 of these areas.

The bottom line: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t think you need to pick something from every single one of these squares.

Start smaller, then come back for more when you’re ready.

As always, pray and ask for discernment and guidance to know exactly how God wants you to choose to learn His Word. I am confident He will help you become the gospel scholar He wants you to become. Remember these words from Nephi:

“…[the Holy Ghost] will show unto you all things what ye should do.”

2 Nephi 32:9

Ask for His help in choosing your scripture study plan, and incorporate prayer in each of your study sessions. In this same chapter of the Book of Mormon, Nephi continues:

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”

2 Nephi 32:9

I testify that He will help you achieve your goals—or, better yet, He will use your goals to make you the person He wants you to be, whether or not you perfectly achieve your goals.

Additional resources

Share with us

How will you balance your scripture study this year? What has worked for you in the past? How do you feel about becoming a gospel scholar?

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