"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
September 4, 2013
Shaking it Up: Creative Ideas for Scripture Study
by Kathryn Grant

Have you ever noticed that with any activity we do repeatedly, it can be easy to fall into a routine, and even a rut? This is true even for valuable activities like scripture study.

What's the solution? Maybe we just need to shake things up a little — to find creative ways to approach our scripture study to keep it interesting and fresh. If you’re looking for ways to enliven your scripture study time, here are some ideas to try.

Read Out Loud. My sister Barb loves Isaiah, but one morning she found herself reading the same verse over and over without getting much out of it. When her sleepy young daughter came into the room wanting to be held, Barb picked her up and asked, “Would you like me to read out loud to you?” When her daughter answered “Yes,” Barb said, “I started reading Isaiah out loud, and suddenly it all flowed and made so much more sense. Just stopping and reading out loud changed my entire study that day.”

Make a Sketch. While reading the allegory of the olive trees in Jacob 5, I found myself getting lost among the branches, grafts and nethermost parts of the vineyard. So I decided to draw the parable out as I read it. I was surprised at how helpful it was to have a picture of what was going on. (Just in case you think you need to be an artist to do this, you don’t — I’m not one. The goal isn’t artwork but understanding.)

Do a Word Search. We’re blessed today to have amazing electronic tools for scripture study. For example, in less than a second you can search the online standard works for every occurrence of a word or phrase. Then it’s fascinating to look for patterns.

Once I did a search on the phrase “Lamb of God,” expecting to find it fairly evenly distributed throughout the scriptures. Instead, I discovered that it's concentrated in two places: the writings of Nephi and the Apostle John — which makes perfect sense, given 1 Nephi 14:20-27.

Another exercise that yields fascinating insights is to search for a word or phrase and then categorize the results. For instance, you could search for charity, then read each verse in the results and categorize it according to what is being taught: what charity is, how to obtain it, the blessings of charity, and so on.

Read an Alternate Translation. One of my favorite sites is BibleGateway.com, which provides dozens of English and other language translations of the Bible, such as Young’s Literal Translation, the Wycliffe Bible, and the Darby Translation.

Reading familiar verses in a different translation can spark insights and even a sense of delight. I love the NIV translation of John 1:5, which reads, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Compare with the King James version.)

The New Living Translation of Zephaniah 3:17 is also a beautiful variation on the King James version.

Create Word Art. Finally, here’s an intriguing way to visualize words and concepts in a favorite chapter: use a free online site like Text is Beautiful to create a word cloud or other visual representation. I tried it with Mosiah 14, which is Abinadi’s quotation of the poignant servant song in Isaiah 53. The result was a beautiful graphic with the greatest emphasis on the word Lord, and key words from the chapter comprising the rest of the cloud. It was thought-provoking to look at the different words, recall their context, and see new relationships and connections.(1)

So if your scripture study could use a little variety, try one of the ideas above or use one of your own. Using a new approach is a great way to make scripture study more enjoyable and meaningful.

(1)Text is Beautiful requires a minimum of 5,000 words to generate its word art. Mosiah 14 isn’t 5,000 words, so I just pasted the chapter text into their text box repeatedly until I passed 5,000 words.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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