"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
October 16, 2013
"Let the Scriptures Teach You How to Read the Scriptures"
by Kathryn Grant

One of my professors at BYU, Terry Warner, used to tell us, “Let the scriptures teach you how to read the scriptures.”

This is what I understood him to mean: when we look to the scriptures for understanding, insight, and answers, we need to consider the scriptures as a whole. We should take care not to take a verse or passage out of context.

In fact, when we don’t understand something in the scriptures, we can gain understanding — and avoid misunderstanding — by looking at other passages on the same topic.

Sometimes we find greater understanding in adjacent verses that are often ignored compared to an oft-quoted verse. Here are two examples.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.(1 Corinthians 2:9.)

A woman who posted a comment on Meridian observed that we often quote the scripture above, but we neglect the following verse, which says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

In other words, we can understand those things through the Spirit of God! And in the darkening times before the Savior returns, we will need that understanding to stay strong.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

This verse is often quoted on its own. It’s a sweet double-play on the words care and careth, and it’s true and comforting. However, even the grammar of this verse indicates that it’s incomplete. The verse immediately beforehand provides context and completion:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

It is powerful to know that we can cast our cares on the Lord, but even more powerful to see the complete story: to know that as we humble ourselves, looking forward to His gift of exaltation, we can cast our cares upon Him, knowing He cares for us.

In addition to looking at adjacent verses, often we find greater understanding in different passages on the same topic. Here is another example.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7 – 8.)

I remember hearing this scripture often as a child. Somehow — maybe because teachers were trying to simplify things for a child — I got the message that if I asked, Heavenly Father would always give me what I asked for. When that didn’t happen on different occasions, I became confused and disappointed.

Was God not listening, or did He not care? Was that scripture not true?

I came to know that God does care and He is listening. The words of this scripture are true. But there’s more to the story. For example, the apostle James explains that we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6); furthermore, he explains that we may “ask, and receive not, because [we] ask amiss, that [we] may consume it upon [our] lusts” — in other words, we ask for selfish purposes (James 4:3).

Joseph Smith was told, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10.)

The theme that emerges as this concept is studied further is the importance of aligning our will with the will of God. The Lord gave this counsel to the prophet Joseph Smith: “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh” (D&C 46:30).

Nephi was promised the Lord would honor his prayers because he would not ask that which is contrary to the Lord’s will. (Helaman 10:4 – 5.)

When we let the scriptures teach us how to read the scriptures, we are able not only to avoid misunderstanding, but we gain a more complete understanding of God’s word to us.

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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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