Monday, September 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on making scripture study more powerful

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"There’s one thing that I’ve learned about scripture study that I wish I’d been taught when I was of an age to be attending seminary or institute, and that is that it is a great mistake to try to read the scriptures like you read a magazine or a newspaper. What I refer to is the fact that I pick up a newspaper and I just read it, or I pick up a magazine or a textbook and I just read it. But when I pick up the scriptures, I’m picking up the word of God, written by prophets under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Those should never be read without praying over them first.
"When I go to the table to eat, I don’t take physical nourishment without asking the Lord to bless that food to nourish and strengthen my body. Similarly, I think when we study the scriptures, we should bow our head and pray—often it would be silently because of the surroundings—but we would pray that the Lord would bless us that we’d be able to understand what we’re reading and that the act of reading the scriptures would summon the Spirit of the Lord to guide us on things other than simply the meaning of what we’re reading. In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation. But it begins with prayer; it doesn’t begin with reading, like a newspaper or a magazine."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks," August 7, 2012
Click here to read the full discussion

These remarks were offered in a somewhat less formal setting than a typical conference talk. Elder Oaks was participating in a broadcast to teachers from the seminary and institute programs, and in this section offered some guidance about personal scripture study that is very helpful.

By first contrasting scripture reading with other types of reading, and then comparing it to taking nourishment into our bodies, he makes the same point in two different ways: we are blessed to include prayer as a precursor to our study of God's words. And the promise he offers should inspire us: "In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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