Last month a friend challenged me to read the Book of Mormon in 31 days. She does it every March to prepare for General Conference. I accepted right away (surprising myself) and she laid out a reading schedule so I could make sure I was on track. Being a convert, this was only my second time reading the Book of Mormon. I was overwhelmed by all the information the first time and excited for the opportunity to read it again. This is what the challenge taught me about reading the scriptures.
Habit is Key
I want to propose something unconventional: you don’t have to feel the Spirit every time you read. You don’t even have to understand everything you read. The most important thing is that you’re reading. When you make scripture study a priority, the Spirit and the understanding will fall into place. Some days you’ll open your scriptures and you’ll be tired and you’ll struggle to follow along. Other days you’ll get “in the zone” and end up reading for longer than planned. Just like exercise; sometimes you go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it and you have a mediocre workout. Other times you surprise yourself and have a great workout. Either workout is better than no workout. Scripture study is better than no scripture study 100% of the time.
Make a List
One of my biggest enemies when reading is when a task pops into my head. Something like “I have to cancel that appointment,” or “I need to start the slow cooker.” When that happened, I either had to try to forget the thought until I finished (which just gave me anxiety) or stop reading and complete the task. Either way, I lost my concentration and the Spirit. So I started keeping a blank piece of paper next to my scriptures. When I had a thought that I didn’t want to forget, I wrote it down, and then continued reading. That paper is a lifesaver! When reading your scriptures, it’s important to be fully focused. Even if you’re struggling to focus or understand what you’re reading, it’s crucial that you give it your all.
Give Your Time
Something that I commonly hear is that we need to make time for the Lord. I disagree. Making time implies that we can just whip up an hour out of thin air. Because we are not Gods (yet), we don’t have the power to add more hours to our day, so we have to work with what we have. We need to change the way we think about time and consider it more as a gift. We are presenting the Lord with the gift of our time to read His words and worship Him. When we give our time to the Lord, we treat that time differently. We give our time to friends and family, and we need to have that same mentality with our Heavenly Father.
Mark the Scriptures
You may have seen my Instagram post about how I mark my scriptures. Sometimes I get too much in my head and I hold myself back from highlighting, marking, circling, or writing in the margins. I think, “I don’t want to ruin the page!” Um, WHAT? Ruin the page with promptings from the Spirit? That’s ridiculous! Another unconventional idea: the physical Book of Mormon is not sacred. The message is. The thought of preserving pages or covers or spines is SO irrelevant if you are missing the message. You can always buy a new copy because every copy is the same! Stop thinking of the physical book in your hands as a precious thing to be protected. Mark the scriptures up however you want–as long as you’re studying them, you’re doing it right.
The Lord doesn’t ask us to be perfect, He just asks us to try our best. We don’t have to study our scriptures perfectly but we do need to study. Scripture study is crucial to our conversion and growing our testimony, and the Lord requires it of us. Don’t get too hung up on doing things the right way. I promise you, as long as you are reading your scriptures with real intent and focus, you’re doing it right.