I don’t know about you, but for me, the word “study” conjures up memories of long hours writing essays in the school library or working and reworking complex math problems in after-school tutoring sessions.
In short, studying has never sounded … exciting. And adding the word “scripture” in front of it doesn’t help much—the amount of effort, focus, time, or historical knowledge that it feels like I need to truly study the scriptures usually feels overwhelming.
Enter Kristen Walker Smith.
Kristen was good at checking the scripture box as a child, but it wasn’t until she was in college that her feelings on scripture study began to change and become more meaningful. Today, she is passionate about helping others also find time each day to connect with God through her “one minute a day” perspective on scripture study.
“The scriptures are amazing and so much fun,” Kristen explains. “I think a lot of Church members don't know that yet. Many members are probably like I used to be, reading the scriptures because they're ‘supposed to.’ My goal is to help anyone and everyone connect to the scriptures in a more personal way, to see that the scriptures are actually so much fun, and that they can change your life as you let God talk to you every day through His written word!”
Here are just a few of my favorite ways she suggests that we do that.
1. Set both a “ceiling” and a “floor” goal.
Kristen explains, “We should all have a ‘ceiling’ goal for days when things go smoothly and we’ve got time for perfect scripture study. But it’s equally important to have a ‘floor’ goal for those days that just get away from us. This may be reciting a single verse as a family or singing a hymn to yourself and pondering its meaning. While it would be great if it was possible every day to hit your ceiling goal, it’s important to keep up our spiritual momentum by having a floor goal that you can do no matter how busy the day is!”
I love this suggestion because it is the perfect solution to prevent myself from getting discouraged with my scripture study. Knowing I have a “floor” goal for days when I get distracted or everything goes wrong definitely encourages me to still study my scriptures without feeling guilty that I didn’t do it well enough. And having a bigger “ceiling” goal gives me something to still work toward on days that I have more downtime.
2. Be flexible to your family’s circumstances.
Every family has a different set of schedules, personalities, and more, which means that every family’s scripture study will—and probably should—look different. Kristen shares the following story:
“When my children were young, I was bound and determined to study the scriptures with my kids in the same way my childhood family did. We would sit around the dinner table and read three verses each no matter how bored or annoyed my kids seemed. I can still remember multiple evenings when I raised my voice and told my kids to ‘Be quiet and feel the Spirit already!’ Well, the kids sure would get quiet after that, but as you can probably guess, we definitely weren’t feeling the Spirit after my outbursts.”
I have certainly witnessed this in my own family. As a family with two young children who have short attention spans and limited vocabularies, studying the scriptures together has had to evolve. We’ve had to learn to adapt, sometimes by reading a simplified children’s scripture story, acting things out, singing a Primary song, or reading a story from the Friend magazine when time or attention spans require it.
We can be flexible in our personal study as well. While it might not work for everyone, Kristen shares that since having children, “I found that I love to study during the day when they’re around. I love for them to see that scripture study is important to me and to have that example to remind them that they too need to be getting in the scriptures. It’s definitely not the quietest time of day, but I love that I get to both study and teach my kids at the same time.”
3. Focus on “point, personal, power.”
After trying to power through three verses a piece, Kristen and her family knew something needed to change. So they began applying what Kristen calls the “Sword Method.”
But what is the Sword Method? Kristen explained in a recent digital Liahona article: “The method I like to use helps you find the point of the scriptures, the personal application of what you’ve read, and the power you can add to your study by acting on what you’ve learned, even if you only read a single verse!”
In her own family, Kristen says that the method “has been a total game changer that allows every member of my family to be actively engaged as we study, which definitely helps when you’ve got kids with short attention spans!”
I appreciate how simple these three steps are. I know that sometimes even if I remember to read a verse or two, I sometimes forget to think much about what it’s saying and why it might be important. Taking it one step further, these three words also make for a really quick and easy way to keep a scripture journal about my verse or verses that I can refer to again later if needed.
4. Pay attention to the “behind the scenes” of the scriptures.
When Kristen was a child, she would read the scriptures but found them incredibly boring. A Book of Mormon class in college changed her perspective.
“I still remember learning that Daniel in the Old Testament was probably similar in age to Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon and just being floored,” Kristen recalls. “That was the tiny spark that got me interested in the scriptures and studying them in depth. And that is still my favorite way to study! I love to find the behind-the-scenes secrets of what might have been happening in the scriptures. It makes the scriptures so much more real to me and helps me feel connected to the stories and writers.”
While this tip might work better on a day when you are able to achieve your “ceiling” goal, I love it. One of my favorite ways to apply this suggestion for the Book of Mormon in particular is with the Church’s new Book of Mormon videos. Visually seeing the details and potential settings of the stories really can bring the scriptures to life and make it easier to relate to and apply them to my own life.
5. Listen and trust.
“I firmly believe that while we talk to God in prayer, He most frequently talks to us in the scriptures,” Kristen explains.
She goes on, “I used to stay on my knees after my evening prayers just waiting for God to immediately answer my questions. Those were some very silent and knee-aching evenings. Over time I realized that most often my conversations with God happened as I talked in prayer, and He later led me to the truths He had already prepared for me in the scriptures.
“While I strive for longer scripture study sessions if all I can fit in for the day is one minute of ‘conversation’ with God, that is at least one more minute than the adversary wants me to have!”
I love that thought—if all I can fit in for the day is one minute of “conversation” with God, that is at least one more minute than the adversary wants me to have! We often hear that small and simple things can bring about great things, and maybe that applies to our scripture study as well.
No matter how you choose to incorporate the scriptures into your family schedule, it’s taking the time that counts. I am inspired by Kristen’s philosophy on the eternal impact of scripture study.
She says, “I haven't experienced the final judgment day yet, but I have a suspicion that on that day you and I won't be asked how many days of scripture study we missed. What I do think will matter is how our scripture study changed us. While it’s great to ‘do’ scripture study, it’s even more important to 'become' closer to God because of our scripture study.” So what are you waiting for? Making consistent scripture study part of your family’s school-year routine has never felt more doable!