What does scripture “study” mean?

In the quintessential Mormon story of the power of the scriptures, the troubled soul picks up her scriptures and the book falls open to the verse perfectly designed to address her current needs. Enlightenment through the scriptures in this story does not come from work or study: God directs events and our impressions so that we are blessed with an inspired verse that seems to fall from the heavens onto our lap. God gives liberally.

Directions that we are frequently given about how to study scriptures also reflect a lack of work required on our part even as we call these rituals study. We set goals to read short snippets at a time: A chapter a day or, failing that, a verse. The fact of establishing the routine seems perhaps more important than the words we take in each day. These sporadic readings mean that we often read verses or chapters in the absence of the context of both the surrounding text and the text’s history. When we do work to memorize the scriptures in settings such as seminary, we again memorize short quotations—extracting them from context in a manner that suggests that within a Mormon worldview the context and details of the events don’t matter to understanding the verse that expresses an eternal truth applicable to our lives.

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