Relief Society Lesson 6: Discovering the Scriptures for Ourselves

If you don’t think it’s too cheesy, this quiz could be a fun way to introduce the lesson, with a focus on how we as women in particular can discover the scriptures for ourselves as well as discover ourselves in the scriptures.

Following are some selected quotes from the lesson with my own questions or thoughts in italics.

From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball

“When Spencer W. Kimball was 14 years old, he heard Brigham Young’s daughter Susa Young Gates speak at a stake conference on the subject of reading the scriptures. He recalled: “She gave a rousing talk on the reading of the scriptures and making them our own; then she stopped her dissertation to ask this mixed congregation, about a thousand of us, ‘How many of you have read the Bible through?’

When I first began attending Relief Society as an eighteen-year-old, I remember someone asking a similar question. I decided to take on the challenge. I was struck by how different the Bible was than I had thought. What have been your experiences of reading/studying the Bible?

*As a brief tangent, it was nice to read about the powerful impact a stake conference talk given by a woman had on the prophet.

Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball

The scriptures are a rare possession that we must each discover for ourselves.
Sometimes it seems we take the scriptures too much for granted because we do not fully appreciate how rare a thing it is to possess them, and how blessed we are because we do have them. We seem to have settled so comfortably into our experiences in this world and become so accustomed to hearing the gospel taught among us that it is hard for us to imagine it could ever have been otherwise.

What might it mean to take the scriptures too much for granted? Would your life be different without the scriptures? As the next quote will tell us, there are millions of copies of the scriptures. We probably all have several copies in our homes . . . so what it is that makes them “rare”?

Since the beginning of the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith, [millions of] copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed and distributed. … An untold number of Bibles have been printed, far outstripping all other published works in quantity. We also have the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. In addition to our access to these precious works of scripture, we have, to an extent unknown at any other time in the history of the world, the education and the ability to use them, if we will.

… I ask us all to honestly evaluate our performance in scripture study. It is a common thing to have a few passages of scripture at our disposal, floating in our minds, as it were, and thus to have the illusion that we know a great deal about the gospel. In this sense, having a little knowledge can be a problem indeed. I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.

Why is it insufficient merely to have a few favorite scripture passages “floating in our minds”? What problems lie in “having a little knowledge”? What do you think it means to discover the scriptures for yourself and to “rediscover them again and again”?

There are several methods of scripture study, such as reading straight through, pondering a few verses at a time, studying the ancient contexts of the scriptures and what they would have meant, personalizing each verse, etc. How do you like to study them? Sometimes I like to use a Comparative Study Bible to enhance my understanding. I’ve also found the exercise of replacing male pronouns with female has helped me feel more connected to the text and the message.

We learn lessons of life through scripture study.

Every lesson in ethical standards and in proper spiritual living is found in the standard works. Here will be found the rewards of righteousness and the penalties of sin.

Our children may learn the lessons of life through the perseverance and personal strength of Nephi; the godliness of the three Nephites; the faith of Abraham; the power of Moses; the deception and perfidy of Ananias; the courage even to death of the unresisting Ammonites; the unassailable faith of the Lamanite mothers transmitted down through their sons, so powerful that it saved Helaman’s striplings. Not a single one came to his death in that war.
All through the scriptures every weakness and strength of man has been portrayed, and rewards and punishments have been recorded. One would surely be blind who could not learn to live life properly by such reading. The Lord said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.) And it was this same Lord and master in whose life we find every quality of goodness: godliness, strength, controls, perfection. And how can students study this great story without capturing some of it in their lives?

Here [in the standard works] are the biographies of the prophets and of leaders and of the Lord himself, giving example and direction so that men can, by following those examples, be perfected, happy, full of joy, and with eternity their goal and expectation.

Do you have scripture stories that have inspired you?

I have personally struggled with the overwhelmingly male voice of the scriptures. How do we as women fit ourselves into this? What do we know about the women of the scriptures? Do we know and tell their stories? What can we learn from them? One good resource for discussion is this article from the Ensign.

It opens with this:

“A long-standing curiosity about women in the scriptures has recently prompted me to study the standard works. I have hungered to learn more about my ancient female counterparts—what they were like, how they coped with their pressures,how they nurtured their spirituality.

Admittedly, there have been times, during my sporadic adventures into the standard works, when I have been disappointed in my search for scriptural women. Women characters seemed to be so few and far between among the overwhelming numbers of men that it was easy to conclude that women had been slighted. But a year ago, in conjunction with a religion class, I began a project that challenged my former impressions. As I worked my way from cover to cover in the Book of Mormon, I undertook a thorough and exacting examination of all verses that explicitly referred to women. As my lists grew longer than I had ever expected, I was nicely surprised—perhaps thrilled—to discover so much that was not noticed in my previous casual reading. I found that the Book of Mormon has more than 150 passages of explicit references to women, offering an exciting bundle of information about our fore-sisters in the gospel.”
Marjorie Meads Spencer, “My Book of Mormon Sisters,” Ensign, Sep 1977, 66

Spiritual knowledge is available to all who study and search the scriptures.
The years have taught me that if we will energetically pursue this worthy personal goal [to study the scriptures] in a determined and conscientious manner, we shall indeed find answers to our problems and peace in our hearts. We shall experience the Holy Ghost broadening our understanding, find new insights, witness an unfolding pattern of all scripture; and the doctrines of the Lord shall come to have more meaning to us than we ever thought possible. As a consequence, we shall have greater wisdom with which to guide ourselves and our families.
As we immerse ourselves in the scriptures, we come to know and love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.

This quote was one of my personal favorites out of this lesson. President Kimball found that reading the scriptures help him “love more intensely.” Love seems to me to be the most central principle of the gospel. What other spiritual practices in addition to reading scripture might help us increase our love for others? A common problem of women also seems to be difficulty loving ourselves. Might a better understanding of divine love help us extend more love to ourselves?

Additional Quotes

The scriptures have blessed others. Many of you have read the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. The scriptures were an answer for her in a time much more bleak than most of us will ever have to face.

Corrie and her sister, Betsy, lived Christian lives in prewar Holland. They responded to the brutality against Jewish people by hiding them in the family home. When the hiding place was discovered, the sisters were shipped to a death camp where they suffered all the deprivation heaped upon the Jewish prisoners.

In an unusual way Corrie was able to keep a Bible. She led scripture readings with the other prisoners. Their outer world of suffering grew “harder and harder.” But she described their inner life as just the opposite. In her words:

“Our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. …

“Life … took place on two separate levels. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory” (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, New York City: Bantam Books, 1974, pp. 194–95).
Janette C. Hales, “‘Ye Shall Feast upon This Fruit’,” Ensign, May 1995, 91

I remember sitting on an old worn couch reading scripture stories to my sons. As we studied, a power began to permeate our lives. I learned that Ruth left her family to join the believers, that Sariah reared children in the wilderness, that Esther risked her life to save others, and that, most important, Mary bore a son in a straw-filled stable and laid him in a manger. I learned that God worked miracles in the lives of others, and he could work wonders in mine too.
I discovered the scriptures later than some. But I discovered them.

It’s not always easy, and there are things I still don’t understand. But when I look past all that, craving the Lord’s companionship, the scriptures infuse my spirit with the Spirit. They will do the same for you. They will enlighten you, lift you, comfort you, strengthen you. They will envelop you in a warm blanket of heavenly love. How do I know? Because they do that for me. It is Heavenly Father’s promise to us. It is eating at the Lord’s table.
Bonnie D. Parkin, “Fat-Free Feasting,” Ensign, May 1995, 90

As I study the scriptures, I am reminded again and again that the lives of many scriptural figures—in fact, the lives of most—did not go as they might have planned. How they saw their lives and how the Lord saw their lives were sometimes entirely different. In some cases He even sent angels to provide course corrections (see Mosiah 27:11–17).

I see this theme repeated in the lives of many righteous women in the scriptures. Ruth and Hannah are two scriptural women whose lives took an unexpected direction. Ruth did not expect that her husband would die, and Hannah did not expect to be unable to bear children after she was married. Each of us can be tutored as we study their lives and their reactions to the situations that presented themselves. Like my mother and grandmother, they possessed faith, hope, and charity, which enabled them to face their trials and to be instruments in the Lord’s hands for achieving His purposes.
Elaine S. Dalton, “Lessons from the Old Testament: Lessons from Ruth and Hannah,” Ensign, Apr 2006, 34–37

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3 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Amy B, this looks fantastic!

    I particularly love your question about the overwhelmingly male voices in the scriptures. For me, that’s a huge impediment. While I can’t change the fact that men wrote this stuff, I do always read inclusively – substituting gender neutral pronouns for male pronouns – and that helps.

  2. Tosca says:

    Thank you for sharing your lesson idea’s! I have to give this lesson in RS on sunday, and all I could think of was a talk by president Monson about heroes (General Conference 2002). I especially loved your female vision on this lesson. Thank you so much for opening my eyes!

  1. May 12, 2016

    […] Relief Society Lesson for Spencer W Kimball: Discovering the Scriptures for Ourselves: This guest post starts with a fun quiz and has some great questions to ask the class as well as some nice short vignettes about scripture study. […]

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