Here’s the simple pattern for study that leads to change:
- Determine content & context
- Discover doctrines & principles
- Ponder to reveal personal applications
- Record what you receive
- Change your behavior
Yep, that’s it! You probably want a little background and explanation though, huh? I mentioned this process in an article back in August but didn’t elaborate on it.
The original pattern was given to me by my good friend and former institute instructor, Mike King, who I often refer to in other articles as “Brother King”. After studying and pondering this process, I made a few tweaks and modifications; you may feel inspired to do the same so go ahead!
Determine content & context
First you need to find out what is going on. Reading a scripture or anecdote outside of the overall context is dangerous and irresponsible. It’s like walking into the middle of a conversation and drawing incorrect assumptions about what is going on.
The effort pays off though. It’s better to spend a little more time understanding what’s going on than to take a principle out of context and live it wrong for years and years.
Discover doctrines & principles
In order to discover doctrines and principles you first need to know what they are and what the difference is between them. Elder Bednar does an absolutely fantastic job of explaining this.
Ponder to reveal personal applications
This is where the Spirit really comes into play. As you ponder doctrines (why things are) and the principles that relate to them (what we should do), the Holy Spirit teaches us how to do things.
By tapping into the Mind of God, we will know whether to title on the gross or the net, what we need to do to repent, what activities are appropriate on the Sabbath, etc. Thus a long list of instructions or a thick how-to manual for living the gospel is unnecessary.
I love this quote from good ol’ C.S. Lewis:
“We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.” (Mere Christianity, 80)
Record what you receive
I’ve actually written about this subject a few times, here and here. I personally practice the principle of keeping “small plates” and recording everything that the Spirit reveals. Recently, I read an article where John Hilton, an assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU, said:
“I think it’s interesting that it’s a commandment for us to write the words that God speaks to us. There are many things that God is speaking to us, both in personal revelation, revelation through prophets, experiences we are having, etc., We need to record these things.” (Deseret News)
Not only do the scriptures and modern prophets emphasize this principle, but I can add my own witness that, yes, this practice will result in increasing your ability to discern the voice of the Lord and ‘enlarge’ your memory. The very first book that was kept was a “book of remembrance“. If you think about it, isn’t remembrance the real purpose of any book?
How can we keep the word of the Lord if we do not remember it and allow precious spiritual inspiration, promptings and revelation slip away into darkness? God will not hold us guiltless if we take lightly the treasures he so mercifully bestows, holding them for a moment and then casting them aside because we do not have any place to put them.
Change your behavior
Recording the revelation is a good thing to do, but unless you change your behavior, what’s the point? There will always be changes that require grace on the path to full conversion.
Wrapping it up
The first three parts of the process deal with inviting revelation and the last two deal with what to do after you receive it. Following a pattern of seeking and receiving information from the Lord allows you to conduct your life in a way that will lead to becoming one with God.
God is forever seeking to draw us to him. There are many paths we take on this journey and the scriptures teach us how to navigate to God no matter where we might find ourselves. This pattern is just one simple way of looking at it and if it helps you, great, if it doesn’t, modify it or cast it aside.
What do you think?
- Do you have a particular pattern for study and change that you follow?
- What other insights do you have from your own personal experience with any of these steps?
- Is this pattern missing anything critical? What would you add to it, or what would you remove?