9. You’re in for the long haul!
The scriptures can seem kind of intimidating when you are first starting out, but you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of knowledge and doctrine contained in the scriptures. There is certainly a lot to learn, but you should just relax: no one expects you to learn it all in one sitting. You have your whole life to master the gospel, so pace yourself and enjoy the ride. Learning the gospel, and applying it in your life, is more like a marathon than a sprint. Making your scripture study a daily habit is important for a number of reasons, but one of them is because learning to understand and live the Gospel is like eating a hippopotamus, you can do it if you take it one bite at a time. Or to put it another way, you can never finish the race if you don't keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Don't become intimidated and give up just because there is so much to learn and so much that you don't know. Nobody expects you to learn everything all at once. Take your time and be willing to pay the price that is required to obtain such treasures of knowledge and wisdom.
"Gospel knowledge and understanding come through diligent study of the scriptures and the tutoring of the Holy Ghost. The combination that opens the vault door to hidden scriptural treasures includes a great deal of work--simple, old-fashioned, hard work. A farmer cannot expect to harvest in the fall if he does not properly sow in the spring and work hard during the summer to weed, nourish, and cultivate the field. So it is for you and me. We cannot expect to reap scriptural insight unless we pay the price of regular and diligent study. Casual strolling through or dabbling in the scriptures will not yield enduring gospel understanding. And the scriptural treasures we seek in our lives cannot be borrowed or loaned or obtained second-hand. We must each learn to open the vault door by applying the principle of work." (David A. Bednar, Ricks College Devotional, January 6, 1998).
“The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones—but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them....Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life....Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389–90).It is my opinion that the scriptures, and the doctrine and principles and knowledge contained within them, were designed to take us a lifetime (or even longer) to fully master. That is why it is so important that we get started sooner rather than later by adopting the habit of steady and diligent daily scripture study now.
"We should make daily study of the scriptures a lifetime pursuit. . . ." (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 47).
I have discovered that most of the anxiety people experience about their own gospel knowledge and progress comes as they fall into the trap of comparing themselves to those around them. Learning to understand and obey the gospel is a matter of personal progress, and so it is pointless to compare one's progress (or apparent lack thereof) to another person's perceived success in understanding and living the gospel. Everyone is different, and we all learn at our own speed and in our own way, and the Lord knows that.
"We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those." (Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard," Ensign May 2012).All he expects is that we do our personal best, that we give our all in diligent service to him, and it doesn't matter if you don't feel like you know or understand very much about the gospel. It doesn't matter if this is because you are a convert, or a person who only recently returned to the church, or even someone who was baptized at 8 years old and has attended church every Sunday since. If you sincerely seek to know God's word through honest prayer and diligent study, God will reward your labor with knowledge and understanding just as surely as he will reward those who were there before you, as long as you labor diligently and with your whole soul to learn and understand and obey what it is that He expects of you.
"My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you—members and not yet members—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there." (Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard," Ensign May 2012).The Lord has issued the promise that He will grant knowledge, understanding, and answers to all men who will diligently seek him in faith with a sincere heart and real intent.
Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
James 1:5-6 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.This knowledge and wisdom does not come overnight, and even if it did, you might not be able to handle it all at once. Both Paul and Peter referred to some of the saints as "babes in Christ", and "newborn babes" on different occasions in order to emphasize that learning and living the gospel is about gradual and natural growth and progression.
Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
D&C 50:40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.There is nothing wrong with a baby just because it can't handle solid food yet-that is natural, and to be expected. However, the important word here is YET. Someday soon that child will grow out of milk, and into the meat that he could not stomach before. In fact, once a child reaches a certain age, he needs to move on to more substantial food, or he will become malnourished, and possibly become ill and die.
In a similar way, when we just start out in the gospel, we are like babies. We don't know, and can't understand, many things about God's plan and his gospel but that's OK--we have to start somewhere. What matters is that we don't stay babies--that we don't continue to seek nourishment from milk which can no longer meet our needs after a certain point. What matters is that we wean ourselves from the things that require only relatively little of us, those things that take little effort on our part to understand and obey, and move on to the more substantial doctrines, ordinances, and covenants that will nourish us more fully.
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.What is it that kept the Corinthian saints from growing and progressing in the gospel? They chose to remain in their carnal states, and persisted in those weaknesses and failings that could only stunt their growth. If the Corinthians could not shed their disobedient habits and traditions, they could not and would not progress in the gospel, and unable to grow properly, they would wither and die.
1 Peter 2:1-2 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:If we do not also wean ourselves of our carnal and sinful tendencies, we cannot progress and grow, and we will be stunted in our progression. If we will choose to grow up, to obey the commandments and grow out of our childish habits, the Lord has promised that he will teach us, and "make [us] to understand doctrine," precept upon precept, and line upon line. According to our faithful obedience to His precepts, He will eventually reveal to us "the mysteries of [His] kingdom."
Isaiah 28:9-10 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
D&C 63:23 But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.This "weaning" process takes time. Accept that, and more than that, embrace it. You and I were placed on this earth so that we would have the time and opportunity that we need to learn and to grow. The scriptures can help us to do that, and if we approach them with the understanding that we will be taught gradually " precept upon precept, line upon line...here a little, and there a little" then they will no longer seem so daunting. Gaining a profound and abiding understanding of the things contained in the scriptures will take a lifetime of work and day-to-day effort, but don't let that scare you away. Get started and then stick with it! The work is worth the reward, and if you get started now it becomes easier to break it all down to a level that you can more easily handle. Don't give up, and don't wait to start until the last minute--this isn't the kind of test that you can cram for.
Next Tip: Scripture Master Tip #10: Immerse Yourself in the Scriptures