Sunday, October 26, 2014

Scripture Master Tip #21: Improve Your Reading Skills Overall


Improve Your Reading Skills Overall.

Practice reading more, as well as more often. Branch out in your reading habits. Read better books. Reading the scriptures is a good way to make yourself stretch and to improve your reading skills, but it isn’t the only way.  We are even counseled twice in the scriptures to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (See D&C 88:118 and D&C 109:7).

Seek out things of beauty and nobility like the works of Shakespeare. I would tell you to do that anyway, but I chose to emphasize the works of Shakespeare because Shakespeare uses language that is very close to the language used in the King James Bible, and his works will help you to get used to the language outside of a Gospel context.  Many of the greatest classics of literature can also do much to help you to improve your grasp of scripture by helping you to recognize and appreciate certain literary devices such as the use of metaphor, symbolism, allegory, foreshadowing, archetypes, aphorisms, allusion, and so on.  As you learn to appreciate these and the countless other literary devices which you will encounter as you read some of the best books, you will discover that the scriptures are great literature and that the prophets who wrote these inspired books regularly employed incredibly sophisticated literary devices in order to help us to better grasp the sublime truths they were attempting to communicate.  The scriptures will become so much easier to understand when you have developed the tools to fully grasp the many levels on which they were meant to be understood.

You don't necessarily have to be that ambitious at first though, especially if you struggle with reading.  What matters is that you learn to love to read, and that you read the best and most uplifting things, in order so you might come to more fully love and enjoy what you read in the scriptures.

Basically, if you want to improve your ability to read and understand the scriptures, you ought to spend more time improving your ability to read and understand everything.  This is best accomplished by reading the best books, but it is impossible to accomplish without reading.  What does improved literacy have to do with learning to love the scriptures?  Everything:
“Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don't read their Bibles, don't engage their Bibles, and don't know their Bibles. It's obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture.
Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn't read a single book in the last year. That's three times the number who didn't read a book in 1978. Whether it's the Internet, video games, the TV or increased time spent on entertainment and sports, Americans are spending less time between the pages of any book, not just the Good Book” (Stetzer, 2014).
If you don’t like reading, you are going to have to get over it if you want to learn to understand the scriptures, because God chose to have his Prophets write his word down, which means that we’re stuck with reading. I’m sure that there must be a good reason behind God’s choice of format, because if you think about it, God could have easily made it possible for the scriptures to be recorded in the form of a movie (for instance) if he had wanted to, but he didn’t.

However, if reading is truly an obstacle for you, you may want to start in another format, such as audio recordings of the scriptures.
"Introducing elements of scripture stories through videos or pictures before reading can help readers who struggle with comprehension. Then, as they begin reading, they can concentrate on understanding principles or themes instead of tracking characters and plot lines.

"In addition, listening to audio recordings of scriptures or conference talks offers some readers focused support as they follow along in the printed text. Listening to a fluent reader can increase a struggling reader’s ability to comprehend unfamiliar texts and vocabulary. Church resources, such as LDS.org, offer scriptures and conference addresses as downloadable audio files that facilitate these kinds of reading experiences" (Coombs, 2014, pp. 63-64).
I have made several of my own suggestions for creative alternatives which you can use to approach the scriptures in Scripture Master Tip #7: Get Creative!

Even if reading is a chore for you, you need to make the effort to carefully and even lovingly study the scriptures.  "Learning to read takes practice, which includes taking risks" (Coombs, 2014, p. 63). Your spiritual well-being depends on your willingness to overcome your difficulty or discomfort with reading so you can reap the blessings of the knowledge, wisdom, and truth that are contained in the scriptures.  "reading struggles inhibit spiritual growth when they prevent individuals from studying the gospel" (Coombs, 2014, p. 62).

Don't be afraid to ask others for help to read and understand; it may be embarrassing, but it beats remaining ignorant of the most important truths known to man.  Also, remember to ask the Lord in prayer to help you to read and understand.  Even the greatest prophets and the wisest men need to ask for help if they truly wish to get the most out of what they read in the scriptures.  For more on this subject please read my article Scripture Master Tip #4: It's OK to Ask Questions!

If you do not have a particular difficulty with reading, but you have allowed yourself to fall out of the habit because you spend too much time watching television, or playing video games, or even just working, then you need to refocus your priorities.
“Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”  (Richard G. Scott, “Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,” General Conference Address, Oct. 5, 2014, lds.org).
For those of us who live in the western world, there is no excuse for us if we choose to allow ourselves to remain scripturally illiterate.  Literacy overall is so high in our countries, and the availability of books, and ease by which we can access them today, is unprecedented in the history of the world.  It makes no sense for us to neglect these incredible resources, and it makes even less sense for us to neglect the scriptures, especially in light of the great sacrifices that groups and individuals have made to bring us the scriptures, or to bring us a version of the scriptures that we can read in our own language.
“In Tyndale’s day, scriptural ignorance abounded because people lacked access to the Bible, especially in a language they could understand. Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books. Consequently they have forgotten things their grandparents knew.”  (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Blessing of Scripture,” Ensign, May 2010, 33).
“There is no excuse. It's not as if we don't have access. The average American—Christian or not—owns at least three Bibles. Even those who don't have one in their home can download it free to their smartphone or "steal" a Gideon Bible from a hotel room. The Word of God is more available than ever. People have died to bring us what has led to modern translations of Scripture, yet we are dying from lack of knowledge” (Stetzer, 2014).
Don’t die of thirst while lying next to a well of sweet water.  All you have to do is to reach for it, and the scriptures can come alive in your hands.  Don’t be afraid to do a little bit of work in order to unearth the unspeakable treasures that are available to all sincere seekers who choose to immerse themselves in the sweet truths of the scriptures. 
 “No one knows anything about Christ’s work simply by being born a member of the Church, and often he knows little about it after years of unmotivated exposure in meetings or classes. He must learn. And learning involves self-investment and effort. The gospel should be studied ‘as carefully as any science.’ The ‘literature of the Church’ must be ‘acquired and read.’ Our learning should be increased in our spare time ‘day by day.’ Then as we put the gospel truth to work in daily life, we will never find it wanting. We will be literate in the most important field of knowledge in the universe, knowledge for lack of which men and nations perish, in the light of which men and nations may be saved” (Hanks, 1969).
If you know someone who struggles with reading, and it is interfering with  their ability to build a strong testimony of the truths taught in the scriptures, these suggestions from the church magazines will be extremely helpful in finding ways to nurture and help them so that they too can experience the joy and satisfaction of studying God's word.

There are 20 Scripture Master Tips before this one!  You can start at the beginning with Scripture Master Tip #1: Just Do It! or you can work your way backwards from here and start with Scripture Master Tip # 20: Search, Ponder, and Pray .

References
Coombs, D. (2014). Nurturing testimonies by nurturing readers. Ensign. 44(12). p. 63  Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/12/nurturing-testimonies-by-nurturing-readers?lang=eng\

Hanks, M. (September, 1969). Theological illiterates. Improvement Era. 72(9). p. 42.

Stetzer, E. (October, 2014). Biblical illiteracy by the numbers part 1: The challenge. Christianity Today. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/october/biblical-illiteracy-by-numbers.html

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