As we prepare to study the New Testament in 2023, this week we’re reviewing how to acquire spiritual knowledge.
Jesus expected His disciples to take ownership of their own learning process. “Whom do men say that I am?” He asked on one occasion. After hearing their answers, He asked the more searching question, “But whom say ye that I am?” (Mark 8:27-29, italics added; see also Matthew 16:13-15, Luke 9:18-20). He wanted more than general facts. which are relatively easy to acquire. He wanted to hear their assessment of those facts. What did they think, and what did they know? He wanted them to dig deeper and to develop their own convictions.
Here are three actions we can take this year in order to gain spiritual knowledge:
1. Ask good questions
In 2019, I organized my gospel study around questions. Each day, I formulated a question, pondered and researched it, and wrote what I had learned. At the end of the year I had a list of 365 questions I had studied and at least partially answered.
I started that year with a series of questions about questions. Here are a few of those which you might find useful as you consider questions you would like to tackle this year:
- Why Is It Important to Ask Questions?
- What Are the Characteristics of a Good Question?
- Why Is It Important to Prioritize Our Questions?
2. Work hard searching for answers.
Nephi tells us, “He that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:19).
God will answer our prayers, but He does expect us to pray. He will reveal truth to us, but He does expect us to make the effort to understand what He reveals. Here are some blog posts about the process of finding answers:
- What Does It Mean to Search the Scriptures?
- What Does It Mean to Ponder?
- What Should I Do When There Are Questions I Can’t Answer?
3. Prioritize first-hand knowledge.
Primary sources are more reliable than secondary ones. Hearing about the experiences of others can be inspiring, but we ultimately need more. We need spiritual experiences of our own.
Nephi said, “Having heard all the words of my father,… I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10:17). And Jesus praised Peter when he shared his personal testimony: “Blessed art thou,… for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
Here is a blog post about the role of direct experience in our spiritual learning process:
Blog Posts December 26-January 1
Asking Better Questions: Learning from Alma 5
A few years ago, I prepared to participate in a general conference of the Church by writing a list of questions. Some were quite open-ended, such as “How can I be a better father?” or “What can I do to minister to others more effectively?” Others involved specific projects I was working on or specific…
Taking up Our Cross
Many years before His crucifixion, Jesus used the imagery of the cross to describe the burden of discipleship: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24; see also Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23 In Joseph Smith’s revision of the Bible, the Savior adds the following explanation: “And now for a…
Being Good Ground
In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes four kinds of ground which a seed might experience: (See Matthew 13:3-8.) The first three are not conducive to growth. Only the fourth enables the seed to flourish. Alma uses a similar metaphor in his sermon to the Zoramites. Comparing the word of God to a seed,…
How Did Jesus Use Questions?
In January 2023, I reviewed and categorized the 190 questions asked by the Savior, as recorded in the four Gospels and in 3 Nephi. Here’s what I learned about the ways Jesus used questions.
How Did Jesus Use the Scriptures?
Jesus knew the scriptures. As a twelve-year-old boy, he impressed the experienced teachers in the temple at Jerusalem with his insight and understanding. (See Luke 2:46-47.) He publicly announced that He was the Messiah by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth. (See Luke 4:18-19.) And at the end of His life, as He…
Repentance and Resolutions
January is a good time to repent. Setting resolutions can be part of a pattern of change which can lead to incremental improvement throughout the year. Here are some of my resolutions for 2023.
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