I love this as the beginning lesson for the new year in the Come Follow Me program. For anyone who has been a Sunday School teacher in the past, most would surmise that only a handful at best will have read, much less studied, the lesson before each class.
Around 1980, President Spencer W. Kimball asked a stake president how often he prayed each day with his family. The stake president noted that with their busy schedules, the usually only managed once a day. Pres Kimball told him that once a day may be sufficient for that time, but the time would come when praying several times per day with one's family would be required to save them from the world's pull.
I believe that time is now. The prophets are now telling us that we can no longer abide with mild efforts towards building our testimonies. Nor can we depend upon Sunday School teachers to teach us everything we need to know to save ourselves and our families. They are a support, not a crutch.
This means we must start where we are, make a plan, and move forward in learning. Addition and Subtraction are valid and important forms of mathematics. However, if we stopped learning at first grade arithmetic, we would not have the development we have in science, math, business, etc. Learning addition and subtraction are only useful if it is not the destination, but a spot along a path to learning multiplication, geometry, algebra, spreadsheets, satellite trajectories, and technology.
So, it is with the gospel We begin as gospel students on a first grade level. But we cannot stop there. To be a solid convert that God can use in His great work, we must become Gospel Scholars. For each of us, we must make a plan.
First, figure out where you are.
- Do you feel you have a strong testimony? Rate it between 1-10, using others you know to compare. If President Nelson is a 10, where does your conversion fit on the scale?
- Rate yourself 1-10 on the following (on both quality and quantity scales), as well:
- Personal prayer
- Family prayer
- Family Home Evening
- Personal scripture study
- Family scripture study
- Teaching the gospel to family and others
- Bearing testimony to others on gospel concepts
- Studying the writings of modern prophets and apostles
- Temple attendance
- Writing frequently in a spiritual growth/learning journal
- The spiritual feeling normally in your home
- The spiritual feeling normally in your own life
- What do you study?
- Modern prophetic writings
- Writings from reliable Latter-day Saint sources
- Scholarly, non-LDS writings
- Time spent on Internet and social networks
- What percentage of my time online is devoted to learning/sharing the gospel?
- How can I increase the time I use to learn and share the gospel and rduce the time used on less important ME topics?
- How often do I fast from social media?
- Reading/watching television
- How much time do I spend watching/reading for entertainment?
- How much time do I spend watching/reading to learn gospel concepts?
- For every fiction book/story I read, I read X number of gospel related books/articles.
- What are some other areas you can consider or review to improve your efforts as a gospel student?
Many that are new on the path may only be ready to focus their study on the scriptures and the living prophets. For those farther down the path of gospel scholarship, do not be afraid to study reliable resources, knowing these are not doctrine, but guides to better understand scripture. We are benefitted by learning to study from different angles. FoTr example, reading Isaiah is hard for many members. But understanding ancient poetry, including chiasmus, can help us enjoy the teachings in a new literary way.
The Church has mentioned some reliable resources, including the Maxwell Institute, The Interpreter, FairMormon, and Book of Mormon Central.. There are many other sites that vary on how closely they follow the teachings of modern prophets. Some focus closely on the doctrines, while others may speculate heavily. So use caution on what groups you study with. It would be useful to ask some of your trusted scholarly friends which sites they generally trust and use. Of course, there is my site here, also. Many have found it very reliable in expanding one's understanding of the gospel, while staying close to the living prophets. I hope you will consider what I share here, but always use the living prophets as your barometer to what is doctrine and what is opinion.