clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Book review: 'Search, Ponder and Pray' is a thoughtful guide to four Gospels

A revised edition has been released of "Search, Ponder and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels," which is by Julie M. Smith.
A revised edition has been released of "Search, Ponder and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels," which is by Julie M. Smith.
Greg Kofford Books

"SEARCH, PONDER AND PRAY: A Guide to the Gospels," by Julie Smith, Greg Kofford Books, $27.95, 253 pages (nf)

Julie Smith’s newly released second edition of her book, “Search, Ponder and Pray: A Guide to the Gospels,” is a well-timed companion piece for a serious examination of the first four books of the New Testament.

Smith’s book is meant to encourage a more profound partnership between readers, including those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are studying it in Sunday School classes, and their scriptures.

She originally set out to create a Bible commentary different from most others. She explains that most similar books, “tell you what to think… this book tells you what to think about.”

“Search, Ponder, and Pray” is an in-depth study guide pulling readers into a deeper exploration of the culture, symbolism and significance of the teachings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This weighty work joins lessons from the Old Testament and New Testament and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible with ideas from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and even modern prophets and Bible scholars.

The book focuses on each Gospel, chapter by chapter — and occasionally verse by verse — posing questions, thoughts and insights intended to move the reader into a more thoughtful and provocative study of these sacred works. The text is sequential and easy to follow.

While Smith expounds on ideas discovered during her extensive research of the Gospels, she also poses questions that are left open and unanswered, noting where answers might be found but leaving further study and interpretation in the hands of the reader. Smith’s historical and cultural insights lend a more profound grasp to a text that is sometimes difficult to understand from a modern viewpoint.

In addition to the exploration of the specific chapters, Smith provides an appendix that explores intriguing ideas, including why Matthew noted certain women in Jesus’ genealogy, the purpose of specific literary features of the Gospels and a behind the scenes glimpse of the anointing of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

This second edition, published 10 years after the first edition, has added new references and three essays in the appendix.

Smith’s approach in this commentary allows ample opportunity for readers to plunge into the teachings of the New Testament in a way that is personal and geared directly to each reader’s interests and understanding.

Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City. Her email is and she blogs about her adventures in motherhood at