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Don't be afraid of questions: 6 tips for deepening your study of the gospel

A general conference goer marks new scriptures in October 2002.
A general conference goer marks new scriptures in October 2002.
Associated Press

Understanding the gospel helps give us faith, hope and perspective, and motivates us to live it. And the more people live the gospel, the more they want to understand it.

A deeper understanding of the plan of salvation and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ should undergird our study of all other gospel topics. I have heard some people say they are quite content to go no deeper than the basics of the gospel; they think it is inappropriate to study more advanced doctrines.

While we can always learn more about basic principles, and must constantly apply them, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens” (see "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith).

He also said, “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness” (see "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith).

Studying the gospel is a satisfying experience when we study with faith and stick to appropriate sources and topics.

Here are six ideas that have helped me.

1. Don’t be afraid of questions. Curiosity isn’t spirituality, but it motivates study. If your gospel study is only reading for reading’s sake, your motivation is probably lacking. Look for answers in the right places.

2. Ponder possible answers. Gospel insights are not limited to prominent leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or religious instructors. Just make sure your ideas harmonize with the scriptures and prophets.

3. Study relationships. These include the relationship between grace and works, between baptism and confirmation, between the priesthood and the Atonement, etc.

4. Formulate analogies. Analogies must never be taken too far, but they can be very helpful in understanding abstract concepts.

5. Keep a journal of ideas and things you learned.

6. Be willing to put some things “on the shelf” in your idea journal. In a few years reread them and see if your understanding has increased.

Richard D. Gardner teaches biology at Southern Virginia University and is the author of "The Heart of the Gospel" and "God's Organizing Power."