Monday, June 16, 2014

No adult scripture study

A co-worker and I were having lunch today.  The topic of religion came up. He hadn't been a very religious person in prior years of his life, but a few years ago a circumstance occurred and he and his wife came to the conclusion they wanted to find a faith.   So they began searching for a Church.  I became interested in what he looked for, and what conclusions he had come to.

He said they began by wanting to study the scriptures.  I thought this was excellent.  He went on to say that he and his wife began looking for a Church that had a Bible study where they could read and learn from the Bible.  I thought that too was great.  I asked if he and his wife ever perused the LDS church, and mentioned the Book of Mormon.  He said no.  I asked why and he said they didn't have "studies" for adults.

I had no response for that.  Our Institute and Seminaries are for youth, and young adults.  See the below direct quote from the LDS institute web page.    

"The Objective of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion

Our purpose is to help youth and young adults understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven."

There are a few adult classes offered through BYU. But you have to pay, and they are not really designed for non members.  Missionaries of course would be glad to talk about scriptures, right after they complete the lesson agenda that has been pre prepared.

My co-worker went on to talk about finding a few churches that read scriptures in someones home, and who had informal nights when people would get together to study. I was listening but for the most part my mind wandered off and seriously contemplated what he just told me. The Church I belong to claims restored scripture, revelations to a prophet Joseph Smith, canonized as scripture. Of all churches I thought my own should be the one holding scriptures studies. And not just for youth. For adults of all ages. Just regular old members, being guided by the Spirit, and the desire to learn. It could even be a missionary effort.

Lunch ended with me realizing some things that took me by surprise. We claim modern scripture, restored truth, yet there are no visible or attend-able places to go study them if you are an adult. Is this what it means to neglect the Book of Mormon as D&C 84:54-57 refers to? Which put the Church under condemnation? Sunday school's 4 year cycle of scripture coverage skips over entire books at a time, so that hardly qualifies as scripture study. Our curriculum comes from downtown Salt Lake, and for the youth it's now totally topic based, not scripture based. General Conference every 6 months seems to have replaced our need to read and study the scriptures. I think there are various reasons for this. For one, if members were encouraged to hold scriptures studies in their homes, or have non church sanctioned studies, there would be all sorts of uncorrelated thoughts and doctrine potentially surfacing. This would upset a great many things inside headquarters, and some members.

Another, which would be the most revealing, would be that if any random bishop announced to their ward that there would be a ward led scripture study, once a week, no one would go. There is a pretty observable mindset of disinterest about the scriptures among the Saints. Not everyone, but lots. Our leaders sometimes supplant the written word of God, or the need for it. Which leads to no one being all that interested in studying scripture. "We have a Bible" "There can be no more Bible". We loose the ability to read and understand scripture because we are rarely taught or shown how. Your out of luck if you never attended seminary or institute, and even if you did, that's sometimes not helpful anyway.  No wonder there is an attitude of non interest.

I hope I'm wrong. What do you think? If your Bishop next Sunday announced that the ward would hold a weekly scripture night, where for 1 hour someone in the ward, called to lead the study, would do nothing but assist in studying the scriptures, would people go?


  1. I would go. Though, in general, I think you're right. It's apparent that very few members in my ward have more than a superficial knowledge of the scriptures.

    At one time I was interested in studying Biblical Hebrew. I asked a counselor in the Bishopric if there was any chance of holding an optional course in Biblical Hebrew for those who may be interested. After all, the Church already offers optional courses on family history, temple prep, mission prep, improving your marriage, etc. I offered to teach it and even had a good manual to use. At first he seemed open to the idea, but after consulting the handbook, he told me that only Church-approved courses could be taught. I found this ironic, as Joseph Smith studied Hebrew with the other elders in the School of the Prophets at Kirtland.

  2. Ironic. I agree.

    If there were a scripture study, I would go too. Most members I know have only the scripture basis they gained as youth/missionary. Nothing as an adult. And this is never seen as a problem.

    Even having been born in the church, graduating from Seminary and Institute it was not until after all that, that I attended a scripture study on Friday nights in the home of a member and learned for the first time how to read the scriptures. As it turns out seminary and institute largely gave me paradigms and belief systems to overlay on top of the scriptures. Which in the end was a hindrance, rather than a help.