Dec 10

Are the Standard Works Perfect?

Our eighth Article of Faith states: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” But are the Bible and the Book of Mormon perfect?

No. Even the Scriptures are not free from error. Regarding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding McConkie explains, “Moroni said, ‘Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been’ (Morm. 9:31). Of the restored gospel the Lord said, ‘These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time’ (D & C 1:24–28). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding McConkie)

It’s not a perfect book, nor does it make the claim to be. As a matter of fact, it explicitly says that it is not perfect. It was prepared through the Lord’s prophets, who were human beings, just as fallible as you or I. This may be the reason that there have been literally thousands of corrections made in the text of the Book of Mormon since the first edition was printed.

Neither is the Bible perfect. However, unlike the Book of Mormon, it does not expressly state its fallibility. Nonetheless, we can consider some of the ways that we know that the Bible has some imperfections in it. First let’s take a look at some verses that contradict each other.

Acts 9:7 – “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

Compare to:

Acts 22:9 – “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Then, we have the following:

Job 7:9–10:

“9 As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

10 He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27: 52–53:

“52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

And finally:

Acts 1:16–18:

“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27:3–5:

“3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

There are more, but this should suffice for our purposes here. Another way we know that the bible is imperfect is by all of the scriptures it mentions that are not contained therein. Let’s consider a list of them:

That is a lot of missing scripture. The Bible is not complete as we have it. The Book of Mormon even tells us that things have been taken out. Nephi tells us this in 1 Nephi 13:26,28–29:

“26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.”

As we have seen, many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. We can see evidence of this in analysis of the Bible itself. The Book of Mormon also clarifies this for us.

The Book of Mormon also tells us that there is scripture that we haven’t even received, yet. 2 Nephi 29:12–13 says:

“12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”

We have scriptures from the lost tribes of Israel that we have yet to receive.

Numerous things have been changed in the Bible, as well. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 327).

He also said, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 9-10)

For a quick example, let’s take a look at Matthew 5:22 in the King James Version, which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Note the phrase “without a cause.” This phrase does not appear in some of the other translations of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version, the American Standard Version, and the New International Version. So is it supposed to be there or not?

Fortunately, we can turn to revelation as we have discussed in the first part of this book. This is exactly what Joseph Smith did as he corrected the Bible. If we look at footnote ‘b’ for verse 22, it says, “JST Matt. 5:22 and 3 Ne. 12:22 omit the words ‘without a cause.'” Because of revelation, we know that this phrase does not belong.

The point here is not to detract from how essential the scriptures are to us. They are of utmost worth. We believe in them. We honor them as being true. It’s just important to remember that, as their stewards have been imperfect men, they cannot be perfect.

Brother Robert L. Millet stated:

“We do not believe the Bible must be transmitted perfectly to be spiritually normative and eternally valuable. Errors in the Bible should not tarnish its image for Latter-day Saints. For that matter, while we accept the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scripture, we would not rush to proclaim their inerrancy. The greater marvel is that an infinite and perfect God can work through finite and imperfect humans to deliver his word to his children.”

Robert L. Millet, “What the Bible Means to Latter-day Saints,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 1–10.

Brother Millet summarizes the thought eloquently. Even though there is ample evidence that the scriptures have been altered, or have errors in them, we still know that they are true. We hold them in the highest regard.

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Dec 03

Do We Need Scriptures?

The Book of Mormon

Much of the Christian world today believes in a closed canon, and rejects the idea of continuing revelation in these, the latter days. This is perhaps because of scriptures like Revelation 22:18–19, which says:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The first issue here is that there’s way too much ambiguity associated with what’s written in this verse. Explain in unmistakable detail exactly what is meant by “this book.” Of course we assume it to be the Bible. Is that exactly what we’re talking about here? What does “add unto these things” mean? Precisely define “take away” exactly as it is meant, here. What exactly is “the book of this prophecy”? The second problem is that, even though the book of Revelation appears last in the Bible, it may not have been written last. So anything after it would be adding unto it if we were to take that concept at face value.

Speaking of which…

There is a nearly-identical verse in Deuteronomy 4:2, which reads:

“2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

What does “add” mean exactly? And “diminish”? And here we have “the word which I command you.” If we are to interpret this the same way most people interpret the passage from Revelations, then that would invalidate everything in the Bible after Deuteronomy 4:2. But of course this is ludicrous, and we know there is another interpretation for it.

What these verses are saying is simply that we not distort or misconstrue what is revealed to prophets, whether past, present, or future. The Lord is not talking to the prophets themselves, but to everyone else. It is not their place to change anything.

For example, there are thousands of extant scrolls and codices that date from many centuries ago. Some date even to the 2nd century A.D. What scholars have found is that there are differences in nearly all of them. Why? Because of careless or malicious copyists who changed things they were not authorized to change. The types of warnings in Revelation and Deuteronomy that we have looked at is for these types of folks, not the prophet.

It does not mean that the canon is forever closed. There is much scripture that we know about, and probably a lot that we don’t know about that will yet be revealed. For example, let’s take a look at what James E. Talmage said on the topic:

“Missing Scripture. — Matthew’s commentary on the abode of Joseph, Mary and Jesus at Nazareth, “and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene” (2:23), with the fact that no such saying of the prophets is found in any of the books contained in the Bible, suggests the certainty of lost scripture. Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the ground that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures, and that alleged revelation not found therein must therefore be spurious, may profitably take note of the many books not included in the Bible, yet mentioned therein, generally in such a way as to leave no doubt that they were once regarded as authentic. Among these extra-Biblical scriptures, the following may be named; some of them are in existence to-day, and are classed with the Apocrypha; but the greater number are unknown. We read of the Book of the Covenant (Exo. 24:7); Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numb. 21:14); Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13); Book of the Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25); Book of Enoch (Jude 14); Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); Book of Nathan the Prophet, and that of Gad the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29); Book of Ahijah the Shilonite, and visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chron. 9:29); Book of Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12:15); Story of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chron. 13:22); Book of Jehu (2 Chron. 20:34); the Acts of Uzziah, by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (2 Chron. 26:22); Sayings of the Seers (2 Chron. 33:19); a missing epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9); a missing epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3); missing epistle to the Colossians, written from Laodicea (Col. 4:16); a missing epistle of Jude (Jude 3).”

Jesus the Christ, James E Talmage, p. 113

And then the sealed portion of the plates from Ether 4:4–6, we read:

4 Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.

5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.

7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

The next point is that you can only understand spiritual things by the power of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 helps illustrate this concept:

“14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The very ability to interpret spiritual things depends on the power of the Holy Ghost to reveal their meaning to you. In other words, it’s not what is written that carries the meaning and authority nearly as much as the Holy Ghost does.

I did not say that the written word holds no meaning.

Let me illustrate with a story from Wilford Woodruff:

“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’ When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.’ ‘And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the [p.23]writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.'” (Conference Report, October 1897, p.22)

It is the living Prophet who leads the Church by the power of revelation that carries the ultimate authority to us.

The one problem is that the Prophet cannot be with all people at all times. The scriptures are there to bring the Spirit into our lives. They are there to help us understand the Gospel. They are available to anyone and everyone who wants them. They certainly fill these needs in ways that nothing else can. For a further discussion on what scriptures can do for us, see “What Are the Scriptures?”

Do we need the scriptures? Yes, we need them. We need them because the Lord saw fit that we should have them. We need them for the reasons listed above and many others. However, they are not as authoritative as the living Prophet and Apostles. Stick to what the Brethren say and you’ll never go wrong.

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Nov 27

Gratitude – A Commandment

The Lord requires gratitude, and we are better by having it. We can never have too much, in fact. So, I wanted to chat a little about gratitude in my post today.

Let’s see what the scriptures have to say about gratitude. Let’s turn to D&C 59:21 which says:

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Pretty clear that we should be thankful for everything that the Lord has given us.

This is consistent with 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which tells us:

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It is interesting to note that when Lehi’s sons returned with the plates, the very first thing they did was to thank the Lord. But they didn’t just say a quick prayer and thank Him, they offered a sacrifice and burnt offerings. They may have even built an altar for this purpose. Then, once they had done that, Lehi looked at the plates. But the very first thing they did was to offer thanks. We see this in 1 Nephi 5:9–10, which tell us:

9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

10 And after they had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.

In Alma 34:38, we are commanded to live in thanksgiving daily:

38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

From the Gospel Topics section of the Church website, under Gratitude, we learn:

“The Lord has promised, ‘He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious’ (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19). Gratitude is an uplifting, exalting attitude. People are generally happier when they have gratitude in their hearts. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful.”

For a further understanding of gratitude, I would highly recommend studying in detail the Gratitude entry in the Gospel Topics section of the Church website. There are plenty of talks, chapters from books and manuals, videos, and a lot more on the topic of gratitude. Take a look:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/gratitude?lang=eng

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Oct 31

What Are the Scriptures?

Scriptures are a great reference to the standards of the Gospel. They teach us wonderful principles about how to live. However, they do not contain all the wisdom and knowledge there is to know for each person. They are to open the mind. They are to make us ask questions. They are a gateway to all the wisdom and knowledge that lies beyond the veil.

The pattern for revelation is: first, you are doing something that causes you to have a question in your mind. Next, you ponder over that question, and seek information and resources that may help you answer it. While this is happening, you do things to bring the Spirit. At the right moment, you will receive the answer to your question.

So, you see, you need an instrument to catalyze thought and questioning. That’s what the scriptures do. So this is why scriptures to me are absolutely positively without a doubt unquestionably essential.

2 Nephi 28:30 explains a bit more about the Lord’s thoughts concerning the matter:

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”

“The idea that scripture reading can lead to inspiration and revelation opens the door to the truth that a scripture is not limited to what it meant when it was written but may also include what that scripture means to a reader today.  Even more, scripture reading may also lead to current revelation on whatever else the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time.  We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, p.8)

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Mar 09

What Do We Know About the Mulekites?

An informative article came to my attention recently regarding the Mulekites.  What is really known about their origin and background?  What information can we glean from their brief mention in the Book of Mormon?  What became of them?  This article from the March 1987 Ensign answers these and a host of other questions that you may not even know you had.

Excerpt:

“A serious reader of the Book of Mormon will at some point likely ask himself how much is known about the Mulekites and about the role they played among Book of Mormon civilizations.

The thirty verses which comprise the Book of Omni, although written by five lesser-known authors, provide answers to many questions.

Just prior to his death, Amaleki completed the Book of Omni by briefly recording the account of King Mosiah’s discovery of the people of Zarahemla—the Mulekites. Without this brief record we would know little concerning the conversion of the Mulekites from an atheistic people into some of the most faithful Saints in the entire Book of Mormon.”

Read the entire article: The Mulekites – by Garth A. Wilson

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Oct 16

Recommended Reading: Searching the Scriptures – Gene R. Cook

Searching the Scriptures

Searching the Scriptures

While a member of the First Council of the Seventy, Elder Gene R. Cook wrote what seems to be one of the best books available on studying the scriptures. He has a considerable amount of expertise on the topic, being an Emeritus General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  To our good fortune, we have available to us this book, called “Searching the Scriptures.”  The subtitle reads, “Bringing power to your personal and family study.”  No truer description of this book could be conceived.

Elder Cook begins with an in-depth elaboration of what the scriptures are.  He insightfully expounds their importance to each of us.  It feels as though his primary purpose is to enlighten, uplift, and edify readers.  Should you wish to gain a solid foundation of scripture study, this book must become part of your library.

The next 70 pages are spent laying out the whats, whys, and hows of personal scripture study.  Elder Cook explains the different facets of feasting upon the word of the Lord.  His recommendations include asking questions, pondering about what is being read, looking for patterns, applying the scriptures to ourselves, and how to receive deeper understanding.

The balance of the book broadens the scope slightly to instruct us regarding family scripture study.  Elder Cook again goes to great lengths to convey his message.  He begins this third section with an explanation of how we will be blessed by studying together as a family.  His personal experience with this subject affords him a wealth of examples, stories, and suggested formats for family scripture study.

A description from DeseretBook.com:

One of the most valuable purposes of the scriptures is to serve as a tool to help us hear the voice of the Lord. But, as Elder Gene R. Cook emphasizes in his book, that blessing doesn’t come through casual effort.

In Searching the Scriptures, Elder Cook explores how we can effectively ponder, question, and mark the scriptures and understand how they apply to our lives. He also shares his testimony of the power and blessings that come from knowing God’s word. And he gives suggestions on how to organize family study and how to use the scriptures as a way to bless each family member. Relating personal experiences to show what has worked and what hasn’t, Elder Cook shares ways to motivate everyone in the family to participate and work to invite the Spirit to be present at reading time.

Elder Cook’s hope is to help Latter-day Saints gain a deeper understanding of what scriptures really are and how they apply to us today, and thereby have a desire to learn more from them.

Whether a seasoned scriptorian or someone who just wants to gain a solid foothold on mastering the Gospel, I highly recommend “Searching the Scriptures” by Elder Gene R. Cook.  It spends little time on my own bookshelf, as I gain a deeper understanding of scripture study every time I read it. This book is fully deserving of the spot it has earned in our Recommended Books section.

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Sep 19

Why Study the Gospel?

Studying the Gospel isn’t always at the forefront of most peoples’ minds.  They may think more about the immediate, weighty matters of life.  What some folks may not realize, though, is that a knowledge of the Gospel is part of why we are here.

Understanding the Scriptures should be a high priority for us all.  What loving parent, when a child leaves the house, wouldn’t make sure they knew how to get back home?  Of course it’s up to the child whether they do come back home.  If the child is away for an extended period of time, wouldn’t their parent want them to call home and tell them how things are going?  Thus it is with us: we are given commandments to read the scriptures and have daily communication with the Lord.

When you study the Gospel, you are also quite likely going to have the Holy Ghost to be with you.  The Holy Ghost has a refining, settling effect on your life.  If your life seems like it’s hectic, what more could you want than having the companionship of one of the members of the Godhead to be with you?  This is one of the reasons that I enjoy contemplating the Gospel.  I am able to feel the companionship of the Holy Spirit.

As you put more effort into your studies, you get much more out of them.  A slight daily glance at the Gospel will not get you very far.  But if you dig in with all your might and study the Gospel the best way you know how, you will gain an understanding of why we are here.  You will have the Holy Ghost to be with you.  You will have a more fulfilled life.

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Sep 12

Gospel Study Journal, Part 1

Studying the Gospel has been important to me for a very long time.  While on my mission, I woke up an extra half-hour early every single morning to have that much more time to study the scriptures.  As I got more serious about getting as much out of it as possible, I began to consider different methods of scripture study.  When meeting with my Mission President, the topic of Gospel scholarship came up.  I asked him and many others about the different methods they used to understand the scriptures.

One method that I saw many folks use was to take a red pencil and underline something that jumped out at me from what I was reading.  This method of studying the scriptures didn’t and still doesn’t make much sense to me.  I have nothing against it.  Should someone find it effective, I’m glad they have a way to study the Gospel that works for them.

Another way some of the missionaries studied their scriptures was to mark passages of different types in different colors.  For example, things marked in yellow could be Christ’s direct words.  Blue could refer to a prophet making a prophecy.  Other colors could refer to other concepts or types.  My questions here were, “What happens when I run out of colors?” and “What if a given passage fits multiple categories?”  I ended up not choosing this manner of studying my scriptures.

For a long time, I did take extensive notes in the margins of my scriptures.  This allowed me to easily refer back to a thought I had about a given passage when I again was reading it.  One problem with this is that you unknowingly lock yourself into assigning that passage as having the meaning you wrote.  You aren’t as free to ponder upon what you are reading.  Your mind says, “I already know what this means because there’s the note I wrote about it the last time I was studying this passage.”  I couldn’t think of a better method, so throughout the remainder of my mission, I studied in that manner.

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