In January, after listening to an invitation given by President Russell M. Nelson, I chose to begin my personal study of Jesus Christ using the topical guide in the King James Bible. I felt drawn to this invitation through his words, which he again repeated and expanded on in the April General Conference titled: “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives.” Of all the wisdom he shared, the phrase that stuck with me the most was his statement, “I am a different man!”
“I am a different man.”
An apostle of God, a special witness of Christ, claims he is a different man from this study?
His confidence spoke to me. And one of the things I love most about the gospel of Jesus Christ is the opportunity to act for myself, and not be acted upon. I can discover that same confidence myself.
So, I opened the topical guide and finished the whole thing in six weeks.
Actually, it wasn’t like that at all. There were two distinct barriers holding me back from embracing this study.
How to Study
The first barrier to overcome was how to study. I began by flipping back and forth between the topical guide and scripture references, but soon found myself spending more time turning pages than successfully studying. And from past personal experiences, I know my best study is with paper scriptures, so digital links were not the route to take either.
Feeling a bit discouraged, I rationalized that this study was not for my current chapter of life. But, the Spirit seemed to think differently, and on a Sunday morning in late January, I followed a quiet voice to open lds.org. On the front page was a follow-up article to the original talk. This article showed a simple photo of the method Elder Nelson used and I immediately knew it was exactly what I needed.
I created this guide (link to download is below) to reflect that method. It is the inclusive topical guide of Jesus Christ (initial scripture references, as well as all scripture references for every sub-heading) copied and pasted onto one large document.
Letting go of a Timeline
The second barrier to overcome was the timeline. Or, I must say, letting go of a timeline. As a goal-setting individual, I’d initially hoped to finish before the April 2017 General Conference. I soon realized my expectations of sticking to a timeline were depriving me of what I could gain if I slowed down and dug a little deeper. This was a tough one to work through, but setting a new goal to consistently study this guide while still allowing myself other ways to study the scriptures significantly changed my experience. While studying the scriptures on a daily basis is an essential start for me each morning, the flexibility has been empowering. Most often, I’ll spend a few days each week on this guide, and then a few days focusing on a different direction.
Centering on the Journey
The journey that has unfolded has been far different from my expectations. I expected to complete this guide in a set period of time. I expected to read a lot of what I already knew and had read before. I expected a gentle ‘pick me up’ or a ‘refresher course’ on Jesus Christ.
But the truth is, the path has been much deeper and much broader than I ever could have imagined. It imprinted my mind and spirit in ways that have forever changed me. This journey has been both exciting and empowering!
It’s now September. I’m still consistently studying this guide. And the journey has been beautiful. I’d like to share a few ways I’ve felt change in every day life:
- It has deepened my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t just know his stories, I know Studying his life has touched my soul, softened my heart and inspired me to live and lead more fully with love.
- It has deepened my love and understanding of the Godhead. God, the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Three distinctly different beings, yet one in purpose. Connected to all of us. Connected to each of us.
- It has affected my daily interactions with others. Pondering the words of Jesus Christ, while it has yet to perfect my weaknesses, has made me more aware of them. It has opened the door more fully for me to rely on Him for truth, help, love and support.
- My personal prayers have deepened.
- My ability to let go of non-essential distractions in life has increased. My capacity to focus more deliberately on what is essential has been magnified.
- His Atonement has become real to me in a way I never thought possible.
- It has strengthened my love and gratitude for the Sabbath day, specifically for the Sacrament. The words in the sacrament prayer “to always remember him” have taken on new meaning for me in daily life.
- It has sparked ideas I’d never thought of before. The monthly study guides I build each month for our family and share online were created from ideas while studying this guide.
- Centering on Christ through studying his words has brought peace in my heart and mind. It has brought personal connection to the scripture in D&C 6:36, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
- It has forever changed my perspectives, my goals and my thoughts. And while many of those moments are too personal to share, I absolutely know they stemmed from this particular study guide experience.
I am deeply humbled and full of gratitude that following the invitation from an apostle of Jesus Christ has impacted my life through such a seemingly small daily action. Choosing to open the scriptures with a purpose to better understand Jesus Christ is a connection I will continue to mindfully strengthen. It brings peace into my life. I am a different woman because of this experience. I have an outpouring of love for this journey, and while it is still yet to be complete, it seems this has been yet another lesson to let go of a mindset centered on a destination. What matters most is to simply grow and enjoy the journey.