Scripture Study Interview with Al Fox Carraway, The Tattooed Mormon

Ever wondered how other people study the scriptures? Me too! I’m interviewing well-known LDS people about their perspective on Scripture study in hopes to help each of us be inspired and improve our own Scripture study. If you have someone you would like me to interview, add a comment!

Al Fox Carraway is my hero. Her love for The Book of Mormon is contagious and inspiring. If you haven’t read her story, pick up her new book “More than the Tattooed Mormon”, which is about her life’s journey of conversion, building a personal relationship with God, and her love for the scriptures.

Here’s the interview with Al Fox Carraway!

What is your favorite scripture?

Al: 3 Nephi 13:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of god and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

How did that become your favorite?

Al: It was right when I joined the church and everything started to go horribly wrong and trials came in full force and I had no one’s support. No family. Lost all of my friends. I read it and my whole body started to tingle. It was in that moment I knew that no matter what happens, if we put God first, our trials and losses, our lonely times will be made up to us. And it would be not just okay but better than what we ever had in mind, better than before the hard times had even started. It was this scripture that I held on to by my fingertips with all the energy I had left, when it felt like I was being pulled by my ankles in the opposite direction. It was this scripture that helped me to use this faith I wasn’t sure I had at times.

What is your favorite way to study the scriptures? Cover to cover, by topics, or something else?

Al: I read cover to cover. I feel like I waste too much time wondering ‘where should I start’, ‘what should I look up’, if I do it any other way other than cover to cover. And when I finish I say a quick prayer to see if I should read the Book of Mormon over again or if I should do Doctrine and Covenants. (I read the Bible regularly too, but not daily like our triple combination). And I start again that very day.

What helps you to study the scriptures every day?

Al: Contrast & passion. I have learned long ago that if I don’t read from them every day I don’t have the best days. I act and react and think differently. I’m not as patient. I’m not as happy. I don’t want to do that to myself, haha. Just set goals and make habits. The reality is we have a spirit living inside of us & it’s crucial to feed it. Scriptures heal hurting hearts and wounded souls.

When do you do your scripture study? Morning, night, or some other time?

Al: I set my alarm earlier in the day to make time to read scriptures first thing in the morning–when the world is quiet but the Spirit is not. Sets the tone for the rest of the day for myself and it’s a guarantee to make sure it doesn’t get pushed aside with other things the day brings. I wrote a blog post called 5 Ways To Make More Time For The Scriptures, which may be the best answer to this question.

Al Fox Carraway - Scripture Study Markings

What are some interesting or unique ways you mark the scriptures?

Al: Every time I read the scriptures I read a new copy (and by new I mean an unmarked set. Can be the free ones the missionaries hand out, or for like a quarter at D.I. or any kind of donation centers like Salvation Army). So that every time I read it other markings wont be there to influence my thinking, but will allow the Spirit to talk to me differently each time and I learn and notice new things a lot more that way. Then when I finish I put them into my nice leather set. I’m not shy with my markings, they’re meant to be personalized. It’s a teaching aid.

What is one of your first memories with the Scriptures?

Al: I’m a convert. So I didn’t start reading the scriptures until I met the missionaries right before my 21st birthday. I only read the Book of Mormon because I wanted to prove to them that nothing would happen form it. It didn’t make much sense to me at first, but just the act of reading gives you strength. Others noticed it before I ever did. Long story short, I got baptized, and when I did I lost all my friends, my family stopped talking to me and my co-workers would lock in my an office, tell me I’m an awful person now, and made me watch these untrue videos about the church. I would hide the Book of Mormon in my pants so I could have it everywhere I went. Every time things got hard, every single second that I had free, every day, I would pull the Book of Mormon out of my pants and I would read it. every second I could of every day. And not once did my situation change because of it, well-not really. But every single time I was given the strength & the knowledge to be able to handle what I was going through. That book, that is where strength comes from. I don’t know what I’d do without that book.

What are your traditions for watching and studying General Conference?

Al: It’s different now that I’m in Utah. Back in New York where I’m from we would go to the Stake Center to watch it and I’d get all dressed up and buy a new journal and a new dress out of excitement and would share the chapel with the whole mission and watch it with about 100 missionaries. Now in Utah as a family we stay home to watch it together. My husband and I each have a separate conference journal we use just for this. We pray together and separately before each session starts, and at the end of conference weekend we go on a walk around our neighborhood or go to temple grounds to sit, and we tell each other and go over the notes we took for each talk. I also wrote a blog post that would answer this too called 9 Ways To Get More Out Of General Conference.

Who is your favorite General Authority and why?

Al: President Packer and Elder Scott. But now I need new favorites…

Who is your favorite Prophet of all time and why?

Al: Easy. Joseph Smith. He’s who I learned about 1st as I was learning about the church. I admire him more than I have words adequately enough to express. And living in New York, about 30 minutes from the Palmyra sites, I would go to the sacred grove and Joseph Smith’s farm and the Hill Cumorah with the elders for my lessons, it’s hard to not feel connected to him.

Al Fox Carraway shares insights into her Scripture study


Thanks again to Al Fox Carraway for sharing your insight and love for the scriptures! Check out her blog for more about her, her amazing book, and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Have a well-known LDS blogger, artist, or person you’d like to be interviewed about their scripture study? Let me know in the comments!

12 Ways to Add Variety to your Daily Scripture Study

We are all striving for daily scripture study, and sometimes it can be harder or easier than other times. The blessings of daily scripture study have no end, from guidance, happiness, and protection against the adversary in this life to the blessings of eternal life and becoming like our Savior.

Sometimes it can help to mix up your daily scripture study, especially when you might feel in a rut, just doing the same thing each day and plugging along cover to cover. By adding variety to your daily scripture study, you will find yourself getting more out of those precious moments you have to explore the scriptures.

1. Study all the scriptures from a single General Conference talk

Pick any General Conference (online or find a May or October Ensign laying around), select a talk, then actually look up each and every scripture cited as you study the talk. Give yourself permission to read more and wander around the scriptures instead of getting right back into the talk. Take in the full stories, lessons, and testimonies that go with each of the verses cited.

2. Pick a favorite verse, then go two levels deep with all footnotes

Start with a favorite verse (or find one from the list of Scripture Mastery scriptures), study and ponder it, and for each footnote, study and ponder those verses and do the same with that verse’s footnotes. You’re now two levels deep!

Tip: It may help to write down the first set of footnote references so you can get back to each of them after visiting each footnote of that verse.

3. Pick a favorite verse, then read all the citations

“Citations” is one of the most innovative and unique features of our app (LDS Scriptures App for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, Mac, and PC). Open the app, go to a verse (for this example I will do 1 Nephi 3:5), and then tap the grey icon with the quotes and a number, located next to the verse number. This will open up a list of citations, other manuals and resources that “cite” this verse. Tapping on any of those will take you to that content where you can read what is being said about the verse you are reading. This is a great way to get “commentary” on a verse of scripture, find stories relating to it, and to just dig deeper into a verse in general. See the below images for reference:

IMG_2373 IMG_2374 IMG_2375

4. Blank Book of Mormon, highlighting a word or topic

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has been known to use this method of studying the scriptures. He would get an inexpensive Book of Mormon without any markings in it, and then read through it cover to cover and underline with a red pencil a single word, phrase, or topic (like Jesus Christ or Faith). For a digital option, create a new account inside your LDS Scriptures App and use the highlight function to highlight (see screenshot below).

Tip: Pick a word that occurs often enough that you are actively looking for it in every verse or chapter, and mark any variation or form of that word.

Highlight Book of Mormon LDS Scriptures App

5. Pick a favorite hymn and study the scripture references

Almost every hymn in the hymn book has a couple of scriptures to go along with it. Pick one of your favorite hymns, sing it, and then read the verses in the scriptures attached to the hymn.

Scripture Study with LDS Hymns

6. Write a talk even though you aren’t speaking in Church

You don’t have to be called by a member of the Bishopric to write a talk or to prepare a lesson, just do one for fun! Pick a topic that you want to learn more about, and act like you’re giving a talk on Sunday. Work on it for your scripture study each day that week. Find inspirational stories and quotes to go along with it, and have it all ready to go. Who knows, it might just come in handy!

Tip: Did you know LDS Scriptures App for iPhone and iPad has a “Lesson Builder” for creating lessons right inside the app? Add scriptures, notes, videos, and more! It’s really handy!

7. Pick 3 people you know and find a scripture for each of them

Think of 3 people you know that could benefit from a scripture and words of encouragement from you. Find each of them a scripture that you think they would benefit from, then tell it to them or send it to them by email or text. You will be amazed at the blessings and experiences that can come from doing something as simple as this, for both you and them.

8. Read the Book of Mormon chronologically (instead of cover to cover)

Using this link to the Book of Mormon Chronology Chart, you can read the Book of Mormon chronologically instead of cover to cover. The links don’t cover the entire Book of Mormon, but it’s a great way to go through The Book of Mormon based on the timing of the actual events. You will start off in Ether and then of course finish up in Moroni.

9. Pick a person in the Scriptures and do a mini Biography report on them

Remember doing a biography on famous people like George Washington or Rosa Parks when you were younger? Time for a new assignment! Pick someone in the scriptures for your biography, and find out as much as you can about them. Break it up into sections on different aspects of their life (where were they from, who were their parents, what was life like, etc.), answer questions people might commonly ask about them, and include famous quotes (or verses!) from them.

10. Visit Mormon.org and study Values, Beliefs, and FAQ

The website Mormon.org is different from LDS.org in that it is geared towards non-members. But that doesn’t mean you can’t read it too! The sections on Values, Beliefs, and FAQ are filled with interesting narratives, verses of scripture, questions and answers, and videos on various topics. Study the verses referenced in the content as you go along.

11. Write a journal entry, blog post, or social media post about your scripture study

Writing is therapeutic, and also is a great teacher. Turn your scripture study into a writing session by writing a journal entry, a blog post, or a social media post (Facebook or Google+ let you write the longest). Choose a title, open with something to draw in a reader, and dig into what came out of your scripture study.

12. Use Preach My Gospel to guide your study

One of the greatest scriptural resources the Church has created is Preach My Gospel. While it was primarily designed for missionaries, Preach My Gospel is an excellent source of doctrine and scriptures. Pick a lesson and study with your scriptures in hand, reading the full context of the referenced verses.

 

8 Every Day Benefits of Daily Scripture Study

LDS-scriptures

Every job has a set of essential tools that enable you to do your job every day. A plumber needs a wrench and plumber’s tape. A software engineer needs a computer and desk. A doctor needs a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer.  In life, just like a job, each of us need to bring along with us each day a few essential tools to keep us on the path that leads us back safely to our Father in Heaven. These essential tools include prayer, scripture study, and covenants, and each of these should be on our “tool belt” every day of our lives.

The counsel is clear to each of us, we need to do more than casually read from the scriptures. In fact, the Prophets have counseled us to study from the Scriptures every single day. With that counsel also comes promises of blessings if we obey (D&C 82:10), and the benefits of daily scripture study will not only help us to attain our Eternal goals, but will enrich our lives every day.

#1 – Power of the Spirit

“Let us not treat lightly the great things we have received from the hand of the Lord! His word is one of the most valuable gifts He has given us. I urge you to recommit yourselves to a study of the scriptures. Immerse yourselves in them daily so you will have the power of the Spirit to attend you in your callings. Read them in your families and teach your children to love and treasure them” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 82).

#2 – Ability to Love Others More

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 135).

#3 – Increased Desire to Do What is Right

“I think that people who study the scriptures get a dimension to their life that nobody else gets and that can’t be gained in any way except by studying the scriptures. There’s an increase in faith and a desire to do what’s right and a feeling of inspiration and understanding that comes to people who study the gospel—meaning particularly the Standard Works—and who ponder the principles, that can’t come in any other way” (Bruce R. McConkie, in Church News, 24 Jan. 1976, 4).

#4 – Stronger Defense Against the Adversary

“I challenge every Latter-day Saint to come to a knowledge and an understanding of the scriptures. These sacred books are our bulwark of defense against a cunning adversary” (Marvin J. Ashton, in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, 110; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, 73).

“There is a power in the book [of Mormon] which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of [it.] You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (see D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance (President Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

#5 – Protect our Families

“I promise you that daily family prayer and scripture study will build within the walls of your home a security and bonding that will enrich your lives and prepare your families to meet the challenges of today and the eternities to come” (L. Tom Perry, in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 113; or Ensign, May 1993, 92).

#6 – Minds will be Enlightened

“I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures. I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).

“Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ” (Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Scripture”, October 2011 General Conference).

#7 – Prayers will be Answered

“Search the scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 11–12).

#8 – Increased Success and Alertness

“As I think about your schedules and the pressures you face at this time in your lives, I can understand why scripture study can so easily be neglected. You have many demands pulling at you. In some cases, just maintaining your social life is a full-time occupation. But I plead with you to make time for immersing yourselves in the scriptures. Couple scripture study with your prayers. Half an hour each morning privately studying, pondering, and communicating with your Heavenly Father can make an amazing difference in your lives. It will give increased success in your daily activities. It will bring increased alertness to your minds. It will give you comfort and rock-steady assurance when the storms of life descend upon you” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Be Strong in the Lord, and in the Power of His Might”).