Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to read the Book of Mormon more slowly than you thought possible.


[This post started as a super-long comment over on Segullah, where a guest blogger had written about how many times she had read the Book of Mormon.  (Many of them super-fast readings.)  I’ve been thinking about writing about my current Book of Mormon study plan for a while now, because it’s been such an interesting experience in my life.  Thanks to Segullah, it got written!]

I started the Book of Mormon again in November of 2011, assuming (rightly) that because Russ had just lost his job we were in additional need of spiritual help.  I can't tell you how many times I have read the Book of Mormon in my life, but since I'm 46 now so quite a few.  (Though I have never specialized in reading it fast.)  I had actually finished the Book of Mormon a few months before, and had put off starting it again, dreading the feeling of repetitiveness and "I just did this."  In the intervening months an idea for how to read it the next time had been building in my mind and heart, and when my Russ lost his job and I started reading again I implemented this plan.

It has now been almost 14 months since I started, and I am now on 1 Nephi 20.

Yep, I'm on the super slow plan.  And it has been amazing. This is what I do.

  • I read the chapter once--an overview.
  • I read the chapter a second time, then I take my scripture journal and I write the chapter down in my own words. 
  • I read the chapter a third time, and write down the doctrinal concepts in the chapter.
  • I read the chapter a fourth time, and write down all of the insights I've had about the chapter. 

Recently I had a moment of panic about this study system. Some days I have only 5-10 minutes for my study.  My scripture study wasn't very consistent for much of last year—what with the fixing up the house to sell it, moving across the country, and moving into a new house, but still--shouldn't I at least be out of 1st Nephi??  When I voiced these thoughts to my Russ, however, (and told him that I was going to go back to reading like a normal person) he calmed me down, reminded me that there actually isn't a race to finish the Book of Mormon (particularly when I've read it so many times before), and asked what my experience with this study method has been. 

It has been extraordinary.


When I read through the chapter the first time, and it's pretty much like my "normal" reading used to be. 

When I read through it the second time it’s really slow because I'm trying to figure out the "regular" english vocabulary to rewrite everything I'm reading.  This seems to be serving two purposes.  It means that I don't skip over something without really comprehending it, which I might have done in the past.  But it also means that I'm spending a lot of time in these words and ideas.  It has created a new space in my mind that I can hardly explain, as I focus on the words and ideas without continually reading forward.  It seems that feelings and insights come into these spaces in my mind in a much stronger way than they ever did before.

When I read through the chapter the third time it  is interesting but not so remarkable--I look for points of doctrine and record those. 

The last time I read through has been very meaningful.  Originally I waited until this time through to start recording insights & thoughts that had come to me about the chapter.  But a few months ago I noticed that I was having so many insights earlier in the process that I was having a hard time remembering them when I got to the fourth reading.  I decided that I needed to follow Elder Scott's counsel to record spiritual insights when we receive them.  I've taken a sheet of loose paper, folded it so that it fits in my journal, and when I have a thought or insight or even a question I note the verse and the idea.  Then as I read through the chapter for the fourth time, verse by verse, I record these insights as well as new ones I have.

I'm in the Isaiah chapters right now, and wow it's hard to try to figure out how to put those in my own words!  It helps that I'm doing my reading using the Reader's Edition of the Book of Mormon and the Isaiah chapters are mostly in verse form.  I think that when I'm done with these chapters though I'll have a better idea of what they said and meant than I have after all of my previous readings.

When I started writing my comment over at Segullah I didn’t mean for it to get so long, but this has been on my mind a lot lately and I wanted to share what a good experience I've been having with what is quite possibly the slowest reading program ever.


PS—please don’t think I’m suggesting that anyone should run right out and start reading the Book of Mormon really slowly.  I wanted to record what my experience has been over the last year for my benefit.  But I also wanted to say that I’ve never stopped to consider that the Lord might be sensitive to my feelings of (dare I say it??) boredom in repeatedly reading the Book of Mormon, and might put into my heart and mind a plan that would prove so interesting and beneficial to me.

PPS—I can tell from Cindy Lynn’s comment that I haven’t explained very well exactly how I do this.  However much time I have for my scripture study each day (could be 5 minutes, could be 30) I just do the next part of this 4 step process.  If I’ve already read the chapter for the 1st time I start on my “interpreting in regular English”—something that can take somewhere between several and many days.  If I have finished one step the day before I start the next one the next day.  I end up spending a LONG time on each chapter—sometimes spending time in just one chapter for over a month. 


  1. So I'm curious/confused. Do you do all those readings in one day??? What does one day's worth of study usually look like?

  2. This is interesting - - - I can see how this would be really insightful in many ways. i notice it when we read out loud to the kiddos because we generally only read 4 or 5 verses in a night and then talk about them for a while (so it's been two years and we're in the thick of Alma). It's kind of cool to read a verse and then try to put it in your own words (or, in kid-ish words) :) Maybe I'll have to try your method sometime in my future.