Comparison of Reading Methods

In helping readers in their goal of consistent, daily Scripture Study we are developing a series of Scripture Research Tools which we have organized into four groups: Sequential Reading, Chronological Reading, Doctrinal Reading, and Topical Research. Each tool is designed with the goal of Chapter Reading in mind.

We have found that a varied approach to our Daily Scripture Study helps it remain alive and vibrant. By changing the method that we are using according to our current needs and interests we can find new meaning to the familiar stories and lessons of the scriptures. We have also found that varying our approach can help us avoid some of the pitfalls that can cause our lives to become unbalanced or out of step with the Holy Spirit.

Below we present our definitions for each of these different types of reading and discuss some of the benefits and limitations of each method. We hope they are helpful as you consider what type of reading will best meet your current spiritual needs.

Sequential Reading:

We define sequential reading as opening your scriptures and proceeding to read through the end of the book. One method of doing this is reading cover to cover. Others have preferred to let the book open to a random page and then reading to the end. Whichever the method, the goal is to read straight through the scriptures in the order they are were organized anciently. We think the best tool for this is to go pick up your book, find a quiet spot, and get reading. Over time you can add tools like picking a consistent time of day if you need help. The LDS Church also has some great tools if you prefer reading on-line. You can find them at We have also created a few write-ups on the advantages of reading the scriptures as a novel. These can be found on our page called Encouragement.

For young readers, new converts, or others just getting into the scriptures we believe sequential reading is the best type of reading to do. Sequential reading helps familiarize you with the basic organization of the scriptures. Further, we believe the scriptures are the Word of God and that Heavenly Father lead the authors, scribes, and historians in bringing us our scriptures in their current form. We have found that sequential reading is a method you will want to start with and return to often over the years. One drawback with any repetitive task, however, is that it become mundane or common place. If you feel you have the basic stories down or if you are finding that your scripture study does not have the spark it used to have, we recommend trying some new reading methods. Read on by clicking on one of the methods below.

Chronological Reading:

By chronological reading we mean reading the books of the scriptures in their historical context in the order that they originally occurred. Examples of chronological reading include reading the Jaredite record in the Book of Mormon before starting the book of 1 Nephi; reading the writings of the prophets at the end of the Old Testament along with their historical background found in first half of the Old Testament; reading all four gospels at once; reading each of Paul's epistles as you read the story in the book of Acts; and reading Joseph Smith History, the testimony of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants in the order each occurred or was received.

Our chronological reading tools are all designed to help the reader understand the basic story line of the scriptures better and to read their scriptures in chronological order. There are various reasons why the scriptures are not organized historically. In some cases events are occurring simultaneously in different locations (e.g. Ezekiel and Daniel). Other portions were separated because of their unique content which lent itself better to grouping by topic (e.g. The Minor Prophets). In yet another grouping, events are related by more than one author, thus helping us gain more details and multiple perspectives (e.g. The Four Gospels).

Chronological reading will help the reader gain many insights into the context of the inspired words and will help readers put together events historically that they had previously missed. It is quite exciting to begin to see how all the stories and events tie together as Father tries to lead us all home. Previously obscure verses will suddenly make much more sense and people will take on greater depth as the world they lived in becomes unfolded to the reader.

As with all reading methods, chronological reading has its limitations also. One concern is allowing our reading to become intellectual instead of spiritual. We need to feel the scriptures and the doctrines if we are going to be able to live them. If you have been analyzing the scriptures instead of reading them and you notice you aren't feeling the Spirit as much as you used to, it might be time to switch methods.

Doctrinal Reading:

Our doctrinal reading tools are designed to help readers study the basic principles of the gospel in a topical Chapter Reading context. The LDS Topical Guide, Index, and Footnote system are wonderful tools for studying gospel principles, however, they are set up on a primarily verse oriented system. Although a wonderful form of study, we have found that there is great benefit from studying these same doctrines while doing chapter reading. Our tools are designed to complement the resources available in the LDS canon both by expanding the number of angles that you can look at a basic gospel principle (e.g. studying the doctrine of faith and trust verses reading stories about miracles wrought by faith) and by increasing the amount of reading one does to encourage true feasting on the word (e.g. verse reading is most spiritual when accompanied by quiet meditation and memorization whereas chapter reading often fills your heart as you read).

Doctrinal reading can probably be one of the most powerful forms of reading you will ever do. To really sink your teeth into the depth of spiritual knowledge offered in the Word of God and really study the basic doctrines of Christ is a powerful and wonderful method of reading. As you read doctrinally you get the combined testimonies of many different prophets, each teaching you personally in his own way how to follow Christ. Through doctrinal reading you begin to see the depth of each spiritual principle. Faith becomes more than just a word as you see the action that faith inspires, the abiding trust of prophets and holy men that learned to wait on the Lord, and as you read many pages of miracle after miracle. The many aspects of faith and our need to lay hold on each becomes apparent.

Surprisingly, this gateway to spirituality can also become intellectualized. Dangerous gospel hobbies can be created if we focus so much on just a few principles that we fail to see the full spectrum of light and truth God intends us to learn and live. When not tempered by other types of reading, some people get stuck, if you will, in their gospel progression, even though they have gained great light in a few areas. Eventually they will lose even this great light they had as an unbalanced life leads to other sins (see Alma 12:9-11).

As with any good thing, we must use prudence and wisdom. If you find your conversations with others are becoming very narrow in scope, or if you are starting to believe that the entire canon was written to teach just a few principles, then it is probably time to branch out and try another form of reading.

Topical Research:

We have reserved the title Topical Research as a catch all for a variety of other types of topical chapter reading. It ranges from studying the life of an ancient prophet or scripture hero to learning how to study the scriptures within your college major or professional field. Right now we are developing tools such as our Scripture Biographies to help readers do Chapter Reading on their favorite scripture people and places. Our WRI Timelines will allow readers to browse through scriptural people, empires, and events using our new dynamic timeline we are creating to find groups of chapters on other basic scriptural topics.

Someday we also hope to create tools to help readers study their scriptures on both spiritual and secular topics. Our goal on these tools will be to help readers get started on a variety of topics, however, these tools will be limited so as to avoid pitfalls such as intellectualism and gospel hobbies. We have found that scripture study is most effective when service is the fruit of ones learning. We believe these later tools will most benefit students studying in their majors and professionals studying within their field of labor. By so doing, our charity can remain ahead of our intellects and thus we can better accomplish our goal of becoming men and women of God.

Because of the great depth of the scriptures our focus will be more on helping readers see the scriptures as a sure foundation they can use in all areas of learning, whether spiritual or secular. We hope these tools can serve as a basic platform for establishing your own topical research plans and approaches. As with the other methods, we believe that a balanced and seasonally changing approach to your daily scripture study is best. Each method has its strengths and shortcomings; when used together they produce a beautiful harmony.

Ezekiel and Daniel were both Jewish refugees deported by Nebuchadnezzar to different areas of Mesopotamia (see Ezekiel 1:1 and Daniel 1:1-6). Attempting to put their stories in a single narrative does not make as much sense as having separate books to deal with the prophecies and events of each individual location.

The Old Testament is organized into four major groups. The first, Genesis through Esther, deals primarily with the historical narrative. The second, Job through Song of Solomon, is primarily poetic and philosophical in nature. The third group is called the Major Prophets and contains Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The final group is called the Minor Prophets and is a collection of smaller books of prophecy. Putting these books into the historical narrative would make the storyline very hard to follow and would confuse their far reaching prophetic nature, as many of the prophecies are regarding events hundreds and even thousands of years in the future.