Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reading Backwards

A while ago (I can't remember exactly when, but several years ago, anyway), I was ready to start another reading of the Book of Mormon. I determined to read it backwards.

Well, I couldn't read it completely backwards, so I started at the last chapter of Moroni, and read Chapter 10, then Chapter 9, and so on, until I finally arrived at 1 Nephi 1.

It was an interesting experience.

I came to the idea because a friend of mine had encouraged me to read it in the order in which it had been translated, presumably with 1 Nephi through Omni (the small plates) coming after the large plates (because of the lost 116 pages' covering similar ground). That reading was interesting, as well. (My friend, who had become disaffected with the church felt reading it in that order would demonstrate some developments about the treatment of the godhead had "evolved" in the translation of the book, implying that Joseph's view had changed throughout the work. I didn't reach the same conclusion as my friend.)

So, reading it "out of order" one way, I was intrigued to try a different approach. I also reasoned that by reading the chapters in reverse order, I might see each in a new light, rather than in the same narrative as when I read front-to-back. To be sure there were days when I still glossed through the narrative of the particular chapters I read. And there were days when I had to think harder to connect the narrative dots since I was taking things out of order. But there were also days when I focused more clearly, particularly in 3 Nephi during the chapters of the Savior's visit to the Nephites, and during my study of Jacob 5 and the allegory of the olive trees, and as I read Lehi's blessings to his children in 2 Nephi. Reading each chapter for itself allowed me to focus more on that chapter's experience or teaching or doctrine.

For me reading the Book of Mormon is not about great revelations of new truth each time. It is often reminding myself of what I've found before, or seeing connections between one discussion and another. A favorite activity when I read is to note something I'd written in the margins during a prior reading, and to try to sort out what I was thinking about then that might have prompted the note. Some are self-evident (like a subject marker such as baptism or the Holy Ghost, but others are less clear, like questions I might have asked at one time that don't seem like such questions anymore).

One of my favorite parts of scripture study now that I am older and have read (and studied, though I don't see those two as exactly the same) enough to be more familiar is to make connections from one passage to another that I previously had not made, either from my own memory, from comments of a speaker or teacher, from conversations with my family, just from the footnotes, or from supplemental resources. It's the ones that come out of my own memory that are most exciting to me, because it leads me to believe that I really am getting something out of the scriptures. But I'm grateful for all those interconnections that help me to weave my tapestry of understanding.

- Paul

No comments:

Post a Comment