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December 29, 2020 - Reading vs Listening

When we read the teachings of the prophets, or the writings of other contributors to Church magazines, we go through a very different mental process from listening to audio. Readers can stop whenever they want in order to think about things. They can reread passages immediately, or go back at the end to make sure what was said somewhere in the middle.

Orson Scott Card, "What Happens When You Read Church Magazines", Liahona, January 2021

I've often wondered if listening to the scriptures was the same thing as reading them. Does that even count towards our "quota"?

First of all, there's no such thing as a quota because it's so individual and subjective.

Second, in my opinion, it is not the same thing. Although it is definitely a good thing to listen to the word of God through the scriptures or general conference talks, it is more beneficial to read those words through the visual process.

I say this for two reasons.

One, reading words requires an "active" participation from the user. Words cannot read themselves. It requires us to do something. As opposed to listening, which is only a "passive" participation. The user doesn't need to actively do anything.

Two, with listening you can't really stop listening and go back to really internalize and ponder what you consumed. Theoretically, you could, but it's not convenient... at all. With reading, you can stop and analyze every single word if you were so inclined, like how Bruce R. McConkie studies scripture.

Now, there are indeed benefits for doing one or the other, like convenience. You can't read a book while you're jogging, for example. Well, you could try, but why? 😁 You can even get a greater understanding and greater recall if you do both together, like conference talks.

Also, our focus is different when listening versus reading. We can hear and read the same thing but pay attention to different aspects. With listening, we tend to focus on the broader message because we CAN'T rewind to understand what we heard. Our brain realizes that and, therefore, it adjusts for that input. As opposed to reading, where we can focus on smaller, more precise meanings because we CAN rewind, so-to-speak. Think about complex, difficult textbooks for schooling....I wouldn't want to just listen to those. I need to re-read, then re-read again to internalize and completely grasp the concept.

I feel scriptures are the same as textbooks. They are for our spiritual education afterall. Scriptures can be complex or they can be easy, depending on what we need at that time.

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