Circa 1912 re-enactment of July 1847 pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley. (Public domain. Obtained from Library of Congress.)
One way to study Church history is to focus on particular subjects, such as the Book of Mormon, priesthood restoration, or the 1847 overland pioneer trek.
There are many sources available for studying the history of the Church by subjects. The Church’s website points to many resources. The Church History Library, Church History Museum, and Family History Library in Salt Lake City have many useful resources, as does Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. You can use the Church History Catalog to look up subjects, and it may lead you to collections that have been put online. You can also use research guides for some subjects.
In 1992 Encyclopedia of Mormonism has been put online by BYU and updated. BYU Studies Quarterly provides many of its resources for free online. The Lee Library’s Studies in Mormon History database points to a wealth of secondary sources.
Go to the General Church History Research Guide and click on some of the links to become familiar with this resources. Then go to Encyclopedia of Mormonism online and look up a subject of your choice. Finally, go to the Church History Catalog and try to find an online collection of interest to you.
Like other ways of studying Church history, studying by topic has its strengths and weaknesses. One of its strengths is being able to delve deeply into a topic quickly. A weakness is encountering information about a topic before you have enough background and understanding to comprehend it correctly.
Read President Gordon B. Hinckley’s talk “Four Imperatives for Religious Educators” and pay particular attention to what he says about gospel hobbies.
Read Elder Boyd K. Packer’s talk “The Only True and Living Church” and note what he says about plunking a single key on a piano.
Memorize Alma’s caution to his son Helaman: “Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear.”
Resolve to study Church history broadly so you don’t get stuck in a gospel rut that can leave you unbalanced spiritually. Stick to solid evidence in your studies and avoid getting mired in speculation.