Mar 10

Scripture Study: One Deeply Insightful Method

Have you ever wanted to be able to study both chronologically and by topic at the same time?  That is one of the benefits of this method of study.  You progress a little more slowly, but you get a significant amount more out of it than you might otherwise.

Top Layer

Let’s imagine for a moment that we are studying 3 Nephi 11:1, as follows:

3 Nephi 11:1 – “And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude agathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land bBountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the cgreat and marvelous change which had taken place.

3 Nephi 11:1 is going to be our “Top Layer” verse in this example.

The very first thing we are going to do, which is a very helpful for receiving inspiration, is to ask questions.  I will repeatedly bring this up.  Consider this verse:

Doctrine and Covenants 42:61 – “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

So let us ask questions about the 3 Nephi 11:1.  For example:

  • Why specify that they were at the temple in the land Bountiful?
  • Which other temples were there?
  • Where were the other temples?
  • Why did they gather around a temple?

Doing this prepares your mind to search for answers to such questions.

As we read through, we notice that just before “gathered,” there is a small “a”.  Before the word “Bountiful” a small “b”.  Before “great” a small “c”.  These are our footnote references that will take us to the next layer.  Look down at the bottom of the page at each footnote.  First, we’ll look for 11a.  We see that it refers us to Helaman 3:14(9,14).  Write that down.

Go all the way through verse one.  Look at each footnote and write down every reference that is provided.  Using 3 Nephi 11:1 as our example, we would write something like the following:

These scripture references have now become our second layer.

Second Layer

Look up each of the references for the footnotes that you wrote down from our Top Layer verse (3 Nephi 11:1).  As you ponder each verse or passage, ask yourself how that scripture relates to the main verse.  Ask any other questions you feel are appropriate to your understanding that verse.

As we read Helaman 3:14, we might notice that it refers to the fact that they built many temples.  Apparently, there were so many that they couldn’t write about all of them.  This relates to some of the questions we asked from the Top Layer verse (“Which other temples were there?” and “Where were they?”).

Ponder each verse or passage that you write down from the Top Layer verse.  It is the main point from which we are reaching deeper and pondering more topics and verses.

As more questions come to mind, write them down and really ponder over them.  Think about other scriptures that relate to the topic at hand.  Write them down so that you can look them up.  Ponder about how everything that you are reading relates to everything else that you are reading.  As ideas come, jot them down.

Next, let’s go through each footnote the same way we did with the Top Layer verse (3 Nephi 11:1). Locate each one at the bottom of the page.  Write them all down.  Look them up.  These have now formed the third or bottom layer.

Bottom Layer

Repeat the process here that we did for the second group of footnote references.  Ask yourself questions about how each verse or passage relates to the Top Layer verse.  How does it relate to the Second Layer verse that referred you to read this one?

The only difference here is that we don’t go further down into the footnotes.  The further you go, the less they have to do with the topics in your original Top Layer verse.  Feel free to go as many layers as you wish.  For me, three layers is sufficient.

Below is an example of how 3 Nephi 11:1 might look while using the Three-Layer Method to study.  Notice that I did not write down every single footnote.  I only wrote down the ones that I felt were directly relevant to what I was studying at that moment.  The notes are merely an example, and are not guaranteed to be absolutely correct.  Also, as other ideas and thoughts occurred to me, I wrote them down.  It is a loose but effective structure that gives you a general way to study and lends itself to learning a great deal.  You truly do get out of this method what you put into it.

3 Nephi 11:1 (Our Top Layer verse)

“And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude agathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land bBountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the cgreat and marvelous change which had taken place.”

Specifies which temple. Why specify which temple if there was only one temple? There were many. See Helaman 3:14.

Why did they gather around a temple?  Maybe this is some kind of pattern.  Take a look at D&C 36:8, Malachi 3:1, D&C 133:2, and 3 Nephi 24:1.  They could have been aware of this pattern.

Footnote a (from 3 Nephi 11:1):

Helaman 3:14 (Middle Level)

“their building of temples” – a hundredth part cannot be contained in this work – discusses plural temples

Footnote b (from Helaman 3:14):

2 Nephi 5:16 (Bottom Level) – Nephi built a temple like Solomon’s
Was done after a pattern that had already been revealed – Consider the concept of “The Economy of Heaven”

Jacob 1:17 (Bottom Level)- Jacob taught in the temple – as assigned and called by the Lord – in other words, with and through the proper authority

Footnote b (from 3 Nephi 11:1):

Alma 22:29 – Discusses a little about the land Bountiful

3 Nephi 3:23 – Discusses a little about the land Bountiful

Footnote c (from 3 Nephi 11:1):

3 Nephi 8:11–14 – Describes the great and marvelous change that had occurred in the land.

Alma 16:13 (related verse) – Alma and Amulek went forth preaching on their temples – again, plural – Lamanite temples.

Alma 23:2 (related verse) – King of the Lamanites sent a proclamation that Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni and brethren should have free access to their temples (plural).

Alma 26:29 (related verse) – Ammon and his brethren tell of preaching to the Lamanites in their temples, again.

Additional thoughts that occurred to me:

Our Bodies Are Temples

Of the eight times the word “temples” appears in the Book of Mormon, half of them refer to the concept that the Lord or the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples within the context of a reference to a body or the body. This is consistent with our understanding that our bodies are temples.

Tops of the mountains are also sometimes used as temples when no formal temple structure has been erected and dedicated.

You can see that I adapted my focus to exclude detail on some things, while exploring more about others, mainly temples.  This is a great method because it allows for a lot of flexibility.  As you explore this method remember that it takes quite a bit longer than normal, but you learn a great deal.

If you read for a specified amount of time, rather than a specified distance, you’ll get a great deal more out of studying.  For example, try studying for 30 minutes a day rather than reading a chapter a day.  Take note of how much more you get out of your experience.

The rest of the study of 3 Nephi 11 (as far as I have gotten) can be found here.

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Oct 16

Scripture Study Session Format

When studying the scriptures, one of the primary goals is to learn about the Gospel.  As it is the Holy Ghost that instructs us, it raises the question: How can we best study such that we have the Holy Ghost with us?

As studying the scriptures itself brings the Holy Ghost, that is one thing we will already be doing.  Singing a hymn also brings the Holy Ghost.  Before you study next time, sing all of the verses of “I Am a Child of God.”  Then take note of the feelings brought to you through the presence of the Holy Ghost.

What else is very simple that we can do to feel the Spirit as we study the Gospel?  What if we said a prayer asking the Lord to pour out the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon us as we study and ponder His holy teachings?

It is my experience that a hymn followed by a prayer as a prelude to studying the Gospel brings a much richer experience in my studies of the scriptures and Gospel scholarship as a whole.

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Oct 03

The Prophet Speaks – Our Semi-Annual Privilege

first-presidencyTwice each year, we have a unique opportunity to study the Gospel through listening to our Prophet, Apostles, and General Authorities speak to us.  The highest hope of their hearts will be that they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost — that they will convey to us that which the Lord would have us know.  The other half of this principle is that we must have the power and influence of the same Spirit to inspire us with the true meaning of the words that we will hear.

This weekend, as we listen to the talks, perhaps we could keep a notebook handy.  Is this to attempt to write down everything each speaker says?  My suggestion is that it is not.  What if we pondered on each discourse, writing down the inspiration given us by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost about what is being said?  Could this be personal revelation?  Could this perhaps be the Lord’s will concerning us with regards to what is being said?

Should the Lord tell you something directly, wouldn’t you greatly desire to record it for future reference?

This, to me, is a marvelous way to study the Gospel: listen to the revealed word of the Lord through his representatives here on the Earth, receiving revelation of your own at the very same time.  What could be better?

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Sep 21

A Different Way to Study

How long is your drive in to work?  Do you ever find yourself waiting?  Waiting for them to finish your oil change, car repairs, fill your prescription, finish your child’s haircut, or any other down-time can be used to study the Gospel.  This method is a little out of the ordinary, but is very effective in furthering one’s understanding.

Here at Gospel Study Journal, we have a page of Podcasts, usually offering audio files, but sometimes providing links to wonderfully uplifting videos.  Enter your choice of these links into any podcatcher, such as iTunes or MediaMonkey (both have free versions).  In this day and age, there are literally thousands and thousands of hours’ worth of marvelous uplifting talks, discourses, audio books, and other recorded programs.

Smartphones these days come with some great podcatchers.  For the Android platform, I would recommend either BeyondPod or Podkicker.  On the iPhone, I’m not sure what options are available for listening to Gospel programs, but if you know of one, please do let me know!

When my ears are graced with the powerful, stirring words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie or President Gordon B. Hinckley, it is a little easier to forgive the foibles of the drivers around me while driving to work.  The Spirit is with me, calming me and helping me to feel love for others as I drive.  Additionally, I learn a great deal about the Gospel.  If you have the means, I highly recommend this manner of learning the Gospel.

Audio books, talks, discourses, and other recorded programs can be a wonderful way to partake of the marvelous teachings of the Gospel.

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Sep 17

Gospel Study Journal, Part 2

Last time, I was discussing different ways that I have tried pondering the scriptures.  During my mission, as I had mentioned, I wrote short notes in my margins.  Then, I would write a unique number (for that page) next to the note.  Next, I wrote that number right next to the line and verse to which that note applied.  For longer notes, I wrote them out on a small sheet of paper, then glued them into the spine where the note applied.

In this way, I was able to keep track of all of my thoughts.  But then, I began to notice things I didn’t like about that way of studying the Scriptures.  My scriptures were getting quite messy and tattered.  I also realized that if I lost them, I would lose all of my notes.  Also, when I began studying a new set of scriptures, I would have to hand-copy all of the notes from the old set to the new set.

From then on, my method of scripture study slowly evolved.  When I got home from my mission, I began keeping electronic copies of my notes so that I could easily print them out again if I needed to.  Also, if I lost my scriptures, I wouldn’t lose all of my notes.

After a short while, I noticed that I would sometimes want to link notes to other notes.  I would have to write something like “see note on D&C 132:5 about marriage” at the end of a note if I wanted to link them together.  Also, I would want to add scriptures to the end of my notes so as to create scripture chains.  But then, I would have to physically write on the printed note that was glued into my scriptures if I wanted to have the changes in my current set.

It was at that point that I sat down and considered creating a method of gospel study that could be either electronic or printed out or both.  Next time, I will describe where that took me.

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Sep 12

Gospel Study Journal, Part 1

Studying the Gospel has been important to me for a very long time.  While on my mission, I woke up an extra half-hour early every single morning to have that much more time to study the scriptures.  As I got more serious about getting as much out of it as possible, I began to consider different methods of scripture study.  When meeting with my Mission President, the topic of Gospel scholarship came up.  I asked him and many others about the different methods they used to understand the scriptures.

One method that I saw many folks use was to take a red pencil and underline something that jumped out at me from what I was reading.  This method of studying the scriptures didn’t and still doesn’t make much sense to me.  I have nothing against it.  Should someone find it effective, I’m glad they have a way to study the Gospel that works for them.

Another way some of the missionaries studied their scriptures was to mark passages of different types in different colors.  For example, things marked in yellow could be Christ’s direct words.  Blue could refer to a prophet making a prophecy.  Other colors could refer to other concepts or types.  My questions here were, “What happens when I run out of colors?” and “What if a given passage fits multiple categories?”  I ended up not choosing this manner of studying my scriptures.

For a long time, I did take extensive notes in the margins of my scriptures.  This allowed me to easily refer back to a thought I had about a given passage when I again was reading it.  One problem with this is that you unknowingly lock yourself into assigning that passage as having the meaning you wrote.  You aren’t as free to ponder upon what you are reading.  Your mind says, “I already know what this means because there’s the note I wrote about it the last time I was studying this passage.”  I couldn’t think of a better method, so throughout the remainder of my mission, I studied in that manner.

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