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.
The concept is that you have three “layers.” The first layer is really just the passage that you are reading, such as 3 Nephi 11, for example. The second layer consists of looking up footnotes in the verses in your reading. The third layer is looking up the footnotes in the verses from the second 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 superscript “a”. Before the word “Bountiful” a superscript “b”. Before “great” a superscript “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:
- Footnote a: Helaman 3:14(9,14)
- Footnote b: Alma 22:29; 3 Nephi 3:23
- Footnote c: 3 Nephi 8:12(11-14)
These scripture references have now become our 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.
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.
- Mosiah 2:37; Alma 7:21; Alma 34:36; Helaman 4:24
- D&C 93: 35 – our bodies are temples
- John 2:21, 1 Cor 6:19 – 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.