The 3+ Levels of Topical Guide Study

Dec 14

Watch the New Topical Guide in Action

The New Topical Guide in Scripture Notes

Remember in April 2017 when President Russell M. Nelson issued a challenge to young adults to study all the topics in the Topical Guide on Jesus Christ? Did you feel daunted by that task? Just looking up those verses is a chore and a half…until now…

Scripture Notes has added the Topical Guide (TG) into our software with a brand new functional interface. That’s roughly 3,500 topics ready for study, or about 1 topic a day for 10 years.

Old Style Topical Guide

You are probably familiar with the old style TG which is basically identical between the digital and paper versions. Chose a topic, and you’ll see a relevant phrase from the verses along with references.

In your paper scriptures, you would flip back and forth from the TG to a verse to look it up and then do the next one. Tedious. Digitally, it’s an improvement, but when you click a verse reference, you get that verse on the right-hand side and to see it in context you have to click the reference and navigate away from the page.

New & Improved Navigation and Functionality

With Scripture Notes you get easy navigation and context. Click on a letter to peruse the topics starting with that name or filter by typing letters at the top in the search bar to start off a word.

Topical Guide filtering

Level 1 Study – Reading Verses

Click a topic to open it and as you can see on the left side of this next image, you get the full verses to read from. If that’s all you want to do, you can click the “Studied” box at the top and you’ll have an indicator here and on the TG pane above that you’ve studied it. In the 2nd column below, you can open a search pane if you want to see if there are any other verses that use this word. I put a wildcard asterisk on “vocal” to see if there were any other forms of the word available. There is an extra verse not in the list on the left (D&C 20:51). Sometimes the TG misses verses like this.

Level 2 Study – Recording Your Impressions & Research About Verses

If you want, you can expand the search pane by clicking the right arrow and study the verses right here. This is sort of “level 2” studying which is beyond just reading the verses. Instead of just reading the verses, now you can make notes about them and even add previous or next verses in the search results to view a verse in context.

To go deeper into verse research, next to every verse is a menu icon for quick access to 3 resources. Clicking the “i” next to each takes you to a page that explains how to use these wonderful resources. In short, the Blue Letter Bible gives you the Hebrew/Greek Strong’s Concordance meanings of Bible verses. Bible Hub gives you 28 translations for that verse. The LDS Citation Index project at BYU gives you every statement by General Authorities of the church in conference talks that reference that verse, and soon we will be adding a 4th resource which is the full Joseph Smith Translation for the Bible.

Instant Access

Level 3 Studying – Recording Your Revelation About the Topic

“Level 3” study is creating what we call a Collection Note (CN). In this case you click Create CN from the search pane (because it’s got the extra verse we found). In a collection note, you get a master note area to summarize all the insights you gain from the verses you study in the collection. What are the themes and unique things as you go across the verses?

Title, tag, and categorize the note, and save it to your collections for retrieval later. You’ll find it thought searches or later encountering any of the verses in the collection. When saved, the eye icon on the right turns green so any time you find that verse you’ll see there are notes associated with it beyond your basic 1 to 1 verse note.

Example 2

Lets take another example that’s a little different. Lets pull up the word fear in the TG. We click create CN and you can see the CN gets a special tag “Created from TG Fear.” We didn’t get that above because we created it from a search. You still click the “Studied” box when you’ve studied the topic or feel like you’ve done it sufficiently that you don’t need to any further.

Then you do a search and you see the search finds over 7 times as many verses. The word fear is used a lot in the scriptures and it means different things. You can see on the left pane TG there are other topics that relate to fear and even synonyms that wouldn’t appear in the search. These are just different ways to study the topic. It may be that you want to save the 527 verses to a collection for a larger study project but if not, you can always study the group of topics on the left.

Fear comparison

Example 3

Now for a situation where the TG really shines… Topics like “Last Days” don’t have that phrase in scripture but there’s a lot of verses that talk about it. It’s great to have these topics pull together verses that discuss these things. However, the collections for these types of topics are just a good place to start. There are many topics that don’t use the phrase in the scriptures and they aren’t necessarily comprehensive, which brings us to level 3+.

Last Days

Level 3+ – Associated Level 3 Studying

As you study topics, words will jump out at you. Jot them down. Maybe record them in the master collection note area and tag the topic with those words. After you finish studying your current topic at level 3, search for those words in the TG and the scriptures and study those verses to expand your topic. That’s digging broader than your level 3 study which makes this level 3+ study. You’re widening the deep well you’re digging to enlarge your “living water” source. As you widen your “hole” of knowledge, it naturally deepens your comprehension of each topic as you see the interrelatedness of the topics and gain a more “whole” understanding.

3+ Levels of Scripture Study

Where to Start in the Topical Guide?

There’s two great places to start studying in the Topical Guide.

Remember the beginning of this post… President Nelson said this in his April 2017 talk:

Earlier this year, I asked the young adults of the Church to consecrate a portion of their time each week to study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the standard works. I invited them to let the scriptural citations about Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide become their personal core curriculum.

I gave that challenge because I had already accepted it myself. I read and underlined every verse cited about Jesus Christ, as listed under the main heading and the 57 subtitles in the Topical Guide. When I finished that exciting exercise, my wife asked me what impact it had on me. I told her, “I am a different man!””

They’re waiting for you…

TG Jesus Christ

Second, at the October 2020 conference in his talk “Let God Prevail,” he said:

“As you study your scriptures during the next six months, I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel. I think you will be astounded! Ponder these promises. Talk about them with your family and friends. Then live and watch for these promises to be fulfilled in your own life.”

It’s now made easy and just waiting for you to get started…

TG Israel

Summary of benefits to studying by topics:

1-Deeper understanding of a topic

2-Truths about a topic are spread across all related verses, not clumped into one location. This is why prophets and Jesus Christ teach us to search the scriptures.

3-Some topics are difficult to study without a guide to point you to verses on that subject matter. The “theme” can’t be easily searched for.

4-Studying a topic will reveal other related topics for study which will widen and deepen your understanding of the topic you started with.

Things to watch out for

1-Some topics have no entries in the Topical Guide and must be searched for manually.

2-Topical Guide entries are a starting point to studying a topic. Topics are not fully comprehensive.

Steps to studying:

1-Read through the verses on a topic.

2-Prayerfully study the verses going deeper into the context of the story, the meaning of the words and phrases, and what others have said about it.

3-Write down thematic golden nuggets in your master note for the topic.

4-Repeat the process with related topics.

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About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.