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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LDS Online Scripture Study Resources

This post actually serves two purposes: I'm using it to write a talk for giving at church this Sunday, and I'm writing it for those who need a comprehensive guide to how to get started using LDS online scripture study resources.

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...
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A few years back, I had a strong desire to re-read the Book of Mormon. I got a copy of the book that missionaries typically hand out to people, the one with the navy blue softcover, and, using a highlighter and a pencil, wrote many notes in the margins and highlighted at least one verse on every page. My intent was to then use this as a master copy for marking up additional copies to hand out to acquaintances on trains, in airports, or people I knew personally who would enjoy reading a copy of the book "annotated" by someone who believes its message.

That study effort inspired me to create my blog, so I could create positive exposure to people searching for Book of Mormon keywords online.

When the Church began to publish study tools like the ones I'm about to describe, I saw it as an opportunity to move my master copy notes to a new, permanent, online home, and thus make this process even easier. I "rejoiced exceedingly". :)

Let's start with a look at the Study Notebook.

Study Notebook

Picture of the inside of a Moleskine ruled not...
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For those used to paper scriptures, the Study Notebook (notebook.lds.org) supplements, or even can replace, the notes you take in a physical notebook, in your scripture margins, or both. It's up to you how you combine and use everything. The online Study Notebook is simply another tool for helping you better understand the scriptures.

The Study Notebook is also secure. All of your information is "scrambled" or "encrypted" when it travels to and from the LDS.org servers and absolutely nothing is stored on your machine's hard drive. Just like all our membership and temple records, all your notes and journal entries will be stored, securely and confidentially, on the Church's computer systems. Nobody else online will see what you've written or highlighted or bookmarked. It's for you alone to have a permanent record for yourself of your progress and discoveries.

To use the Study Notebook, you need to first log in at LDS.org on your computer at home, at work, or at the library.

To log in, your Membership Number is required. Just ask your ward clerk for that number and, from the Sign In page, click the Register for an LDS Account link. Fill in your details, click the link in the confirmation email that is sent to your email account, and then go back to LDS.org to sign in with your new username and password.

The Share and Save bar that now appears at the bottom of the screen allows you to highlight, annotate content, write notes, and save media from any scripture, magazine article, conference address, or lesson on LDS.org. You may add tags and specify a notebook to save them to. You may then arrange them in the Study Notebook application to prepare lessons and talks, keep a journal, or to study the gospel.

To start, just browse to any Ensign article or scripture you wish to highlight, tag, or take notes on. A great example is Elder D. Todd Christofferson's excellent article "How to Study the Book of Mormon". Select text in the article or scripture with your cursor or use the buttons in the Share and Save bar for other media.



Once you've selected some text, a menu will pop up offering different highlighting colors, and button for underlining text, and an Add Note/Tag link. Clicking these will do the functions they describe, coloring or underlining the selected text, or adding a note.

In the Add Note dialog, you can choose a specific notebook, or create a brand new notebook just for this topic. For example, if the scripture is about charity, you could create a charity notebook to make notes about charity, in its own little notebook online, wherever you feel inspired to do so.

Also in the Add Note dialog, you can write tags or keywords to describe the theme of the note you're writing. This comes in handy later when you want to browse your notes based on topics as you remember them.

If you make a mistake and want to delete a notebook, just click the little trash can icon and it's gone.

On the Share and Save bar, you can click Share to share the item via email or social media.

You can also click Bookmark to save the article in LDS.org so you can easily return to it later.

If, while reading, you feel inspired to make a Journal Entry, there's a button for that, too, complete with tagging and notebook selection.

Sometimes you'll want to turn off highlighting and note-taking editors to better focus your reading , you won't be presented with the highlighting options. Just uncheck the Study Mode checkbox and those highlighting features will be temporarily disabled.

Reviewing the Study Notebook

When you're ready to review your notes all in one place, just click the Open Notebook link on the Share and Save bar at the bottom of the page.

On the page that appears, down the left you will see a list of your no
tebooks, types of study activities (bookmarks, highlights, journal entries), and a list of tags you've created. The numbers next to types and tags indicate how many of each you've made.

In the content area of the Study Notebook has summary list with text excerpts of all the study items you've created. Clicking a study item makes it display in full in the big content area to the right. Here you can edit, save, print, or delete the full item even further.

Anytime you need help, just click the Help link at the bottom right of the Study Notebook and you'll get a list of guided tutorials.

Mobile Devices

The Church has produced a suite of mobile device applications so that you can study anywhere and at any time. The Study Notebook features mentioned above are mostly available via the Gospel Library app. All highlights, cross-references, and tags you create using the Gospel Library app will synchronize with the notebook.lds.org site and vice versa.


At mobile.lds.org you will find the following apps:
  • Bible Videos - Read about Jesus and His teachings, explore biblical environments, watch scripture-based videos and photo slideshows, and discover interesting facts about biblical accounts. Bible videos are available only on Apple's mobile devices, such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
  • Gospel Library - Download and study the scriptures, general conference addresses, Sunday manuals, and other Church content. Gospel Library allows you to search, bookmark, annotate, link, and highlight content. The Gospel Library app is currently available for Android, Apple, Blackberry, and webOS devices.
  • Mormon Channel - Listen to Mormon Channel, the Church's 24-hour-a-day audio station featuring gospel-oriented programs, music, and interviews, as well as scriptures, general conference, and Church magazines. The Mormon Channel app is available for Android, Apple, Blackberry, and webOS.
  • LDS Tools - Download ward and stake directory information to your phone, as well as scheduled ward events from the Church's new calendaring system. You can use the LDS Tools app on Android, Apple, and Blackberry devices.
  • Scripture Mastery - This app, available for Apple devices only at this time, will help you memorize scripture mastery verses as well as the Articles of Faith.
  • LDS Youth - Get the latest content from youth.lds.org on your Android and Apple mobile devices.
  • LDS Music - Browse and search the Hymns and Children's Songbook, view the words and sheet music, and listen to hymns and songs on your Apple devices.
  • Ensign - Browse a tablet edition of the November 2011 Ensign on Android and Apple devices.

Scriptures

Of course, we can't forget the old standby online scriptures at scriptures.lds.org, which have been on LDS.org since at least 2002. The electronic text and audio recordings of the scriptures are now available at LDS.org and for mobile devices in many languages and are in process in many others. In addition to online reading and listening, you can also download and use the audio, ePub, and PDF files offline. The Church’s latest online scriptures site also facilitates easy sharing of passages and personal notes with others via e-mail and social media tools. The scriptures at LDS.org are currently available in 21 languages; mobile device applications are available in approximately 10 languages, depending on the platform.

The LDS Scripture Citation Index at scriptures.byu.edu, and which is also available for mobile devices, is my absolute favorite way of searching for quotes from prophets about certain passages of scripture. Developed by two BYU teachers, this tool allows you to select a verse of scripture and then see a list of all the times it has been referred to, directly or indirectly, in every written speech known to the Church.

For example, suppose you want to know who has cited 1 Nephi 3:7 in general conference. Click on the Book of Mormon link at the left side of the screen and scroll down to 1 Nephi 3; there you’ll find the answer.

Conference Talks

It has been fun watching the development of the availability of conference talks at LDS.org. When the conference section of LDS.org first came online, it used to be that you'd have to wait a week or more for speeches to be posted. But now, through the Church's streamlining of the translation and publication process, you can get the text and multimedia of conference talks on the same day they are given, often during the following session. I highly recommend much use of conference.lds.org in preparation of talks and lessons...as well as catching up on the talks you missed when you fell asleep on Conference weekend.

Blogs and Social Media

I hope that you actively seek out these resources as you study and share the scriptures with your friends online. Also consider using traditional blogs, like I am doing here, as a way to publicly convey your feelings about various scriptures. Blogs can be a powerful means of transmitting and testifying of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. Through conversations you'll have on your blog posts with your readers, you'll be able to clarify doctrine and resolve doubts and misconceptions about our faith. Some will be cantankerous and will not be convinced or persuaded. That is okay. At least they're being exposed to what we really believe, and that is enough. The Lord will do the rest when that person is ready to soften his or her heart.

Getting Started

The Church has published a series of Getting Started guides. Post any questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.