The spread of the coronavirus has provided us opportunities to become creative in doing the Lord’s work. Heavenly Father has prepared us for these times by providing us with technology so we can continue serving others.
There are many ways we can accomplish that goal. Live streaming with Facebook or FaceTime for Apple users. Conferencing services such as Zoom, Skype, FreeConference, Google Hangouts, and GoToMeeting can be tools to enable us to reach out and serve. Each of the above has strengths and weaknesses.
It is not the purpose of the writing to compare the above but to focus on Zoom, one of the most popular conferencing services.
Zoom is easy to use, works on all operating systems and has a free version that will supply you with all the options that you will need.
After you have downloaded the app, tap on Sign Up to create a free account. Enter your email address and first and last name, tap on “I agree to the Terms of Service,” and you are set to go.
While each of the apps may be laid out differently, they all provide the same four functions:
New Meeting – start a meeting now
Join – to join a meeting someone as started
Schedule – to schedule a meeting for the future
Share Screen – to share your screen with others
Also, there are four options at the bottom or side of your screen:
Chat (may also be shown as Meet & Chat) – to chat with another person
Meetings – upcoming meetings you have created or are a participant
Contacts – a list of your contacts (you have the choice of connecting with your current contact list)
The person or persons you are meeting with do not need the app or have an account. They will receive an email from you providing them with simple instructions to join the meeting.
Once the meeting has started you will have various features to use during the meeting.
Mute – to mute the sound
Stop video – to close your camera so others participants cannot see you. To open the camera tap on Start Video
Share Content – a list of things you can share such as photos, a whiteboard, your screen and more. When you share your screen any app you open will be seen by the particpants.
Participants – allows you to control and invite particpants
More – various other settings
The best way to practice using Zoom is to call your companion. To avoid feedback make sure each of you are in different rooms, then start playing with the various options.
Zoom is an efficient and easy service with a quick learning curve. It enables you to continue teaching and ministering to others without leaving your home.
NB – Just as I finished this post reports came in that some Android users are reporting problems with reception when using Zoom. Currently the app has a bad rating in the Play Store and there is no reason, at this point, to know the reason. Ratings on the App Store remain high. If you are an Android user and have a problem, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latest edition of the Gospel Library (5.4.0) for iOS and Android has some exciting additions and improvements. The screenshots below are from an iPhone but are identical for Android.
In the Note Editor, undo and redo buttons have been added, which is a welcome addition. The bold, italics formats are now complete with the addition of underlining.
But there is more. It is now possible to indent and outdent a list, and text can be aligned left, center, right, and justified.
Another helpful feature is the ability to add a horizontal line and inserting a timestamp. The horizontal line will help in creating sub-divisions in a note, while the timestamp is useful when a note is updated, or a section is added.
Something that has always been available but has never discussed is using emoticons in Notes. An emoticon can convey nuances and can affect emotions, and they are fun to use. Tap on the smiley face that is to the left of the Space Bar and select the emoticon of your choice.
The list is extensive, so to see all of the formatting options on an iPhone in the portrait mode, slide the formatting bar to the left to see the remaining options. If you view the phone in the landscape mode, the entire bar can be seen.
The iPad in portrait and landscape mode shows all of the formatting options.
There has also been a massive increase in the maximum characters in a note. Up to now, the limit has been approximately 23k. This number was never an official limit, but a few years ago, through some of my contacts, I was given the above number. To be able to put 23k characters in perspective, I did a character count on a few conference talks and found they average 16-17k. Now the new limit of 500k characters can allow us to go crazy. This may seem extreme, but I have had incidents where I have copied and pasted an article that exceeded the previous limit forcing me to cut the material into sections.
Now for the most biggest news. The Note Editor now has hyperlinks. I am super excited to have hyperlinks now officially supported.
For several years I have pasted links from outside sources in my Library notes, and they worked (most of the time). But they were messy, long and not very attractive, and the biggest problem was while scrolling down a note, I would unintentionally touch the link and find myself outside of the Library, requiring me to jump back to the app. Now with hyperlinks, no mess, no fuss, no accidentally activating the link, and the link lowell, cool.
Some improvements also show up in the Search function. Search suggestions now appear based on where you are located in the Library. Here is an example:
Go to Scriptures/Book of Mormon.
Tap the Search icon at the bottom of the screen.
Type in the search field “faith” (without the quotes)
Tap the search suggestion “Find ‘faith’ in Book of Mormon.”
Here are the results
The “Find on Page” feature has been simplified. Now tapping on the option goes directly to the page instead of loading results in the search panel. The final improvement is the date modified shows for notes on the Notes tab in search results.
Another nice touch is a general search for any related notes that appears in results; the date modified will show under the title.
Excellent addition to the Conference talks is topic tags are added to the bottom of the talk. While a great addition, I wish they were at the top of the talk.
These topics are the same that are in the “Topics” column in the General Conference library.
The final improvement is in the Doctrine & Covenants. Links to Revelation in Context have been added to the sidebar. The link icon is the same as used for the recently added photos and video links.
All in all, the update is a welcomed addition. The Gospel Library continues to grow and provide a productive environment to study the scriptures.
There is a new kid on the block in the scripture study genre. ScriptureNotes is a research and note-taking web-based tool for use with the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; this includes the King James Version of the Old and New Testaments along with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
The developer Oak Norton has spent over sixteen years developing and using this web-based application and invites you to come and “Study the Scriptures the Way Your Brain Works.”
As mentioned, this is web-based so that it will work on all platforms. Norton suggests that for the best browser compatibility, you should use Chrome or Firefox.
The strength of the app is in three areas:
Side-by-side comparison of scripture chapters
Search capability and,
The scripture chapters open in panels, and you can have as many panels open as you want. In each panel, you can mark text using bold, Italics, underline, and color or highlight using one of six colors. Also, you can create a personal footnote.
The search capability is powerful because it uses advanced Boolean searches. Since most people are not aware of how to use the Boolean search functions, Norton provides in the FAQ section a Cheat Sheet.
Once you have completed a search and refined it, you can create a Collection Note. As the name implies it is a note for the search results.
The formatting options in the Collection Note is very generous and perhaps has gone overboard. There is the regular bold, italics, colors, etc., but also font selection, format blocking, and specials characters and much more, such as a file, photo, and video inserts. While this wide selection is welcome, I think for most people, it may be overwhelming.
If you use the application the Gospel Library provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you may wonder what is the difference between the Library and ScriptureNotes. In the FAQ section on the Home Page, there is an extensive comparison. I found the chart is well done, but it contained a few areas in which I did not agree.
For example, the comparison shows that tagging and categorizing a collection of verses are not available in the Gospel Library. However, the Gospel Library makes extensive use of tagging, and about categorizing, the Library uses Notebooks to categorize and create a personal Topical Guide.
But this should not distract from the overall comparison, which is extensive, and clearly shows the strengths and purpose of ScriptureNotes in comparing, searching, and notating.
Also, Norton makes it clear that he is not trying to replace the Gospel Library. At the end of the comparison, he states, “ScriptureNotes is not intended to replace the Gospel Library from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is meant to be a primary platform for superior studying and searching the scriptures, with many enhancements. As we grow, new features will be available that showcase this difference even more…”
The main objective of the site is to invite one to study the scriptures and not merely read them; this is a big plus.
There is nothing wrong with reading the scriptures, but in my opinion, the real value of the scriptures is being able to drink deeply by searching and pondering to arrive at a greater understanding of the Gospel; to change our hearts; to become a better person. I believe Norton’s site does just that.
The maintaining of the website and continuing development comes with a cost. There is a free option available that allows you to do comparisons and basic and advanced searches, but to make use of all the features, you need to subscribe to the Pro service.
The Pro version is $59.95/year. However, there is currently a “grand opening sale,” which brings the price down to $49.95/year. There is also a monthly payment option of $4.95.
I have been teaching how to study the scriptures for several years and have talked to thousands of people about studying the scriptures, and I have learned one lesson – scripture study is very personal and unique.
While ScriptureNotes is a powerful tool in studying the scriptures, experience has shown me it will not appeal to everyone, just as the Gospel Library does not have universal appeal.
While ScriptureNotes is an excellent tool, at this point, I do not know how much I will make use of it; It will take much more time using it to see how it will work into my scripture study and how I can correlate it with the Gospel Library.
In full disclosure, I am the author on the book on how to use the Gospel Library. The Gospel Library is my main app for studying the scriptures though not my only app. I use other resources such as the Citation Index, Logos Bible, Blue Letter Bible, etc. So I am, at this point, looking at ScriptureNotes as another arrow in my spiritual study quiver.
If there is a downside to ScriptureNotes it is that it is web-based and, with its expanding panels, requires a large screen, or better yet, multiple monitors. Using a smartphone or small tablet, while possible, is not preferable. I do most of my studying using my iPad Pro, and I found ScriptureNotes challenging to use with a smaller screen.
I addressed this concern with the developer, and he said that he is working on an app. Web-based services such as ScriptureNotes are becoming popular, but that does not, or perhaps should not, preclude having an actual app. Airtable is an excellent example of a web-based service that also offers an excellent app.
I look forward to seeing what kind of app Norton develops and hope that he will find a way to acquire the API for the Gospel Library so the two apps can work together.
I believe that ScriptureNotes does an excellent job in the three areas pointed-out above. I can see that Norton has put a lot of time and effort into making this a great service, and I look forward to seeing what he adds to the mix.
I strongly suggest you take some time with ScriptureNotes and see how it can fit into your scripture study.
A few weeks ago, Cedar Fort Publishing interviewed me about my book. The podcast is now available on your favorite podcast app. If you do not have a podcast app, try Overcast or Castro. Do not want to download an app but want to listen to the podcast? Go to Cedar Fort directly and listen.
The Gospel Library (available as a mobile app and online) has been upgraded to include three types of multimedia that you can access right alongside the scriptures. You can access images and watch videos right in the “Related Content” sidebar.
At least 20 web hosting providers have hastily notified customers today, Saturday, December 7, that they plan to shut down on Monday, giving their clients two days to download data from their accounts before servers are shut down and wiped clean.
This is not the latest news on the subject. It was a hot topic in September which was before I started posting news articles. This topic was brought to mind today while listening to a podcast, and I thought it is something you need to know about.