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.
It is essential to understand the meaning of a word. In the Gospel Library, you can select a word, then tap on “Define” and a dictionary with the definition of will appear.
Sometimes, a quick read of the definition will suffice, but there are times that you will want to place that definition in a “Note” for future reference.
The “Copy” command does not work within the popup definition. Thus, requiring you to remember the definition, and then type it into a “Note.”
This is not a problem if the definition is simple. However, if the definition has several meanings then you are left with having to go outside of the Library, open a dictionary, find the definition and then copy it, go back to the Library, select the word again, tap on “Note,” tap on the body of the “Note,” then tap on paste.
Here is an easier and quicker way. In this example, I am using the app Drafts. It has a free version which will serve our purposes for this exercise. You can also use Apple’s built-in app “Note,” however, Drafts is far superior. (see my note about Drafts at the end of this post).
Here are the steps:
Create a split screen with the Library on one side and Drafts on the other.
Select the word you want to be defined.
Hold your finger on the definition until it appears to lift off the page.
Keeping your finger on the definition drag it into Drafts, then lift your finger.
Close the dictionary.
There are now two options:
In the Library, tap on “Note.”
Select the text in Drafts and drag the text into the “Note.”
In Drafts tap on the Actions menu, in the upper right-hand corner.
Tap on the Action “Copy.”
In the Library tap on “Note,” then tap on the body of the “Note.”
Tap on Paste.
The above becomes even easier if you place Drafts into your “Dock,” then you can drag Drafts into the right or left of the screen to create a split-screen.
Everyone that has an iPhone or iPad should download Drafts. It is an award-winning, indispensable, and powerful app (did I add enough adjectives?) that will simplify your digital life. Click here to learn more.
While at the RootsTech convention in Salt Lake City I saw an interesting interactive display. People were encouraged to take a skein of yarn provided in bins located at the left of the exhibit, then tie and connect all the data points that apply to them. The purpose was to show how all of us are interconnected.
As I looked at the exhibit, I thought of how it is an excellent example of the Tag function in the Gospel Library. Tags create personal connections to the principles, concepts, and messages found in the Gospel Library. The relationships are unique to my life experiences, circumstance, and knowledge of the gospel.
A frequent question I receive is regarding tags in the Gospel Library. The issues vary, but the most common are “What are tags?” and “How Do I use them?”
The term “tags” comes from the social media use of hashtags, which derived its name because of the use of a “#” before a word. A hashtag serves the same purpose as an index in the back of a book; the aim is to point to information found in the book. An index is arranged in alphabetical order and shows the page or pages where the data can be found.
Here is a partial list from an index in the book “The Sketchnote Handbook” by Mike Rohde. (an interesting book I recently finished reading).
About this book, xiv
Active listening, 46
Backup supplies, 58, 79
Balara, Matt, 91
Caching ideas, 25, 46, 48
The “Index to the Triple Combination” found in the Gospel Library and hard copies of the Triple Combination replaces pages numbers with scriptural references and often additional information. For example, in the hard copy of the scriptures the first entry is:
Aaron – brother of Moses (see also Bishop; Priesthood, Aaronic: BD)
D&C 8:6-9 gift of A.
The same information is found in the “Index to the Triple Combination” in the Gospel Library but is set up a little differently. You first locate the keyword, then tap on it for the information.
The index in the Gospel Library is far superior to the one in the hard copy of the scriptures because of the links. In the hard copy, under Aaron, it recommends also seeing the entry for Bishop. In the Gospel Library “Bishop” is a link, so instead of flipping through pages, one can quickly be taken to the entry “Bishop;” this is indeed a time-saver. This is why I recommend for those that prefer to use a hard copy of the scriptures for their study, to also use the Gospel Library in conjunction with their hard copy.
Now, back to Tags. Tags provide a way for you to build your own personal index to the scriptures (along with any other material found in the Gospel Library).
Here is a list of the first page of my Tags. Tapping on the first entry “Aaronic Priesthood” brings me to the next page.
Tags in the Gospel Library can be listed alphabetically, or by Count or Most Recent. Here are my tags sorted by Count. Notice I have 127 items that have been tagged with Prayer.
To create a Tag, select a word or some text, tap on Tag and give the Tag a name. Unlike hashtags in social media, the Tag in the Gospel Library can be more than one word. For example, in social media a hashtag would look like this “#baptismsforthedead,” in the Gospel Library it can be “Baptisms for the Dead.” (without the quotes)
You can have multiple Tags for the text you selected. For example, I have Helaman 3:35 tagged with Fasting, Humility, Prayer, and Sanctification.
You can create Tags for any material in the Gospel Library including, Conference talks, Come, Follow Me material, videos and etc.
Hopefully, this has cleared the air for those that question the use of Tags in the Gospel Library. So start tagging.
Multi-screens provides me quick and easy access to those items that I will be using while studying “Come, Follow Me.”
I thought it would be helpful to share with you what I have included in my Multi-screens and the order they are arranged:
Come, Follow Me lesson
Bible Maps Index
Important to note that Multi-screens are not synced across devices, so you will need to set up the Multi-screens for each device you use.
More About Notes
In “Come, Follow Me,” for February 4-10, there is a chart comparing Jesus Christ to you.
If you are using a smartphone in the portrait position, the chart does not look very much like a chart. If you turn your phone to the landscape position you will see the actual chart. In either position the results will be the same when following the instructions below.
The first column of the chart asks a question about Jesus Christ, followed by the answer.
The second column are questions about you and allows space for you to answer the questions.
This chart can be copied and pasted in a Note in the Gospel Library. The actual chart format is not retained, however, the text is kept intact, and in the order shown in the chart. Once copied, you can type in the answers to your questions. Here is a comparison between the chart and the Note.
Notice in the Note to make it easier to read, I have bolded the questions and italicized the answers.
As always, I hope that you find the information of help in your study of the scriptures, and encourage you to share what works the best for you.
At the beginning of each weeks lesson it encourages you to “record your impressions.” There are several ways in which that can be accomplished.
Write, using a pen and paper, in a journal
Write, using a pen and paper, in a journal, then scanning it to a digital format
Write in the built-in Note app in your digital device
Write in a digital journal
Write a note attached to the scripture in the Gospel Library
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the critical issue is retrieving the information in the future, so option one is not an option because of the difficulty searching through volume of notes.
Option 2 and 3 are workable but separate the impressions from the scripture.
Options 4 and 5 are the best options, if option 4 is a journal created in a Notebook in the Gospel Library.
For example, while reading Luke 4:14 you receive an impression about the “power of the spirit” and how it applies to your life. You select the verse, then create a Note and record your impression. Before saving the Note you also, tap on the “Add to Notebook” icon, and create a Notebook on “ The Spirit,” then save the Note.
Now you have your insight attached to the scripture and have created a Notebook about the Spirit, which will reference the scripture and the note you created.
To make this method even better. You can copy the impression recorded in the Notebook into your digital journal. The journal would be an excellent way, to pass on to your posterity, your insights, and provide an excellent backup. As in previous post I have mentioned that I highly recommend the Day One journal.
For you use iOS and have the Day One app, the copy and pasting process can be automated.
Tap on the menu icon in the upper left-hand corner (the three horizontal dots), tap on “Share,” tap on Day One (you may have to swipe to the left to find it). If you have more than one journal, you will need to pick the journal you want the note sent to. You can also add tags at this point, then tap on Save.
To make the above process even faster, I have created a shortcut which will avoid having to pick the journal you want to send the Note to, and will add any tags you use.
You can download the shortcut here. Remember to download the shortcut you must be using your iPhone or iPad.
Now, in the future, when you want to review your impressions on the “spirit,” you can either do a search in the Gospel Library or go directly to your Notebook on the subject.
As always, I am very interested in your feedback and other methods that you use to record your impression.
A friend just reached out to me, and it caused me to start thinking about taking notes and revelation again. My friend, Paul Porter, had a great influence on my life, although on be knowns to him.
I will never forget the time he told me that he has his small notebook and pen ready during Sacrament meeting so that he could write any revelation as it came. That statement weighed heavily on my mind for some time. I am a slower learner, so it took me a while to go to his way of thinking, but now, I am a convert; it has enriched my life.
Paul uses actual pen and paper, and I use an Apple Pencil and my iPad, but the results are the same. I have talked in a previous post about taking notes and the reason that I use the digital form. In that post, I mentioned that there are several good digital notebooks available and that the app of my choice was Notability.
I have now changed from Notability because its competitor, GoodNotes, just came out last week with a new version. I always preferred GoodNotes but used Notability because it had a universal search of handwritten notes, but now GoodNotes not only added extensive searching but a great stacked filing structure among many other significant changes.
As I study the scriptures, I have GoodNotes open and take notes and draw out ideas as they come to me. Then if needed the handwriting is converted to text and copied in a note attached to a verse.
Currently, Notability and GoodNotes are only for iOS, but there are some excellent alternatives for Android. If you have a Galaxy Note9, you already have a built-in note-taking app and a handy pen.
Regardless of the method you use, there are significant benefits to handwriting notes. Give it a try.
I have created an iOS Shortcut which prompts you regarding your experience in studying the scriptures. It will ask if you read, listened to or studied the scriptures, and then a short series of prompts applicable to the choice you made will pop up. Then your responses will be recorded in a Day One journal called “Scripture Study” and will also create an appropriate tag (Read, Listened or Studied).
You can change the name of the journal if you prefer to another journal. With some modification, this can also work with other journaling apps. I apologize to Android users but there is not equivalent shortcut available.
Below is the link to the Shortcut. Remember you need to be using your mobile device for the link to work. Shortcut
Come, Follow Me” Sunday School lesson for December 31 – January 6
The first thing mentioned in the lesson is to record your impressions. These impressions are revelations. (impressions, revelations, and notes will be used interchangeably in this article.)
What is the purpose of recording revelation? When you record revelations you are showing that you treat them as special, sacred and of great importance. Also, the very act of recording clarifies the thought and helps in remembering what you received. Of equal importance, it is a record of your past, so in the future they can be a reference for you and guide for your prosperity.
Where to Record Your Impressions? There are several methods for recording your revelations.
Pen and paper For many, a good pen and some paper, invites one to write. Having the paper bound in a journal adds to the joy. There is, a benefit to hand-written notes, studies have shown that hand-written notes help you to remember what you have written.
The downside of pen and paper is it requires good penmanship, which is no longer prized in our society. Also the ability to find something years later is a very time-consuming task, and lastly notes can easily be destroyed by fire and flooding.
Recording Digitally Recording digitally has many advantages. I believe the biggest one is you can find something quickly via the search function. Second to that is the ability to backup copies in various locations which helps to prevent loss as a result of some disaster.
If you like to hand-write your notes there is an app for that. Using a tablet and special pen and one of the several note taking apps you can hand-write a note in a digital journal. Also, many of the apps can also convert the hand-writing to text if you would prefer to preserve the note in printed form, thus satisfying both sides of the coin.
Recording a digital note can be typed or through dictation. Dictation takes a little practice because you also have to indicate where to place the punctuation, but the rewards are great once you learn how to do it.
In addition to typing a note you could also create a voice recording or a video. The downside to these formats are locating a specific note, so using them to record revelation would not be the best of use of either one. However, I do believe they have their place. Recording your testimony or sharing some events in your life as a audio or video recording would greatly be prized by your prosperity.
How I Record My Notes It is my opinion that recording impressions in a digital format is superior to using pen and paper. So the question for me becomes which app do I use to record my impressions.
I use the Gospel Library for all of my scripture studies. If I get an impression while studying the scriptures and the impression is related to particular word or verse, then I record it in a Note linked to the text and add a Tag or Tags. In the future, I can easily locate the note through the Search function or using the Tags.
In general, if the revelation is not related to the scriptures I use my digital journal “Day One.” For example, if the impression is about something that I need to change in my life I would record it in my journal. The Day One journal has excellent Search and Tag functions, in addition to many other features.
However, there are times that the revelation and verse are loosely related. In that instance, I record in Day One and create a Day One link and copy that link to a Note in the Gospel Library. I then add a brief explanation in the Gospel Library Note about the revelation.
Sometimes I also copy the scripture to my Day One journal. For iOS users, I created Shortcut the cleans up the copied scripture before pasting into the journal. For more information, and to download the Shortcut go to “iOS Shortcut for Day One Journal.
(NB: Currently links to apps outside of the Gospel Library are problematic. The link will work, but you will first get a notice that says, “Cannot Open Content.” For the link to work do the following. Place and leave your finger on the link. The notice will appear, ignore it and continue to keep your finger on the link for a few seconds, then release your finger and a menu will open, then tap on “Open”.)
It is beyond the scope of this writing to talk about the features of Day One. There are many digital journaling apps available for all systems, however, Day One is, in my opinion, the best. It is available for iOS and Android.
For hand-written notes that can convert to text, I suggest you take a look at “Good Notes” or “Notability.” I have used both. The one you pick will be according to your personal preferences. Google “Good Notes vs. Notability” to find a review comparing the two or take a look at this article.
Regardless if you use pen and paper or a digital form of note taking. It is important to write your impression even if they do not appear to be earth shattering. Remember revelations come line upon line, a seemingly little thought can over time, bring great results.
So, open your scriptures, get your writing instruments open, and be prepared for the kind, thoughtful advice and help that will follow.