A Powerful Research Tool
February 7, 2020
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,
- Collection notes
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.