How I Study the Scriptures

As is the usual case, Ardis Parshall wrote a wonderful post that inspired me to share a bit about how I study the scriptures.

I gave up studying physical copies of the scriptures about a year ago. The notes I’d write in a journal were tedious, and often I’d lose my thoughts before I could put the ink down on the paper. I decided that keeping my notes digitally was the best answer, and since i’d be using a computer to write, I concluded I might as well read them on the same screen. Here’s a screen-shot of what my study setup looks like:

View of my Scripture Study

The left side of my screen contains a plaintext version of the scriptures. I use this because I can have a greater control of the fonts and layouts for reading. I find that on my monitor, the smaller text of is straining to my eyes, and the colors and footnotes become distracting. Sometimes, I have a tab opened to the version so that I can check footnotes.

The next tab that I have open is for the LDS Scripture Citation Index which is a database of all the scriptures cited in general conference, journal of discourses, etc. This gives me a wonderful way to see what church leaders have had to say about particular verses.

Not shown, but always used when studying the bible, is another tab for The Blue Letter Bible, which contains many translations, concordances, and resources for biblical passages by verse.

In the right side fo my screen I have an Evernote window open. Before I describe why I use Evernote, I will explain the how. I like to keep my notes in a bulleted list because it helps me to understand the relation of my notes; the hierarchy is how I think. The top-most level contains the verse (or verses) number. The next level contains snippets of the verse text for which my notes apply. The next level contains my thoughts, observations, questions, along with cross-references of interest, and related quotes.

As to the why, I use Evernote because:

  • It keeps my documents in several locations. This makes the chance that I’ll lose them smaller than simply saving as word processor documents. These things are sacred to me, and I’d hate to lose them.
  • It uses simple standards. I keep these files in a rich text format, which is readable by any computer, anywhere. This means that if I ever needed to export these files and take them somewhere else, it wouldn’t be all that difficult.
  • I can access and edit from anywhere. Evernote has applications for many operating systems and platforms, as well as a web-only version. This means I can put these thoughts down anywhere. One caveate: you cannot currently edit rich text documents in the apps, but you can still append a plain-text version, then incorporate it at a later time.
  • It is deeply searchable. Besides from the ability to search the text, included pictures and PDF’s are OCR’ed and made searchable. For instance, if I’m in an institute class and take a picture of the powerpoint slide on King Benjamin, at a later date I can search for anything about King Benjamin and the picture will show up. That means that I can use my own notes powerfully to link information together. I have all of my past lesson plans in evernote, and so I already have a great database of quotes and information to aid in my scripture study.

Now, this may not be the best way for you to study. Still, I hope some of what I’ve shared can help. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I promise to reply!

  • Ben Spackman

    Nice. I’ll link to this when I put up my note-taking/Evernote posts. 

  • Aaron L. M. Goodwin

    I eagerly await it! 

  • Pingback: Use Evernote & Online Resources for Powerful Scripture Study | Mormon Life Hacker

  • Jeff VanDrimmelen

    I was thinking about this today. Do you think there is a way to import all of the scriptures directly into evernote so I could take notes there. One note per chapter. I looked around for some versions of the text broken down by chapter, but so far it seems I’ll have to parse them into individual chapters myself. It seems like you could write a script to do that. I’ll see what I can find and give it a try. I love Evernote. That way I don’t have to be online to study MY set of scriptures, and I can also easily create a new one after I read through it a couple of times.

  • Aaron L. M. Goodwin

    I have actually done this before, although it ended up not being as useful to me as I had imagined. What I did was scrape which has an HTML version of the scriptures that are organized by one page per chapter, and then loaded the HTML files into Evernote.

    Let me know how it goes. :-)