Technology and Gospel Study

I’m giving a presentation tonight in Relief Society about how we can use technology to enhance our studies of the scriptures.  While preparing for this I came across a TON of awesome resources that I think could benefit anyone trying to get more out of their scripture study, or even just finding time to do it!  So I decided rather than printing off a pretty handout that most people would lose or forget or just throw away I’d post the things I’d found on my blog where not only the sisters in our ward could see them but also anyone else who could use this information.

Many people say that technology shouldn’t change the way we study the scriptures and that these new things will never replace a good old pen and paper and a hard copy of the scriptures.  They may be right, but in my personal opinion, the way we use the scriptures will be, and ought to be, changed because of the technology we’ve been blessed with.  The church has provided us with countless incredible resources that allow us to make better use of the scriptures than ever before.  Even if you don’t ever intend to abandon your hard copies of the scriptures, you should be aware of the ways you can be using the electronic resources to help you in your scripture study.

What things can I use to help me with my study of the scriptures?

The technology that can help us with our scripture study is everywhere and on so many different platforms.  Your computer, cell phone, mp3 players, iPad, Kindle and many many other devices can all help make your scripture study more convenient and meaningful.

But all of this technology is too expensive!

It’s true that there are many technologies that are still cost prohibitive.  Kindles, iPads and other eBook readers are still emerging technologies and it will be a few years before they are at a price point that most people can afford.  Similarly while smart phones are becoming more affordable it will still be awhile before they are everywhere.  However, mp3 players can now be found for less than $20!  Most people already have a computer in their homes anyways.  If you have a computer you can make use of most of the resources out there.  Plus, with the exception of one program on this list every single one of the services I list below is absolutely free.  So don’t let perceived price restrictions keep you from making the best use of the resources available!

What’s a podcast and how do I use it?

Podcasts are like a radio programs that you can download and listen at any time.  They are updated on a regular basis with new content.  The advantage of a podcast is that you can set up a program like iTunes or Juice to automatically download new episodes when they become available.  You can then listen to the programs on your computer or load them onto an mp3 player so you can listen to them on the go.

What’s an RSS feed and how do I use it?

RSS feeds are similar to magazine articles, except in electronic format.  Instead of receiving a physical paper magazine however you will have to use what’s called a “feed reader” to receive the new articles.  My favorite feed reader is Google Reader because it seamlessly integrates with a lot of other services that I use.  To use Google Reader simply create an account with Google and then go to the Google Reader page.  You can then subscribe to feeds you wish to follow by clicking the “Subscribe” button and entering in the URL of the feed you wish to follow.  If you use Firefox you can also click the “add to google reader” button when you are at a feed you wish to follow.  Once you’ve done that you can read any updates to the sites you wish to follow by visiting Google Reader and all of the new articles will be there ready for you to read!

How do I create my own blog?

Depending on your level of comfort with computers I would recommend either Blogger or WordPress.  Blogger is extremely simple to use but has limited functionality, whereas WordPress is what this site is built on.  It is extraordinarily powerful and still very simple to use.  All you need to do is go to either one of those sites, create an account, and start writing!  You can then share the link to your new blog with friends, family or whoever you would like.  You can also mark your blog as private so that only you can view the things you write.  It’s totally up to you!

Study Resources

These are resources that will help you to study the gospel.  They range from the simple to the complex and everywhere in between.

  • Scriptures online: All of the standard works are available online.  From here you can search the scriptures, read specific chapters, even use it to listen to chapters online!  – http://scriptures.lds.org/ (if you want to see the newer version of the online scriptures you can also see that here – https://beta.lds.org/scriptures?lang=eng)
  • Scripture study helps – http://scriptures.lds.org/en/helps/contents
  • General Conference: All of the general conference talks are available online, now within 4 hours of being broadcast!  You can get the text, audio or video from this website – https://beta.lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng
  • Institute manuals: The Church has provided the manuals for the Institute classes online for you to read.  These are very helpful if you want to gain a deeper understanding of different gospel topics – http://institute.lds.org/courses/
  • BYU Free Independent Study courses: BYU has provided a number of free online classes that you can take, and many of them are scripturally based.  While these won’t get you any credit towards a degree they can help you to have a more structured and deeper study of the scriptures. – http://ce.byu.edu/is/site/courses/personalenrichment.cfm
  • Seminary website: This website contains many great resources for seminary students and their parents, including manuals, study guides, reading charts and even tools to help you learn the scripture masteries! (my mom has been a seminary teacher for the past several years and she is a huge proponent for the method that they use to help learn scripture masteries) – http://seminary.lds.org/
  • Mobile Applications: If you have a mobile phone, iPad, Kindle etc this site will help you find the church created tools to put these technologies to use helping you study your scriptures.  – https://beta.lds.org/tools/mobile-apps?lang=eng
  • Subscriptions: The church puts out many podcasts, RSS feeds and email newsletters that are uplifting and informative.  You can find a full list of them here  – http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&vgnextoid=cdd1f9bd8b7d4110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD

Sharing and Note taking Resources

The best part about reading your scriptures is the cool insights you gain into the gospel.  But once you have those insights what do you do with them?  I personally don’t like marking scriptures with colors because I find it gives me a bias when I’m reading through the next time and I’m more likely to just remember old insights rather than gain new ones.  But everyone has their own style.  Here are some ways you can record and share the insights you gain with different tools.

  • Online markable scriptures: I haven’t used this personally but if you are looking for a way to have an electronic, markable set of scriptures I have seen this site come highly recommended – http://www.dearscriptures.com/
  • Google Documents: One of my friends noted that she uses Google Documents to share thoughts on scriptural topics with her husband.  It helps them have a place to record their thoughts when they have scripture study so they have them for later without making their scriptures messy, and it lets them collaborate on their topics – http://docs.google.com
  • Microsoft OneNote: If you want a great program to help you organize your notes I highly recommend OneNote.  It allows you to create different notebooks with sections for taking notes.  For example you could create a notebook that was called “Doctrine and Covenants” and then inside that notebook have a section for thoughts on Joseph Smith, and another section that had places the pioneers went.  Whatever helps you to keep things organized so you can find them later – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/
  • Blogging: My preferred method for taking notes on my scripture study is to post about them in my blog.  It makes it so that I can search for my thoughts later, and share them with other people.  It’s a great missionary tool and it can help other friends have things to ponder on.  My mom and I have had many many conversations about things I have posted in my blog that have helped her with seminary lessons or other things she’s dealing with.  Plus, I get feedback from her, and anyone else who chooses to comment on the things that I write. – http://blogger.com or http://wordpress.com or http://LDSJournal.com
  • Facebook: Similar to writing a blog you could also post your thoughts as a note on Facebook.  Although, my preferred method is to write my thoughts in a blog and then import those blog posts as notes on facebook.  It just gives you another way to share with other people and get their input and insights as well – http://facebook.com
  • Twitter: For those of you who are unfamiliar with twitter it is a relatively stupid service that allows you to post 140 character posts to your friends and the world on whatever topic you choose.  However, as stupid as it is, I really have fun using it.  One of the best uses I have found for twitter is to help me take notes during General Conference.  I like posting the quotes that I found and like with the tag #ldsconf and then follow the #ldsconf tag.  Anyone on twitter who is watching conference and wants to participate in the conversation can follow that tag and add their own input.  One of the really cool things during this last conference was that the #ldsconf tag was trending (meaning it was one of the top 10 topics on twitter at the time) which meant that there  were hundreds of people sharing their thoughts on conference with the world, and members and non-members alike had a chance to see what was being taught by our leaders. – http://twitter.com
  • ScriptureLog for WordPress: This is a plugin that I found for WordPress that allows users to basically install the scriptures on their blog and then make notes as comments that they can share with others.  I really like the concept but it’s not quite what I’d like.  I’m hoping that a future modification will allow for me to make a separate blog post and then just associate that post with the scriptures that I choose.  Someday when I have more time (which is probably not for about 20 years or so) I’d really like to make that modification so that I could use this plugin myself.  It’s really well thought out and very cool. – http://scripturelog.com/download/

Multimedia Resources

These are all resources that you can either listen to or watch to help you with your gospel study.  The best part about listening to scriptures and scripture discussions is that you can do it while you do the dishes 🙂

  • Audio scriptures, church magazines etc: The church has a HUGE number of audio programs that are available from their website.  This includes the full version of the scriptures, General Conference, the church magazines, Jesus the Christ, and some church music. – http://lds.org/mp3/newarchive/0,18615,5249-1,00.html
  • The Mormon Channel: There are other uplifting programs that the church produces that are available to stream, download or subscribe to that are played on the Mormon Channel.  – http://radio.lds.org/eng/
  • Scriptures as a Podcast: This is another service I have yet to use myself, but basically you can create your own customizable podcast that will send you the audio version of the scriptures you’d like to study each day so that you can listen to them without having to look them up or find what you’re looking for.  Very cool. – http://www.scripturespodcast.org/Main.asp
  • BYU Broadcasting: Everything that is broadcast on any of the BYU TV or radio channels  is available on their website.  You can download a lot of the programs or watch them online – http://www.byub.org/
  • Mormon Messages: Each week the church creates and posts an inspiring video on YouTube.  I have to be careful when I watch them because I always feel the Spirit and end up crying.  They are incredibly well done and very inspiring.  You can subscribe to their feed in a feed reader so that you see the updates automatically – http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonMessages

Lesson Preparation Helps

I’m not going to write something about each of these since they are all pretty similar in what they provide.  There are a lot of lesson ideas, crafts, handouts, art, reading charts, relief society activities, coloring pages, scripture games, fhe lessons… you name it on these websites.  They are incredible resources to have whether you’re a mom or a teacher or just a member of the church 🙂  A word of caution with them though, while they have fantastic lesson plans already put together they should be always used as supplements to your preparation with prayer and study, not as a replacement for the spiritual preparation.

If you have any other resources that you think I should add to these lists or other information that you think would be helpful for people seeking to use technology to enhance their scripture study please leave me comments below!

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