Writing It Down
The Lord has placed significant emphasis on writing things down.
Let’s take a look at Jacob 1:4, which says:
“And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.”
The people took great care to write down sacred preaching, great revelation, or prophecy. In other words, they wrote down things that were truly important which they had received through revelation. This would be good for us to do, also. Let’s take a look at 3 Nephi 27:23:
“Write the things which ye have seen and heard, save it be those which are forbidden.”
This direction comes from Christ after his personal appearance to the Nephites. He wanted them to write down their thoughts and experiences.
Why record all of this, though? Of what benefit is it? King Mosiah wrote down his words, as modern day Prophets do, so that all could have them as they held a great conference. Let’s read Mosiah 2:8–9:
“And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words. And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”
We receive our Prophet’s words twice a year in the Ensign right after General Conference.
Teaching Our Children
Although we are not all the Prophet of the Church, we will have posterity with which to share these things. In fact, this has been done all throughout the scriptures. A great example of this is in 2 Nephi 25:23 and 26:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
As we know, we are commanded to teach our children the Gospel. This direction is provided in D&C 68:25:
“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”
Lehi understood the same principle taught in Proverbs 22:6:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
In 2 Nephi 4:5, we read thus of Lehi and his family:
“But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.”
A great scripture marking system will help us write down our thoughts and experiences. It will also help us teach our children the Gospel and what we believe. We can see that this is of significant importance. This process has been in place clear back since the time of Adam, as we can read in Moses 6:5–6:
“And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.”
Would we not do well, then, to apply this principle in our own lives?
Our Unique Advantage
There is another thing that we have right now that has never existed throughout the entire history of the Earth. It empowers us to accelerate and enable our understanding of the scriptures in such a way that has never been possible before right now.
Let us consider a thought from Elder Tad R. Callister:
“The most knowledgeable farmer with a horse and plow is no match for an equally proficient farmer with a high-tech tractor at his command. The mathematician with a slide rule is no challenge to his colleague with a high-speed computer. A Galileo with a hand-held telescope will never discover the universe like a Galileo with the most advanced telescope at his disposal. The Lord must expect much more of us in gospel scholarship than he did of previous generations, because we have so much more at our disposal.” –The Infinite Atonement, Tad R. Callister, p. 21
Elder Boyd K. Packer has expressed similar sentiments:
“Elder Boyd K. Packer observed: ‘The older generation has been raised without them [the LDS edition of scriptures], but there is another generation growing up. The revelations will be opened to them as to no previous generation in the history of the world… They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forbears could achieve.’”
– Packer: Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, p. 9
Technological advancements give us as yet unfathomable abilities of both searching through and storing vast amounts of information. We might even be held responsible to use these capabilities for our spiritual growth and education. It may even be appropriate to consult D&C 82:3 here:
“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”
Can you think of the numerous advantages to using technology for our spiritual growth? Isn’t it neat to think of the endless ways we can do this? With vast amounts of data, searching, and storage space at our command, we are truly blessed with very powerful tools. Why not use them to help us grow spiritually?
Room for Improvement
In spending a great deal time considering different scripture marking systems, some of them seem to have certain drawbacks. Let’s take a minute and discuss some of those that have manifest themselves.
- Scriptures wear out – After a certain period of time, your scriptures get so marked up they look tattered and thoroughly used. It is no longer easy to make out what the notes mean or what you were thinking when you made the original note. There is no longer room for new ones. It would be nice to have a system where this would not occur.
- Lost scriptures mean lost notes – If you were to lose the set of scriptures in which you were keeping notes and marking, all those notes are gone for good. Not that I make a habit of losing my scriptures, but it would be nice to have a system that would take away this possibility.
- Difficult to share with others – Short of tearing out a page of your scriptures, many of the systems that there are do not make it easy to share a copy of a given note with other people. It would be great to have a system that allows for this.
- Forgetfulness – With some note-taking methods, you end up relying on your memory to try and recall what you meant when you wrote a note down. It’s not fun to come back to something for which you have a note written, and have no idea what it means. A great scripture study method could easily compensate for this.
- Skew of Meaning – Let’s say you write a thought out to the side of a verse that touched your heart one day. The next time you read through that passage, you may see that note. You may even subconsciously tell yourself, “I already know the meaning of that verse,” because of the notes that you have written out to the side. This is more common than you might think, and you may not even realize it’s happening. The idea is to have a clean slate where you are able to receive continued revelation, even on verses you may have read many times. A powerful and effective study system would allow you to keep your mind open for new revelation, even on verses that you’ve already read.
- Either too much or not enough structure – With many systems, you are either told exactly how to use the system, and it is in a rigid format (such as a book). The huge drawback with books are that they are linear. You read them front to back, and cannot access many pages or pieces of pages at once. You are tied into the structure of the book and cannot move things around as you want. With other systems, you really have no structure at all, and end up with a pile of unorganized notes. A great system would not be super rigid or completely formless with regards to structure.
- Storage and Retrieval of thoughts – How many times do you say, “Now, where did I have that note?” If you can write it down but cannot pull the thought back out of your system, how good is it really? A really great system would give you the ability to pull out thoughts and extract ideas in a myriad of different ways.
After years of conceptualization (and a considerable amount of programming), a solution has manifest itself that addresses all of the concerns previously noted. In some ways, this method should already seem familiar, being patterned somewhat after the system of footnotes found in our current standard works.
The concept is that you have your different thoughts and ideas and things you want to remember. Each one of these go into a study journal entry. You can tie each entry to a scripture or a list of scriptures. You can also tag each thought or entry with several keywords. Further, you can link one note directly to another note. This allows you to create a structure where ideas are tied together, rather than forced into one specific outline or layout.
Also, think about being able to share notes with others. For example, let’s imagine for a moment that I have a conversation with someone. We hit upon a topic for which I have recently created a note. I can quickly log into my study journal and easily share my note with them. They can then see my thought on the topic the next time they log into the system.
Each entry has a short description or title, along with a number unique to that note. After you fill out the entry, you can link scripture references to it. You open your scriptures each reference and write the number of the note right into the verse(s) that it relates to. You may wish to even jot down the short description or title of the note out in the margin or at the bottom of the page.
You can then add, edit, update, change, and share notes as you wish. You are free to study in any manner that suits you, whether by scripture, keyword, chronology, or topic.
Personally, it is easier for me to read and study printed material than it is to read and study from a computer monitor. For this reason, there is also available a method whereby you may print your entire Study Journal in one document. This allows you to have something you can take with you to your Sunday meetings, or with you on a road trip, or on a plane. This printout also provides several different layouts for your notes. It gives you one list in order by note number. The main printout is by order of books as found in the standard works, beginning with Genesis, and ending with the Pearl of Great Price. It also provides an indexed list of keywords or tags in alphabetical order.
There are a number of study methods that exist. Although they do work, there seems to be several areas in which they could drastically improve. For this reason, I would like to offer a solution in the form of a personal Study Journal which you can edit and change at will. The ability to print it also makes the Study Journal easier to use, study the Gospel, and perhaps give as a gift to someone else should that be appropriate.