When asked to read the scriptures, what do you do? In this and future columns, I’ll highlight different tools and strategies that may help you find new learning opportunities when reading the scriptures.
Today I’ll focus on the LDS Scripture Citation Index, available as an iOS and Andriod app as well as on PCs and Macs at scriptures.byu.edu. First, let's examine some of the ways people have tried to motivate themselves when it comes to reading their scriptures.
At Brigham Young University, I’m involved in a variety of efforts to develop tools and strategies to help people better engage the scriptures. Sometimes, given the context of BYU, I have to clarify my work. Students hear the word “engage” and they get really excited. Then they hear the word “scripture” and a bit more coaxing is needed.
I’ve heard a lot of stories about how people remember to read scriptures and what they do when they read scriptures. For example, someone created a computer program that locked his computer browser until he read an online scripture app for a certain amount of time.
In a class I’m teaching at BYU, students have explored developing a Web browser ad blocker tool that blocks ads and instead advertises reminders to read scriptures. It’s unlikely that someone who installs an ad blocker to block ads will then want scriptures advertised instead. Nonetheless, trying to insert scripture reading reminders into the context of people’s everyday lives is an interesting exercise.
I have other friends who lay their scriptures on their pillow. Sleeping is more difficult on a hard book. The idea is that the physical and visual reminder will help them read the scriptures before they go to sleep.
Another person who tried to stay awake while reading scriptures bought the large print edition. He would lie on his bed holding the scriptures above his face. If he fell asleep, he would drop the scriptures, which would land on his face, and, no surprise, wake him up. I know that the Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). I’m not sure that the Lord or Jeremiah had in mind imprinting a large edition of the Bible on our foreheads.
More seriously, one tool I find useful is scriptures.byu.edu. It was created by BYU professors Steve Liddle and Richard Galbraith and links and organizes scripture cited in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' general conference talks. New ways of engaging scripture are possible with this tool. For example, using “Set options and filter” (the gear image), it is possible to discover that the scripture cited more frequently than any other in general conference is Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Or, using the tool, one can search for all the scriptures cited by President Thomas S. Monson during his years of service as a general authority. At the top of that list is 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” This verse, which President Monson has cited more than any other scriptures (20 times, to be precise), seems to aptly describe his faithful, service-oriented life, mission, and ministry that began in his youth more than 65 years ago. How many more meaningful discoveries about the scriptures, general conference and LDS Church authorities might be made?
Here are a few more suggestions for how to make insightful discoveries with this tool:
On the upper left, click the gear image “Set options and filters.”
Choose start date of 1830 and end date of 2014.
Choose a speaker and mark “corpus” at “all.”
Sort by “Citation Frequency” and group by “Full citation.”
Click “Apply filter.”
A list of the 100 top cited scriptures (if that many have been cited by an author) will appear in descending order of most frequently cited by the speaker selected.
In the spirit of creating a community of learners, I encourage commenters to share below what they learn while trying this tool. Future columns may highlight additional study approaches using it. Happy engagement — in scriptures.
Taylor Halverson (Ph.D.s in biblical studies, instructional technology) is a BYU Teaching & Learning consultant, co-chair of the BYU Creativity, Innovation, & Design Group and travel leader to Mesoamerica and the Middle East. His views are his own.