Scripture study in the digital age

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A new online scripture index has revolutionized how users can study the scriptures in conjunction with the words of modern-day church leaders.

“We created this website so that people could easily access quotes from general conference and Journal of Discourses related to a particular verse in the scriptures,” said Stephen Liddle, the BYU information systems professor responsible for creating the index in its online format.

The index holds more than 100,000 scriptures references that are linked to general conference talks, the Journal of Discourses, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

“If I’m focusing on 1 Nephi 3:7, which I know has something to do with obedience, I can have the index show me the talks that deal with 1 Nephi 3:7,” Liddle said. “Now I can tie those together, and I can get some quotes from our leaders as they’ve used that verse in their thoughts.”

Dustin Graham, a recent graduate from the masters in information systems program, worked alongside Liddle to make the tool available on Android phones.

“Dr. Liddle made it so you could search quickly and efficiently to find the references you need, and we were able to put that in the android application and present that to users,” Graham said.

Graham said using the index helps him find authoritative quotes and make scriptural connections he would otherwise pass by.

“I’ve had a great response from my friends I’ve introduced it to,” Graham said. “It’s kind of fun when I’m preparing a talk or lesson for church and my friends are like ‘how did you find that’. I’ve got hundreds of talks that are related to these particular verses or scriptures.”

The index is available on the website scriptures.byu.edu as well as on Apple and Android smartphones. Liddle is currently developing the application specifically for iPads and Android tablets.

Richard Galbraith, a BYU professor of children’s intellectual development, personally went through and indexed all the scripture references that are found on the index.

“It was about a 20-year period,” said Galbraith about the indexing process. “It has been available for 6 years. There’s no money in it, it’s to help people worldwide.”

Galbraith and Liddle worked closely to make this tool available.

“Neither Steve nor I have any ties to the religion department. It’s just two guys who wanted to do something fun,” Galbraith said.

Liddle said Saturday is a popular day to use the index, and that web analytics show usage of the index generally doubles on the weekends. There have currently been more than 60,000 downloads of the Android version of the app and more than 30,000 downloads of the iPhone version.

Graham said they’re only beginning to reach the tip of the iceberg with the index.

“It might be nice to find a way to crowdsource the growth of the database,” Graham said. “It’s very comprehensive, but there is so much more content out there that can be indexed. Richard Galbraith is just one man.”

Up to this point, Galbraith has been the sole indexer involved with the site.

“It’s a digital iron rod,” Galbraith said. “Where members of the church can go to understand the scriptures in the light of addresses from Joseph Smith all the way to Thomas S. Monson.”

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