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Should we use electronic devices or paper scriptures at church?

When I was first called to be the Beehive Advisor in the Young Women Organization, I sent a letter to each of my girls letting them know I was excited to be with them.

I also asked them to bring paper copies of their scriptures to class. Most of them did so but perhaps I was asking for something unnecessary.

As I look at each girl, I see a future missionary, an example of faith and filled with the light of Christ. I see mothers and spouses, women who will stand in various positions in their community who will be a voice in support of families and the gospel. They need to know the scriptures. They need to know where to find the books and the messages from each prophet which has been recorded since Adam. When I ask them to open their scriptures to a specific book, I cringe a little when they ask if it is in the Bible or Book of Mormon. I was at that point once as well.

In the age of technology which we find ourselves, everything is available via electronic devices but there is something unique about reading the scriptures from a book sitting in front of you. I still have my scriptures that I was given at my baptism at the age of eight. I love these books! They are well worn. The pages are torn in places, the binding has long since broken, I have made hundreds of notes through them, underlining things which came to me as answers or having noted the words of a prompting. Every word inside these books are scripture to me, even the words which didn’t come pre-printed. I can’t do that with electronic scriptures. It isn’t the same.

The value of electronics

Value of Electronics

I found it interesting that in an address by President Spencer W. Kimball, he mentioned the value of electronics of the future. He said, “Our Father in heaven has now provided us mighty towers—radio and television towers with possibilities beyond comprehension—to help fulfill the words of the Lord that ‘the sound must go forth from this place unto all the world.’

“President David O. McKay, speaking in the October 1966 conference of the Church, said of the scientific discoveries of recent years which will make possible the preaching of the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people: ‘They stagger the imagination.’

“And further: ‘… discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings as to make men’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. … This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities.’

“Some authorities claim that this tiny miracle will be recorded by future historians as an event even greater than the invention of the printing press.” 1

Transistor Radios

In his day, the transistor radio and television broadcasts were a big move in the sharing of the gospel but today, we hold all the sacred words of the prophets, both ancient and modern, in the palms of our hands. We are reaching through closed doors by ways of the internet, sending the gospel to the nations by one small device whether it is by computer, phone or tablet. .

While I like paper scriptures better, the generations being raised are made for this day. They know how to navigate the digital age and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not one whit behind. Everything is becoming available digitally for easy access.

I don’t ask my Beehive girls to bring hard copies of scriptures anymore. What is truly important is that they are learning the gospel. If they want to do it digitally, then so be it. I only hope that we can all remember that we own the electronics, they should not own us or our thoughts and time. Let us avoid those distractions and “limitless perils” which President Kimball mentioned, focusing on the good we can do with them.

1 “When the World Will Be Converted”, President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, October 1974

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  • I really like when reading the Holy Bible in my actual paper book format, being able to quickly scan any footnote to see if it references something from the Inspired Version (JST). But in the electronic version, with every footnote printed in pale blue (not always that easy to see), I feel like I waste a lot if time looking it up to see if it is a JST. I would estimate that 95% of the time it is not. It would be so helpful, and seemingly easy to do, to have footnotes containing JST references printed in an obviously different color. I would love it, but am not sure whom to contact with my suggestion.

  • “I have made hundreds of notes through them, underlining things which came to me as answers or having noted the words of a prompting. Every word inside these books are scripture to me, even the words which didn’t come pre-printed. I can’t do that with electronic scriptures. It isn’t the same.”

    The Gospel Library app has a notes program that allows me to write an unlimited (so far) amount of thoughts and promptings, keyed to the inspiring verse. I can sync my phone’s app with so I can see and read my notes whether I’m on my phone or computer. And with the arthritis in my hands making it difficult to hold the weight of large print scriptures (my eyes aren’t young anymore, either), I have the best of both worlds. I still have and love my dog-eared, broken down but beloved Triple Combination, but over time, my personal Gospel Library app has also become a beloved set of scriptures, filled with my personal notes just as my printed set. The Church has provided an incredibly robust app that allows me to cross-reference at the touch of a finger and makes scripture study a breeze. I can change the print size according to need, which with my eyes, actually happens regularly. I can’t do that with the printed version. I’m glad you have discovered that paper isn’t the only way to study the Gospel and draw closer to the Savior. :-) As much as I love turning the page of a book, my phone’s version makes my life much better.

    • Kathy Fowkes
  • I have a form of dyslexia that makes reading from paper significantly more difficult than from an electronic screen. As a young man and missionary, I hated reading out loud and memorized many scriptures so I could simply quote them. When I got my first Palm Pilot my life changed dramatically. Suddenly I enjoy reading the scriptures and other books. I’ll read aloud in class now. I still have paper scriptures, but I rely on the digital ones for reading and study.

    • Kenneth Densley