The words of ancient prophets have been written on metal plates, papyrus, clay tablets, parchment, stone, and paper since the beginning of time. The Lord has commanded His servants to record histories so they can be passed down from generation to generation. Recently, there has been a major transformation in how these histories are recorded and passed down. The age of painstakingly hammering reformed Egyptian characters into plates of brass is long gone.
We now live in a world where the entire volumes of the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, and every General Conference talk since April 1971 can fit on a device small enough to fit in your pocket. This idea would be incomprehensible to prophets of old, although much more convenient than trying to carry large tablets of clay to church.
The digital age has transformed how we obtain the words of church leaders. Within hours of General Conference ending, talks can be accessed digitally via the internet. But does this new technology really help? Is studying the scriptures on a mobile phone more effective than reading physical scriptures? Or maybe vice versa?
Convenience vs. Carrying Case
I remember the first time I downloaded LDS scriptures to a digital device (It was a Palm Pilot. If you don’t know what a Palm Pilot is, just think of an iPhone with a black and white screen that can’t make phone calls.) I was amazed that I could read scriptures at the drop of a hat in any place without having to lug my scripture case around. I would take it camping and it saved on space, allowing me to conveniently study anytime, anywhere. Having digital scriptures allows members all around the world to read the scriptures while you’re waiting for a bus, in between classes or during a lunch break.
With physical scriptures, it’s a little less convenient to carry them around. They can be heavy and even though English scriptures are available in four different sizes, they still take up space. However, I never have to worry about the battery running out, or dropping them in the toilet. Even though they take more space and are a little heavier, you can always count on your physical scriptures booting up and displaying in crisp, clear, high-definition.
Scriptures vs. Servers
As the church has put more emphasis on technology over the last few years, a scripture app has been created allowing members to electronically highlight and notate scriptures which then sync with their LDS.org account. Making the data saved in the “cloud” or on computer servers via the internet makes it so this information can be permanently saved and accessed from anywhere internet is available. In the event I lose my phone which has my scriptures, I can sync my new phone with my account and my notes and highlighting will be restored to the new phone. Pretty snazzy if you ask me.
Yet, I still like to read through old sets of scriptures from when I was in high school. It’s always interesting to see what I marked, what stood out to me, and the notes I put in the margins about my girlfriend. With digital scriptures, you only have one copy. Something you highlight now might not mean the same thing to you three years from now. People will often keep different sets of scriptures for the different phases of life. For example, high school, mission, post-mission, married, family, etc. It’s not quite as easy to keep a history of your scripture study with an electronic copy.
Distractions vs. Diving In
If you have ever taught a class in church with teenagers, you probably wish we still used papyrus. My experience goes something like this:
-“Put your phone away.”
-“I’m reading the scriptures.” (noises come from phone)
-“Can you read verse 7 for us then?”
-“Oh yeah, sorry. Where are we reading?”
Even when I have tried to study the scriptures on my phone, I am easily distracted by text messages, incoming emails, phone calls, and my game of Candy Crush. I have tried even putting my phone in airplane mode, but I still end up on Facebook during the middle of my scripture study somehow.
When I’m looking at a paper copy of the scriptures, the only thing that pops out to me are the words. I have found it much easier to truly “dive into” the scriptures when I leave my phone in another room and open a good ‘ol fashioned copy of the Book of Mormon. Although I do occasionally think of Clash of Clans when I’m reading the war chapters.
Screen vs. Sight
In digital format, electronic scriptures are available to members of the church worldwide where internet exists. This allows people (both members and non-members) affordable, easy access to the words of our prophets. Through the Gospel Library app, we can increase the font size for those that might be hard of sight and we can even have the scripture audio played straight from the app. This feature allows individuals to easily listen to the scriptures while commuting, cleaning, or exercising. These features can be especially useful to seniors that might be hard of sight or individuals that have difficulties reading.
On the other hand, electronics can be somewhat intimidating to older generations that might not be accustomed to using electronics. in which case physical scriptures are much easier to use. You don’t have to be a computer science major to open a book and start reading. Even though the church offers large print scriptures, the fonts can still be too small to be easily read. A pair of good reading glasses might be handy if you’re reading regular scriptures.
Digital scriptures and paper scriptures both have their pros and cons. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which works best for you. Personally, I prefer both. I believe they can be used in different settings depending on what you’re wanting to accomplish. Regardless of what medium you use, prophets from the beginning of time have counseled us to study the scriptures diligently and frequently. When all’s said and done, if you’re using either, you probably look good on paper.
Not sure which you prefer?