This post is very late. It should have been published two weeks ago. The trouble is, I was so inspired as I wrote that I kept getting sidetracked by my own efforts to make my notes digital. I hope you feel inspired as well.
The Quick-start Method
Ready to move from never note-taking to regular note-taking without serious prep? This method is for you. Those of you who have read our first three articles (on Getting started, How to…, and Searching your Notes) are well on your way. The main thing to keep in mind is that your notes don’t have to be comprehensive… You just want to capture the things that matter TO YOU, and mark them in such a way that you will be able to find them again in the future.
First step: create a main notebook within Gospel Library notes or from your account on LDS.org (click “Notes” under “My Account” in the right-hand menu) . My main notebook is called “Personal Study.” It contains notes saved during my daily scripture study (which is about 90% of my notes). You might eventually consider making a notebook for general conference, or for a church class you attend or teach, etc. The idea here is that when you encounter something you want to save, you will probably remember where you were when you found it, and therefore narrow down your search by only notes saved during that time. But even if you don’t intend to make additional notebooks in the future, creating one main notebook now leaves your options open later.
If you don’t start out using notebooks all of your notes will be categorized as “Unassigned Items.” That’s fine if you never want to use notebooks in the future. If the day comes when notebooks look like a better option, however, and all your previous notes are unassigned, then you’ll either have to go back and put everything into a notebook, or run the risk of losing notes you INTENDED to put in a notebook to the vast ocean of unassigned items. The easiest option is just to start off with one main notebook and move on from there.
Next step: start using tags. Tags are by far one of the greatest tools available in digital note-taking. If you use them you basically create your very own topical guide without any significant effort. They are so easy. The way that people go wrong with tags is trying to tag every phrase of spiritual significance in every note you save. The key is to identify what doctrine or principle grabbed your interest and list that as a tag. You may also want to consider adding a tag or two that might help you find this item in the future. Let me give an example. I save a lot of Elder Holland quotes. He has such a distinctive voice and when I want to share something he’s said I almost always remember that it came from him. Therefore I will often tag Elder Holland quotes with the tag “Holland.” I do not create a tag with the authors name for every quote I save. Often I recall notes because of their unique content on a certain subject that’s caught my interest, with no recollection of who said them. I do make an effort to include the source and author’s name in the note itself, but only as a tag if they are memorably connected to the content in my mind.
That’s it for the quick method. Two steps!
Include Journaling and Personal History
The tag system that makes notes from scriptures study meaningful can also make notes from your life more useful and meaningful. Consider how powerful it would be to pull up a tag like “obedience” in your personal notes and see your own experiences and testimony saved alongside quotes and scripture highlights.
Now consider this: Create a notebook called “Patriarchal Blessing” that has a digital copy of your blessing inside it. Then record experiences and testimony, along with quotes and scriptures that illuminate principles in your blessing and show it coming to pass for you.
Collect “Outside Information”
An interesting side effect of meaningful scripture study is that you start to see the gospel playing out in all the world around you. Soon you start having insightful spiritual thoughts inspired by news articles, random biographies, or even works of fiction/fantasy. Consider collecting quotes and talks not available for annotating on LDS.org in a notebook of their own. It’s good to prioritize information, and recognize the distinct power of advice given through the authority of the priesthood. However, when we really have the spirit with us at all times, the spirit will testify of truth, even from non-traditional sources. It’s okay to record these kinds of impressions, and you would not be alone. For instance, Elder Larry Y. Wilson’s article “The Return of the King” relies heavily on insights and allusion from The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Create a highlighting system
For those of us who have studied the scriptures extensively without the use of technology, highlighting is a big deal. There are lots of scripture highlighting systems out there, and the good news is that your system can be converted directly into your digital note-taking strategy. In both Gospel Library and LDS.org notes you can pick a color when you highlight a passage, and the color you pick will be visible from either the mobile or desktop app. Underlining has also been made available and can be used in combination with highlighting if desired.
Advice from the top
There is no single correct way to study the scriptures. The paths to successful scripture study and meaningful note-taking are vast. Below are several examples from the mouths of our priesthood leaders. Their message is clear: As you cultivate your own methodology for remembering the lessons you have learned by the spirit, you and your families will be blessed.
Video: Advice for Studying the Scriptures – Elder Bednar (2:07)
Video: Marking Scriptures – Elder Oaks (1:41)
Video: O Remember, Remember – President Eyring (14:46)