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New scripture tool

Web site links verses to general conference talks

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Finding General Authority quotes to reinforce a favorite scripture for a family home evening lesson just got easier, thanks to a new Internet Web site. Actually, the site, created by a team headed by BYU professors Richard Galbraith and Stephen Liddle, could be beneficial in preparing for a variety of Church lessons or in personal gospel study.

Called "LDS General Conference Scriptural Index," the resource lists every scripture cited in general conference for the past several decades, according to Brother Galbraith. The Web site address is: scriptures.byu.edu.

Brother Galbraith, who describes himself as "an average member of the Church who likes the scriptures," had the idea of listing every scripture that has been used by a General Authority in a general conference talk. For technology expertise, he went to Brother Liddle, an associate professor in the School of Accountancy and Information Services as well as academic director of the Kevin and Debra Rollins Center for eBusiness at BYU.

The result is a Web site where a person can select a scripture to find out what General Authorities have used it in a general conference talk.

For example, if the scripture were 1 Nephi 3:7, a search would begin by clicking on the Book of Mormon tab on the left window of the three windows on the site's opening page. The Book of Mormon can then be opened to 1 Nephi and then to chapter 3. Next to the reference for verse 7 — which, if clicked, would open that scripture in the right-bottom window from the "scriptures" in the Church Web site, www.lds.org — would be listed the 75 times that scripture has been used in general conference from Elder Marion G. Romney in 1942 to President Thomas S. Monson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 2002. A quick glance would also indicate that Elder Marvin J. Ashton used 1 Nephi 3:7-8 in 1987.

The notation of the use by President Monson in 2002 is: (02-O,67,TSM). That means that President Monson used the scripture in 2002, the October general conference, and the scripture is cited on page 67 of the conference issue of the Ensign. (A key to the abbreviation of speaker names is under a tab next to the listings of the Standard Works on the opening page.) With that information, a person could dig out the November 2002 Ensign, turn to page 67, and read the context in which President Monson used the scripture.

But through Brother Liddle's technological expertise, it can be even easier than that. All references have been linked to the Ensign conference issues online at www.lds.org. So clicking on the speaker's name will open the talk in the upper right window. And for speakers who reference scriptures in footnotes at the bottom of their talks, Brother Liddle has programmed the scripture references to appear in square brackets in the body of the talk so they can be quickly identified.

For general conference talks delivered prior to the beginning of publication of the Ensign in 1971, the scriptures are referenced to the page number in the Improvement Era conference editions. The goal is to put the Improvement Era conference reports online in the future, Brother Liddle said. But for now, a person could take the reference from the Web site and, by finding access to the magazine, look up the page with the scripture's usage.

For those who prefer their information in hard copy, there is a mechanism at the site to print out all the scripture listings with the general conference talks referenced.

Brother Liddle said the Web site is very dynamic, with new ideas being instituted constantly.

"We hope that people who come to this site will let us know what we can do to make it a more usable utility," he said. "If people say, 'This would be great if. . . .' We would like to know what comes after the 'if.' "

As it is, exploring the site can be an adventure. There are various filters and options that open countless possibilities for searches. Scriptures can be searched by speaker and by date. So trends in usage of scriptures can be discovered. Individuals can see what the General Authorities have said about their favorite scriptures. Or, they can find out which scriptures a particular General Authority uses.

But, Brother Liddle said, "We hope this isn't gimmicky to people. We hope that they actually learn something from it."

Brother Galbraith, a professor in the BYU Department of Marriage, Family and Human Development, said he undertook the project because of his love of the scriptures and his desire to make them more useful to others. He went through all the general conference talks printed in the Improvement Era and the Ensign and identified all the scriptures cited. He said that was a little more challenging in early years when citations weren't as carefully referenced as they are now. When everything was in the database, he reviewed the information and verified the page numbers of the citations in the magazines were correct.

One result Brother Galbraith said he would like to see from the Web site is leading young people to discover "pearls of earlier Church leaders." They can now easily find out what apostles and prophets from half a century ago said about certain scriptures as well as what more recent leaders have said.

Brother Liddle said the research project for the Web site was supported by BYU's Kevin and Debra Rollins Center for eBusiness and is based on its server. He added that all links to talks and scriptures are to the official LDS Web site except for references to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, which is the BYU Web site's own version.

E-mail: ghill@desnews.com