"The closer the members come to the scriptures and the more frequently they consult them, the safer they will be in the world in which we live."
President Boyd K. Packer
Millennia ago, prophets felt a sense of mission as they laboriously inscribed God's word on papyrus or plates of brass or gold. Today, with that same sense of mission, the Church has translated and published those inspired writings around the world to make them more available to members.
And now, for the first time, the Church has placed all the scriptures and helps on a CD-ROM, with a frugal price, powerful search capacity and a design for first-time users.
"It is the most user-friendly software I have ever used," said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve. "This CD-ROM Standard Edition of the Scriptures was developed under the guidance of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve," he said. "That effort was supervised by the Scriptures Committee under the Priesthood Executive Council."
He added that "the work was done by a team of devoted, highly capable members of the Church who carried out the development work as a Church assignment."
The capacity of the device is amazing, said Elder Scott, a member of the Scriptures Committee. All the footnotes and cross references are hyperlinked.
"It contains the full, authorized, copyrighted versions of the four Standard Works in English with all of the accompanying study aids, such as the Bible Dictionary, the Topical Guide, all of the chapter headings and footnotes, Guide to the Scriptures, selections from the Joseph Smith Translation and maps and photographs," he said.
"This Standard Edition also provides the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price in French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, including the Guide to the Scriptures, all of the chapter headings and footnotes, selections from the Joseph Smith Translation, and maps and photographs."
Most English-speaking members will not be familiar with the CD-ROM's Guide to the Scriptures, he said. This study aid was developed after the printing of the English version of the LDS scriptures.
"When the translations went forth for the major languages, it was deemed important to combine the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide into a resource that was more compact for translation into those other languages," explained Elder Scott. "The result is a very strong study aid for studying the scriptures. It has been available in the other languages, but it is the first time it has been made available in English."
He said the Guide to the Scriptures includes brief explanations of key doctrinal concepts in addition to important scriptural references, and that it is not available elsewhere.
Elder Scott thanked those who prepared the CD-ROM. "We want to express our gratitude to the anonymous team of very devoted, highly capable members of the Church who actually did the development work to provide this valuable resource to the scriptures."
He said the CD-ROM works with, but does not replace, the books of scripture.
While scriptures in the computer can be used to accumulate lots of references for a message or study of a given topic, "For me, the CD-ROM is not the best resource. It will not replace the book."
The single CD-ROM loads automatically on most computers and opens to a screen where a search can begin. But consult the Help Section before starting, suggested Elder Henry D. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve, also a member of the scriptures committee.
"The Help Section helps," he said. "I tried at first without it and had some difficulty, then went into that Help Section and went through it carefully and was very much helped.
"Folks are used to thinking, 'Well, I've used computers, so I'll figure it out.' But there's a better way. Using the help screen is the way to go."
He said the software was developed "with the intent that individuals would have no difficulty using it even if they'd had no previous experience with computers. We tried to make the instructions as easy to understand as possible. The software features include looking up specific references, looking up a specific word or group of words and copying and pasting into documents. It also allows printing very easily, with easily understood indications on the screen so that a person can find them without much trouble."
He said that the computerized versions of the scriptures are valuable, but do not replace reading the book.
"For me, reading the text reading through the book has a different effect than does this kind of an approach. When I am following a concept, that is very valuable because I can bring several scriptures together. And you can put ideas together with this. But there are two quite different uses. I wouldn't call one more valuable than the other, but they do things well differently. If I am simply trying to get inspiration from the scriptures, for me, the book is still the way. There is something uplifting about reading sequentially."
He said that young people who live in the world of computers may be inclined to rely solely on the computerized scriptures.
"I would hope that even young people would experiment, and try the computer version, but then try reading, over a fairly extended period of time, pondering and seeing if there isn't some special spiritual benefit that comes from the written text in a book form. There is some reason for just sitting and reading the scripture, and letting the Lord teach you and letting it wash over you."
In the software, the main search screen has options that select whether or not footnotes are shown, or whether or not the study guides are shown. With a single click of the mouse, a reader can select the Bible Dictionary for more information about an individual or location, or the Topical Guide for other scriptures on the same topic, or footnotes for similar passages.
Once a search is completed, the software can sort and eliminate duplicates. The help button offers easy to follow directions to use the software. This includes the printing feature. Scriptures can be printed easily with or without the references. Maps and photos have references at the bottom, all of which are hyperlinked.
The basic search engine has the standard Bernoulian system that uses quote marks and capital letters.
In addition, the screen offers an option of what size, in percentage, the print is so that those with visual impairments may read it easily.
Those interested in ordering can make a group order from their Church unit (see ward clerk), purchase directly from a local Church distribution center, order on the Internet at www.ldscatalog.com, or call 1 (800) 537-5971 (U.S. and Canada only). Price of the CD-ROM is $5.
System requirements: Windows 95 (with Internet Explorer 4.0) 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000 OR XP Pentium 133 processor or faster (Pentium 200 or faster recommended); 16 MB Ram minimum (32 MB or more recommended); 50 MB hard disk space (250 MB required to install all data and program files); 4X CD-ROM Drive; SVGA monitor (XGA or better recommended).