How the Scripture Citation Index can help improve your gospel study

Cameron Steinbusch of Winnipeg, Canada, discovered the Scripture Citation Index several years ago and uses it frequently. 

“You can click on any scripture, and you can see what leader of the Church has used it in general conference,” said Steinbusch, a member of the Waverley Ward, Winnipeg Manitoba Stake.

With increased focus on home-centered gospel study, he said this resource can be helpful to individuals and families hoping to deepen their knowledge of the scriptures. “It’s very easy to use.”

Shortly after the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple was announced in the April 2011 general conference, he said Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy, visited his stake and challenged the Saints to learn all they could about temples, the Abrahamic covenant and salvation of the dead.

Since then, Steinbusch has been compiling temple-related scriptures and using the Scripture Citation Index to find insights from Church leaders about those verses. For example, when reading Malachi 4:5-6, he found three general authorities who had emphasized different aspects of this passage. “There are different ways to use it, and some I never thought of before,” he said.

Richard C. Galbraith, the mastermind behind the index and an emeritus professor of the Brigham Young University School of Family Life, described the Scripture Citation Index as a tool to search the scriptures and connect the words of Church leaders — “from Genesis to the Pearl of Great Price, from Joseph Smith to Russell M. Nelson.” 

Found at scriptures.byu.edu, the Scripture Citation Index links from the Church’s standard works (Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price) to general conference talks and other writings that cite those scriptures. The index includes verses cited by speakers in general conference from 1942 to present, verses cited by speakers recorded in the Journal of Discourses between 1839-1886 and verses cited in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

The Scripture Citation Index (scriptures.byu.edu) allows users to link from scriptures to general conference talks that cite a specific verse or groups of verses.
The Scripture Citation Index (scriptures.byu.edu) allows users to link from scriptures to general conference talks that cite a specific verse or groups of verses. Credit: Screenshot scriptures.byu.edu

A mobile app version of the Scripture Citation Index is available for Android and iOS devices. The website is also available in Spanish (escrituras.byu.edu).

“Our hope is that at some point, we will have it available in multiple languages,” said Stephen W. Liddle, a BYU professor in the Marriott School of Business, who has helped create and maintain the digital platforms. 

None of these resources cost money, Galbraith added. “What we’re trying to do is share this with a significant population of the Church, free of charge, to study and understand better the gospel.”

Using the index

One way to use the index is to find a scripture that is relevant or has personal meaning and see what application and insight Church leaders have shared in relation to that verse, Galbraith said.

For example, many Latter-day Saints recently finished the Book of Helaman in their Book of Mormon study with “Come, Follow Me” home curriculum and likely had discussions about Helaman 5:12.

A search in the Scripture Citation Index for Helaman 5:12 includes more than 75 links to where this verse has been quoted in general conference talks and other writings. These references show different applications of the same verse. 

A screenshot of how to search for references to Helaman 5:12 in the Scripture Citation Index iOS app.
A screenshot of how to search for references to Helaman 5:12 in the Scripture Citation Index iOS app. Credit: Screenshot Scripture Citation Index mobile app

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cited this verse in his April 2019 general conference address “How Can I Understand?” when admonishing individuals and families to “be rooted upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ,” have spiritual impressions engraved in their hearts and endure in faith. 

Sister Carol F. McConkie, former first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, quoted Helaman 5:12 in her October 2014 talk “Live according to the Words of the Prophets.” She taught, “When we heed the words of the prophets, we build our homes and our lives upon an eternally sure foundation.” 

That same conference, the late Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used this verse as he closed his talk “Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families.” Encouraging parents to instill in future generations a stronger reliance on the Savior’s teachings, he testified, “It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides this foundation upon which we can find lasting peace and build eternal family units.” 

Another way to use the index is to search for a topic, such as “revelation.” The search can be narrowed by selecting a certain speaker, date range or content source. Users can also browse the content library. Both the website and app include “How to Search” instructions to help generate best possible search results. 

From paper to digital

Galbraith first created the Scripture Citation Index in paper form while serving as a faculty member at BYU. After typing up the index, Galbraith approached Liddle in 2004 for help in putting it on a CD-ROM to be able to share the resource digitally. 

“I said, “No, we’re not going to do that. It’s 2004. You need a website, my friend,’” Liddle recalled with a chuckle.  

Liddle loaded the citation index into a database, and the website was launched later that year. The first version of the Scripture Citation Index app was released in 2010.  

Most cited scriptures in general conference since 1942.
Most cited scriptures in general conference since 1942. Credit: Church News graphic

The website and app have become more user-friendly as technology has developed over the past decade, he noted. For example, the website now includes links for watching or listening to a specific conference talk on ChurchofJesusChrist.org (a feature expected in a future release of the app). The app allows users to open scriptures and talks in the Church’s Gospel Library app.

“We’ve been learning from each of the different platforms and making adjustments along the way to try to improve the usability and the experience for the users,” Liddle said. 

Updating the website after each general conference has also become faster. Liddle uses software to search through the published talks on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, find hyperlinks to scriptures and put them in a database. Galbraith then goes through those hyperlinks manually to verify the citations and page numbers in the print publication of the Ensign (now Liahona). Talk links are available on the website about two weeks after conference. The app update comes later.

Now more than 15 years into the digital development of the Scripture Citation Index, Liddle said the project has enhanced his classroom experience, and he’s quick to acknowledge the help of many of his students over the years.

“A side effect here is that I’ve been able to stay up to date on web technology and mobile application development, which is what I teach at BYU, and my students have been able to be involved in this project — quite a number of students over the years.”

He added, “I hope that in some small way, this encourages people to get involved in the scriptures, and in reading, studying general conference talks, where there are so many treasures.”