LDS.org Scriptures

One of the best things that the church has done of late is their web presence. It really is fantastic (even if the Joseph Smith page is a little lackluster – too much Flash, too little content). But having all the Conference talks up along with the searchable scriptures is just so nice. Especially for linking from blog posts. However I’ve noticed that of late it doesn’t work as well as it did. Does anyone else notice this? For instance at the scripture search area I get an error the last few days if I do a search for a reference (i.e. D&C 98). Anyone else finding this?

I don’t bring this up to necessarily condemn. But to bring up a new topic. On some of the computer forums I frequent they often bring up applications (like OSX’s Finder) and ask what it needs to be better. In the spirit of that sort of computer guidance, what would make a better search portal for the church?

A few of my own thoughts.

1. Have a way to add and share notes and footnotes. In this day of large hard drives it really wouldn’t be that big a deal. The only downside I could see would be anti-Mormons using it to comment up scriptures.

2. Have your settings persist. I hate having the little subscripts to the old footnotes. When you cut and paste you end up with little extra letters. You can turn this off. But the program is too dumb to set a cookie. So you have to manually set the setting each time you go to the search portal.

3. Alternative formatting. i.e. break things up into paragraphs instead of just verses. Having poetry broken out would be nice as well.

4. Easy search by speaker. It’s a pain right now narrowing a search down to a particular speaker at conference.

Any other suggestions?

21 thoughts on “LDS.org Scriptures

  1. I’ve notices bugs but also some changes, including cosmetic ones and others (for awhile today, the search option check boxes were on the top of EVERY page, then they disappeared). So I think they are tinkering with it, hence the errors.

    I’d like an easy way to link to a conference talk or Ensign article. I can never get them to work. But, really, http://www.lds.org is an amazing resource–I use it almost daily.

    And, no offence, but I think the footnotes would be a disaster. There are church members out there who think that Bigfoot is really the immortal Cain–do you really want their scripture notes?

  2. I suspect that’s true. I was just playing with it and I noticed that the output for searches is quite different. They also are starting to put the options (such as those annoying footnotes) at the top of the screen for some searches. So I’m getting excited about improvements.

    Your point about easily linking to conference talks is a good one. If you use Firefox or Safari it is actually fairly easy. Just right click on the link and select “open in new tab” and it’ll just display the article. Then you can cut and paste the link from out of your address bar. But since Internet Explorer is still the most popular browser (even though it is arguably by far the worst browser) having something for those users would be nice.

    Regarding shared notes – I’m not saying everyone would see them. Rather that you can store your own and share them with friends if they want. It would be easy to implement: just assign a unique ID and have a list where you can type in the IDs of others to see their notes.

  3. With IE you can right-click and open in new window to get the direct URL.

    Last I checked, the “Gospel Library” content didn’t appear on Google searches. It would be nice if it did, but I’m not sure whether that’s a problem with the Church site or the google bots.

  4. FeastUponTheWord.org will let you provide commentary on LDS scripture. It isn’t affiliated with the church, but that is probably better. I don’t know if it is true, but I heard that the online scriptures at the Church website started out as a project of a couple of Church members that looked good and so the Church decided to use it with some modifications to meet Church engineering standards. So maybe if someone codes up Clark’s enhancements, the Church will see it and incorporate it into the real site. You can hope, right?

    Also, in the library.lds.org section, there is a link to “bookmark” a page. In Internet Explorer, it will create a bookmark directly. In Firefox, it will pop up a new window with the URL that you can easily copy. This preserves all the table of contents frames as well as the article which is nice when you are linking to something.

  5. I have to confess that I was initially excited about Feast Upon the World. It sounds like it is doing what I mentioned. The problem is, I found, that as a UI it just doesn’t work that well. Further what I outlined is more private markings that you can share. I think for it to work you’d have to have the option of not sharing your notes.

  6. Hey Guys,

    I programmed for lds.org and mormon.org for nearly a year, and there are always talks of how to improve things. Problem is, the process is absolutely, unbelievably slow. They’ve been working on a new version (new look, better organization) of the entire site ever since before I started working there, which was in April ’04. It was supposed to have gone live months and months ago. The bureaucracy is really no better than, well, THE bureaucracy.

  7. I think the search features at lds.org are pretty bad. I would love to be able to reliably search through conference talks, including by date and speaker, and get only the relevant hits back. I haven’t for the life of me figured out how to do this consistently on lds.org. Does anybody know of a better searchable database of conference talks?

  8. Does anybody know of a better searchable database of conference talks?

    There is always using googles site: feature to parse through the scriptures. (IE, nephi site:scriptures.lds.org)

  9. Having the lesson manuals available online has been great. Physically handing off a manual to a substitute teacher and getting it back promptly is no longer a worry. Printing items like quotes for people to read is easier and better than xeroxing had been. I think, though am not sure, that the inclusion of graphics in the online manuals has improved.

    I second the desire for a better way to find talks by speaker.

  10. I’m with John – having the lesson manuals online is wonderful. I like to mark up my lessons and add my own thoughts in the margins as I’m preparing it, and that just isn’t practical in the physical manuals that are meant to be turned in at the end of the year or after being released. But printing off the lessons is perfect. I also like being able to just print the relevent lesson if I need a substitute.

    I also like having the church magazines online. I no longer have a subscription, which saves me a few dollars a year. If I want a hard copy of something, I just print it off.

    As for improving it, a better way to search would be great.

  11. I’d second Tanya on how great the service is. I don’t typically enjoy most of the Ensign articles – especially given the magazine’s nadir the last 10 years – but I really love being able to get online to get the month’s First Presidency Message.

    BTW for those interested in searching a website for quotes all you do is add “site: myaddress.com” to your Google search. A lot of add-ins for Firefox and Safari will do this automatically. For instance I use AcidSearch for Safari which has a pulldown menu for “search this site” which is very nice. I use it both here and at other blogs to try and find a particular article. But it works great and it’s easy to add custom searches for things like other search engines, Amazon or the like.

  12. Try byubroadcasting.org/findatalk/search.asp. They have the conference talks there, as well as the CES satellite broadcasts and others. I don’t know if it is better searchable or not, but there is another place to try.
    Additionally, they have many other talks not found at lds.org. There are a lot of BYU devotionals, education week talks, and many other conference gatherings or symposiums that are in written and/or spoken forms. Sure, it may not all be the prophets, but a teenager can listen to some John Bytheway and come away with a better resolve to do better than a talk by a GA.

  13. I, too, have found the new scriptures web site curiously unresponsive to simple queries. They seem to be tweaking it daily, though, and some of the problems I had a few days ago have been fixed.

    I’d like to see an advanced search on the scriptures site similar to what Bible Gateway offers — for example, search within a single book of scripture (or even a chapter within a book).

    And a search feature on the library site that actually returns relevant results!

  14. Bryce,

    Earlier this week I noticed that my firefox plugin for the scriptures was broken because of the changes. Any chance you cold use your secret ninja computer skills to fix their plugin? I use that thing all the time.

  15. Frank: The Firefox search plugin Bryce referenced has been updated (note the 31/01/06 change date). Reinstall it and it should fix your problem.

  16. Regarding the FeastUponTheWord wiki (comments #4 and #5):

    I agree the UI of a wiki is less friendly than a blog. But I see wikis serving a different but complementary purpose to blogs. Blogs are a great place for live discussion, but wikis are better at organizing discussions and ideas. I think a natural development would be for scriptural discussion to start on a blog, then be summarized and organized on a wiki, then follow up blog entries and discussion could be linked to that wiki page, or added directly to the wiki’s main commentary or discussion page. This establishes means for the creation of encylcopedic reference pages relating to particular ideas (or scripture passages in this case), something that blogs aren’t good at creating.

    But even in the blogosphere/bloggernacle, I haven’t seen much scripture discussion per se–recently a bit more on the T&S Sunday school threads, and a bit at Mormanity–am I missing others?

    One major improvement we’re considering at the Feast wiki is adding a page that includes all commentary, discussion, and links for each Sunday school lesson. The idea is that this would provide an easier, friendlier way for users to find and navigate the content of the site (still a weakness of the newly developing site…). Any thoughts, feedback, or suggestions regarding this or any other aspect of the Feast wiki are very welcome.

  17. re: 4, 5 & 17.

    I agree that Feast’s aim isn’t to be a complilation of private thoughts on scripture. But it does aim to be a place for people to share their thoughts on the scriptures to help themselves and others understand them better.

    In my view the biggest current problem with the site is that the content on the scriptures is sparse. That’s changing. There have been 6000 edits since the site started, and the number of pages with real content keeps growing.

    Still we could use a lot of help. Clark (or others) feel free to suggest improvements to the UI. We don’t have a staff of programmers to create software for the site, but depending on the suggestion there may be a way to achieve it by tweaking the existing free software the site is running.

    Finally, though suggestions for improving the user interface are nice, I’d really love to see all your all’s thoughts on the scriptures there :)

  18. The only problem I have with LDS.org searches is the excessive number of results that turnup for “Popup Notes” from old Ensigns. I’ll get twenty or thirty of those in a row, and haven’t seen a way of excluding them but retaining all other Ensign articles and features.

    And I didn’t know you can turn off the footnote letters — does that take out the asterisk/bullets as well? My Primary students like reading the scriptures off of a large piece of paper more than struggling with the tiny print in their books, but I often include extra letters inadvertently and have to reprint the readings, thanks to those footnotes.

  19. Your point #1 is a great idea although I think it could be dangerous for the Church to officially sponsor it. I have actually been working on a very similar idea on my own site. I have created a site where users can add keyword tags to verses and sort of collectively mark their scriptures.

    http://www.scripturetag.com

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