Beginning April 1, members with IBM or IBM-compatible personal computers may obtain the English verison of The Computerized Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Salt Lake Distribution Center. The computer program can perform a quick and comprehensive search of the four standard works and display or print all the verses on a selected topic. In the following interview, Elder Boyd K. Packer and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve describe the program and discuss why it can be such a valuable resource for members of the Church. Both men serve on the Church’s Scriptures Publication Committee.
Ensign: What is the Computerized Scriptures and how can it benefit members of the Church?
Elder Packer: Let me say to begin with that we are not encouraging Church members to purchase a computer just so they can use this new study aid. But for those who already own an IBM-compatible personal computer with a hard disk, the Computerized Scriptures can be very useful. This powerful computer program can quickly find specific scriptures and display them in context. It can also compose lists of related scriptures to aid a topical study of the gospel.
The computer program is also comprehensive. Every occurrence of every word in the scriptures (except the footnotes) is indexed. The program can find every verse, chapter heading, and preface that contains the word or combination of words a person is looking for. Optional features included in the software package are a thesaurus, for help in researching topics, and a computerized version of the Bible Dictionary.
Another strength of the Computerized Scriptures is its speed. Even though the scriptures contain over forty-two thousand verses, most searches can be performed in less than ten seconds. Many take less than one second.
Never before have Church members had such excellent tools for studying and understanding the scriptures. Family home evenings, talks in Church, seminary and Sunday School lessons, and missionary work can all be improved by using the computer program.
If the Saints understand the scriptures, the doctrines taught in the Church will be purer and surer. Gospel perspective will grow. Testimonies will increase. There will be greater devotion and dedication to the Lord.
Elder Nelson: We are blessed to be living in such an exciting gospel dispensation. God is inspiring the minds of great people to create inventions that further the work of the Lord in ways this world has never known. I recall the statement by Joseph Fielding Smith:
“I maintain that had there been no restoration of the gospel, and no organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there would have been no radio; there would have been no airplane, and there would not have been the wonderful discoveries in medicine, chemistry, electricity, and the many other things wherein the world has been benefited by such discoveries. Under such conditions these blessings would have been withheld, for they belong to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times of which the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church constitute the central point, from which radiates the Spirit of the Lord throughout the world. The inspiration of the Lord has gone out and takes hold of the minds of men, though they know it not, and they are directed by the Lord. In this manner he brings them into his service that his purposes and his righteousness, in due time, may be supreme on the earth. …
“I do not believe for one moment that these discoveries have come by chance, or that they have come because of superior intelligence possessed by men today over those who lived in ages that are past. They have come and are coming because the time is ripe, because the Lord has willed it, and because he has poured out his Spirit on all flesh.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1926, p. 117.)
Ensign: Why has the Church been so interested in making resources like the Computerized Scriptures available?
Elder Packer: This computer program, and the aids in the LDS editions of the scriptures, have been developed to help the members use the scriptures better. When one is studying the gospel, many questions arise. There isn’t time for the General Authorities to answer all the gospel questions for every individual member of the Church. It is not advisable for us even to try to do so. The Lord said in the preface of the Doctrine and Covenants that it is his purpose to have “every man … speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” (D&C 1:20.)
To do this, we must find the answers for ourselves. Most of our answers will come as we read the four standard works. We should do that—read each of the four books of scripture from beginning to end more than once. We could hardly use our time to more advantage.
Elder Nelson: That is a very big assignment. The Bible contains 66 books, the Book of Mormon 15. The Pearl of Great Price contains 5 books, and the Doctrine and Covenants 138 sections and 2 official declarations. That makes 86 books, 138 sections, and the declarations—over 42,000 verses, totaling 2,540 pages. Add to this the special helps found in the LDS edition of the Bible, such as the topical guide, the index, and the dictionary, and there are another 1,268 pages, making more than 3,800 pages in all.
Even after you have read through the scriptures, it is quite impossible to remember everything. Particularly is it difficult to remember where every verse is, even if you underline them as you read. You may wonder if you will ever have any command of the scriptures. But there are some very easy-to-learn things that will help you very much.
You can learn, for example, how to use the content of the four standard works even though you may not yet have finished reading all of them. It helps to realize that the scriptures are really like a library. And, as with any library, there are ways of locating references in this scriptural library without reading through all of the books.
Elder Packer: That is true. As a young seminary teacher, I soon learned that I was expected to be an expert on the scriptures. Some bishops and stake presidents would call asking for help in locating references.
I would find the references by looking up key words in my Bible concordance, which was very small compared to the topical guide and indexes that we now have in our scriptures.
Often they would compliment me by saying: “You amaze me! I wish I knew the scriptures as well as you do. How do you do that?” I would modestly reply, “It was really nothing; anyone can do it.”
And anyone can! You can! It will take only a few minutes to become familiar with the topical guide and the system of footnotes and cross-references in the scriptures. Then the scriptures will be opened to you.
Ensign: How was this particular computer program developed?
Elder Packer: The background of this development is interesting. The initiative for computerizing the scriptures was begun in 1958 by Dr. Eldin Ricks, a professor of religion at Brigham Young University. In order to prepare reference and research materials, he had his staff keypunch cards that were read into a large computer on the BYU campus. In the mid-1970s, these computerized scriptures provided a foundation for developing the comprehensive cross-references and topical guide now found in the standard works.
Elder Nelson: In 1983, two computer programmers at BYU began working on a way to make the scriptures and other important texts available for personal computers. They developed a program that was capable of indexing large amounts of information. Then they let selected BYU faculty and staff members test it using the scriptures. As people worked with the program, the programmers made more and more refinements.
In early 1985, I saw a demonstration of the computer program and arranged to receive a personal copy of this preliminary version.
Later in 1985, Elder Packer and I began meeting with the creators of the program to see if a version could be developed for use by Church members in their homes. We asked for a version that would be so easy to use that people who had never used a computer could operate it. We wanted a simple program, with simple instructions, and with a small price tag.
The two programmers willingly accepted this “mission impossible,” and throughout 1986 they made refinements and did field testing.
Beginning in April 1987, a limited quantity of test copies of the program was sold through the Salt Lake Distribution Center. Suggestions were sought from the testers, and additional refinements were made.
The result—The Computerized Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—has now been formally released.
Ensign: You mentioned that you wanted the program to be easy to use. Has it met your expectations?
Elder Nelson: Yes it has. But like any new computer program, one needs to spend time learning to use it.
Three manuals provide instructions for using the Computerized Scriptures. One manual gives step-by-step guidance through the procedures for loading the program into the computer, followed by five simple lessons for operating the program. Another manual provides comprehensive information about every function and feature of the program. A third manual is an easy reference guide; it provides a quick introduction to the most frequently used parts of the program. A toll-free number is given to those who purchase the program in case they have questions the manuals don’t answer.
Let me emphasize again that we are not encouraging members to purchase a computer system just to operate these resources. But members who already have an adequate personal computer may want to learn more about the Computerized Scriptures program. (See sidebar for technical requirements.)
Elder Packer: The important thing is that we all become more familiar with the Lord’s counsel so that we can draw closer to him. As Church members study and search the scriptures, whether they use computer resources or not, their testimonies of Jesus Christ and of his Church will be strengthened. I am convinced that the new editions of the standard works, together with all of their study helps, will contribute to successive generations of faithful Latter-day Saints who understand the principles of the gospel, who know the Lord Jesus Christ, and who are willing to obey his will.
When one knows the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is cause to rejoice. The words joy and rejoice appear throughout the scriptures repetitively. Latter-day Saints are happy people. That is because when we know the doctrines of Christ, the frailties of men tend to fade away. When we understand the doctrines, then things fit together and make sense:
We are the children of God, created in his image.
Our child-parent relationship to God is clear.
The purpose for the creation of this earth is clear.
The testing that comes in mortality is clear.
The need for a redeemer is clear.
When we understand the principles of the gospel, we see a Heavenly Father and a Son; we see an atonement and a redemption.
We understand why ordinances and covenants are necessary.
There is no better way to make sense out of life than to gain a knowledge of gospel doctrines. When we understand those doctrines, we have cause to rejoice and we do rejoice, even celebrate.
Elder Nelson: I, too, have a strong testimony of the divinity of the scriptures. I pray that the Lord will grant us entrance into them and that, when we enter therein, we will know that we stand on holy ground.
Members interested in obtaining The Computerized Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can order the system from the Salt Lake Distribution Center. Stock numbers and prices are as follows:
Complete package with 5.25-inch diskettes, PXCS0059; $63.50.
Complete package with 3.5-inch diskettes, PXCS0070; $73.25.
Three documentation booklets and copy authorization, PXCS006A; $38.75.
The system requires an IBM-DOS or MS-DOS 2.1 or above; at least 384K of internal RAM memory—640K is recommended; at least 10.6 megabytes of available hard disk memory—12 megabytes if the thesaurus and dictionary are also loaded on the system; and one 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. (For more technical information, call 801–531–4993 in Salt Lake City.)
Step 1: Once the Computerized Scriptures program is initially loaded onto an IBM or IBM-compatible computer (about a 30-minute process), the user simply types in the term ldsview, depresses the “Return” key, and then depresses the number “1” key.
Step 2: If the user desires to scan all the scriptural references containing the word redeemer, he types in the word redeemer and then depresses the “Return” key.
Step 3: The computer searches its memory, then displays the first verses wherein the word redeemer is used. By depressing the “Pg Dn” key, a user can view additional verses containing the word redeemer. Continuing to depress the “Pg Dn” key will reveal all 89 verses in Latter-day Saint scripture that use the word redeemer.
To read any particular verse displayed in Step 3 in context, the user simply depresses the cursor key until the verse he wants to read in context is highlighted. Pressing the “Return” key will then call up the selected verse in its scriptural context. By depressing “Pg Up” or “Pg Dn”, the user may read as far as he desires preceding or following the verse selected. (See photograph on page 72 for the display of a selected verse within its scriptural context.)