I downloaded the Gospel Library onto my phone just last week. The kids had taken my scriptures out of the church bag right before we left (probably to make room for more obscene amounts of crayons) and I was left without the standard works. I dislike not having my scriptures with me. I like to follow along with the discussion. I like to read the footnotes and the dictionary. And if I’m bored with the way things are going, I can just read in the chapters around the lesson. So I pulled out my phone in Sunday School and downloaded the library. Not only does it have the standard works, but also the last two General Conferences. Sweet!

Then I peeked around the room. Five years ago you would’ve seen almost no phones in a family ward Sunday School; you would’ve seen a great deal more phones out in young adult wards. While the mix was decidedly in favor of leather and paper scriptures, I saw iPads and smart phones being used across the classroom.

I’ve owned a cell phone for sixteen years and rarely pulled it out of my bag in church (never had it ring in church either–knock on wood.) The temptation was there to read or send texts, but I had a personal commitment that I wouldn’t use my phone in a way that I found irreverent. It’s different today. Yes, the text are still there, but so is my email inbox, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of games. I don’t struggle with those options. I made a line for myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t mess around on my phone in church. You and I both know what “mess around” means.

However, I’m just as likely to get a text from the Primary president asking if I can play the piano in Primary (in 15 minutes) as I am from a friend who wants to chat. I really am scrolling through Elder Ballard’s talk from October 2010 General Conference. Sometimes skipping around in the scriptures is faster on my phone–having scriptures hyperlinked from a talk, or the lesson, to the verse in the scripture is awfully nice.

I do sense a bit of a generation gap. I’m sure that some older people are a little horrified to see me and my fellow technophiles staring at our phones. I can’t begin to think how they feel about iPads.

So tell me: what are your rules about technology in church? Have you embraced the standard works on your Palm? Do you pinch and scroll Gospel Principles on your iPad? Do you find the very idea shocking and disrespectful?

37 Comments

  1. Nancy R

    January 24, 2011

    Yesterday, I taught my Gospel Doctrine lesson from my kindle. I have to carry a well-equipped diaper bag around church and regular scriptures, even compact ones, add a lot of weight to that bag. I’m all for the appropriate use of technology at church.

  2. Janet

    January 24, 2011

    I have an ipad and an iphone both with the scriptures on them. My iphone is always with me, and I tried using my ipad at church, but I just really like to study the scriptures in my leather and paper set. I have only use my iphone and laptop for my calendar and to do lists, but I can’t quite give up my paper scriptures. And I like to keep a paper journal, too.

  3. FoxyJ

    January 24, 2011

    I recently downloaded the LDS library on my Kindle and it has been so nice. I go to church by myself and have an almost-one-year-old. First of all, my diaper bag is already stuffed with things and scriptures were just too heavy. Plus my baby would grab my scriptures and rip them when I was trying to use them in class. I might go back to bringing them when she’s older, but right now I love my Kindle!

  4. EmJen

    January 24, 2011

    The RS teacher from yesterday just barely called me to see how I found the PR release about the church’s stance on same-sex attraction so quickly on my phone. I admitted that since I knew the lesson was on President Packer’s recent GC talk I wanted to be ready so had looked it up beforehand, but I told her that nonetheless, I am quite quick on the Google search (I quickly looked up the history to the five proclamations online when she asked about it). This teacher is a part of the older generation, and was just amazed (and thanked me for my comments in referencing the PR release, which I so appreciated).

    In the course of our conversation I told her that I don’t know if it’s fair to the teacher to have students with Google at their fingertips, but that I loved that we have the technological capability and I wasn’t about to change anytime soon. She remarked that she was fine with it, in fact, appreciated it. But so far, I’m the only one in the RS room doing it.

  5. FoxyJ

    January 24, 2011

    I also love stuff like text messages or email for little things like setting up visiting teaching or reminding people of stuff.So much easier than making a bunch of phone calls.

  6. Roberta

    January 24, 2011

    I love technology and the instant access to information. It’s just when I see it happening during the passing of the Sacrament ordinance that I squirm. I know, I know. I should mind my own beeswax.

  7. Emily

    January 24, 2011

    I do enjoy having access to the gospel library on my phone, but I find I still love my good ol’ leather-bound scriptures for reading. I can’t get into highlighting things electronically; I prefer the double-sided pencil instead. I love writing notes sideways in the borders of the pages and the well-worn feel of it all.

    But I do love texting a friend who is home sick from church to ask her if she really is sick or just in need of a vacay. 😉

  8. Gdub

    January 24, 2011

    I’m definitely an outlier, as I work in technology. That being said, I haven’t used my leather-and-paper scriptures in a couple years, and I don’t intend on looking back. I currently have an iPad and iPhone.

    The ease of going directly from reading, to taking notes, has improved my ability to receive revelation in meetings. I know, I know, I could still just write in a notebook like everyone else, but something happens in that extra second of time where I become distracted or lose my thoughts.

    As for my rules on use of these devices; I never check email, facebook, or texts during my meetings. I may glance at my texts in-between classes just in case. That’s rare. I find that if I make exceptions I just cave in and read texts all the time. I have to make those definite boundaries.

  9. Julie P

    January 24, 2011

    With 4 little kids our church bags are heavy. I recently made the decision to leave all the manuals at home and use my Phone during church. It’s awesome. I still love my paper scriptures at home, but this is so much easier for me now. Our Stake has a piece in the bulletin each week asking everyone to turn all electronic, non-medical devices off in Sacrament meeting. Quite honestly, that bugs me, and I don’t follow the request, knowing that I have drawn parameters for myself regarding technology use in church that I feel are very appropriate. Like you said, I see it as a generation gap.

  10. Paul

    January 24, 2011

    Horrified? Probably not. Mystified? Maybe.

    I’ve never been a fan of the e-Scriptures/Manuals, etc, and still favor my paper copies, but I’m an old guy. That said, I’d say at least 25% of our HP group (also old guys like me) use their phones instead of lesson manuals and printed talks.

    And the stake exec secretary is in our HP group; he’s constantly on his mobile (texting mostly) with the SP whereever he is on a given Sunday. (Well, I’ve never seen him use it during the sacrament, but I’m not looking…)

  11. Paul

    January 24, 2011

    PS, don’t tell my wife I said I’m “older” — she said I’m not allowed to say that, since she’s eight days older than me… 🙂

  12. Mrs. Organic

    January 24, 2011

    I’m a recent convert to the electronic versions. I really wish they would develop an app that lets you highlight the talks and also would let you highlight just the portions of verses you’d like and in different colors.

    I love how easy it is to check the footnotes, and I think it’s a lot less distracting than all the page flipping that goes on in class.

  13. the emily

    January 24, 2011

    I do NOT like it. I’m 30, so not horribly old, but not the young and hip type either. I know it’s easier to carry. But for some reason, it just screams irreverence to me. I wouldn’t let my kids take a technological device to church no way, no how, so I don’t think I should either. The phone stays home.

  14. The redhead

    January 24, 2011

    I saw a father using his iPad during sacrament to keep his daughter entertained (angry birds) and I thought “what is this world coming to? I’m getting too old.” What happened to good old fashioned paper and crayons . . . or stern looks? Unlike you, I think there are many who fail to draw an acceptable line for themselves.

    Speaking as an easily distracted person, I can’t handle watching someone else play Angry Birds or the like at church. I’d end up critiquing their performance, and there goes my humility.

    I’m not a technological prude either. I’ve got an iPad and plan to use it occasionally during Primary lessons. But using it for entertainment at Church? Which happens way too often . . . I shudder.

  15. angie f

    January 24, 2011

    I can’t teach off my phone, but unless I am teaching, my phone is the source of my scriptures and manuals at church–one less thing to carry as I am juggling five small children alone (DH is the bishop). I still use the paper version for actual study at home. I’m with Emily above, I just like how it feels. No Angry Birds for my kids at church, but somehow taking notes on the notepad app in stake conference is much cooler for my 7 year old than paper and pencil and the notes are real and actually insightful, so that one I approve.

    Occasionally I remember an anecdote that happened in our ward years ago–pre smart phones, when electronic devices were limited to palms etc. Pres. Faust’s granddaughter lived in our ward and he came to attend the blessing of one of her children. He stood up to give remarks at the end of Sacrament Mtg and turned to the bishopric to borrow scriptures. The bishop handed his palm to Pres. Faust–none of the three men had paper sets on them, but they all had the electronic versions. Pres. Faust looked very perplexed and muttered something about not being able to manage with that thing and someone from the congregation passed him a set. From that point on, the bishopric always had a paper set of scriptures available.

  16. kim

    January 24, 2011

    This is such an interesting and timely topic and I’m enjoying hearing all sides of this issue.

    I’m our Stake Seminary Supervisor (and ex-EM Sem. teacher of 13 years) and we’ve had many discussions in the past year or so at our inservice meetings about the appropriate use of technology in early morning Seminary classes. As you can imagine there are strong points both for and against the use of e-devices. Unfortunately, our youth are not always as well disciplined as most of you seem to be, so texting and web surfing will always be a huge temptation in our youth classes.

    My opinion: it’s the world we live in now and we should embrace the technology that’s so readily available. With this blessing comes the responsibility to figure out the best ways to use it appropriately in a Church setting…we each may have different opinions, just like with most things church-related, and that’s OK.
    PS: I’m “old” 🙂
    PPS: I still use my “real” scriptures.

  17. HumanBean

    January 24, 2011

    We have six squirrely kids between the ages of 9 mos. and 12 yrs. old. We haven’t made it to church on time in…let’s see….yep, 12 years. Typically we storm the chapel somewhere in between the opening hymn and the sacrament (if that) and swear it will never happen again. It does. Over and over. We sit in the way back- the overflow seats in the gym- every week. We try to maintain a safe margin between our hoard and the general population for obvious reasons. Consequently we haven’t touched a real hymn book since the Clinton Administration and for many years we would just hum along or mouth the word ‘watermelon’ so people wouldn’t think we were just there for the snacks. Well, along came the iPhone one day and much to our wondering eyes should appear not only LDS scripture Apps but also LDS Hymnal Apps! Hallelujah! Now, all in one swift move, I can reach one hand, ONE hand folks, into my pocket and tickle the screen a little and up pops the hymn book, notes and all! And, all of this can be done with one, or two, possibly three squirming gargoyles on my lap. You may call it nuisance, but I call it miracle. Mothers everywhere have been given new hope via pocket computers.

    I think phones in church are fine as long as proper discretion is used. I do enjoy destroying those sniveling green pigs with flying bird bombs, just not in Sacrament meeting.

  18. HumanBean

    January 24, 2011

    Also, when the 7 yr. old volunteers to recite the scripture for sharing time but neglects to tell you until the closing hymn- no problem! Let me just switch out of the hymn app here over to the scripture app and search ‘service’ in the topical guide and- BAM! Instant results! Brilliant.

  19. ~j.

    January 24, 2011

    I like playing tetris in Relief Society.

    No I don’t.

    I do need to download the Gospel Library; the reception in the Relief Society room isn’t very reliable so using the online version takes forever.

    Bringing my Regular Scriptures to church would be faster way to follow along, to be certain.

  20. Karla

    January 24, 2011

    I just got a kindle for Christmas and brought it to church for the first time last week. It was so great not to have to carry around the scriptures and different manuals along with a diaper bag and things for the kids. It was easy to look things up and much more convenient. I will definitely set up some ground rules for myself though – it definitely could be misused.

  21. Larrin

    January 24, 2011

    In our Stake Conference a few months back Elder L. Tom Perry was very excited about his new iPad. He showed it to the audience and explained that he would be reading his talk off of it. Apostolic endorsement!

  22. Conifer

    January 24, 2011

    Yesterday at ward conference the Stake President had a discussion about this. He pretty much said that anyone who’s serious about his religion will be using “real” scriptures. I thought it was rediculous that he thought we needed to be told what way of accessing the same scriptures is better. Pretty much everyone agreed with him except me (and yes, I’m young). Whether they like it or not, there’s nothing wrong with people using whichever method they prefer.

  23. Karla

    January 24, 2011

    I wanted to add that I personally have found that I am reading the scriptures more often than I did before because of my kindle. I will pick it up to read something and remember that I haven’t read my scriptures for that day. Since I have it all loaded on there, I will do my scripture reading before doing other reading.

    To Conifer: I hate when stake presidents (or bishops or whatever) try to push their own opinions on everybody else.

  24. Paula

    January 24, 2011

    I’ve noticed this too. I don’t own a device that would let me read scriptures on it but I don’t mind in church. I feel that scripture study should be done on “real” scriptures but at church I mainly use the scriptures for a reference. The real studying of the scriptures happens outside of church time. My husband and oldest son both own “i” devices and they also read their real scriptures at home. To use one exclusively for scripture study (the way they work currently) just doesn’t do it justice.

  25. SHARON

    January 24, 2011

    What perfect timing! I’ve been asked by a ward in my stake to teach a class on scripture marking next week and this has been on my mind. I’ve always used the 8 color marking pencil for coloring according to gospel topic; have marked Greek; Hebrew; the i.e.&s and or’s; the JST footnotes in 4 different colors following the admonition of Daniel Ludlow which has hugely increased my understanding of scriptural passages. I have an I-phone; yearn for the day I can have an I-pad. The scriptures are on my phone – but my understanding is increased with color coding and margin notes. How do you do that on kindle; I-phone or I-pad scriptural downloads. I’d so appreciate ideas for differentiated scripture marking from those using technical formats for my class next week.

  26. Carina

    January 24, 2011

    Ah, Sharon, and although my app will allow me to highlight and make notes with a few swipes of my finger, I follow the admonition of Paul Hoskisson and make no highlights lest I become dependent on my marks and not my scriptures. We should set Paul and Daniel in a cage match and see who comes out on top 😉

  27. Cami

    January 24, 2011

    I work with the youth, and yesterday in church a member of our Stake Presidency actually addressed this topic with them. He works for marketing at Deseret Book and is very excited about all the technology applications that make access to scriptures easier. He showed the youth his IPad with the scriptures and his IPhone as well. He talked about their useful applications. Then he talked about his boss, Sheri Dew who was recently in a Relief Society Meeting where she found herself so distracted by the woman in front of her playing “Angry Birds” that she couldn’t focus on the lesson. He asked the youth to please make it a point to bring paper scriptures to church so that they would not be tempted to use technology in a way that could be distracting to themselves or to those around them. I think that’s a fair request.

  28. Carina

    January 24, 2011

    WHO has the STONES to play Angry Birds with Sheri Dew in the room? No, SERIOUSLY?

  29. Natalie

    January 24, 2011

    Having the standard works on the phone comes in handy when you are in young womens. If a girl forgets her scriptures, you hand her yours and grab them on your phone!

  30. mormonhermitmom

    January 24, 2011

    Well I don’t have a smart phone or Ipad or Kindle but I saw one of our elderly ladies in Relief Society yesterday with a HUGE gospel principles manual, and I know another elderly brother who has to have a suitcase to carry his standard works. If the kindle or Ipad can enlarge a font to easy to read supersize, I’ll gladly be a walking advertisement for them so these elderly members can save their backs!

  31. Emily W.

    January 25, 2011

    Carina,
    My response to comment 28: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    (Seriously!?!?!)

  32. Wendysue

    January 25, 2011

    I usually carry both, that way if one of my YW need a copy, they can borrow. I also love the Hymn app (Android), and have often passed that among youth who aren’t singing as well. The Reveal app for Android has about everything, my YW manual, Sunday school study guide, I also frequently pull up True to the Faith, Children’s songbook, even the PP book. I also love having my phone to update my calendar with events (feeding the missionaires, temple trips, etc.). For Ward Council I often pull up the lds.org website for info we’re discussing, as well as updating the ward/stake calendar.

  33. Rynell

    January 25, 2011

    My other half has been a scriptures-on-the-phone user for much longer than I have. I’ve just recently started using this feature and I love it for certain things, but I use my regular quad when I teach sharing time in primary.

    I made some quick notes in my phone Sunday about some insights from a talk I wanted to remember. It could have looked very much like I was texting.

  34. m2theh

    January 25, 2011

    At first when my husband started using his iPod for scripture reading I was a little annoyed, but then I realized “hey, at least he’s reading them and he always has them with him” and I relaxed. And I’ve noticed more people reading along or looking up scriptures in SS than they used to with their paper scriptures.

    And if someone is playing Angry Birds on their phone, if they didn’t have a phone to play on they’d probably be doodling on paper and not paying attention anyway. But I personally draw the line at game playing or texting during church. my phone is set on airline mode so I get no texts or calls during meetings. but that’s a personal choice.

  35. Matt

    January 25, 2011

    @SHARON: FYI, the new lds.org allows you to mark anything (scriptures, conference talks, etc.) with 4 different colors + underline. It also allows you to add your own notes to any given verse, and organize anything into an online study journal. You just need to log in to the web site first, and then all of these options become available. The Gospel Library app (the official Church one) for iOS also has this capability (not sure about what’s on Android). I’m also not sure if the app synchronizes your notes and highlighting with the web site or not, but I would assume that eventually that capability will become a reality.

    One of the advantages of using the web site is that your notes and markings aren’t tied to any one application or device, and the Church takes care of the management and backup of your data.

  36. Johnna

    January 27, 2011

    technophile, in a minor way. Love the Standard Works LLC app on my iPhone. For the first time in my life I’ve got my class manual with me consistently.

    Yes, I have been known to text during church, but only to my husband, when he’s traveling. And then not during prayers, hymns, or the sacrament. But yes during your talk–I’m that awful.

    Once I did a Facebook location check-in during church just before class started, I suppose out of nervous energy. I thought it was funny, because it’s documenting bad manners.

  37. T42

    February 6, 2011

    Just think how this will change scripture chases!

    I think it’s important to know how to use both. Just like you want your kids to know how to look up a word in the paper dictionary.

    The Church has always been at the forefront of adopting new technology.

    I’ve given up hope on teaching some people manners be it texting in church or walking out during a talk or musical performance for anything less than a screaming child. Only Mormons.

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