Topical Guide Compendium History

The following is from the introduction to the compendium, written in 2002 and updated numerous times since then.  It not only gives a sense of the contents and intents of the materials I have converted from that source, but also of my experiences in watching the development of the Internet, and digital media, anticipating in many ways the development of this blog and website.

Entries that were made as part of the Topical Guide Compendium development can be seen through the blog category tags.

Topical Guide Compendium

August 18, 2002, Updated November 2003

I have created this document as a repository of my thoughts on my scripture study.  I have noticed recently that my journal does not accommodate updates to topics as I learn more about them.  I need to have a document organized by topics, that I can edit, delete, or add additional content to over time.

This document has been created using many of the automatic features of Microsoft Word 2000.  These features include the following

I           Styles

[A two page section describing Microsoft Word features follows, including discussions of styles, bookmarks, macros which allowed me to add new topics, and indexes.  One macro of note allowed me to format html scripture references to allow click through to the LDS scripture site, including a special one that inserted references to the Topical Guide and other indexes, as described here:

“This macro inserts a hyperlink to the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, or Index entry in the scriptures themselves.  I searched the church’s web site to determine for myself how it formats the web page name for the entry.  Certain entries are far too long to be the name of a page, such as “Jesus Christ, Antemortal Appearances of”.  I determined that the rules are that they take non-vowel characters from the word up to 8 characters in length, except if the word is already less than 8 characters in length.  In that case they just use the word.  One exception is the entries that begin with “Jesus Christ” are abbreviated to “jc”.  This macro has all these rules embedded in it, and then creates a link to the web page.”

A few years later the church redesigned it scripture site, changing all the references.  As a beta tester, I suggested in the absence of a forward pointer set of pages, they had invalidated all references to the historical pages.  I was pleased a while later to find they had added those forward pointers, thus preserving my investment in the references.

This work helped me maintain some level of technical computer abilities through coding, during a professional time when I was using these skills less in my work.  Additionally, as I make this content available online, it may save me significant time in the formatting of the materials for this blog.

The following continues the introduction to this work effort.]

V           Purpose

One year ago [August 2001], I embarked on a topical study of the scriptures.  I found that reading chronologically through books had become boring.  I was not learning a great deal of new information or having new insights.

Since the Gospel Doctrine course of study for this last year has been the Old Testament (2002), and given the nature of the Book of Moses, and because I have not “marked” the Old Testament or Pearl of Great Price in my new set of scriptures, I decided to start my topical study with the Book of Moses.  I am studying every footnote, including all topical guide entries for every verse, starting with Moses, Chapter 1 verse 1.

I started in September of last year.  I have refined that approach into the one stated above.  I have now spent nearly one full year in studying the first 2 verses of Moses Chapter 1.  I have looked up all cross references, topical guide references, and selected related topics, as well as index entries for each footnote.  I have attempted to develop what the major theme is of those entries, and how I would create a talk about this particular topic.

The idea of creating a talk about each entry is contrived to help motivate the study.  Although it is contrived, I would like to be able to say someday that I could speak on any topic in the topical guide.  There are probably some topics that would be unusual to be able to give a talk on, but could prove to be insightful nonetheless.  (There are undoubtedly others that would be a very short talk, with very little insight).

As I have done this, I have waffled between a desire to have everything recorded in my scriptures, and having a place to record all of my insights.  I have tried to record them in my scriptures.  But I have not found it adequate for multiple reasons.

I have wondered about the prudence of having one book.  But I have carried my scriptures with me a great deal of my life.  And I have never lost a set.  So, although I have no promises, I could continue under the premise that I will never lose a set of scriptures.

But my scriptures contain pretty tiny print.  Someday, I will not be able to read such small print.  Transferring them to another book would be very time consuming (I remember watching Brother Johns, my first seminary teacher doing just this).  Also, I do not have enough room in the margins to record anything but the briefest of thoughts.  I need more room to record my thoughts.

(Update April 2005:  My scriptures were stolen when our car was broken into in March 2004.  So the premise that I would never lose them was not well founded.  I may have lost some of the ideas I had recorded in them, but not too many.  In response to the idea that my scripture type was too small for permanent use, I bought larger scriptures.  But I found they were far too heavy for me to carry when I travel.  So I now have two sets of scriptures, neither of which is marked).

(Update November 2018:  I’ve just looked on-line, and its difficult to find the specific history, but the support page for the Gospel Library App for iOS was first created in June 2010; that might have been when the app was created.  The ability to create notes in the on-line versions of the scriptures preceded that by a number of years, but was quite limited in the early years in the size, use and formatting of those notes.  I used those features very little because I had created and invested time in my own Word document.

In January 2018, as part of a priesthood meeting, I was encouraged to explore the features of the Gospel Library more fully.  In doing so, I converted perhaps half of my TGC into it.  I still found it challenging to convert the longer, more complex entries.  I plan, as of November 10, 2018, to convert many of those entries into this blog instead of the Gospel Library app.

Through the years as I have noted talks or significant lessons documented in my journal from years prior to the creation of my Topical Guide Compendium, I have copied them into it, preserving the date of the original entry.  I plan, if possible, to convert and publish them based upon the original date as well.

Ironically, in April of 2018, I also had the impression to purchase a new quad set of printed scriptures, in larger print.  Soon after that, beginning with an assignment to teach the story of the call of Samuel the prophet, I felt impressed to return to the study of the printed books in the way I did in high school.  I am nearing the end of the Old Testament from that lesson, and have enjoyed the study deeply.)

VI          Access Methods

I anticipate that this document will have two different access methods.

VI.A         Print Access

The most simple, and least dependent upon technology will be access to a printed version.  To facilitate this access, all topic entries, with the exception of this introduction and the concluding index, should be maintained in alphabetical order.

When new entries are made to this document, they should be inserted in the appropriate alphabetical location…  [I have not printed the document since its creation, and view it unlikely that I ever would.]

VI.B         On-line Access

I hope that technology will continue to advance, and that at some point I will be able to place this document on a web enabled PDA (personal digital assistant), similar to the Palm Pilot.  I can then access this document through a web-based approach.  I can foresee the day when I would give talks from the pulpit using a PDA and this document as the source for the talk.  If constructed correctly, it would be a powerful mechanism for tracking related thoughts, and allow near instant access to related quotes, scriptures, etc. allowing the speaker to follow the promptings of the spirit in a very powerful way.

To facilitate this second type of access, links within the document should be maintained and automated.  Index entries should be constructed for each topic.  I believe the index would be the primary entry point into the document, either an index looking for references to a specific scripture, or for a topic.  From there, the “See Also” entries, Source entries and other cross-references will allow access to other, related portions of the document.

VI.C         Continued Entries

Because topics are related, I have created links between some topics.  Certain topics are subset, completely contained within another topic.  Other entries can be used to expand upon a topic.  There is not set criteria for making these links.  There is also no planned hierarchy of topics.

VII         The Future

At some future time, I expect this document will provide linkages to other documents.  The source entries should be, at some point, linked to the source documents to provide an automated way of access the texts in context.  However, I am not in control of those sources, and have not seen a format for those (such as InfoBase) that I am impressed with as a foundation for this effort that could continue for 30 or 40 years.

At some point those sources will be accessible in a more pure HTML format.  I will update my links when I have access to that type of source.  Ultimately this document must become an HTML document.  I will continue to work with in context of Microsoft Word, and then save it in HTML format (to avoid the heavy burden of editing HTML documents).

VIII       Why

Some may wonder why I would embark on something that seems like a fairly ambitious project (and which I may well abandon).  There are technical risks, such as a major format change for Microsoft Word, loss of the document due to inadequate back-ups, etc.  I may also find that getting my computer out for scripture study really slows down my study, so practically it may be difficult to update.

But I believe that I am still investing for my future in some way.  I have a purpose in my scripture study:  To prepare me to more fully preach the word of God with great power.  Such power comes from preparation.  And recording my thoughts in this manner is the best preparation I can think of.

Also, this document may become the summary of the best of my journal entries by topic.  It may become the overriding link between my journals through the years.  It might become the topical biography of my life.

I also believe this document is an interesting exercise in my personal brand of integration.  This document will allow me to increase my programming skills (which are needed in my employment), and at the same time study the scriptures more effectively.

It will be interesting to see if I am right.

IX          Update, May 2004

I have not made a lot of progress on this in the last 9 months probably.  But I started reading the Miracle of Forgiveness a couple of weeks ago.  I was surprised to read this.

This design arose from my years of ministry as a stake president and as an apostle, during which time I have had many experiences in dealing with transgressors, especially those involved in sexual sins, both inside and outside of marriage.

The scriptures being the firm basis of law and happiness, I have constantly felt the need of a selection of them which I could recommend to the offenders. My jottings of references grew into a collection from which this book has evolved. (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. ix – x)

X           Diminished Importance, May 2005

The biography of Bruce R. McConkie notes that Elder McConkie, when younger, rewrote the entire Book of Mormon in his own words, and then threw away the result.  He said what was written wasn’t as important as what he learned by rewriting it.

I recently gave a talk in Sacrament meeting, and tried to more closely follow his guidance also recorded in his biography about giving talks.  He said he did not write his talks, but tried hard to “tune himself up” according to the spirit.  In doing so, I found I talked about things I had not completely anticipated.  There were notes I had included in this compendium that I used, material I had reviewed prior to the talk.  But I did not read from it.

In doing this, I realized that I will probably not use these talks per se, but rather, I will use the knowledge of what I have prepared here in preaching and teaching in the future.  The materials are not as important as what I learn through writing them.

I have been very surprised in the last 3 to 4 months how much insight has come to me through using my TGC as an approach to studying the gospel.  I have followed a myriad of paths in my study.  I am a little overwhelmed at the number of fertile paths I could and would like to follow.  But as I read entries created perhaps 2 years ago, I am reminded of things that I have learned that I have forgotten about.  I think creating and writing my insights increased the productiveness of my study immensely.

XI          Pearl of Great Price Study, May 2006

I wrote a paper in college for my Pearl of Great Price class that I thought was a good paper, showing how the Pearl of Great Price was very expansive, covering all dispensations, and commenting on a wide range of gospel topics.  I was impressed at the time with how cohesive a book it became through my study, especially since it is a collection of documents culled from newspapers, letters, and other writing of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I was a little surprised when the professor complemented me on the paper in front of the whole class as well.

As is documented in the preface to this Topical Guide Compendium, I started this document as a repository for my topical study of the Gospel, using the Pearl of Great Price.  In doing that study, I was very impressed with the structure of chapter one, noting that it was a tremendous introduction to the three main characters in our eternal drama, namely God (including the Father, Son and Holy Ghost), man, and Satan.  I could see how a thorough study of that chapter could lead to a very significant understanding of those three sets of characters.

This last Sunday, Easter Sunday, (April 16, 2006), as I sat in church I realized I could write perhaps a series of volumes containing the insights from a study of the entire book, and how that set of volumes could cover a very significant portion of the truly basic principles of the gospel.  In my New Testament Studies I have used Elder McConkie’s “Messiah” series, and had those volumes in mind when thinking of what I might do.

As I reviewed the Pearl of Great Price yesterday, I was struck by the fact that almost all of the doctrines spoken of in the book can be linked to specific Articles of Faith, the closing document in that same book; and that every Article has a corresponding section in the book.  Here is an initial cut at the volumes I would consider authoring, with their corresponding articles:

  • God, Man and the Devil, and The First Vision (Moses chapter 1 and JS History 1:1 – 26, A of F 1)
  • The Creation (Moses chapters 2 and 3 and Abraham 4, A of F 10)
  • The Fall, The Kingdom of the Devil and the World (Moses 4 and 5, A of F 2 and 12)
  • The Atonement and the Gospel (Moses 6, A of F 3, 4 and 13)
  • The Kingdom of God, Zion, Prophets, The Gathering of Israel and The Church (Moses 7 and 8, JS History 1:40 – 41, 66 – end, A of F 6 and 10), including a discussion of all the dispensations we have record of, which are also recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.
    • Adam
    • Enoch
    • Noah
    • Abraham
    • Moses
    • Christ
    • Joseph Smith
  • The Priesthood (Abraham 2, A of F 5)
  • Plan of Salvation, Agency, and Gifts of the Spirit (Abraham 3, A of F 7 and 11)
  • The First and Second Comings (JS Mathew, A of F 10)
  • The Scriptures (JS History 1:27 – 65, A of F 8)
  • The Family, The Gospel of Abraham, and the Temple (Abraham 1, JS History 1:36 – 39, A of F 9)
  • My Testimony

Having written this, I realized it isn’t straight forward.  I started building topics chronologically, but realized that there was significant overlap with some of them, so I have reordered them a bit.  But now the planned flow isn’t really that great, but perhaps it can get there.  Having written this, and being excited about the prospect of using it to further my study of the scriptures, I think I will move the outline to it’s own document to continue my work.  You will find the proper outline… [in a TGC entry under] Pearl of Great Price.

I can see this providing a route through my study of the Topical Guide.  It could also provide a framework for actually reading this document if someone where ever inclined to do so.  I don’t know if all my topics currently in this document fit within that framework above.  But they might.  Further reflection this morning says that, rather than published volumes, I think maintaining this document as a collection of topics, but having an additional access path (similar to the ones discussed above) in an on-line fashion is wiser.

As of today, May 17, 2006, people do not read entire books on-line.  Computer screens are not very accommodating of such reading.  Batteries don’t last long enough.  It is a hardware form factor limitation.  But that may not always be the case.  In the future, publishing an entire volume to a website may become standard.  The value of this work to others will have to be judged by them.  The value to me is very clear, by the fact that this single document is now 268 pages long.

It is starting to become too large to maintain as a single document.  I will need to perhaps start breaking it up by letter of the alphabet anyway.  I did a test late last year in publishing it to the internet.  I set up a personal website, and sent the document up.  However, because it is formatted as one document now, downloading was very slow, requiring the entire document to be sent down.  It was clear that each entry should be its own web page, linked to an index containing all entries for one letter of the alphabet, with a higher level index being the alphabet alone.  The top level index would be to ask which way to access the content, (1) by topic through the alphabet, (2) through a search of all the material, (3) by scripture reference, (4) by date of entry, (5) or through the Pearl of Great Price book contents.

I am hesitant to spend much time writing programs to break the document apart and maintain all of the pieces.  I have made very few programming changes to what I initially created.  They are adequate to my needs for creating and maintaining the content of it.  It is also very unlikely that entries created over time would provide a consistent flow and level of detail for a book reading.  But perhaps the materials gathered in this way over many years may provide the raw materials needed for such a set of books.

XII         Home Centered–Church Supported, Nov 2018

My use of the Topical Guide Compendium dropped off in the early 2010’s.  For example there is only one entry made for 2015, and 3 in 2012.  Most entries were inclusion of Virtue Letters, written to individuals about character traits I found admirable, but there were a few other talks copied, or other significant gospel insights included, often copied from my personal journal.  By and large the document has ceased to become a living document.

At October 2018 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson announced a significant change in church administration, shortening church services to two instead of three hours, and giving the time to the families to organize family centered gospel study programs.

Anticipation of that change come January 2019 has caused me to create this blog.  In creating a separate blog for my work materials, I have been incredibly impressed at how easily one can now do so many of the things I envisioned may be possible 16 years ago. Additionally, in the last year I have learned how to convert my extensive journals written in Word into Kindle books, and have enjoyed reading them in that format, opening up the prospect of digital reading.

And so, having anticipated the ability to create this blog through the creation of materials which can be used upon it, I’ve now released them for more public visibility. I hope they are useful, primarily to my family, as a guide to Eternal Life, the most joyful of all possible states.