Redesigned Scriptures Projects

8 January 2011

One way I study the scriptures is by redesigning them in different ways. It started out as a one-time experiment on a free Friday night during my junior year in college, but I’ve ended up reformatting almost the entire standard works.

The Process

Bible scroll

When the scriptures were first written, there were no verse numbers or chapter breaks.

I start by copying an entire book (e.g., Matthew, or Abraham), paste it into Microsoft Word, superscript all the verse numbers, and remove all line breaks—leaving the book as one long block of text, much as the scriptures appeared when they were first authored (see image at right).

Then I read through them in my personal study time, hitting Enter occasionally to create paragraph breaks where they seem appropriate. I insert headings when I think I’ve found a natural division between sections, and sometimes I place a passage in a shaded box, such as when the author temporarily strays from the narrative to explain something (e.g., 1 Nephi 6). I also color spoken text, such as when two characters are dialoguing (e.g., Exodus 4), which allows you to see how long a speech is before you start reading it.

If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll hyperlink passages to each other when the storyline jumps from one place to the other. For example, in the book of Acts, at the point in the story where Paul (probably) wrote 1 Thessalonians, I’ll put a link to that book. This way a reader can choose to read the scriptures in chronological order, pausing his reading of a historical book (e.g., Acts) to go read a prophetic book or an epistle (e.g., 1 Thessalonians). Sometimes I will insert comments off to the side in my Word documents to record some insight or helpful quote, but that task is perpetual, so it’s never quite done.

The Results

The result is a personalized version of the scriptures that is often much easier to read. In fact, I learned so much in the process of doing this, I was initially reluctant to share my results; I thought others would be more benefitted by doing the task themselves. That way each person could organize the scriptures according to what made sense to them. After all, I don’t know that mine is the only or best way of designing or laying out the scriptures. But my dad protested and said he really thought I should give others access to my redesigned version.

In the end, I decided on a happy medium: I’ll post the beginning Word files, complete with automatic Styles installed for those who want to use them, and I’ll also post my version of each book. You can find the files in the following section of this website:

Gospel > Redesigned Scriptures > Do-It-Yourself

My hope is that others will try this exercise and talk about their results. I expect that they’ll organize the scriptures in different ways, and that can be a springboard for interesting discussion. As I add each book, I’ll announce it in a blog post, and the comments section will give readers a chance to swap ideas and compare their results.

I’ve also taken the next step and typeset my version as a book, which can be viewed as a PDF or ordered online as a hardcopy. You can find the files in the following section of this website:

Gospel > Redesigned Scriptures > StoryGuide Scriptures

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  1. Debbie

    I am starting this today! Thanks!

    • Nathan

      Awesome! Which book are you starting in? How did you find the site? Let us know about your progress.

    • Debbie

      I am starting in 1 Nephi. I found your blog by googling “fun way to read the Book of Mormon.” I am really excited about this. By the way, I shared this link with some friends on Facebook, one of which is Lisa Christiansen who said she went to school with you. We were in the same married ward at BYU.

      • Nathan

        Neat! I hadn’t thought of that search term, but that’s lucky that it landed you here. Maybe Lisa will come over and try it out, too. 🙂

  2. Debbie

    Your site came up because you said “Another benefit is that you can try skipping the digressions in order to stay with the narrative. That can be a fun way to read the book of Mormon, as it allows you to really cement the narrative in your mind.” on the “Do-it-Yourself Book of Mormon” blog post. Anyway, I am really enjoying it. Thanks!

  3. Cyndie Dobson

    I will be teaching a stake Institute class in the fall and am wondering if its okay to copy some of your handouts. I love how you have organized and structured the D&C.

    Do you have anything that integrates the Church history, and its stories, along with the D&C, and in a chronological manner? Ideally I would like to teach some of the history, then the revelations that happened during that time period.

    I feel like the Institute D&C manual does not give enough of the history, and the Church history manual does not give enough study of the revelations.

    • Nathan

      Absotively posilutely you can use my handouts in your institute class. That’s what they’re for! By copy them, do you mean make multiple photocopies of them? Yes, for sure. Or do you mean, recreate them on your own computer while making some changes and customizing them? Yes, that’s fine, too—although I would add that if you modify them, could you please send me your version? I’d love to see how others adapt these handouts.

      For D&C, you might also want to use some of the handouts I’ve made. Check out the D&C section on the Handouts page:

      As for your request for a resource that integrate Church history with D&C sections in a chronological manner, I agree that that’s a much-needed resource. The D&C manual gives some context for each section, but they’re out of chronological order and the context is minimal and does not give a continuous narrative that connects sections together in a string. And the Church history manual does not include every section of the D&C, and it sometimes jumps around chronologically.

      (E.g., the three chapters on Nauvoo all cover the same five years, but with different emphases; I think the result is to disorient the reader and actually sever meaningful context for many sections, such as the fact that Joseph Smith delivered the King Follett discourse—one of the most doctrinally rich sermons of his life—less than a month after learning of disaffected saints’ forming a conspiracy to kill him. I find such context fascinating and instructive. I.e., it’s often during our most trying, anxious times that we also receive the most enlightenment and insight.)

      You’ve gotten my mind churning. I agree that neither manual gives a straightforward chronological approach to the D&C. When I have the time, I will definitely try to make such a resource for you and post it.

  4. Andrea Slaughter

    I was reading an article tonight about the first printers manuscript of the Book of Mormon. It was the first time I realized that it was sent to the publisher without punctuation. It had never occurred to me that a scribe didn’t punctuate the work. This led me through some thoughts, wouldn’t it be interesting to read the B of M without verses. Then, BAM your blog popped up. After reading several of your posts, I’m now excited to read the B of M without punctuation! I am so glad you took on this project, and have shared it!

    • Nathan

      I love to hear when these files help others pursue these interesting questions in their personal study! If you get a chance, please come back and share any insights or thoughts you’ve had.


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