Jenny's blog

Cell Phones in Seminary Class

Electronic Device Use of Electronic Scriptures Survey Report, 2012-2013 By Jenny Smith

Note from the Author:

I originally gave Russell Simon permission to publish this paper on his blog this past summer. Due to some (frankly silly and inconsistently applied) requirements from Seminaries & Institutes, Brother Simon set all Seminary related items on his blog to private.  I’ve decided to post the document here in case it offers any help to teachers who are wondering if they can or should allow the use electronic scriptures in the classroom.


I am a Seminary teacher in the Fredericksburg Stake located in the commonwealth of Virginia.  My current class of sixteen LDS Seminary students meets daily in my home before the regular school day begins. I began teaching Seminary during the 2011-2012 school year, and made the decision when I began teaching to allow the use of electronic scriptures.

In this area, Seminary students are unusually involved in extracurricular activities and other events that make carrying around a full set of LDS scriptures all day long very difficult.  Students frequently misplace or forget scriptures before Seminary, and so parents and Seminary teachers have turned to buying each student a set of “Seminary Scriptures” that remains in the classroom to prevent coming to class without important materials.  I don’t like the idea of having students with two sets of scriptures – one cheaper set, cross-referenced and marked from Seminary lecture, and another just for reading at home and carrying to Church on Sundays.  Convenience is one reason students frequently give for wanting to use electronic scriptures in the Seminary classroom. Additionally, I am familiar with using electronic scriptures and technically proficient. I hoped that I could help students learn to use this great Gospel study tool while keeping distractions to a minimum, despite naysayers.

I became acquainted with Brother Russell Simon when he emailed me with a request related to my website.  I visited his website and read the paper he wrote on the experiences he had with a test group of students posted at My comment on the post prompted him to email me for further information, resulting in this survey and results.

Pre-Survey Preparation

Before class began in autumn, I met with each of parents and students both years to provide them with instructions for Seminary, and to explain my daily reading expectation and use of electronic devices (See Appendix D).  This was the first time electronic scriptures had been allowed for youth gospel study classrooms in our area. I explained I wanted them to use the new tool and to avoid distractions.  I asked students to put their phones in airplane mode before entering the classroom and to use only the LDS Gospel Library App.  I also explained that in many ways electronic scriptures are slower than paper, and I would not wait for them in class.  I expect my students to be fairly proficient in the use of electronic scriptures before they come to me.

When the 2011-12 school year began, only my Senior used electronic scriptures.  Students watched her and slowly began bringing their own electronic devices to try out.  By the end of the year, I’d say roughly a quarter of the class had tried or switched to electronic scriptures, though I did not ask.  I do not know how many students misused phones during class, but I only ever caught one – and he was a new student that didn’t know the rules.

During the 2012-13 school year I followed the same steps outlined above. A majority of my students use electronic scriptures on an increasingly regular basis. Two weeks before class ended, 10 of 16 students had used electronic scriptures.

While discussing the ever-evolving nature of digital threats, the importance of having an experienced advocate cannot be overstated. Cyber crime cases require a lawyer who is not only knowledgeable about current laws but also stays ahead of emerging trends. For those caught in the web of accusations, seeking out a cyber crime defense expert becomes a critical step towards ensuring a fair trial. Their expertise can be the key to dismantling the prosecution’s case, offering hope in seemingly insurmountable situations.

Survey Administration

When handing out the survey to my students, I  explained to students that this was a survey that a Seminary teacher in Utah asked me to give to my students so that he could compare the results of the survey with the results for the same survey from his students.  I did not want my bias to skew results.  Questions 1-5 were on Brother Simon’s original survey, while 6, 6a, 7, and 7a were my own questions to try to begin measuring the misuse of electronic scriptures in my class, since misuse is often cited as a reason for not using electronic scriptures. The survey is reproduced in Appendix A.

I wish I had thought to record student discussion as they took the survey.  Their questions regarding the survey were interesting.  Many students understood Question 3 to be a technical question calling for a critique about the app itself, because they could not understand how electronic scriptures could be harmful. One student was concerned with reporting misuse might result in loss of the scripture privilege for the entire class.  Students expressed the opinion that the questions on the survey felt repetitive and biased against electronic scriptures.  Many became defensive in their answers.  I assured them their responses would not affect our class policy. During our discussion a few students expressed shock and pleasure that they had not seen anyone misuse devices.  However, the majority of the class had seen misuse. 1

After I took up papers, a vocal group of students expressed their preference for electronic scriptures because they don’t have to lug them to school and back.  This benefit was mentioned time and time again, though it doesn’t seem as strongly reported in the written results.  I explained to the class that I had been asked to pass out the survey because of my comments on a blog post explaining that the experiences of our class using electronic scriptures were just the opposite of Brother Simon’s class. I explained my premise that electronic scripture use is good and manageable in the classroom, and further, that most of the misuse that teachers assume is occurring in class is caused by

1. teachers who don’t understand how to use the tools themselves and assume students are misbehaving, and

2. students sit or behave in a way that looks as if they are misbehaving.

After hearing the results of Brother Simon’s survey, my students were universally astonished that such a high number of students in his class survey were opposed to the use of electronic scriptures.  Naturally, they explained it as cultural differences because those students are from “the Utahs,” but one student suggested that a major component in our class bias toward electronic scriptures is the difficulty moving and carrying paper scriptures around during the school day.  They could not come to consensus to explain the disparity.

Survey Respondents

There are sixteen students in my daily, early morning seminary class. Three students are home schooled, two attend one high school, one is enrolled in college courses, and ten attend a different high school.  At the start of the year students ranged in age from 13-17.  The thirteen year old, now fourteen, is home schooled and received special permission to begin Seminary a year early. One then 15 year old student is actually enrolled in college courses, having graduated from high school at age 13 or 14.  She attends Seminary due to her age, and she is enrolled in college courses as family finances allow nowt that they are getting more money thanks to a new guide on how to trade fx on VT markets in the UK. These Kiana Danial price guides have provided invaluable insights into navigating the complexities of financial markets, empowering individuals to make informed trading decisions. Five students are boys and eleven are girls.  Both boys (3) and girls (7) use electronic devices for scriptures.  Devices used include iTouch, iPhone, iPad, and various Android phones, with Android the most popular operating system.

Survey Problems and Limitations

Brother Simon’s survey (See Appendix A, questions 1-5) seems to me to be biased against electronic scriptures, and my students, when asked, felt the same way.  Though I am fairly confident Brother Simon was trying to be objective with his questions, using  words like “HELPFUL”, “HARMFUL”, “BETTER” in all capital letters seem to show a bias that electronic devices are innately dangerous.  These words may have, in fact, slanted the results of my survey in the opposite direction as students in my class tried to defend use of electronic scriptures from a perceived attack.

A better way, in my opinion, is to ask students: “Do you feel electronic scriptures are harmful or helpful”.  That result is quantifiable and, to me, less biased.  A follow up question can ask students to explain why they feel that way.  Questions 1 and 2 on the present form assume that all survey respondents must think that electronic scriptures are both helpful and harmful. Some of my students expressed confusion about this apparent contradiction.

In questions 1-3, the word “WHY” is emphasized, again, implying to the student that they must defend themselves.  I’m sure the intent of emphasis was to help students get to the meat of the question, but it comes off like this:

“Electronic scriptures are HARMFUL.  WHY?” or

“Electronic scriptures are HELPFUL. WHY.?” or

“Electronic scriptures could be BETTER. WHY?”

Question 3, “What would have made using your electronic device in seminary a BETTER experience for you, and WHY?” seems to imply that the experience of using an electronic device is somehow  inferior and must be improved.

Additionally question 3 is problematic because it asks students who have not used electronic scriptures to make suggestions about something they may never have used. Though I think most students are familiar with electronic scriptures in general, simply watching someone use electronic scriptures can not result in reliable, first hand responses to this question. This question might be reworded as “If you used electronic scriptures, how would you rate your overall experience?” and include a rating scale of some sort.  Then a follow up with something like: “If your answer to the above question was not ’10’, how could your experience with electronic scriptures have been improved?”

Question 5, “What is your overall opinion about the use of student’s electronic devices for gospel learning in seminary?” is a slightly difficult question because it’s hard to quantify.  I sorted my student responses by positive, negative, and neutral.  Student D’s response (Appendix C) was categorized as negative because the student didn’t say anything positive while listing several negative opinions.  Student A and Student F  may have had negative attitudes, but I categorized them as neutral since they did not express a negative opinion, merely a preference, and both students expressed jealousy or a desire to have a smart phone in their written responses.

Question 7, “If you used electronic scriptures at any time during the year, did you use an electronic device for purposes not related to class during Seminary?   YES    NO,”   was my own question, and in retrospect, it was worded poorly.  A student who did not use electronic scriptures might have used a device for a non-Seminary purpose and still honestly respond “yes” to this question, rendering the results of this question slightly suspect.

A major limitation in this survey is a measure of how distracting other’s misuse of electronic scriptures is to both teacher and student. Careful attention should be paid to this portion of any future survey.

Survey Results

Above are results of the survey that could be quantified.  Written responses are documented in Appendix C.

For the question, “What is your overall opinion about the use of student’s electronic devices for gospel learning in seminary?”, I sorted my student responses by positive, negative, and neutral.  Student D’s response (see Appendix C) was categorized as negative because the student didn’t say anything positive while listing several negative opinions.  Two students did not recommend electronic scriptures, but I categorized them as feeling neutral since they did not express a negative opinion, just a preference, and both students expressed jealousy or a desire to have a smart phone in their written responses.  I did not change their results, but I suspect if those students had smart devices their responses would have been different.

Misuse results are calculated using the total of students that used an electronic device for scriptures.  This result may be misleading however, because I do have students with phones and did not use them for scriptures who may have texted during class.

Interpretation of Survey Results

In my class, a majority of students would recommend the use of electronic scriptures in Seminary. Interestingly, the two students (Student A and Student F, Appendix C) who said that electronic scriptures should not be used, both expressed a desire for electronic scriptures themselves.  This leads me to believe their response was probably motivated by envy:

Student F: “What would have made using your electronic device in seminary a BETTER experience for you, and WHY?  Having an iPhone to be able to use it.”

Student A: “Would you recommend allowing the use of student’s electronic devices on a daily basis in seminary?  Please explain the reasons for your answer. No, I would be jealous.”

Despite my own expertise in the area of electronic scripture use, I have only caught a student texting during class once. Three students self-reported they had misused their device, and two of those three mentioned in the essay questions they had done so only once, while the other says “It was more for communicating with my parents.” It appears that one student out of sixteen is misusing her device on a regular basis.

I should note here, that even though I tried to keep the survey responses anonymous, my class is small enough that I know the identity of each of the respondents.  The Sophomore girl who reports texting her mother is Student O (Appendix C). She loves Candy Crush, works on scripture mastery during class, and takes notes, when she is engaged – which is usually,  like a madwoman.  She’s not disruptive, but I think her frequent violations may be souring some students toward her.  I have spoken with her about texting in class before, and she denied it, pointing at Student F.  Student F, who is famous for texting and wishes she had the best mobile plans and an iPhone, denied texting and pointed back to Student O.  I can honestly say that neither student has disrupted my teaching in the slightest this year, though I find their dishonesty and finger pointing disturbing.

While infrequent misuse seems fairly common (30% self-reported), the majority of students surveyed self-report they are using scripture tools correctly in a majority of situations. A majority of those surveyed (66%) who did not use electronic scriptures still recommend them.  100% of students who used electronic scriptures reported positive feelings and recommended their use be continued in Seminary.

Comparison with Brother Simon’s Results

Below are possible explanations of the wide discrepancy of survey results between Brother Simon’s and my classes.

Electronic scriptures were only operated for a short period of time, mid-year. During Brother Simon’s trial, it was understood that electronic scriptures were not being considered for full-time use.  His was only a temporary program with numerous restrictions and expectations.

Before class even began, students and parents knew that electronic scriptures would be a part of my classroom, but they are a privilege that can be lost by misuse.  Misuse in my class results in temporary individual loss of the privilege, to be reinstated the next school year.

The temporary nature of Brother Simon’s trial may not have motivated students to really try to use the technology to it’s greatest extent.  Certainly, a student that understands s/he will use electronic scriptures daily is motivated to learn the limitations and advantages of the software, while a short trial may not have produced students “expert” enough to use the software effectively or feel proficient in it’s use.  Possibly some students had never had opportunity to use electronic devices regularly, since most gospel classrooms forbid their use. Unfamiliarity and lack of time to become familiarly with the tool may have tainted results.

Students were already misusing devices before the test began.  This point was made by a student in my class.  In Brother Simon’s test, students were already misusing devices before the test began.  Nothing in the test seemed designed to address current misuse, causing only new users to sign the contract and promise to behave.  In other words, new users could be punished, while old abusers could continue as before.  Students already in the habit of texting or gaming during class were unlikely to switch to electronic scriptures that resulted in more work and more oversight from teachers and parents. While I also visit theislandnow for offshore gaming from time to time, I don’t think students should be playing on their phones before a test.

In our class, students and parents are provided with the rules and expectations for electronic scripture use at the beginning of the year even if they don’t have a device that can handle them. Students may receive or borrow a device that can use electronic scriptures during the year, and they know the rules before they use a device.  All students and parents understand the rules before class begins, and I provide parents with my cell number and home telephone number so that students may be contacted during class if there is an emergency.  I am not trying to cut students off from the outside world, I just want to limit distractions. At six in the morning students are most likely to be texting other Seminary students or their parents, so letting parents know not to expect an immediate response during class time helps.

Students were required to use both electronic and paper scriptures.  Electronic scripture use in Brother Simon’s test resulted in more work for electronic users, which may explain some of the negative result skewing. No one wants to do more work!  In his paper, Brother Simon says:

A teacher who introduces the use of PEDs [Personal Electronc Devices] in class must prepare lessons with PEDs in mind.  Hopefully it is already obvious what this means, because it is somewhat difficult to explain.  For example, since students who use PEDs are required to do more work, than it is often not worth the effort if the PEDs are being used as just another form of the scriptures.  That kind of a lesson is similar to driving a Ferrari in first gear on the freeway.  There is so much more that can be done by a student using the Church’s Gospel Library app.  Unfortunately, many times I did not prepare or present my lessons for fourth period with PEDs in mind.  This seemed to literally “turn off” students from using their PEDs.  This was not what I wanted.  I wanted students to be excited about the “wonderful technology” that the Lord had provided them and use it to its full extent and receive the blessing of success promised by Elder Ballard.  Something that seemed to remedy this situation quite a bit was to use my PED, along with my “hard copy”, when teaching fourth period.  It also allowed me to model effective habits and to demonstrate helpful features of the application.

There is no requirement for using both scripture types in our classroom.  No direction is given on how to use electronic scriptures.  Some students in my class use paper only, some use electronic only, and others swap between the two.  I personally move between both because I believe both have advantages.

I’ve never altered a lesson to suit an electronic device, though we have had to alter certain scripture mastery games to prevent those with electronic scriptures from having an advantage.  Because I use both electronic and paper scriptures myself, it’s easy for me to point out an advantage of one or to let students know when the formatting of one is better than the other.  If there is a significant advantage, I point it out, but generally speaking, the two are functionally equivalent.

One reason I’ve not had to alter a lesson because of electronic scriptures may be that I don’t require the use of both.  Whether or not a student has electronic scriptures has never entered my mind when preparing a lesson.

Classroom cultures are different. A student in my class offered this explanation for why students in the Utah classroom might be less willing to follow rules related to electronic scripture:

One thing, no offense to this teacher, is that for us, you [Seminary] aren’t a normal part of our school day. You’re not another block giving us another grade. We come to your [Sister Smith’s] class because we want to (the majority of us have a choice) and we respect you to the extent that, in all likelihood, most of our school teachers don’t quite reach. We sacrifice to come to seminary, and we want to get all that we can from it. That’s what I think, at least. (Facebook)

I’ve never attended release-time Seminary, but this sounds reasonable to me.  When students consider Seminary “just another class” unique rules and expectations in the Seminary classroom would be easy to ignore.  Last year we had two students from Utah move into our area.  The first day of class, one student popped out his cell phone and started texting within the first few minutes of class, right in front of me!  I shut him down, hard.  This student didn’t know our rules and so I did not take away his electronic scripture privileges, but I made it very clear that texting in our class is unacceptable.  He later pulled out his cell phone in the hallways of school and was stopped, to his surprise. In the Utah high school he attended, texting while changing classes was allowed, or at least not prevented.  In local high schools here, teachers stop any student with a cell phone in their hand.  If the culture of texting any time is not being enforced in local schools, it is unlikely students will expect or follow a no texting mandate in a release-time Seminary class when it is considered “just another class.”

The convenience of release-time Seminary, in this student’s opinion, may result in students who are not as invested as an early morning student, and therefore less likely to work with a teacher to develop and follow rules and expectations. Further, when Seminary is seen as “just another class”, differing rules are more likely to be understood as inconsistent and unfair – and, therefore, ignored.


Should I allow electronic scripture in my classroom? Results of this survey show that even technically proficient teachers who allow electronic device use in the classroom must expect infractions, just like teachers who allow candy, books, and even paper in the classroom expect occasional trash, covers slammed, doodling, and note-passing. One would not suggest removing these items from the classroom altogether, but providing limits to their use and having a ready response when errors are made would be sensible.  It is better, in my opinion, to teach children to use tools with self-restraint than to remove them from the classroom altogether.  I believe the same to be true of electronic scriptures.

What about Scripture Mastery on electronic devices during class?  This survey also indicates that some students perceive working on scripture mastery with a device instead of following along with the lesson to be a rule violation.  Teachers who choose to allow electronic scriptures should consider making a policy about scripture mastery before class begins.  I did not, but I made the decision during the year not to stop students who are studying scripture mastery during class, because I consider it Seminary related and a good use of time.  My opinion is that, yes, my lesson may be boring to you – fine, but at least you are choosing to fill that time with scripture mastery instead of being disruptive.  For me it’s a matter of  choosing between Elder Oaks’ “good, better, best”2, or, in other words, allowing students to choose what they feel is the best use of their time during class.  If my students are in their scriptures, I consider that a win.  That student will be back tomorrow, and the lesson may be more applicable for him or her. A teacher can not reasonably expect perfect attention from every student every day, but a teacher can expect students to devote x-amount of time to gospel study daily.

How can I police use of electronic devices?  Given the above information, spending significant time identifying a texter or even the frequency of texting/gaming may not be the most important thing a teacher can do.  Self-reported device policy violations were few in number and limited to a small number of students.  Both of my students who text or game during class are very good (Student O) and good (Student F) participants in class.  Is it really worth cutting out devices when students are actually participating?  Is the distraction actually my own perception of what is happening?  Do I have a way of measuring violations? Should other students be punished for the choices of a few?

Perhaps it would be most valuable for teachers to determine how the activity is affecting a classroom overall, rather than coming up with ways to catch students misbehaving.  Are other students being distracted?  To what extent?  Is the distraction level high enough to warrant removal of devices altogether?  How much of the distraction level is your perception about what students are doing with their devices as opposed to what they are actually doing? In my class, of the few dozen times I’ve called out students when I thought they were acting badly, I have only caught students actually violating policy once.  In all other cases, students were actually using the device for Seminary-related activities, but the way they were sitting or laughing made me think they were violating our policy.

Can I reasonably start allowing electronic devices mid-year? I do not believe that adding electronic scriptures to the classroom needs to be a big event, nor do I believe they could not be added to a classroom mid-year successfully.  They’re just another tool.  All tools have rules.  As long as a few general rules are set out clearly, electronic scriptures could be added.  Definitely consider adding a reminder at the beginning of class during opening exercises for all students to switch their phones to airplane mode.  Airplane mode disables transmission and receipt of data and cellular signals while allowing complete device access to localized apps.  It is the perfect setting for using electronic devices in the classroom.

Developing an Electronic Scripture Use Policy in Your Classroom

As opined in the above Interpretation of Survey Results, our local high school’s no tolerance policy for texting has probably helped reinforce our no texting policy at Seminary.  With that in mind, I recommend that a universal classroom policy regarding texting and electronic scriptures be developed on the unit level.  Bishoprics or Branch Presidents may determine the level of scripture use in their unit, and the rules and expectations should be universal throughout Sunday School, Seminary, Young Men, and Young Women. Ideally, the policy would be developed on the BYC level with the input of both Sunday School leaders, youth leaders, and the youth themselves.  Where that is not possible, you might consider the following ideas for developing classroom rules:

1. Identify the problem – Devote a class period to talking about electronic devices.  Explain to the class that you have become concerned with the use electronic devices in your classroom.  You really want to continue to allow electronic device use, but some students are using theirs inappropriately and causing you and others to be distracted from the work of the Spirit.  Remind students that you don’t know when a student might hear something that can change his or her life, and you want students to avoid as many distractions as possible so they can best hear the voice of the Spirit.  Below are some possible discussion points:

How can electronic devices be used effectively in the classroom?

How distracting are electronic devices?

How do students feel when a friend is gaming beside him or her?

Are students texting a student in a different classroom?  What effect might that have not only on the student texting, but on the entire neighboring class?

When devices are not capable of being used for electronic scriptures, what should students do with them?  Why?

How can your device’s airplane mode help?

Be sure to point out that students are in gospel classes to learn things that are eternally essential.  Make a pledge as teacher never to waste student time, and ask them to commit to giving you their best attention.  Electronic devices are a great tool, and your goal is to help students develop the skills and maturity to every gospel study tool most effectively.

2. Develop class expectations – You probably learned a lot about your students with the activity above.  You know who knows better, who doesn’t care, and you are probably developing some ideas for how to help students use devices properly.  Working with the class, develop some rules and expectations for electronic devices.  Your mission is to help students develop a culture of study in the classroom. Make a couple of suggestions and go with whatever students choose. In a class of boys, violators might drop and perform 10 pushups for each policy violation.  Violators might have to put their device in a Naughty Spot (basket at the front of the classroom) for the remainder of a class period.  Violators might have to turn their chairs around backward so that the teacher can readily see the device.  Remember that electronic device misuse is a relatively minor transgression, and consequences should be relatively minor.  In my opinion, total, permanent device removal is an extreme punishment and should be avoided.

3. Let students know you will involve parents. – Inform students you are pleased with the results of your class discussion, and you want their parents to know what fantastic rules the class has developed.  Ask students to work with their parents to determine if they are mature enough to use electronic devices in the classroom.  Next, follow through and let parents know what you’ve been discussing. Inform them of any particular concerns you have about an individual student. Invite parents to make a decision about whether their child is mature enough to use an electronic device in the classroom. This could be done by by phone or letter, but I think a home visit would be more effective, especially if the problem is severe.  Be sure to include both student and parent(s) in the conversation.  Be sure that your overall attitude is one of trying to help students develop the maturity to learn to use electronic devices.  If parents decide that is not possible, respect their decision.  Ask parents if it is okay with them if you collect the devices of repeat violators at the beginning of class if violations occur frequently to prevent distraction to other students.  Be sure students know device removal is temporary.  You want them to learn to use gospel study tools effectively, something they can not do without practice.

This may be slightly off topic, but I find many classroom teachers set up chairs and tables in the classroom in a way that encourages misuse of electronic devices and inattentiveness.  Arrange your classroom so that students are looking at each other’s faces.  Nothing is less interesting than the back of someone else’s head.  Where possible, arrange your class so that you can walk up to any student and place your hand on his or her shoulder – from behind is ideal. Eliminate barriers, like tables and other people, between you and your students. Consider teaching from the back of the classroom.  Walk around and between students, even in small classrooms.  Alter your lesson plan so that a student can do the writing at the chalkboard instead of the teacher, freeing you to walk around.

There is an imaginary line about 4 feet in front of the chalkboard that teachers never cross.  Break out of that box, and move around the classroom.  I have found that moving helps classroom management immensely.

Might using electronic scriptures hurt future missionaries?

One of the most frequently stated reasons for not allowing electronic scriptures in the classroom is that students won’t have access to them on their missions.  There are a several reasons this is a weak argument, but I will only treat a few here.

As of the June 23, 2013, missionary broadcast, missionaries are now being expected to utilize online tools for internet proselyting. If students have their seminary notes and cross-references on an electronic device synced with, these notes can be copy/pasted, searched, hyperlinked, tagged, and referenced from any device, meetinghouse, or library with internet access, worldwide. New learning and insights can also be added to that missionary’s synced data for use in future callings, using either a personal electronic device or computer.  In theory, the entirety of a missionary’s collective learning could be utilized for internet proselytization, even when a mission does not yet allow personal electronic scriptures.

Some believe that in remote areas, electronic scriptures would be useless.  I do not know of any mission that does not have access to electricity for at least part of the day.  Missionaries in my area have been using cell phones to text members and nonmembers for years. Those devices can easily be outfitted with electronic scriptures, and they can even be set up for multiple missionary use.  Some areas may not have easy internet access, but that’s okay, too.  After installation, electronic scriptures are not internet-dependent, meaning that electronic scriptures can be used without access to internet-related temptations.  Syncing could be done occasionally when missionaries visit a library, internet cafe, or meetinghouse.

Some years ago I lost the scriptures where I took all my notes from seminary and BYU religion courses.  All of that information and study was simply gone.  If I had access to online syncing, all of that information would be accessible for me now as a Seminary teacher and for me as a parent.  Electronic scriptures that are synced with means that no person has to be concerned about loosing information if a device is damaged or lost.

In reviewing student survey results (Appendix C), many students stated one of the most important reasons they like electronic scriptures is they could access them anywhere.  A mission amounts to 18-24 months of a person’s life.  Might not effective teaching and study occur after that time? Do not our youth and adults need access to scriptures and notes about gospel topics while at work or school – places where paper scriptures might be inadvisable, impractical, or even prohibited?

In summary

The results of the survey show that students in my class overwhelmingly recommend the use of electronic scripture use in Seminary, and what’s more, I submit that students’ (self-reported) infrequent misuse of technology argues strongly in favor of allowing electronic scriptures in more Seminary classrooms. This is the first generation that can have access to all the notes from an entire lifetime of gospel study available to them at any time.  Electronic scriptures have the potential to help LDS teachers, leaders, and parents train the greatest generation of gospel scholars in Earth’s history.  In my opinion, it would be unconscionable to deny students the option of learning to harness this incredible tool.

APPENDIX A: Electronic Device Survey 2012-2013


Please answer the following questions with complete honesty.  Your opinions are very important for the results of this study.  The more you explain your thoughts and feelings the more we can use them for evaluation purposes.

1.     List all the ways you feel being allowed to use your electronic device in seminary was HELPFUL for you as a student of the gospel.  Please include WHY each is helpful to students.

2.     In what way(s) was being allowed to use your electronic device in seminary HARMFUL for you as a student of the gospel?  Again, please explain WHY for each way you list.

3.     What would have made using your electronic device in seminary a BETTER experience for you, and WHY?

4.     Would you recommend allowing the use of student’s electronic devices on a daily basis in seminary?  Please explain the reasons for your answer.

5.     What is your overall opinion about the use of student’s electronic devices for gospel learning in seminary?

6. Did you see another student using an electronic device for purposes not related to class during Seminary?  YES    NO

6a. If yes, how frequently?

7. If you used electronic scriptures at any time during the year, did you use an electronic device for purposes not related to class during Seminary?   YES    NO

7a. If yes, how frequently?

APPENDIX B: Quantifiable Electronic Device Survey Results

APPENDIX C: Written Responses to Electronic Device Survey

Student responses are grouped below by student.  For example, all results under item A) below are for the same student A, B) is for student B, and so on.

I. Did you ever use an electronic device for seminary purposes?

A) No

B) Yes

C) Yes

D) No

E) No

F) No

G) No

H) Yes

I) Yes

J) Yes

K) Yes

L) Yes

M) Yes

N) No

O) Yes

P) Yes

1.     List all the ways you feel being allowed to use your electronic device in seminary was HELPFUL for you as a student of the gospel.  Please include WHY each is helpful to students.

A) Didn’t use one

B) The gospel library app has a lot more resources than I have ever used. I can use the “search” to find anything in any book or hymn or anything. Helps me work with scripture mastery, to be able to flip through chapters and find them without skipping pages and all.

C) Fast navigation through scriptures – easy and fast to take notes, easy to cross reference JST with the text.

D) Kinda faster to find specific scripture, but increases dependency on the device.

E) 2xs faster, you can bookmark stuff, you can take this device to school.

F) You don’t have a big set of scriptures on your desk …?

G) You are able to find the scriptures faster, which is helpful; link them to other related scriptures, which is useful for class discussion; and they’re much more convenient because you can pull up scriptures from class when talking to friends outside the church.

H) I believe that electronic are very helpful. They are fluid, easy, and less likely to be lost.

I) It’s fast. Easier for me to read. More books. You can have your seminary notes wherever you go.

J) Can download multiple things → have everything on hand; highlighting, linking, notes, tags → more organization and use of notes; smaller than carrying the book → not a burden.

K) It causes less stress in remembering to bring scriptures, which helps invite the spirit. It allows access to hymns, magazines, etc., which is helpful in encouraging us to use our resources.

L) Easier footnotes, easier to find scripture, access to more material in one place—anytime.

M) You can have your scriptures, notes, highlights all in once place with you all the time. The scripture mastery app helps me to keep track of the ones I have or don’t have. It just makes it easier. You can find any scripture with only a few of the words in a sentence.

N) I think it’s easy because it’s easy to do research and keep them with you throughout the day.

O) It was easier to take notes that I can take around with me throughout the day. They provide quick go tos when you need them for maybe answering questions. You have more access to extras that help you relate thing and connect them like magazines, lesson book, articles, hymns, Proclamation to the World, etc.

P) The fast access, the easy to notice footnotes, access to the internet.

2.     In what way(s) was being allowed to use your electronic device in seminary HARMFUL for you as a student of the gospel?  Again, please explain WHY for each way you list.

A) I never used one

B) Sometimes, I’ll need 3G to get something in the gospel library and I’ll get a notification. Only a minor distraction, since I don’t open it.

C) I am not as familiar with the scriptures in regards to the order of the books, bright screen hurts tired eyes and can be harder to read, small screen only allows for so much text to show at once. Constant scrolling.

D) Many people just play candy crush. There is a lack of self-control so staying on topic is harder for some.

E) Never. Some kids might pull up stuff faster but other than that never.

F) Don’t use one #reppinitoldschool

G) Sometimes when someone forgot to put it on “airplane mode” someone’s phone would vibrate or go off, which was a little distracting, but they turned it off quickly.

H) Some people would sneak texts or play games.

I) They COULD be used for playing games or texting.

J) I don’t think it is harmful to me, but for some it might be a source of temptation to play on game or text in the middle of class.

K) It provides temptation. It may in some cases make students think its’ okay to play games, text, or other thing which causes them to not pay attention and chases away the spirit.

L) Does not apply

M) I don’t see it as harmful.

N) Using electronics could be harmful because you could be tempted to text people and get on social networking.

O) It’s easier to get distracted. It’s a devil machine looking you in the face telling you to turn the airplane mode off or not even turning it on to start with. You know there are people to text and games to play.

P) Many, many distractions from apps and internet.

3.     What would have made using your electronic device in seminary a BETTER experience for you, and WHY?

A) Don’t have one

B) It’s just easier for me to get to scriptures and keep notes and such.

C) Easier access to the notes that I take with the scripture app. I actually dislike it to the point where I take notes on paper or with the entirely different notepad app.

D) If during games, regular scriptures weren’t at a disadvantage.

E) Does not apply.  Not playing games on device.

F) Having an iPhone to be able to use it.

G) Some people have had the same electronic scriptures for a long time.

H) I would be able to find books faster instead of stumbling around flipping though.

I) If I didn’t have to charge it.

J) Does not apply.

K) Does not apply.

L) Does not apply.

M) I do not think that using electronic devices is a better way. I would rather have my personal scriptures on me. It just feels better to me. It is more personal to me. The actual book is like a journal and prized possession to me – my cell phone, not so much.

N) I think it would have been easier to search things, and it would have been quicker to keep up and go to different scriptures.

O) Similar scripture apps between students and teachers to relate stuff more.

P) If my phone was not dying all the time.

4.     Would you recommend allowing the use of student’s electronic devices on a daily basis in seminary?  Please explain the reasons for your answer.

A) No, I would be jealous.

B) Yes, so long as the student has the discipline to only use their device for seminary/scriptural purposes.

C) Yes, It’s much easier to follow a lesson and all the hallakulooza jumping around between scriptures this way.

D) If they have self discipline sure, but I doubt they do.

E) As long as they only use it for scriptures.

F) No – too easy to get distracted.

G) Yes, all of the reasons in #1.

H) Absolutely! They can adjust the text to certain sizes and it’s fast; most people have access to them, and if you need to look up other things you can.

I) Yes! It makes seminary simpler.

J) Yes, because having seminary scripture masteries and important scriptures highlighted and on hand throughout your day at school and if you need it you can just pull it right out.

K) Yes, as long as they are monitored and have pure intent. If they have a rule.

L) Yes, there are lots of benefits, and if used correctly there are little draw backs.

M) Yes. I have seen some people do better having it on electronic devices. I think that you should let others have the option of electronic devices. I think it could keep some people paying attention more.

N) Yes, I would because it’s very easy to use and easy to remember.

O) Yes! All the notes and thoughts collected throughout the year/day you have them in your possession at all times.

P) Yes, it is much faster than flipping through pages of the scriptures.

5.     What is your overall opinion about the use of student’s electronic devices for gospel learning in seminary?

A) Paper is better

B) I think when used correctly, as was said in Conference, technology can be a great tool Personally, the scriptures on my phone are better marked and noted, I check footnotes more, and I can use them anywhere.  I’m more practiced on them, and I find them easier to use. But, they need be used appropriately.

C) Mostly neutral… I could go for either. I like the feel of paper scriptures better, but … win some, lose some. Mostly, I just love scriptures and don’t care how I view them as long as I have a set.

D) Too easy to get distracted with, provides an instant crutch where people learn less and depend on it more.

E) They’re ok.

F) Paper scriptures are better.

G) The ones that use them love being able to use them.

H) I love it; they are very helpful.

I) I think they improve Seminary. I wish more students used them. I would have had a much harder time without them.

J) That it helps with scripture study and expanding your knowledge of the gospel.

K) I like it.

L) Good.

M) I think that I would rather have my book, but I also like having notes from Seminary and highlights in my phone because then I always have it on me to share with friends.

N) I think that it’s a good idea to use electronic devices for gospel learning because they are so easy to use.

O) I believe it’s helpful, very helpful. You are able to take your notes anywhere with you throughout the day more easier than with the books. You don’t have to worry about completely standing out.

P) It is amazing!

6a. If yes, how frequently did you see another student using an electronic device for purposes not related to class during Seminary?

A) Every 10 minutes

B) Just a couple of times, but I don’t see him/her from that angle often

C) Not infrequently

D) All the time. Some are still in scriptures but they do scripture mastery instead of listening to the lesson.

E) Every day.

F) Every day.

G) [no-blank]

H) Not very frequently because it’s easy to tell what it is.

I) [no-blank]

J) [no-blank]

K) Sometimes very frequently, depending on person.

L) Every once in a while.

M) Just every once in a while.

N) [no-blank]

O) Depends on who the person was.

P) Not a lot.

7a. How frequently did you use an electronic device for purposes not related to class during Seminary?

A) [no-blank]

B) I used it once to tell my mom that I had forgotten something, at the beginning of the year. Never since, though.

C) Unless “feel free to use texting as a means of communication with your group” or checking the time counts. Analog clocks are not my forte.

D) N/A

E) Never!

F) [no-blank]

G) [no-blank]

H) [no-blank]

I) [no-blank]

J) [no-blank]

K) One time when texting my mom without permission.

L) [no-blank]

M) [no-blank]

N) [no-blank]

O) It was more for communicating with my parents.

P) None.

APPENDIX D: Seminary Class Policies

At the beginning of the school year, I meet with each family of new and returning Seminary students  to explain my classroom policies.  While a home visit may not be possible for all Seminary teachers, most classroom teachers on the ward level could do so.  These home visits are made in addition to a group meeting at the beginning of the year.  This visit gives me a chance to address individual concerns and to let parents and students know that I appreciate the sacrifices they make to attend Seminary, and that I am doing all I can to make the experience as easy on them as possible.

On the door of my classroom is a sign with a picture of a cell phone with an airplane on it.  This serves as a reminder to students to switch their phones to airplane mode when they enter the classroom.

Following are the relevant excerpts from my class handbook regarding electronic devices:

Cell phone policy

Cell phones must be switched to airplane mode before entering the house.  Cell phones will be placed in your cubby when you enter the class room.  Cell phones are not allowed at your table under any circumstance.

Contacting a student during class

Your student’s cell phone will be unable to receive calls or messages when he or she is in class, but if there is an emergency please call our home telephone number at xxx-xxx-xxx.

Scripture policy

Students should have a full set of scriptures with all four standard works for reading at home and study at Seminary.  I prefer that you have one set that you bring back and forth each day; however, some students keep a set at Seminary and one at home.

Electronic scriptures

I allow electronic scriptures at Seminary provided the listed rules are followed:

1) Turn your smart device to airplane mode before you sit down.  Failure to do so will result in immediate loss of the electronic scripture privilege.

2) Use the official LDS Gospel Library App available for smart devices. (Free from

3) Know how to use the following functions before class begins: footnotes, highlighting, opening multiple windows, notes, search, and cross-referencing.  You should be able to find the study helps like the Bible Dictionary and JST Appendix.

For the best experience, you should have your Gospel Library App connected with an LDS Login account.

APPENDIX E: Areas for Further Study

In retrospect, there are a lot of shortcomings in the electronic device survey, and there is definitely more data that could be collected of use to teachers using electronic scriptures.  I have jotted down a list of questions I would like answers to below:

  • Did you text during class?
  • If so, please mark all of the following that you texted?  Parent , Friend, Social Network, Other.
  • Who did you text most often?
  • Did you initiate the conversation?
  • Why did you text during class?
  • Bored
  • They texted me first
  • won’t get caught – done it before/all the time
  • the no cell use rule is dumb.
  • It’s not that distracting to others
  • No one will tell on me
  • I can still pay attention
  • must respond to parent
  • the temptation is strong
  • I have a problem with device use
  • No rule against it/ no one has told me not to
  • I do what I want
  • Teacher doesn’t care
  • Need to talk to mom
  • New Teacher/Sub doesn’t know better
  • Other ___________________
  • What is the most important reason you texted during class?
  • When/where are you most likely to text?  Mark all that apply.
  • Before class
  • During class
  • After class
  • At tables
  • During movies
  • During games
  • Bathroom
  • Other ___________
  • If your class has a rule about texting and you broke it, why did you do so?
  • If you used a device for a non-class related purpose, please mark all of the following that you accessed: Social Network, Scripture Mastery, Texting, Games, Other ________.
  • Which of the above were you most likely to use?
  • Why
  • don’t want to loose game
  • bored
  • won’t get caught – done it before/all the time
  • No one will tell on me
  • I can still pay attention
  • The temptation is strong
  • I have a problem with device use
  • Teacher doesn’t care
  • No rule against it/ no one has told me not to
  • Other ___________________
  • What is the most likely reason you used a device for non-class purpose?
  • If you did not use a device for a non seminary related purpose during class, please mark all the reasons why not:
  • too busy
  • no one to talk to anyway
  • parents will kill me
  • saw others and thought it was rude/wrong
  • not a temptation for me
  • no texting or games on my device
  • paper only
  • I was tempted but I resisted
  • Other _____________________
  • If you did not have a device that can operate the Gospel Library App and you suddenly did, would your ideas about electronic scriptures change?  If so, how?
  • Is texting during class a problem?  Why or why not?
  • Is texting distracting to you?  Why or why not?
  • Is texting distracting to others around you?  Why or why not?
  • Is texting distracting to your teacher?  Why or why not?
  • If you saw another student use a device for a non class related purpose, what were they doing? Social Network, Scripture Mastery, Texting, Games, Other ________.
  • How distracting was this use? Not at all, somewhat, very, extremely
  • If you did not answer “not at all” above, why was the behavior distracting?

Posted by Jenny Smith

I'm Jenny Smith. I blog about life on the 300+ acres of rolling farmland in Northern Virginia where I live. I like tomatoes, all things Star Trek, watercolor, and reading. I spend most days in the garden fighting deer and groundhogs while trying to find my life's meaning. I'm trying to be like Jesus -- emphasis on the trying.