Annotating Patriarchal Blessings: OneNote

Several years ago, I did a series of posts on how to use Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader to study your patriarchal blessing. Many people never realized they could use those programs in that way, and I was satisfied that I had found what would be my lasting solution to study my blessing.

What inspired me to begin using OneNote was the fact that I couldn't use the attachment function in Adobe Reader. Attachments were a great way of attaching talks, images, charts--anything I wanted directly into the PDF of my blessing. I really liked this feature, but once my free trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro expired, I couldn't use attachments anymore.

I set about to find a workaround with a different PDF program, and couldn't find one. I grew dissatisfied with Adobe and I had the interesting prompting to explore OneNote.

I fell in love instantly with the massive amounts of features I found. I can't believe I never imagined using it much sooner. I've been using it for less than a week, so I've only begun to discover all the features it has, and all the ways I can use it to study my patriarchal blessing.

How do I set it up?

I admit, transferring all of my annotations out of Adobe Reader took me a while. It was a project I worked on for several days. But now that I've finished with the Copy and Paste phase, using the program will go much faster for me. It really won't be nearly as complicated for someone else just starting out, however.

Open OneNote, and you can either use the Notebook it opens up for you, or create a new one. I didn't want to create a new one, so I'm actually going to show you everything in the Quick Notes section today.

Either type or copy the text of your blessing into a page in OneNote. Once you have that finished, you can begin adding comments and annotations. So let's say I want to study more on the subject of blessings. I create a section for that from the blue menu on the right. I call the new page "Blessings," and I start to work.

On this page, my study can include anything and everything.

  • I can add scriptures, questions, journal entries, lists, or ideas. I can write using a tablet or I can type it out. 
  • I can choose a word from my blessing, right click, choose Link, and add links to talks on the internet. 
  • I can attach all kinds of file formats. Simply go to INSERT menu at the top, click on File Attachment, and add whatever you want. You can download transcripts of talks and attach them as Word or PDF files. You can attach audio or video copies of talks you have studied. If you want suggestions of where you can study or download new talks, has conference talks, magazine articles and manuals. Also check out their Media LibraryBYU Speeches has BYU talks and devotionals in various formats, I highly recommend them. BYU Broadcasting has archives for BYU Women's Conference, the Sperry Symposium, and Education Week; you can't download these, but they have some amazing talks in there. When you attach audio files, you can actually play them from OneNote instead of having to open them up in separate programs. 
  • If you go to the INSERT menu at the top, you also see options for Record Audio and Record Video. You can record yourself talking about your blessing and do an audio or video journal of your studying if you don't like to write or sit at a computer. Just make sure you use this feature privately, because it isn't appropriate for anyone outside of immediate family to hear your patriarchal blessing.

Once you have studied to your heart's content, you can link the page you just created to the topic in your patriarchal blessing. The example I showed you above was on blessings, so I'm actually going to attach that to the word "blessings" in the text.

Highlight the word you want to connect to your page, in this case, "blessings." Choose Link. A new small window will appear.

Click the plus sign next to the name of the Notebook you're working out of. Then it will give you a list of Sections. Click the plus sign next to the Section where your blessing is. Your blessing will appear at the top, and all the pages underneath it should be pages you created while you studied. Find the one for "blessings," or whatever the topic was that you were studying, and click on it. Select OK.

The word "blessings" is now a link to the page on blessings. I can continue to do this for every subject in my blessing I want to study. As I'm readying, I can click on the word and it will take me to the page I have created on that subject.

If you like to write when you study instead of typing, and you have a tablet, OneNote is very compatible with what works best for you. You can scan a copy of your blessing, insert it into OneNote, and annotate on it using a tablet to your heart's content. I personally don't have a tablet yet, so I can't show you. But there are plenty of tutorials on the web than can.

What are some suggestions on how to make use of Sections?
The pages are in a colored list on the right side of the page. The sections are tabs which you can create across the top of a Notebook. I have created two sections. One I called Em Português, where I have my blessing that I translated into Portuguese, with annotations I made in my study journal on my mission that are all in Portuguese.

The other section is my catch-all Attachments section. Whenever I find talks or books or information about Patriarchal Blessings in general, this section exists to record them. For now, I have that section organized by the author of the information. I have pages for President Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, etc. I can make a book list, or talks I need to look up. I can also have a research list going with questions for which I want to find answers.

Other bits and bobs, odds and ends...

I personally don't like the blank white background. You can add images and colors to the background should you so desire. I'm more of a pragmatist myself, so I like the background to serve a function. I go to VIEW, click Rule Lines, and I choose Narrow Ruled. Because the default font is Calibri, size 11, it fits perfectly between the Narrow Ruled lines. I like my stuff to be uniform and lined up evenly, so the ruled lines help me to keep my stuff looking organized. You can decorate it or add wider lines according to your tastes or how large you want your font to be.

Under the REVIEW menu, you'll also find dictionaries and references you can use while you study. And in one of the screenshots above, you'll see I have one of the Bible maps from the scriptures attached. There really is no limit to the material you can include in your study entries. I love the versatility, and I know a lot of others out there will as well.

One last thing...

Patriarchal blessings are extremely private documents. They aren't meant to be shared with other people outside of family--especially since nothing in your blessing applies to anyone outside of your family anyway. Your blessing is for YOU, and the blessings in it only apply to you. You want to make sure that other people--nosy siblings, laptop thieves, crazy girlfriends who want to know if their name really IS in your patriarchal blessing, etc ad nauseam, don't get access to it.

Under the REVIEW section, you will find a Password function. You will see options to set password by Section (sections are the colored tabs at the top of your Notebook, not the whole Notebook.) You will also see options to Lock All, which means to lock the entire Notebook. Choose which one you think applies best to your situation, use a password you won't forget, and rest easy knowing that your blessing is protected.

The whole purpose of this project is to help me study my blessing in greater detail, and to preserve what I study in one centralized location--as opposed to scattered insights in the margins of my scriptures, in various study journals, or stuck inside my head. When I record my insight and protect them appropriately, the Lord can deepen my understanding and bring me closer to Him.

I know that patriarchal blessings are evidence of how much Heavenly Father loves and knows each one of His children. If you haven't received your patriarchal blessing, prepare yourself to receive it. There could be no greater insight into His purpose for your life.

I know that God lives, and that Jesus is the Christ. They have provided for our salvation. They want us to return and live with them again. I leave you my witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of God here on the earth. Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

451--The Temperature at which a Society will Burn

Banned Books Week is a special time of year for me, a time both of mourning and celebration. It is a time of reflection over the state of my world, and the direction it is heading. Inevitably, that reflection and the questions which arise from it lead me back to one book in particular--a book I believe everyone should be required to read at least once in their lifetimes. Indeed, I believe anyone who has ever wanted to censure a book should be required to read this book first.

Fahrenheit 451 is as real to me as any prophecy from Isaiah. I give his words an almost identical credibility because I see his words unfolding in the world around me. We assume, falsely, that one needs to be a prophet or a self-professed man of God to predict the future. But recognizing evil, trends, pride, or incivility in a society doesn't require that association. All it takes to see the future is a knowledge of the past and a recognition of evil. It only requires anyone, regardless of their beliefs, to pay attention. 

In fact, religious people can be some of the more willfully blind people in a society because they are afraid of evil. The unfortunate lesson from history is how good people never stop to think of how their fearful silence and acceptance contributes to the downfall of a nation. In the end, it never is the one who is wrong that destroys a nation; rather, the silent embrace of the willfully blind majority has always been the invitation for corruption.

That is why President Thomas S. Monson, quoting Alexander Pope, has warned:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Ray Bradbury voices a similar warning through the main protagonist, Guy Montag. He begins to recognize how censorship has destroyed all reason, virtue, and conscience in his society. When he attempts to show this to his wife, she responds with willful blindness, and demands that he leave her alone.

"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"

Willful blindness is extremely dangerous. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reveals the danger of ignorance in this month's Ensign, in his article The Justice and Mercy of God:

"If you are like other mortals, you have some areas in which to unchain yourself, you have some bonds and fetters you could be free of, and you have some sins you could repent of. May I isolate just one example: the bondage of ignorance. 
What seems to me the supreme initial bond in our lives is simply not to know enough. We learn little clichés early in our lives. Two of them are “Ignorance is bliss” and “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.” Let me say with all the intensity I have that nothing will hurt you more than what you don’t know. I believe that we will be indicted for the resulting bondage that we incur and that we will serve some sentence in this life or the next for that which we fail to learn."

Because we teach that no man is held spiritually accountable for the sins he commits in ignorance, it can lead to the false belief that ignorance means there will be no consequences for anything we do wrong. This viewpoint is not only foolish, it stands in direct contradiction to reality and the sad experience of history.

I believe that this willful blindness, and the tendency to become a silent, acquiescent majority, is why the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is focusing their attention on the matter of religious freedom; not because "other people in the world" need to be warned about becoming complacent, but because WE as members need that reminder. The videos are for US.

It breaks my heart to say it, because I never wanted this to happen, but this question of gay marriage and the rights of homosexuals has developed into a full-blown attack on religious freedom. While I believe that most homosexual citizens are only concerned with living their lives according to their desires, it is the militant challenges of their extremists (a small minority) that feel the need to take this challenge to the next level. We need to be more aware and active in the conversation about gay rights because the most vocal activists on this issue, and those who would eliminate the rights and protection of religion, are quickly becoming the same people.

I love my gay brothers and sisters. I want them to feel my love and acceptance of them. Part of what has kept me away from this issue, and in many ways a vocal proponent of their protection, is because I love them. I have friends and family who are gay. I want their rights to be protected, in all fairness under the law. They are citizens that deserve to be treated with respect and Christian understanding.

I have always been the first to correct any member of the Church who shows blatant disrespect to homosexuals in any setting, regardless of who it is. I have walked out of sacrament meetings where disrespect, and not doctrine, have been paraded around as truth on the subject of gay marriage. I care about this issue, and I will be the first one to correct anyone who says Mormons hate gays, because they DO NOT speak for me or my feelings. I will go so far as to say I am ashamed of and embarrassed by anyone, especially in my Church, who confuses hatred with devotion. It is wrong. It is not Christian. Anyone who confuses upholding the standards of Christ and His doctrine with hating, abusing, or mocking God's children needs to repent.

But I also will not allow anyone to take my rights of religious observance away from me. Above anyone and everyone else, my devotion is first to God, and an undeniable aspect of Christianity is what Jesus Himself taught about marriage. He said:

Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Matthew 19: 4-6

So when God Himself has commanded me, in my moments of study, private reflection, and exchanges with the Spirit, to lift up His standard of marriage to the world, I must do so. Love, devotion, faith, and trust in my God are MY identity, as real to me as homosexuality is to those who live with it. I can't change, even if I tried, to quote a popular anthem for gay marriage. And if I have to actively stand against the very group of people I have tried so hard to protect, according to my conscience, then so be it.

General Conference is coming, and based on the following statement from Elder Russell M. Nelson's fireside at BYU-Hawaii, I think it's rather indicative of what we can expect from this General Conference.

"You wonderful youth of the noble birth rite, you need to understand the far reaching consequences of society's current skirmish over the very definition of marriage. The present debate involves the question of whether two people of the same gender can be "married." If you have a question about the position of the Church on this or any other important issue, prayerfully ponder it. Then heed the prophetic messages at this forthcoming October general conference of the Church. Those inspired addresses, plus inspiration of the Holy Ghost, will bring to your mind a fuller and truer understanding."

His advice goes hand-in-hand with the advice of Faber, an intellectual from Fahrenheit 451 who helps Guy Montag come to an understanding of how to go about changing the society in which he lives. Faber says that change requires three things, "Number one, as I said: quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out our actions based one what we learn from the first two."

We may have every resource under heaven to provide us with information, and devotion enough to provide time to digest it--but without the freedom to observe what we learn, the first two are totally useless. God's plans become frustrated. And tyranny is a consequence from which He will not save us if we choose not to be saved. When He tells us to raise our voices in His name, to reveal the forces that might have otherwise gone unseen, we must obey. We must be the change we want to see in the world, and be diligent in spreading the standards of God to all men. Teaching the standards of God, the missionary work to the entire human family, is our only protection. But in the end, society can only reap what it will sow.

She was always my favorite character. She hardly said anything in words, but her actions inspired huge change in the life of one man, who then acted to change and heal an entire society

Without religious freedom, there is no conscience. History is forgotten, then erased, and finally burned. If Ray Bradbury's timeless message about book burning, censorship, and political correctness were ever needed, they are needed in our time. If we expect to avoid a society in which freedom is totally absent, now is the time to resist and to have our consciences heard.

In this coming General Conference, I expect to hear more counsel on religious liberty. I expect we will be counseled to participate more actively in our local politics, for the protection of traditional marriage in the societies in which we live. I expect that we will be encouraged to study more fully, and dedicate ourselves more sincerely to the principles taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. As long as we respond in faith to His instructions with exactness, I know that God will protect us. As it says in Doctrine and Covenants 82: 10, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He sees the conspiring forces that mobilize against us. I know that He is aware of the plight of all of His children, on both sides of any issue. He never ceases to reach out to them, even when they reject Him, or are blind and deaf to His voice. I am unafraid of the future because I can hear His voice. I know that as long as I continue to love Him with all of my heart, seeking to do good in every place that I might be, I can make a difference in the world I have inherited from those who came before me.

I also know that the Book of Mormon and the living prophets provide counsel which we need to withstand the evil in our day. If we are vigilant in heeding those words, no force on earth can overcome our witness of the truth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Truth Eternal Tells Me I've a Mother There

Without further ado, let's do a scriptural deep-dive on Heavenly Mother. I've put a lot of thought into the best way to create a lon...