Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

A lone man on the Wiki

Posted by robf on July 17, 2008

It’s been pretty lonely over on the Feast Upon the Word wiki lately, but my sojourn there the past month or so has really helped me appreciate the value of the wiki as a scripture study tool.

Mostly, I’ve been trying to read along with the Gospel Doctrine lesson schedule and focusing my efforts on thinking through the Book of Mormon one verse at a time. Since I don’t want to rush to judgment on the meaning of most Book of Mormon passages, I’ve spent most of my time just thinking about the verses and posing questions about them.

I’ve found that the five verse block imposed by the current wiki structure is just about right for me for a 15-20 minute bit of daily scripture study. Sometimes I can come up with questions for two blocks of five verses in my scripture study, but usually it takes 20 minutes or so just to think about five verses.

So I start with questions. I try to think through the language of the verse. I try to imagine exactly what is being described. Are there any things there that just don’t make sense to me? Why is one word used rather than another? What is really going on in the scripture? How many different ways can I think about a given word, phrase, or verse?

If I have a question related to a word used in a verse, I might shoot over to Webster’s 1828 dictionary to see what the word might have meant in Joseph Smith’s day, or to an online interlinear bible to see what Hebrew or Greek words might be behind the scriptural language used to translate the Book of Mormon–and possibly used by Nephites if they kept their semitic tongue.

Sometimes my questions lead me to do a Google search for stuff I know I’ve read before, or to look up stuff I haven’t thought through well enough yet–maybe some old FARMS paper or something on Mesoamerican ethnohistory or archaeology. I then can leave a quick link to those items in the
Related Links section of the wiki page.

I wouldn’t presume to say that this is the best way to use the wiki, but for me it works to help me really focus on the scriptures. I’m sure there are as many ways to use the wiki as there are potential users, but used thoughtfully and prayerfully, I’m convinced more than ever that this is a great tool to help us feast upon the word and thereby come unto Christ. So, while I love having such a powerful tool at hand, I’m by no means protective of it. It isn’t a MySpace page for me. So if you haven’t been there for awhile, or you’ve been slow to try it out, use the link over to the left there and slip on over to the wiki to see what folks are posting, or just jump on in to whatever part of the scriptures tickles your fancy, and see if you can’t leave something there that might be meaningful to the rest of us.

8 Responses to “A lone man on the Wiki”

  1. Rick said

    I was initially excited about using the Wiki as a scripture study tool. However, two things have discouraged me: 1) It is not easy to print material from the Wiki in a format that would be helpful to me as a personal commentary on the scriptures, and 2) If I make a large investment in the Wiki and it closes, I will have lost the investment, especially in light of #1. Thoughts?

  2. robf said

    Rick, I’ve never tried to print anything out from the wiki, so perhaps someone else can comment on that. As to the wiki closing, perhaps we need to revisit the plan to ensure its long-term survival. But its been going for three years now and there are many of us committed to its long-term survival.

    And some of the value is in just taking the time to work with it. That Primary lesson you teach may not have much of a long-term impact on anyone you teach. But the hours you put into it do have an impact on you. Same with the wiki. Even if the entire internet collapsed tomorrow, I wouldn’t bemoan any of the hundreds of hours I’ve put into the wiki. Its all been good for me.

  3. Ben said

    Hey, don’t forget my old page for BoM browsing. (I say old, because I can’t update it anymore since I have no server access. It’ll get ported somewhere else eventually.)

  4. robf said

    Yeah Ben, what do you see as the future of your old site?

  5. Ben said

    After we finish this BoM year, it will be taken off the UChicago servers. (My only control over it at this point is to tell them to delete everything.)

    I hope by then to have it completely copied over and hosted elsewhere, and I’ll try to let you guys know when I do.

  6. Matthew said

    Rob, Great questions on the wiki. I haven’t always kept up with them when you write them but several times I’ve gone to a scripture on the wiki as part of my scripture study and appreciated your work there.

  7. Matthew said

    Hi Rick (#1), you may have already told me before what you are looking for in printing that you don’t find on the wiki. If so sorry to ask again. But what is it? Is this difficulty that you can only print a chapter at a time, e.g. http://feastupontheword.org/Alma_29_All , and you would like to be able to print instead maybe something like the entire book of Alma at once?

    As for #2, For my part I don’t want to let this die after all the work that others (and me too!) have put into it. Of course who knows what could happen. I think a sort of worse-case scenario for the site is if I get hit by a bus tomorrow. Someone could step forward and keep it going but it does take some technical expertise to babysit. And maybe no one would volunteer. Clearly the site would be more secure if from a technical/ownership perspective it weren’t a one man show. I’d love nothing more than to have a set of people responsible. In the meantime, maybe the right thing to do would be to put some sort of pdf together that others could download so that even if the entire site was gone, someone without the ability to setup and run the wiki software could still get at the content.

  8. joespencer said

    Matthew, I think this is a great idea: some kind of document—a will of sorts?—that would allow the wiki to continue without difficulty if you suddenly could not maintain it. I’ll be happy to do whatever I can; just let me know.

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