DIY: Create Your Own Topical Guide


Have you ever met anyone that has an amazing mind for retention? You can typically find these freaks of nature teaching LDS institute at your local college. Any topic can come up and they confidently say, “That reminds me of a scripture; let’s turn to it, shall we?” Contrast that with someone like myself. I usually say, “That reminds me of a scripture….let’s see…was it in 2 Nephi? Maybe it was in the book of Habakkuk?” I then spend the next few minutes in vain searching the Topical Guide for the “perfect scripture” that just can’t be found when I need it. I’ve never had a mind that remembers scripture references. I always wanted a topical guide that was organized for my brain….so I made one myself using Evernote.

Evernote is a great system for remembering almost anything. Between folders and tags you can effectively organize information in a way that will make it readily available in a moments notice.

I use specific Evernote tools like the phone app, and the Web Clipper to quickly capture the information, tag it, and store it.

Let me give you an example…

I came across the following quote during my personal study:

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“It is not enough to receive the priesthood and then sit back passively and wait until someone prods us into activity. When we receive the priesthood, we have the obligation of becoming actively and anxiously engaged in promoting the cause of righteousness in the earth, because the Lord says:

“‘… He that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned’ [D&C 58:29]” (So Shall Ye Reap [1960], 21)

I then take a moment to consider what topics this quote relates to or when I may want to use it in the future. (Notice that this exercise also makes you think on a deeper level during personal study). I then tag the quote with duty, priesthood, and home teaching. Note saved.

Now in the future when I am preparing a sacrament meeting talk or sitting in a class where the priesthood is being discussed, I can quickly look up the tag on my smartphone and share this powerful quote.

This is also powerful for bishops that have a speaker end early and suddenly he has to fill 10 minutes worth of meeting time. He can quickly pull up a tag on Evernote and have multiple quotes, stories, or scriptures to reference.

A few examples of the tags I have in my personal topical guide are action, fast offerings, anger, funerals, apostasy, reactivation, apostles, fear, redemption, testimony, worth. That is only a small portion.

Your personal topical guide will be small at first but over time you will have a priceless resource for building your knowledge and testimony. 


  1. You can also do this in the official LDS Gospel Library. When you highlight or add a note to a scripture or other Gospel Library text, add a tag. These highlights, notes, and tags will sync between (“My Study Notebook” under the “Tools” menu) and any connected Gospel Library apps on iOS or Android. You can then browse your tags, notes, links, and highlights from any of these interfaces!

    1. This is a great feature of the LDS Gospel Library, but unfortunately it does not allow for tagging and notating on external sources like Evernote does.

      1. That is a good point. Although the LDS Gospel Library continues to expand and include a wider array of resources (such as Institute manuals), there are certainly some of the “best books” it will never include. I sometimes use the Gospel Library’s notes feature to save quotes from non-Library sources, but it cerainly can’t do what Evernote can. Thanks for sharing this idea!

  2. Our bishopric definitely has a testimony of Evernote. I loved everything about what you said, except a bishop who truly loves his ward will just wrap up sacrament meeting ten minutes early if he has the opportunity. 🙂

    1. Never store personal information in these applications period. (i.e. dropbox, google drive, evernote, etc.)

  3. Could you elaborate a little on how you organize your scripture study? I’m a little stymied by the fact that the tags apply to the whole note, and not just specific parts of the note. What I WANT to do is to make a note for each chapter, with notebooks being books and either a stack for each of the four volumes… and then add tags to individual verses (or groups of verses), but since the tags apply to the whole note, it seems my only option is to make the chapters be notebooks, the books be stacks, and have the notes be individual verses. That makes for a awful lot of notes,notebooks, and stacks, though, and feels cluttered to me, especially since all the stacks expand every time I turn around while using the application.

    I have similar problems with Ensign articles, where I want to be able to find a particular quote when I search on tags, not just the article the quote is located within, which then forces me to skim/read the article searching for what it was that made me add the tag.

    I’m sure I’m missing something, but I’m not sure what, and I would love to see more details on how you make it work, if you could spare the time to write it up.


    – Leisel

  4. I hate it when editing makes my question disjointed. I meant to say a stack for each volume of the scriptures, or just one for all of the scriptures.

    I also wanted to mention that having a note for each verse sometimes doesn’t work because the thought spans multiple verses.

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