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.

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