The set of scriptures which I regularly take to church and read out of is one of those little quads, the kind that are convenient to carry around but which my mother complains have such small text as to be unreadable. I’ve had it for over a decade, but there isn’t a single mark in it–no highlighting, no underlining, no comments in the margins. People sometimes look at it and question whether I ever read my scriptures.
I’ve always been uneasy with writing in books; I find it both distracting and aesthetically unappealing. I remember cringing in Seminary when we were told to write things in our scriptures. I dutifully went along with the writing and underlining and even gluing in of little quotes, but I’ve never since used those scriptures.
This squeamishness extends beyond the scriptures; I’m one of the few students I know who doesn’t mark up her academic books. I have a couple of books purchased secondhand that came with random highlighting and occasionally even comments (and I wince a little every time I come to those pages), but most of my personal library is mark-free. Several years ago I was sitting in a summer German course next to someone who’d forgotten her book, and so I offered to share. I nearly fell out of my chair when during the lecture, she whipped out a pink pen and started making notes in the book. My book. The horror!
Occasionally, though, I wonder whether I’m missing something. On a practical level, I can see the value of taking notes in books (as opposed to typing them elsewhere, which is what I usually do), where they’re readily available. And writing in a book is perhaps a way of making it your own, of mingling its ideas with your interpretations and insights–exactly the kind of thing that you’d want to do with the scriptures. Maybe, I sometimes think, I should get a cheap copy of the Book of Mormon and (gasp!) experiment with marking it up.