The message is unchanged

From the beginning, the words of salvation have been constant; no matter how the world changes, their eternal message remains the same.

At first the words were written with crude brushes and quill pens upon leather or parchment, then carefully rolled into scrolls and lovingly stored away. It was a tedious process, writing down the record of God's dealings with man - a process that from our vantage point demanded endless patience."And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live," (Deut. 8:3) were among some of the earliest words of God.

And so the children of Israel placed great emphasis on preserving His words. As the text of the Bible grew and was handed down it was copied with extreme care, for each syllable was thought to be sacred. Copyists wrote on parchment specially prepared from the skins of "clean" animals, using ink of soot, charcoal and honey. They read and pronounced each word aloud from the original before writing it in the copy.

Somewhere around 740 B.C. the prophet Isaiah, fully familiar with those carefully preserved records, was able to admonish his countrymen, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever." (Isaiah 40:8.) That was more than 21/2 millennia ago.

From those earliest of times the methods used to record the words changed. In time, metallurgy allowed some of the words to be engraved on metal. Those words were so precious that the prophet Lehi sent his sons back to recover the plates from a dangerous Laban before he dared sail with his family across uncharted waters to a new land, as recorded in the Book of Mormon.

A t the time of Christ's ministry the Savior had available to Him, and studied carefully, all those ancient lessons recorded and preserved over the centuries. He drew upon those scriptures, called the Law and the Prophets, with telling effect as He propounded a new relationship between God and man. And Matthew, probably writing upon papyrus imported from Egypt, recorded the words of Jesus: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35.)

As Christianity grew, the demand for the word increased also. It was still a tedious process, copying from an original text by hand. By the second century, the scrolls had given way to bound codexes - books, with pages of papyrus and parchment. Publishing houses then involved a reader dictating the text to a room full of scribes, each writing a book.

The precious words were translated into other languages - from the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament into tongues never heard by those who first recorded the words of Moses.

As before, the words were preserved carefully. Rich biblical manuscripts were painstakingly copied in monasteries throughout Europe. By the Middle Ages, some Bibles had become works of art reflecting the dedication of a lifetime.

That was the methodology until 1456, when Johann Gutenberg became the first printer to use moveable type. It was an enormously important development, and fittingly, the Bible was the first large book he printed. With this new means of mass production, the words were available to people who could read, and in their own language.

Paper replaced papyrus and parchment, and when Joseph Smith received his first revelations, writing had gone far beyond the days of Moses and Isaiah. But the message endured. On Nov. 1, 1831, at a special conference of elders of the Church the new revelations were being compiled into a new book. The Lord spoke again: "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heaven and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38.)

Today's printing technology would be incomprehensible to those earlier recorders of the word. The words now exist as electronic impulses stored within the memory of a computer. They can be read almost instantaneously by computers on the other side of the world. Spoken, they are heard everywhere at the same time. Modern presses print thousands of pages an hour, and these are delivered within days to any part of the planet.

But the message hasn't changed. As the Lord concluded His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants He said, "For behold and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen. (D&C 1: 39.)

Truly, the endurance of the words of God through the ages is a testimony to their truthfulness. It's at once a tribute to the unknown recorders throughout the years who helped pass them down to us, and a fulfillment of ages-old prophecies.

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