National Bible Week

In the United States the week of Nov. 23-30, 1997, will be observed as National Bible Week.

This traditional observance honoring the role of the Bible in our lives began with a group of New York City businessmen who gathered in 1940 with the stated purpose ". . . to encourage belief and faith in God, daily reading of the Bible . . . and to strengthen religious life in America as the basis for national as well as individual living."Certainly these are worthy goals for our day as well.

The first public act of this fledgling group was to run a full-page ad in the New York Herald Tribune promoting the importance of Bible study. By 1941 this group had made adequate progress for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare the week that coincided with Thanksgiving Day as National Bible Week. That first observance was highlighted by a national radio broadcast on the NBC network. It came only days before the country was plunged into World War II on Dec. 7, a time when faith and reliance on God were so needed.

Since that time every President of the United States has declared the week that includes Thanksgiving as National Bible Week.

The week-long observance is now sponsored by a dedicated group of volunteers known as the Laymen's National Bible Association, headquartered in New York City. In keeping with today's rapidly growing technology the Association has established a site on the Internet. It can be found at the following address:

It was this Association that recognized the Church following the publishing of the Latter-day Saint Edition of the King James Bible in 1979. In 1982 the Association sent representatives to Salt Lake City to honor the Church for its ". . . outstanding service to the Bible cause." The award was accepted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency. President Hinckley praised the work that had been done to publish a Bible to enhance study among the Latter-day Saints. That Bible edition for Latter-day Saints, widely used today, has withstood the test of 18 years' use and is proving its value with cross references from all the standard works, chapter headings with LDS doctrine emphasized, a topical guide, a Bible dictionary, and many other aids and helps.

It is appropriate for Latter-day Saints to turn their attention to Bible study since the adult curriculum for 1998 is built on the Old Testament.

For many Church members the Old Testament is the least used of our scriptural treasures. This makes it all the more important to focus on this collection of books that truly prophesy of the first coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ.

The newly published teachers' manual for 1998 makes this profound statement: "The Old Testament is an account of God's dealings with His covenant people from the time of the creation to a few hundred years before the Savior's birth. The Old Testament provides powerful examples of faith and obedience. It also shows the consequences of forgetting, disobeying, or opposing God. Its prophecies bear witness of the Messiah's birth, redeeming sacrifice, second coming, and millennial reign."

What great motivation this should be for us to study the peoples of those ancient times, people who surely had many of the same dreams, aspirations, fears, failings, and achievements that we experience today. They are children of God even as we are and their message comes to us across the ages of time to be obedient in order to obtain the blessings of heaven.

There are many books, study guides, concordances, and commentaries to help us understand the teachings of the Old Testament. But more important than all of these external aids and helps is the companionship of the Holy Spirit as we read and study the lives of ancient peoples and their prophet-leaders. We have much to learn from them, lest we repeat their shortcomings.

We have a great opportunity to make 1998 an opening of the Old Testament to our hearts and minds, always remembering that we continually savor the Book of Mormon. After all, it was the scriptures we have in the Old Testament that were the canon of scripture for those whose lives are portrayed in the Book of Mormon.

Since we believe the Bible, including the Old Testament, to be the word of God we need to read it, ponder it, pray about it and receive its light and truth.

A theme from the 1997 National Bible Week observance is a fitting remembrance: "Often a moment of scripture lifts a season of burden."

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