As Americans prepare to observe National Bible Week, Nov. l9-26, Latter-day Saints will also note another significant anniversary in connection with the Bible.
It has been 10 years since the autumn of l979 when the Church published its new Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.It is difficult to measure the benefits that have come to Latter-day Saints through their use of this new edition of the Bible. But it is safe to say that biblical scholarship has greatly improved during this decade.
During this year's National Bible Week, the theme is an appropriate one: "To Know Where You're Going, Read the Bible." Church members, and all others, certainly need the Bible to provide direction and purpose.
It is also appropriate to look back and remember the great effort that went into the publication of the LDS edition of the Bible.
Early in the l970s it was determined that the curriculum for adults would be the four standard works. During l972, when Joseph Fielding Smith was president of the Church, it was felt that Latter-day Saints needed more assistance in improving their biblical scholarship.
President Spencer W. Kimball, then acting president of the Council of the Twelve, responded to this need and obtained approval from the First Presidency to launch a new edition of the Bible for Church members. A special committee was called to oversee the work, with Elder Thomas S. Monson as chairman, and Elders Boyd K. Packer and Bruce R. McConkie as members.
A firm decision was made to anchor the Church to the Authorized King James Version, a Bible first published in England in 1611, and one that has withstood the test of time in the English-speaking Christian world. Interestingly, it was the King James Version that the young boy Joseph Smith read that led to his First Vision.
From the Church's other standard works and from a variety of sources, ancient and modern, there were many aids and helps that could be placed with the King James text for the benefit of Latter-day Saint readers.
What finally emerged, through the diligent effort of hundreds of scholars, researchers, and publication specialists, was a 2,448-page Bible that included the following:
- A Topical Guide, like a subject concordance, with 598 pages of text containing 3,495 entries covering 750 major gospel topics.
- A unique and efficient new footnoting system containing some 28,000 cross references to all the books of scriptures used by the Church.
- A new 195-page Bible Dictionary with 1,285 entries.
- Some 600 excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.
- New explanatory chapter headings summarizing the doctrinal content of each chapter in the Old and New Testaments.
- A 24-page full-color map section plus a gazetteer making it easy to locate any place, mountain, or river mentioned in the Bible.
- Easy-to-use chapter and verse designations at the top of each page.
- Language aids clarifying Hebrew and Greek terms.
These helpful materials have made the Bible more meaningful as we look to this sacred volume for strength and power.
We also need to encourage Bible study throughout the land. At one time the Bible was the core of public education and every literate family in America not only owned a Bible but also read it regularly and reverently.
Now, it seems, the Bible is being driven from America's classrooms, even as literature, creating a scriptural illiteracy and causing many to forget that the greatness of America came from the Bible, as well as from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
In his message for this year's Bible Week, President George Bush states:
"Try to imagine Western civilization without the Bible. It can't be done. . . . Our moral tradition can be traced to the ideas found on its pages. The United States was founded upon the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, and democracy - ideas rooted in the biblically supported belief that every human being is made in our Creator's image and is deserving of respect and dignity."
Words certainly worth remembering during National Bible Week.