Ninth in a series about the top stories of the 20th century.
"Like a welcome, green oasis to the weary desert traveler is the gentle invitation of our Lord: 'Come. . . .learn of me; . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11:28-29),' " President Thomas S. Monson said in reference to the value of the scriptures.
"We are reminded of His injunction to 'search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.' (John 5:39.)"
President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said that the work of publishing the scriptures has been central to the mission of the Church since the time of Joseph Smith. For this reason, publications of the LDS Edition of the King James Version of the Bible and a new edition of the Triple Combination The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price were highlights of the 20th century.
President Monson said that the publication of the scriptures blesses everyone. "The holy scriptures are for children, to fill their eager minds with sacred truth," he said. "They are for youth, to prepare them for the challenges of our fast-moving world. They are for the sisters, remembering President Spencer W. Kimball's advice: 'We want our sisters to be scholars of the scriptures as well as our men.' (Ensign, November 1978, p. 102.) They are for the brethren of the priesthood, that each may qualify for the description given in the Book of Mormon to the sons of Mosiah: 'They were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.' (Alma 17:2.)"
In order for Latter-day Saints to better search and understand the standard works of the Church a significant curriculum decision was made in the early 1970s that the basic texts for all adult courses of study would be the scriptures themselves. In 1972, an organized plan of scriptural study was implemented for priesthood and Relief Society lessons and gospel doctrine classes in Sunday School.
At that time, it was recognized that while the King James Version of the Bible was the accepted version in the Church there was a variety of printed Bibles being used. The main Bible was a leather-bound edition published by Cambridge University Press in England, which included many supplementary aids and helps, largely oriented around the teachings of the Church of England. Bound between the Old and New Testaments was a 104-page section titled "Ready References, being a compilation of texts, and subjectively arranged with annotations designed especially for the use of missionaries and other students of the scriptures." This LDS-oriented material had been prepared by Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve and by arrangement was bound in all Bibles that the Church purchased from Cambridge University Press. With this material, the Bible cover carried the imprint: Missionary Edition.
To facilitate the scripture-oriented curriculum, efforts began in the early 1970s while Joseph Fielding Smith was president of the Church. Following President Smith's death, President Harold B. Lee in October of 1972 organized a special committee to oversee this effort. Its charge was to make recommendations as to how Bible study aids could be prepared to assist members of the Church improve their knowledge of the scriptures and increase gospel scholarship.
The committee was appointed from within the Quorum of the Twelve and consisted of Elder Thomas S. Monson as chairman, and Elders Boyd K. Packer and Marvin J. Ashton as members. Elder Ashton was later reassigned to other work and Elder Bruce R. McConkie joined the committee. Elder Howard W. Hunter also assisted for a brief period. Wm. James Mortimer, then general manager of Deseret Book Company, the company that published and distributed Bibles for the Church, was appointed secretary to the committee.
Committee members functioned under the immediate supervision of President Spencer W. Kimball, who was then president of the Quorum of the Twelve. The committee was charged with the responsibility of overseeing publication of all the standard works of the Church, not just the Bible. But the committee's immediate work was to be with the Bible.
When the committee began its work it was given no detailed list of plans. However, it was affirmed that the text of the King James Version was to be used without alteration.
As committee members planned the types of explanatory materials that could be included with the Bible, they sought the help of biblical scholars and doctrinal authorities to assist in the work.
Step by step there evolved the need to have explanatory headings at the beginning of each chapter that would express Latter-day Saint beliefs contained in that chapter. Rather than a traditional word concordance found in most Bibles it was determined to prepare an extensive subject index to all the standard works. This later became the Topical Guide. There was a need for a Bible dictionary that expressed LDS doctrines and, most of all, there was to be a system of cross-references to all the standard works. It was determined to make appropriate use of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. There were also to be easy-to-read maps with a gazetteer.
It would be impossible to list all those who participated in the massive efforts of organizing and preparing materials for the committee to review. However, principal participants included Ellis T. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Religious Instruction at BYU; Robert J. Matthews and Robert C. Patch of the BYU religion faculty; Daniel H. Ludlow, director of Church Correlation; Roy W. Doxey, also a dean of religion at BYU; J. Thomas Fyans, then managing director of Internal Communications who later became a General Authority; and Eldin Ricks, also of the BYU religion faculty who had prepared a computer database of all the standard works and made this available to the committee.
Because of the extensive work involved in preparing the Topical Guide, a separate task force was called for this work. It was headed by Alma Gardiner, a retired administrator in Seminaries and Institutes. Members included George A. Horton, Jr., director of curriculum for the Church Educational System; Edward J. Brandt of the Salt Lake Institute of Religion; Bruce Harper of Church editing; and Eleanor Knowles, editor of Deseret Book Company.
At one time it was estimated that at least 100 faculty and students at BYU were involved in the detailed work of preparing cross-references, as well as countless other faculty members in the seminaries and institutes of the Church.
Computer technology in the 1970s was only beginning to develop. It was based largely on punched cards. Because of the massive work of cross-referencing all four standard works, computers were essential; it would have been an almost impossible task to do by hand. As is so often the case, the Lord raises up those who are needed, at the time of need. This was certainly the case when Steven C. Howes came to BYU. He was a pioneer in computer technology for the scriptures project. His innovative use of existing computer technology literally created the programs and systems that made the scriptural work possible.
Obviously, the greatest expenditure of time and effort came in preparing the cross-references. The committee wanted a cross-reference for every passage where there was some matter of doctrinal or historical importance, or which involved some problem upon which another passage would shed light.
From among the hundreds of volunteers, three task forces were formed. One set of volunteers began checking the existing cross-references in the various editions of the King James Version to see how helpful those references were. Another group evaluated existing editions that explained archaic or obscure terms. Still another team was combing concordances, indexes and reference works for a list of topics or subjects that could appear in an index.
The work of these groups, and others, was finally brought together and then began the work of entering into the computer all the possible references to each verse in the Bible. From massive computer printouts the scholars had to winnow down the materials that were considered most essential.
Meanwhile, the Topical Guide task force was assembling the references from all four standard works for some 760 gospel topics and determining which of the thousands of scriptural references were most important to include in the Bible.
In 1977, it was determined that a separate Topical Guide be published in both hardbound and softbound editions to give members of the Church an opportunity to use, test and refine the material before it was placed as a study aid in the new edition of the Bible. A response form was included in each book and thousands of replies were received that enabled the committee to prepare a final draft for inclusion in the Bible. The Topical Guide includes 3,495 entries in 598 pages.
Throughout the nearly six-year period required to prepare the various study aids, those who worked on the various projects felt strongly the guidance of the Spirit and direct help from heaven. Dean Rasmussen stated at one time:
"Sometimes Brother Patch and I would be discussing a matter of linguistics, and as we concluded, one of us would remark, 'That feels good.' I suppose to some people this might seem like a slipshod way to be scholars, but we could tell when we were moving in the proper direction and we could certainly identify the stupor of thought that came over us when we weren't. In some ways scholarship was the least important part of our work."
By late 1977, the massive amount of work had been completed, reviewed by the Scriptures Publications Committee in detail, and then approved for typesetting by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
What resulted from these strenuous years of preparation was a new Latter-day Saint Edition of the King James Version of the Bible.
The text of the King James Version, first published by authority of King James of England in 1611, remained unchanged. It was from a King James Version of the Bible that the boy Joseph Smith read the verses in the epistle of James that led him to the sacred grove and began the Restoration. The Church remains anchored to the King James Version and has no desire to create its own new version, but only to make available significant study materials that would make the Bible more useful to Latter-day Saints.
Printing and Publication
As the scholarly work proceeded, Brother Mortimer at Deseret Book arranged for the massive amount of typesetting and production work. There were no adequate facilities in Salt Lake City to do this work so visits were made to several possible vendors. After careful consideration it was recommended to the Scriptures Publications Committee that the work be done at Cambridge University Press in England. Cambridge had been involved with the King James Version of the Bible since it first appeared in 1611, and the Church had enjoyed a favorable relationship with them in producing the Missionary Edition.
Cambridge readily undertook the task and made a sizeable portion of its staff available for the project. Since computerized typesetting was not fully developed in 1978, the Monotype hot metal seemed to be the most practical way to produce each page. Each letter and each character were set on a separate slug, thus allowing even a comma to be changed without requiring a whole line of type to be reset. Each page had to be set separately, beginning with page one and going on consecutively. It was the most difficult typesetting job ever undertaken by Cambridge.
Before the project completion, Cambridge devoted almost one-fourth of its staff to the project. Each word of the text was proofread five times by them twice by a team reading aloud against copy and three times by a single proofreader. In addition, all materials were proofread by Eleanor Knowles from Deseret Book who supervised all copy editing and proofreading. She and others made several trips to England to expedite the proofreading, but it was still necessary to send copy and proofs back and forth between Salt Lake City and Cambridge.
The Scriptures Committee had determined that three styles of the Bible would be produced: a high-quality leather-bound style, a medium-priced imitation leather style binding, and an inexpensive style largely for student use.
Cambridge University Press, which had been producing the missionary edition for many years, was the logical choice to continue to produce the high quality leather editions. Several possible vendors for the medium and inexpensive styles were considered, and final arrangements were made through Publishers Book Bindery in Winchester, Mass., which had been producing Triple Combinations (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price) for Deseret Book along with National Publishing Company in Philadelphia, Pa., the company that produces the Gideon Bibles found in many hotel and motel rooms.
The completed pages of the Bible were ready for the printers in May 1978. The first bound copies of the new Bible for student use were produced from the bindery on Aug. 7, 1979.
The New Triple Combination
During the preparation of the Bible study aids it became apparent that there should also be new editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The improved chapter headings, as well as the footnote and cross-referencing systems developed for the Bible would also benefit these other standard works. There were also several typographical errors and omissions in the Latter-day scriptures that needed to be corrected.
Accordingly, new introductory material for each of the books of the Triple Combination was prepared. New chapter headings were written, and in the case of the Doctrine and Covenants, historical headings, as well as content headings were prepared. Two new sections were added to the Doctrine and Covenants having to do with salvation for the dead. Maps for the Doctrine and Covenants were added, along with President Wilford Woodruff's views concerning the Manifesto. Of great significance was the official statement about the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.
At the same time came the inspired decision to add to the title of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
The typesetting work was again done with skill at Cambridge University Press, and in a relatively short time the first copies of the new Triple Combination came from the bindery on Aug. 27, 1981.
During recent years computerized databases of the standard works have been developed and new technological advances will continue to make access to the scriptures easier. But the printed copies will always be the foremost tools in the search for truth.
President Boyd K. Packer, who was a member of the scriptures committee, noted that the publication of the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible and the 1981 edition of the Triple Combination created a platform for publishing editions of the scriptures with new footnotes, chapter and section headings, and other study aids in other languages.
"Material from the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, Selections from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, Bible and Church history maps and gazetteer, and the English Triple Combination index have all been consolidated into a comprehensive study aid known as 'The Guide to the Scriptures' for inclusion in new and revised editions of the Triple Combination in many languages," President Packer said.
"The first Triple Combination with new study aids was the Spanish edition published in 1992. Since then, seven additional Triple Combinations with new study aids have been published in Cebuano, French, Ilokano, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Tagalog, with one more scheduled to be published in the next six months. Translation and production work is currently underway to add the new study aids in 38 additional language editions of the scriptures.
"Presently, first editions of the Book of Mormon in a language do not contain footnotes but include the new chapter headings and an eight-page 'Reference Guide.' These editions are upgraded when Triple Combinations are published in the language to include footnotes and the alphabetical index portion of 'The Guide to the Scriptures.' Seven 'Reference Guide' language editions are in print. Six more are scheduled to be published in the next six months, and 23 additional language editions are in translation.
"It took 12 years to complete the English edition, and 13 more years to complete the Spanish edition," President Packer said. "They were years filled with inspiration and direction from the Lord.
"Few things that I have seen in my service as a General Authority will have so powerful and lasting influence on the Restoration of the gospel. It is a marvelous work under way and will continue as the gospel spreads."