Time had come: Producers of edition remembered

Panelists honored for work on Scriptures Publication Committee

PROVO, Utah — The new LDS editions of the King James Bible (1979) and Triple Combination (1981) were "an idea whose time had come," said Daniel H. Ludlow, invoking a phrase attributed to Victor Hugo.

Brother Ludlow was one of nine panelists — all of them former members of the Scriptures Publication Committee — who spoke Feb. 24 at the Second Annual Recognition Banquet of the Crandall Historical Printing Museum honoring the producers of the editions, which today pervade the Church.

"When I start thinking about where the idea for the LDS edition of the Bible came from, the sources are so many, the only conclusion I can reach is the time had come," said Brother Ludlow. A convergence of events brought about the need, including new religion course requirements at BYU, in the 1950s and 1960s; preparation of scripture-based manuals by the Church auxiliaries; adult curriculum in the Church based on study of the standard works in sequence; expansion of the Church Educational System program and the development of the missionary program, he said.

Wm. James Mortimer, who was secretary to the committee, described conditions prior to the new scripture editions. He said children in Primary were given a Bible produced by a non-LDS publisher with no aids or helps. In seminary, students received a hardbound Bible published by William Collins and Sons of Glasgow, Scotland. "It had aids and helps in it, and they were wonderful — for the Church of England!" Brother Mortimer said. Missionaries used a Bible printed by Cambridge University Press in England which included a set of "Ready References" bound between the Old and New Testaments and prepared many years ago by Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Because of the Church's long-standing relationship with Cambridge, it was considered as a publisher for the new editions, Brother Mortimer said. He recalled a meeting in England in which he and Ellis T. Rasmussen met with the university printer at Cambridge, who "began to tell us what they would do for us. I was not satisfied with what they said they would do. Ellis and I looked at each other, and I suddenly found myself standing up." He said he doesn't recall what he said, but it was followed by absolute silence. Then, the university printer said, "Thank you, Mr. Mortimer. How can we help you." The two Church representatives afterward agreed that Brother Mortimer had spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost.

Panelist Eleanor Knowles recalled the rich experience she had working with the experts at Cambridge, which had been in the Bible-printing business for more than 400 years.

Brother Rasmussen, also on the panel, said the footnoting and helps in the Bible grew out of a suggestion from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve on the committee. From his suggestion, an original Bible index called the "Topical Guide" was developed in which substantial information could be included that would be too lengthy for footnotes.

Robert J. Matthews commented about the Topical Guide, some 600 pages in length, which is 200 pages longer than the entire New Testament. "There are about 3,500 topics under the Topical Guide, and in every case, they have references first from the Old Testament, then the New Testament, then the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, and in that order," he said. The effect is to lead to the conclusion that the Bible and the latter-day scriptures "all teach the same doctrine" and there is "great unity of scripture."

Kelly Ogden, a doctoral student at the time who spent many hours working on the project and a teacher of the gospel since then, said he has noticed a difference in knowledge among college students raised on the new editions. He said they are using the scriptures more than just missionary stories. "They come with more of the Spirit, too. There is gospel scholarship being developed in these youth."

Edward J. Brandt described the process of developing the Topical Guide. He said an early edition was created and published separately by Deseret Book. Users were invited to submit recommendations. "Literally hundreds of those suggestions were sent in. So, in December in 1977, a committee was constituted to go through all of those suggestions."

By March, the committee had prepared a report. Four members of the committee were selected to implement the suggestions of the larger committee. "Then the scriptures committee gave us a curve ball: They suggested that we ought to also include concordance references that had not been prepared up to that time." Elder McConkie told them, "Here is the work at hand; you have 30 days."

Brother Brandt said, "I have to tell you we didn't make it in 30 days, but . . . in three months and three days of work, the work was completed." He said the first draft of the hand-typed manuscript (no computer word processors in those days) was 1,526 pages. The final manuscript sent to England for typesetting was six volumes of 1,828 pages.

He said the Topical Guide saved a tremendous amount of space because it eliminated duplication that would have been necessary with a conventional footnoting system. It also replaced a confusing footnotes system in previous editions of the scriptures.

Bruce T. Harper said the Index to the new Triple Combination differed from the Topical Guide in that it included references to people, places and things that could not be found in the Topical Guide if the specific words were not found in the scripture.

George A. Horton Jr. said the most powerful characteristic of the Topical Guide is in its references to the Savior Jesus Christ. He noted it has 19 pages of such references with 58 topics. He quoted President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, as saying it constitutes the most comprehensive compilation of scriptural information on the mission and teachings of Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world. "Every time I read that I think, yes, we really are Christians," Brother Horton said.

Panel moderator Fred E. Woods, a BYU professor in the Department of Church History and Doctrine, applied 1 Nephi 13:37 to the Scriptures Publication Committee: "And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be."

E-mail to: [email protected]