The Restoration is crucial to an individual’s understanding of the Bible, Elder F. Melvin Hammond, an emeritus Seventy, said during the keynote address of the 38th annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium at BYU on Oct. 30.
This year’s theme, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament,” discussed many principles of the gospel, specifically drawing from the Old Testament in conjunction with next year’s course of study in Sunday School.
Recognizing the importance of the Bible in gospel study, Elder Hammond spoke of the important role of the Bible in Joseph Smith’s life and the effect it had in bringing forth the restoration of the gospel.
Referencing a scripture found in 2 Nephi 29 in which the Gentiles reject the Book of Mormon, saying they have a Bible and have no need for any more scripture, he spoke of Joseph Smith’s day and the similar attitudes within the community.
“The world misunderstood the divine message of the Bible,” Elder Hammond said. “For thousands of years Jews and Gentiles alike have made the same mutual restrictive declaration concerning the Old and New Testament.”
Because of this atmosphere, the young Joseph Smith turned to the Bible passage in James 1:5 where James encourages individuals who lack wisdom to ask of God.
“In his confusion, Joseph Smith turned to the admonition of James with innocence and pure faith, and in secret prayer appealed to the only perfect source of truth — his Heavenly Father,” Elder Hammond said. “Then in a moment unique in all of history, God the Father and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared in glory to Joseph Smith.”
From that moment on, knowledge and understanding began to cover the earth and illuminate the minds of man, Elder Hammond said. With this understanding came insight to many truths found in the Old Testament.
“The Father and the Son appearing to Joseph in 1820 was only the prelude to many extraordinary events that led to a further understanding of truth restored to the earth,” Elder Hammond said. “Events that will lead us to a better grasp of our theme, ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.’ “
Elder Hammond continued, “It seems important at this time to recognize the respect Joseph had for the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments. He said that those who read the Bible can see God’s own handwriting in the sacred volume, and he who reads it oftenest will like it best.”
Even with Joseph’s high regard for the sacred work, he knew there were plain and precious truths that had been omitted, Elder Hammond said. During his work on the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was commanded to commence a translation of the Bible. In 1830, Joseph started with the book of Genesis, and started to go through the Bible to restore truths that had been lost. As he did, Elder Hammond said, truths were restored and greater understanding was achieved.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ, with the priesthood, and all of the ordinances necessary for salvation had been given to man from the beginning,” Elder Hammond said. “Suddenly, the creation of the earth, the fall of man, the atonement of Jesus Christ and the holy priesthood all began to make sense. And the new knowledge gave to all who would listen a clear pattern to follow in order to obtain eternal life.”
Elder Hammond spoke of the lessons learned from specific truths that were restored as a result of Joseph’s study of the Bible and other sacred texts. In addition to Joseph Smith, Elder Hammond shared insights to some of his favorite scripture heroes.
“Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Isaiah and others have become heroes in my eyes,” he said. “There was great purpose in their lives. I saw them as real people — yet spiritual giants — prophesying, performing miracles, struggling to bless their people, defending the truth and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Elder Hammond spoke of how Old Testament prophets are great examples to Church members today, as well as the importance of the Restoration in understanding the truths found in the Bible. He shared examples in the Old Testament such as the brief account of Enoch, which is recorded in Genesis 5, and how latter-day revelation found in Moses 6-7, teaches more about Enoch, and an entire city that was translated.
“To this day, no one has understood this passage of scripture except those who have read and believe the inspired version of the Bible by Joseph Smith,” Elder Hammond said,
With the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, darkness was made to light and the same truths of the ancient gospel in its fullness could go forth to the entire world. Just as prophets of old and the Prophet Joseph Smith, individuals are able to take the knowledge of the Savior Jesus Christ to all the world.
“The tidal wave of Joseph Smith rolls forth,” Elder Hammond said. “One day we shall see him, then we will praise him as the Prophet of the last dispensation and we will raise him as the one who helped us understand all previous dispensations. He is the prophet that best showed us the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.”