The three-year project under the direction of the Scriptures Committee resulted in more than 350 new illustrations across 50 Old Testament stories. Nine stories have been added that were not in the previous version, including stories of Hagar, Rahab, Gideon, Deborah and more. All stories have been rewritten and translated into 63 languages. Animated videos and audio narrations have been developed in 10 languages for each story.
The previous version of “Old Testament Stories,” which was developed in the 1970s and 1980s, features iconic stories and artwork that have blessed generations. “Several years ago, looking forward to the Old Testament focus of ‘Come, Follow Me’ in 2022, the Scriptures Committee felt it was time to update this resource to bless today’s families, children and youth,” said Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency and member of the Scriptures Committee.
The blessing of scripture stories
Church leaders directed the work of refreshing “Old Testament Stories” to help people around the world, especially children and youth, strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ and gain a love for the people, stories and teachings in the Old Testament.
“These stories illuminate the centrality of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament,” said Elder Walter F. González, a General Authority Seventy who serves on the Scriptures Committee. “Visualizing the stories brings insights about the Savior. We learn about Him as a covenant God full of love and patience. Beginning with Adam and Eve, through prophets and kingdoms, our Savior shows us that He loves us and wants to give us the promised blessings of salvation and exaltation.”
The current and previous Primary general presidencies guided this effort with the hope that the stories would resonate with children around the world and that each child would easily see themselves in the stories.
“Children need the wisdom and impressions from the Holy Ghost that come from learning these stories,” said Primary General President Camille N. Johnson. “Whether they are reading them on their own, seeing the images and hearing the stories while nestled next to a parent or sitting in Primary learning from their teacher, we hope children feel closer to the Savior as they learn from the Old Testament.”
Inspiration from around the world
Many individuals and families from around the world contributed their time and talents to the development of “Old Testament Stories.” “We have seen the Lord’s hand in the work of our brothers and sisters who have brought to life the stories of God’s covenant people,” Sister Craig said. “And how we need the strength of these stories today.”
Adjustments were made throughout the three years as early drafts of the writing and artwork were shared with children and youth. Kelly Gibson, product manager, said an example of this was with a group of children near the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.
“Instead of us reading the stories to them — just by looking at the pictures — the children told us the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and Daniel in the lion’s den,” Gibson said. “They expressed the stories with emotion and fondness — we learned from them. It was clear their parents had made these stories part of their life and the children had planted them in their hearts.”
The nine new stories offer opportunities to learn from the experiences of Hagar, Rahab, Gideon, Deborah, Hannah, Josiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi. Vaughn Armstrong, project manager, said: “There’s such a variety of great stories to draw from. We included as many as we could, hoping that they’ll inspire girls and boys all around the world and, really, everyone of all ages.
New illustrations, writing and animated videos
According to members of the team who worked on the project, writing and illustrating the scripture stories for children was a prayerful and diligent process. Care was taken to avoid adding extra interpretation to the stories that is not represented in the scriptures. Each story expresses sacred truths and experiences of God’s dealings with His people. The stories can be helpful in a variety of settings, and they invite the guidance of the Spirit into the lives of those who read them.
“We wanted to make it possible for children to fall in love with the scriptures,” said writer Hirepan Zarco, “so eventually, when they are older, they will read the Old Testament and already have a love for the people and appreciation for what they experienced.”
Gibson said even for lifelong students of the scriptures, many people can find clarity in the simplicity of the writing and artwork. “Old Testament Stories” includes over 350 vibrant and kid-friendly illustrations, which help convey the context and emotions of the stories.
According to art director and illustrator Bryan Beach, “Our hope was to create images that even if a child couldn’t yet read, they could still follow the story. This way children of all ages and abilities can feel connected to the people in the Old Testament.”
In addition to the updated artwork, all 50 stories in the refreshed “Old Testament Stories” have been animated and narrated in new videos. These videos, enriched with music and visuals and audio effects, Gibson said, further help children and youth gain a love for the inspiring experiences and people in the Old Testament.
Additional ‘Come, Follow Me’ resources for children and youth
The Scripture Stories are a way the Church is supporting the home-centered approach to gospel learning. When needed, “Old Testament Stories” is a visual resource to individuals, families and teachers. Most lessons in “Come, Follow Me” will have at least one corresponding Old Testament story.
Listen to the Sunday School general presidency talk about ‘Come, Follow Me’ 2022 on the Church News podcast
Other resources support “Come, Follow Me,” including the “Scripture Stories Coloring Book: Old Testament,” which compliments “Old Testament Stories” by offering activities and coloring pages for many of the stories. And new activities and articles every month in the Friend and For the Strength of Youth magazines also relate to the scriptures covered in “Come, Follow Me” and other relevant topics.
Additional benefits of scripture stories
Scripture stories have a long history of being used to support learning how to read or aiding in learning a second language. Gibson said “Old Testament Stories” was written at a third- to fourth-grade reading level and has been carefully reviewed by literacy specialists. The illustrations, in addition to the clear writing, support the comprehension of the stories for the readers and demonstrate the many benefits of seeing images that clearly express what is being read in and learned from these stories.
Scripture readers, as the Church’s series of scripture stories resources have sometimes been called, are also used by missionaries. They are used to help teach the gospel to young children, individuals with learning disabilities, those new to the scriptures, and even those who do not yet have other Church resources in their language. For those who are less familiar with the scriptures, reading the scripture stories can provide helpful context to aid in understanding. This benefit helps the scripture stories apply to everyone, Gibson said.
“Old Testament Stories” and its accompanying videos are available on Gospel Library, the Gospel for Kids app and YouTube. They are also available in print through Store.ChurchofJesusChrist.org or Distribution Centers or bookstores that sell Church resources.
The Church is also refreshing the illustrated Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Mormon and New Testament stories. Details about the plans and timelines will be announced at a later date.