I must tell you of a work that has moved quietly forward in the Church virtually unnoticed. It had its beginning in Old Testament times and is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Ezekiel, who wrote:
“The word of the Lord came … unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” (Ezek. 37:15–17.)
The sticks, of course, are records or books. In ancient Israel records were written upon tablets of wood or scrolls rolled upon sticks. The record of Judah and the record of Ephraim, according to the prophecy, were to become one in our hands. Two events connected with the fulfillment of the prophecy were centered in print shops.
The first began on the second floor of a building on Main Street in the village of Palmyra, New York. In June of 1829 Joseph Smith and Martin Harris called upon Mr. Egbert B. Grandin, the proprietor, to discuss the publication of a new book of scripture. Mr. Grandin, then twenty-three, was three months younger than Joseph Smith. Only three months earlier he had advertised his intention to print books, a very ambitious undertaking for so small a shop with only a hand-operated, cast-iron press.
Others had refused to print the book, and young Mr. Grandin, a religious man, was very skeptical himself. But as the contract was secured by a mortgage on the farm of Martin Harris, it was signed and printing commenced in August of 1829.
No sooner had the project begun than one Obadiah Dogberry, Jr., began to steal pages of the work and print them with accompanying ridicule in his weekly paper, The Reflector.
In March of 1830, the Book of Mormon came from the press and was advertised for sale. It met such a bitter and destructive response that it did not sell, and Martin Harris lost his farm.
An epoch of scriptural history had begun. The Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors to this day would proclaim the Book of Mormon to be another testament of Jesus Christ. Obadiah Dogberry and his successors, moved by another spirit, would, with the same methods, to this day revile it.
One hundred forty-eight years later, in June 1977, again in a print shop, another step in the coming together of these two sticks occurred.
James Mortimer, long experienced in publishing scriptures, and Dr. Ellis T. Rasmussen, recently dean of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University, called at the Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England. Bibles had been printed at this prestigious press for 293 years before Egbert Grandin opened his print shop in Palmyra.
They met with Mr. Roger Coleman, director of religious publishing, to discuss the publication of a most unusual edition of the King James Bible. The printers were quite as skeptical about this proposal as Egbert Grandin had been nearly 150 years before.
The Cambridge Press had been publishing the King James Bible since the first edition in 1611, but they had never been asked to do anything like this. The text was to remain exactly as it was, no changes, not one. But all footnoting, cross-references, chapter introductions, indexes, and so on, were to be replaced. Only the chapter and verse numbering for the sixty-six books would be retained.
And that was just the beginning. This edition of the Bible would be cross-referenced with three other books of scripture: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The printers had barely heard of them.
But there was more. A new, innovative system of footnoting was to be used. Instead of progressing from A to Z in each chapter, the letters would start over in every verse, for innumerable verses would have many footnotes in them.
The technical problems seemed insurmountable. Computers could help, but there was always the human factor. How could you cross-reference the Bible with any other book? To cross-reference it with the three volumes was to require tens of thousands of footnotes. Thereafter there would be hundreds of thousands of possible combinations of information. It was too big even to think about. The technical challenge alone was staggering, to say nothing of maintaining accuracy, harmony, and consistency with the biblical text itself. It could not be done!
But in that meeting also was Mr. Derek Bowen, editor, a most remarkable man. A World War II injury had left him unable to hear. Thereafter he devoted his remarkable compensating abilities to the editing, typesetting, and printing of Bibles. He was, perhaps, the one man in the world who could direct such a printing project.
All of the problems mentioned so far related only to the printing part of the project. The actual compiling and organizing of the tens of thousands of footnotes would require many hundreds of workers. This work had already been underway for several years. Without the computer it would be manifestly impossible!
That also was but a beginning. There would be a combined concordance and topical guide, listing hundreds of subjects; a Bible dictionary; maps; and a new format. New chapter headings would be written. All in harmony with the sacred message of the Old and the New Testaments.
Several years into the project we asked for a report. How were they progressing with the tedious, laborious listing of topics in alphabetical order? They responded, “We have been through Heaven and Hell, past Love and Lust, and now we’re working toward Repentance.”
The 750 headings for the Topical Guide were painfully rendered down from a list nearly twice that long. For there was a practical consideration: the book had to be of a size for everyday use.
There was a spirit of inspiration brooding over their work, and those working with the project talked often of how it was blessed. There were humbling spiritual experiences.
After more than seven years of quiet, intensive work, the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible came off the press. Already work was well under way on the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Over the years manuscripts had come into our hands which made possible the correction of printers’ errors which had crept into early editions.
The work would be seen by more than the sympathetic students and the devoted members of the Church. The cold, impartial eyes of the research scholars would study it, and the angry eyes of enemies and detractors would pore over it. It must be correct in every detail.
Finally, after two more years, the books came from the press, the most accurate we have ever had.
Three months later, Derek Bowen, master editor of Bibles, passed away in England.
You should know also that by recent decision of the Brethren the Book of Mormon will henceforth bear the title “The Book of Mormon,” with the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
The stick or record of Judah—the Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other. They are indeed one in our hands. Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled.
With the passing of years, these scriptures will produce successive generations of faithful Christians who know the Lord Jesus Christ and are disposed to obey His will.
The older generation has been raised without them, but there is another generation growing up. The revelations will be opened to them as to no other in the history of the world. Into their hands now are placed the sticks of Joseph and of Judah. They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forebears could achieve. They will have the testimony that Jesus is the Christ and be competent to proclaim Him and to defend Him.
Without the inspired help of hundreds of dedicated workers it would have been impossible! Among them were scholars in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Old and New Testament studies. More than this, they are worthy men and women in whose lives the gospel of Jesus Christ is the dominating influence. Their work, if they only knew it, may well be their greatest contribution in mortality.
As the generations roll on, this will be regarded, in the perspective of history, as the crowning achievement in the administration of President Spencer W. Kimball.
As a very direct outgrowth of the scripture project, two new revelations were added to the Doctrine and Covenants. That had not occurred in over a hundred years. And before the books were closed, there came the glorious revelation on the priesthood, just in time to be bound with all else that the Lord has revealed to His Saints in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Even all of this is but a beginning, for we have it only in English. Already work is well under way in Spanish, with the other languages to follow in the years ahead.
Concurrent with this publication project, another great work was continuing. The entire curriculum of the Church was restructured. All courses of study for children, youth, and adults were revised to center on the scriptures, on Jesus Christ. A veritable army of volunteer workers—many of them experts in writing, curriculum, instruction, and other related fields—worked for years to complete it.
While we have been about the work of anchoring ourselves to the scriptures, others have been busily cutting themselves loose from them. They have been drifting downstream, interpreting and revising the scriptures to agree with the philosophies of men. We, on the other hand, have been struggling upstream against the same current. We are determined to reach the headwaters of divine communication and revelation, to have it, as the Doctrine and Covenants demands, “that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” (D&C 1:20.)
There are Church watchers, in and out of the Church, who show great interest in what we do. They watch what they define as the power structure, the resources of the Church, the changes in organization, the political and social issues; and they draw conclusions from their watching. They write their observations and print them in publications and represent them to be accurate and objective reports of what is going on in the Church. In all of their watching and claiming, they have missed the most important of all the things that we have done in recent generations.
Some of them say that we have lost our way, that we are not Christians. Should they turn to that one thing in which they show the least interest and in which they have the least knowledge, the scriptures and the revelations, they would find in the Topical Guide fifty-eight categories of information about Jesus Christ; eighteen pages of small print, single-spaced, list literally thousands of scriptural references on the subject.
These references from the four volumes of scripture constitute the most comprehensive compilation of scriptural information on the mission and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world.
The work affirms an acceptance of, a reverence for, and a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. Follow those references and you will open the door to whose church this is, what it teaches and by whose authority—all anchored to the sacred name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer, our Lord.
I began by quoting Ezekiel, prophet of Judah. Two of those Old Testament verses show ten footnotes. One of the ten leads us to the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ, where half a world away the prophet Lehi, of the lineage of Joseph, quoted this prophecy:
“Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.” (2 Ne. 3:12.)
One footnote may seem a flimsy thread to tie the two together, but five of the ten footnotes lead us to headings in the Topical Guide where 611 other references broaden our knowledge of this one subject and speak as voices from the dust.
Threads are wound into cords that bind together in our hands the sticks of Judah and of Ephraim—testaments of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I say again, these references constitute the most comprehensive compilation of scripture information on the mission and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world.
Do not mistake our reverent hesitation to speak glibly or too frequently of Him to mean that we do not know Him.
Our brethren of Judah knew Him in ancient times, our brethren of Ephraim also. He is no stranger to His Saints, to His prophets and Apostles now.
He lives. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord. Of Him I bear an apostolic witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.