Discovering the LDS Editions of Scripture


Instead of making a frantic trip to the library to obtain source material for a lesson or talk, you can now turn to the Topical Guide and commence research right in your own home.

Since the publication of the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible in 1979, some within the Church have said that the Bible edition they previously possessed is all they need. As long as their personal copy of the Bible begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation, they feel, their faithful friend of past scriptural study—their old Bible—is sufficient for future scripture study. Why should they invest in a new Bible whose pages are untrained—sticking, instead of yielding to the touch of a finger? Some have also felt the same way toward the 1981 edition of the triple combination. They might be heard to say, “Another triple combination? We have several copies already in our house, and we need no more!”

If you have customized copies of previous editions of the scriptures, with your own cross-references and pages that readily respond to your touch; or if you have strong feelings of attachment to these personalized volumes because of special inscriptions or memories of sacred experiences, why should you consider obtaining the new editions of the scriptures? A simple answer would be because a prophet of God admonished us to “Study the new editions of the scriptures.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1982, p. 5; italics added.) To such inspired counsel, may I add my own witness as one who was initially reluctant to set aside my personalized editions of the scriptures in favor of the new editions.

I received my first leather-bound triple combination as a treasured gift from my father following a year of perfect Church attendance as a young Aaronic Priesthood boy. A gift of the Bible followed my graduation from seminary and again bore the inscription of love from a proud father. These volumes took on added meaning as they accompanied me into the mission field. I no longer nibbled at their contents but began to feast upon their scriptural sustenance. I received many hours of pleasure and inspiration from their pages and took great pride in my personal cross-referencing system, which included numerous penciled quotations of pertinent commentary by the Brethren. When the pages no longer had any white space upon which to make notations, I typed supportive statements by the Brethren on onion-skin paper and inserted these in the appropriate places. This provided ready-made material for talks and teaching.

The years of use took their toll on the once protective leather covers and secure bindings. My triple combination was the first in need of rebinding. A book binding firm suggested that it would be cheaper to purchase a new volume than to rebind my old one. That, however, was no argument to one who had become so attached to his personalized set of scriptures. How could any new book replace what had become a trusted and dear friend to me!

About the time I was having my triple combination rebound, I became aware that a project was underway to produce a new edition of the Bible. In fact, I was privileged to be one of the scores of volunteers who were asked to submit suggestions for cross-referencing in the footnotes. When the new edition became available in 1979, I purchased a copy. I was particularly impressed with the footnoting system, seeing it as a vast improvement over the system used in the old Bible. However, my encounters with the new edition were mere toe-dipping exercises rather than a complete plunge into these newly available waters of inspiration. The appeal of my old, marked-up Bible was too strong.

Unfortunately, I followed this same pattern when the new triple combination was published in 1981. I obtained a copy, but once again found it difficult to immerse myself in this new volume, preferring instead my old friend.

It wasn’t until I heard a stimulating presentation on the new editions of the scriptures that I began to realize the significance of the gift which God had made available to me and which I had thus far failed to accept. I remembered the verses in the Doctrine and Covenants lamenting the refusal of such gifts: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33.)

Fortunately, repentance is a marvelous principle of the gospel, and I have begun to ponder, search, and feast upon these new editions of the standard works. I have discovered that I am much more selective in the notations and markings I make in these new volumes. My old scriptures represented the accumulation of marks that started when I was an inexperienced pioneer among the pages of scripture and continued to the more meaningful marks of one who had traveled the treasured roads of scripture many times and grown to love the now familiar landmarks. I have found that to underline a single word, or shade a short phrase in my new scriptures, is more helpful than underlining entire passages. Sometimes a circle around the verse number, or a short perpendicular red line will draw my attention to an item I feel is especially important. The marks are fewer on the pages of my new scriptures, but my notations have more meaning.

One practice I have continued in my new scripture study is to correlate recent statements by the Brethren at general conferences with scriptural passages. For example, President Kimball recently said: “We must come to think of our obligation to share the message rather than of our own convenience. Calls from the Lord are seldom convenient.” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 5.) This quotation fits very nicely on the Topical Guide page for “Service.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s observation that “Saints fashion forgiveness where others would revel in resentment!” could be placed beside the Topical Guide entries either for “Forgiveness” or for “Grudge.” These are neatly penciled in the margins, but they could have been carefully typed on onion-skin paper that can be inserted in the page binding with a very thin piece of scotch tape. This could then be removed to add additional quotations and cross-references.

To you who have not yet taken seriously what Elder Boyd K. Packer has said is “the most important thing that we [the Church] have done in recent generations,” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 53), consider the potential impact upon your scriptural understanding of the following aids found in the new scriptures.

Occasionally students will stumble over the meaning of statements in the scriptures that are not clarified in the footnotes. To help us better understand some of these passages, Greek or Hebrew word equivalents of hard-to-understand words or phrases have been provided. These tools were previously available only to learned linguists and selected students of the scriptures. They are now available to all who want to seriously study the scriptures.

The LDS edition of the Bible has over 28,000 cross-references to all four of the standard works, allowing a much broader understanding of biblical doctrines. A similar footnoting system of cross-referencing in the new triple combination allows access to additional thousands of cross-references. There is now available the potential for “a gospel scholarship beyond that which (our) forebears could achieve,” said Elder Packer.

Over six hundred inspired quotations from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, sometimes referred to as the Inspired Version, have been added as clarifying references in the LDS edition of the Bible. Many of these are found in the footnotes, while the longer ones are found in a separate appendix in the back of the Bible. This body of inspired scripture has added greatly to our understanding of the Bible. Some members are color-coding these additions so they are more readily identified. (In marking your scriptures, you should be cautious of two things. Do not use a pen or marker that will bleed through your pages over time. Also, consider the visual impact of turning your scriptures into a rainbow of colors. Some have expressed regret that their use of multiple colors has given their scriptures a coloring book image.)

Have you ever wanted to use a scripture that you vaguely recalled but could not remember where to find it? By just remembering a word in the scripture, you have the key to unlocking its location. For example, if I were giving a talk on faith and wanted to refer to the comparison Christ made between this principle and the tiny mustard seed, I could look in the Topical Guide under the topics of “Faith,” “Mountain,.” or “Mustard” and I would find Matthew 17:20 as the source of this quote. (I could also look under the topic of “Mustard” in the Bible Dictionary for further enlightenment on the Savior’s statement.)

The Topical Guide places a vast reservoir of key quotations at your fingertips. Have you ever needed material for a talk or a lesson on a designated topic? Do you recall frantic trips to the library for source material? Now you can turn to the appropriate topic in your Topical Guide and commence your research right in your own home. This handy reference also serves as a resource for family home evenings and Sabbath study hours. A topic of mutual interest could be selected and family members assigned to search out related scriptures and read them to the rest of the family. Copies of the new editions are economically priced so that family members could have their own copies.

One of the most significant additions to the new editions of the scriptures has been the inclusion of an LDS-oriented Bible Dictionary, which references items in all four of the standard works. This is a theological treasury full of informative tidbits that help to clarify and identify people, places, and concepts through the additional revelatory light available to Latter-day Saints. Previously published Bible dictionaries, though informative, were written without the aid of the clarifying revelation that has come to us through other scriptures and the inspired words of living prophets.

In addition to definitions, the dictionary includes an eleven-page chronology chart which gives a historical perspective to the major events in the history of the world as it pertains to the Old and New Testaments. It also has a harmony of the four Gospels and latter-day revelation, which cites the events, locations, and scriptural references of the Savior’s ministry. There are also analyses of the various books in the Bible and an interesting chart showing quotations in the New Testament that have a distinctive Old Testament origin. Many of these have strong Messianic overtones as they witness the divine mission of Jesus Christ. One can have an enlightening experience just studying the entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

Although the new triple combination uses references to the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary found in the LDS edition of the Bible, it has its own distinctive features that can assist one in more fully understanding the scriptures. There is new introductory material in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. This provides an understanding of the historical context in which each volume of sacred writ was published. The index in the triple combination is a combined index for the three books of scripture and serves as a mini-concordance for finding specific verses in each book. Each individual named in the three volumes is identified in the index and duplicate names referring to different individuals are identified with superscript numbers which differentiate between them. On pages 206–207, for example, one may find references to the four men called Lehi in the Book of Mormon, as well as a book and several land locations bearing that same name.

One of the most meaningful features of the new editions of the scriptures, especially to the scriptural novice, is the newly written introductory notes to each chapter in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price, and the section summaries and historical backgrounds provided for the Doctrine and Covenants. If you took the time to merely read through these summaries and chapter overviews, in consecutive order, you would experience a systematic unfolding of scripture stories and doctrines. This, of course, is not intended to be a substitute for careful study of the individual verses in each chapter or section, but it can provide a broad overview and serve as an aid to finding key concepts.

The map section in both the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants helps the reacher visualize the location of many places that heretofore were merely words on a printed page.

Typographical corrections have clarified the meaning of some words in the triple combination, and the addition of several revelations and explanatory commentary have been major additions to the Doctrine and Covenants. It is exciting to see bound in our new editions of scripture the announcement of a revelation received in our day (OD—2). Many of us had the privilege of personally raising our right hand when that revelation was presented for our sustaining vote during general conference on 30 September 1978.

There is much more that could be said regarding the special features of these new editions of the scriptures. A number of excellent articles on this subject have already appeared in Church magazines. (See selected references at the end of this article.) However, the bottom line of any commentary on this subject is that each individual must consecrate part of his time for scripture study. Whether it is half an hour early each morning, during lunch hour, before retiring at night, or a few hours on Sundays, scripture study must be consistent and intense. The scriptures will not yield their treasures to a hit-and-miss approach.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, in introducing a recent filmstrip on the “New Publications of the Standard Works,” has offered the following counsel and observations: “The Latter-day Saint publication of the King James Version of the Bible and the new triple combination, with all their helps, are of monumental importance to all members of the Church. Everything that could be done has been done to help open the scriptures to members so that they might know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“We hope to open a door and introduce to you a library of revelation and inspiration and light. One day, on your own, as an individual, you must enter there and study by yourself. Today we can but set the door ajar.

“Now, we hope that you have a great desire to enter into this library alone, and in quiet study and prayer receive the kind of revelation that comes when you earn it, when you’re reading the scriptures.”

The Lord has reminded us, “And blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne. 28:30.)

Selected References for Additional Reading

Brandt, Edward J. “New Helps for Searching the Scriptures.” New Era, Aug. 1982, pp. 46–49.

Brandt, Edward J. “Using the New LDS Editions As One Book.” Ensign, Oct. 1982, pp. 42–45.

Harper, Bruce T. “The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination.” Ensign, Oct. 1981, pp. 8–19.

Ludlow, Daniel H., Luene L., and Michelle. “Taking Note.” New Era, June 1981, pp. 14–18.

Mortimer, William James. “The Coming Forth of the LDS Editions of Scripture.” Ensign, Aug. 1983, pp. 35–41.

Packer, Boyd K. “Scripture.” Ensign, Nov. 1982, pp. 51–53.

[illustration] Illustrated by Mark Robison

[photos] Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten

Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., father of five children and manager of adult curriculum for the Church, serves on the Brighton (Utah) Stake high council.