Like a welcome, green oasis to the weary desert traveler is the gentle invitation of our Lord: “Come. … learn of me; … and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:28–29.)
We are reminded of His injunction to “search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39.)
How shall we commence our study? Are there improved methods to aid our learning—even our understanding—of God’s word?
The words of truth and inspiration found in our four standard works are prized possessions to me. I never tire of reading them. I am lifted spiritually whenever I search the scriptures. These holy words of truth and love give guidance to my life and point the way to eternal perfection.
Space will not allow a detailed discussion here of the many individuals whose efforts have made the scriptures available to us. Were there space, we could explore the contributions of such chosen prophets as Moses, who brought us in written form the inspired writings of earth’s earliest times. We would think of Jewish leaders who preserved the records of Israel. We would remember the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ whose testaments of His divine ministry on earth were so carefully kept. We would recall the sacrifices of Reformation leaders who, in some instances, gave their very lives to assure that common people could read the Bible.
In our dispensation we would trace the important events of Church history as they relate directly to the scriptures. It was through reading the Bible that Joseph Smith went to the grove made sacred and received the First Vision. There were visitations from Moroni, an angel, who taught the young prophet Joseph about the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. We would remember the efforts to compile the revelations received by the Prophet into a book of commandments which represented the doctrines and covenants of the Church. And we would reflect on the miraculous events that, brought ancient papyri into the possession of the Prophet, who valued its translated message as a pearl of great price.
We are truly indebted to those scholars of the scriptures from whom we have learned. It was my privilege to work closely with President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., in the publishing of his monumental harmony of the Gospels and also the incomparable work Why the King James Version? Over a period of many years, he had meticulously, in longhand, compiled this classic harmony. Foolishly, I asked him during one of our many conversations, “Which of the Gospels do you like best?” His answer was profound: “Brother Monson, I love each of the Gospels.”
Elder Mark E. Petersen developed his own method of cross-referencing the standard works. Night after night and year after year he labored on this project, so that he might more effectively present the message of truth.
When I directed the reprinting of Elder George Reynolds’s lifelong work, A Complete Concordance to the Book of Mormon, a feeling of appreciation filled my soul.
Not to be overlooked is the Concordance to the Doctrine and Covenants, which required ten years of the life of John V. Bluth.
The work of publishing the scriptures has been central to the mission of the Church since the time of Joseph Smith. However, it has only been in the past decade that a concerted effort has been made to tie together the four standard works by correlated cross-references and to provide from our current reservoir of knowledge the aids and helps which make the scriptures more easily understood.
As this effort commenced, the Lord began to make available to the world new computer technology which greatly facilitated the work of the scholars and the committee members who were appointed to the work. Without this technological miracle, the work might still be in some preliminary stage.
The scholarly work of preparing cross-references and assembling other aids and helps, along with the creation of the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary, began in earnest in 1973 and reached its marvelous conclusion in August of 1979, when the very first copies of the LDS edition of the Bible came from the bindery.
Let me illustrate how the new Topical Guide can be a blessing to each Latter-day Saint in his gospel study. Some years ago, President Harold B. Lee opened one of our auxiliary organization manuals and read to me a reference wherein the author had speculated concerning the meaning of a passage quoted from the New Testament. President Lee said, “If only the author had known his Doctrine and Covenants, he would have known what the Lord had to say at a later time to clarify the biblical account.”
Now there is no need for such confusion, for the cross-references in the Topical Guide are designed to solve such problems. Certainty has replaced doubt. Knowledge has overcome speculation.
The Lord opened many doors at various times of need as the work progressed, and quiet miracles occurred to keep it moving. During the printing process, I witnessed such divine help, for I was the recipient. At the printing plant of the Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England, I was shown the long battery of presses on which the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James version of the Bible was being printed. The work had been declared proofread and proofread, again and again, and pronounced free from error. As I walked along the press line, pausing briefly at the delivery end of each press, I removed from one a printed sheet. My eyes observed a horizontal rule that had been misplaced, making the text confusing to the reader. The press was stopped. The error was corrected. I paused to thank my Heavenly Father, and a warm feeling came over me. I learned that day the meaning of the poet’s words: “The smile of God’s approval is the greatest of all gifts.”
After the Bible had been published and reviewed, it was determined that the Church would next concentrate its efforts on the three books of modern scripture which we commonly refer to as the Triple Combination. This, too, became a publishing miracle; but it came about so quietly that most hardly knew it had happened.
History will ultimately record the details, the triumphs, and the struggles of this publishing saga, but for the present, may I simply say that through great personal effort on the part of many individuals over a long period of time, coupled with modern technology and, especially, divine guidance, the Church now has new editions of the sacred scriptures available for all to use.
Prestigious awards for them have been numerous, both in America and in Great Britain. A citation presented in October of 1982 by the Laymen’s National Bible Committee is typical: “Presented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in appreciation of outstanding service to the Bible cause through the publication of its own new edition of the King James version, which features interpretive chapter headings, a simplified footnote system, and the linking of references to all other LDS scriptures, thereby greatly enhancing the study of the Bible by its membership.”
The efforts and prayers of those who prepared these works, and even the miracles of publishing, are of no value to you, however, unless you begin to search the new editions. Delve into the study aids and the helpful information which supplement the texts and thus enhance your understanding and increase your testimony.
This is especially true when such books contain God’s word.
The holy scriptures are for children, to fill their eager minds with sacred truth. They are for youth, to prepare them for the challenges of our fast-moving world. They are for the sisters, remembering President Spencer W. Kimball’s advice: “We want our sisters to be scholars of the scriptures as well as our men.” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 102.) They are for the brethren of the priesthood, that each may qualify for the description given in the Book of Mormon to the sons of Mosiah: “They were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Alma 17:2.)
I know these sacred books of scripture are the word of God. With all my soul, as a special witness, I testify that they are true. As we search them, as we understand them, as we live them, may we one day be privileged to meet Him who beckoned us with His words, “Come. … learn of me,” and abide His holy presence forever and ever.