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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Versions of the Scriptures

by Eliana (bio)

I always hated checking out scriptures from the building library at church. You'd get the sets that people had left behind, old seminary copies all marked up, or weird old editions without the 1981 footnotes that I was used to. Finding a verse just felt uncomfortable in those library scriptures; technically the words are the same of course, but they weren't mine.

My mom recently tried to buy my son a leather bound triple combination for his upcoming baptism. No luck since the new edition will be coming out soon. I'd completely forgotten about the announcement earlier this year regarding these updated scriptures. I don't know that I'll get a new set of my own, at least for a while. About ten years ago I did, under duress; my baby brother had written his name on my beloved worn brown leather cover scriptures, the set I got when I turned eight. Blue fountain pen, front and back, in unsteady three year old letters. The inside was fine but seeing the monogram finally got to me and I traded them in.

The plus side of new scriptures: no markings. Every verse seems new somehow and you can mark what strikes you as meaningful on each particular read through. I swear, there are things I never saw before the first ten times through the Book of Mormon. The down side? I felt like I hadn't read my scriptures before. I had, promise, but it felt a bit cold and impersonal not to have my history there with me in the pages.

A few years ago, Deseret Book came out with a family edition of the Book of Mormon. Sadly, it is the same length and doesn't summarize the Isaiah passages which are what a true family edition would do. But the pages are big and shiny, there are pictures, and footnotes have extra explanations. It is lovely to read.

My favorite childhood scriptures are a sixteen volume set of oversized blue hardcovers, Illustrated Stories from the Book of Mormon, circa 1971 from Promised Land Publications. They are in between the church illustrated editions, with two or three pages per story, and regular scriptures. I bought 'the blue scriptures,' as I always think of them, on eBay last year. My sister snagged the ones from my parents and my other sister somehow finagled the same ones from her in-laws.

Biggest complaint as I read the Illustrated volumes? Dated art work, especially equating the worldly Babylon segments to working women with mullet type hair styles. To be generous, we'll say that it simply hasn't held up well over time. There's some odd summarizing/retelling as well where I'm sometimes left thinking, 'I don't think that's quite what the real scriptures say.'

And that is always going to be key, right? Whether we're talking about the hip teen versions of the Bible, complete with text message style parables, or simplified Book of Mormon stories, the modified sacred works just don't cut it. I think I'm ok with that. I've learned content through various non-standard scripture books, and my kids love Stephen Carter's iPlates. But once you want to go past the stories and get into a bigger picture or the deeper themes, it's time to sit down with the trusty onion skin pages. I can't even study my Kindle scriptures; they're great for looking things up or a quick lesson help, but I definitely read differently on a screen.

So dear readers, do you have a favorite copy of the scriptures? Maybe that gold covered Book of Mormon with hieroglyphics? Loved that one. Found any good resources to use with children? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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