A Foundational Testament

It is 2006, and so begins a Church-wide study of the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is the foundational scripture of not only the New Testament but also the Book of Mormon – a collection of prophetic writings built upon the brass plates or books of Moses.  It supplies the underpinnings and securing covenants of all that we believe in scripture.  How well do we understand this book?  Have we seen the multiplicity of ways it points us to Jehovah, our God and Redeemer, Jesus Christ?  Do our children know its people, stories, covenants and types?

For Young Readers

I didn’t have a good grasp of the Old Testament until I studied in the Holy Land during my early twenties.  As I child, I knew the Book of Mormon better than most scripture – thanks to my good parents and the illustrated children’s adaptation.  The Old Testament, however, was a bit fuzzy for me.  A version like this one, edited by Thomas R. Valletta, would have been a welcome aid for my parents. 

OT1Written specifically for young readers, The Old Testament for Latter-day Saint Families is a family study tool.  Due to the large size of the Old Testament, some chapters are summarized to tell about omitted passages. But the bulk of the 1979 King James Version (KJV) furnishes the text.  Designed to complement the KJV, Valletta and other contributing editors have enriched the book with fun study helps, word clarification, chapter summaries, fantastic artwork and easy to read charts. 

The Editors’ goal was to help young readers understand and appreciate the beautiful language of the King James Version, described by Bruce R. McConkie, as “so far ahead of all other [versions] that there is little comparison” (Sermons and Writings, 288).

This book joins Valletta’s collection of other family-friendly study aides like The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, The New Testament for Latter-day Saint Families, and Church History for Latter-day Saint Families. 

A Sample Page

Each book begins with a short paragraph providing background information.  Each chapter begins with an introduction, offering a brief overview of the chapter.  Topic headings in red notify readers of a change in subject matter.  Red verse numbers indicate a footnote.  Words in pink are explained in a Glossary at the back of the book.  Blue words are explained at the bottom of the page. 

The symbol of a magnifying glass signifies additional information about history, people, or customs, making the verse more interesting.  The symbol of a sun prompts you to a footnote that offers “more light” from modern scripture and/or prophets.  And the question mark symbol guides you to questions that will help you ponder what you are reading.

A sample page of the helps described can be seen below.

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Charts, Maps and Illustrations

A friend of mine has been using this book to study the Old Testament with her children (teenage and primary age). They sit down as a family Sunday mornings and Monday evenings to read together, using Valletta’s book as their guide.  Last week her children were impressed and intrigued by the chart below.  It illustrates the lives of the Patriarchs from Adam to Jacob, when and how long each prophet lived.  Not only were they fascinated by the age of each prophet (imagine living to the age of 969!), her children noticed the abrupt shortening of lives after the great flood. 

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Charts like this one make studying the scriptures more exciting, more enjoyable, and help us think about the Old Testament in new ways.

Several maps at the back of the book help to place groups of people and happenings in geographical context. 

Readers, especially children, will notice immediately the brilliant illustrations.  They are plentiful and have been included to give stories color, imagery, and understanding.  They bring the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament alive.  The variety of artwork is impressive.  Many paintings I had not seen before, like the piece below, depicting an angel commanding Adam and Eve to offer sacrifice in similitude of the Only Begotten of the Father (Moses 5:5-8).

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Actual photographs of significant scriptural locations, as viewed now in modern times, have also been included.

That Thy Way May be Prosperous

For parents who want to tackle a family study of the Old Testament in ways that will be memorable, engaging and instructive for all age groups – this is your guide!  The artwork, charts and chapter introductions are helpful, to the point and enlightening.  More importantly, a child’s comprehension of the prefiguring of Jesus Christ within the pages of the Old Testament is priceless.

Prior to the book’s introduction, the editors wrote the following dedication:

“To faithful Latter-day Saints who seek to follow Joshua’s ancient but timeless admonition: This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous; And then thou shalt have good success’ (Joshua 1:8)”

We can’t deny the blessings of studying the original testament of the Savior.  Valletta has made a family study of this seemingly inaccessible, difficult to understand book, very accessible!  I highly recommend The Old Testament for Latter-day Saint Families, that our ways may be more prosperous, that we may indeed have good success.