When I wrote my book, How Often Would I Have Gathered You, I subtitled it, Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints. Many have asked what that subtitle means and why I would limit my stories just to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those are both good questions, and I will attempt to give a good answer.
First, I will say that the stories are for anyone who wishes to read them and not just for Latter-day Saints. The stories are told in a straightforward fashion that will be familiar and meaningful to anyone who loves the Old Testament. The main difference between these stories and non-Latter-day Saints stories (if there are such) is in the use of what the subtitle refers to as “related sources.” The Old Testament translation from which these stories have been drawn is the King James Version; and it is no different from what you remember it. But, because I have used these “related sources,” the perspective of the stories is broadened and I have been able—in some of the stories—to provide a clearer view of Old Testament meanings. In essence, these “related sources” enable us to view the Old Testament through high-definition spectacles.
These sources include other ancient writings: the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, and the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, both of which are in a compilation known to Latter-day Saints as the Pearl of Great Price.
I have also used information provided by Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews, as well as various Old Testament commentaries in order to add important background and clarity. There are many references to (as well as explanations from) these related sources in the footnotes of the book. In these footnotes, I attempt to clarify most of the differences between my stories and what is written in the King James Translation.
There are cases where an entire story (or significant parts of a story) comes from these other sources. In those cases, there is no mention of that fact in the footnotes, but the source is clearly identified at the top of the story, just below the title.
One example of a difference is the Latter-day Saints’ understanding that the Great Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ are the same being. The Biblical scriptures to support this identity are outlined in the article on this page entitled “Christ and the Old Testament.”
There (in the article entitled “Christ and the Old Testament”) I have also included some Biblical references to clarify the Latter-day Saint understanding that Jesus Christ and God the Eternal Father are not the same personal entity but are two separate personages—though certainly one in unity and purpose.
Latter-day Saints also believe that God does not change—that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (see Malachi 3:6). In keeping with that belief, we contend that the gospel taught by Jesus during his earthly ministry was the same gospel taught to Adam and to all the ancient prophets and patriarchs. The Law of Moses, which was a lesser law, was given to a people who had been in bondage for more than 400 years and were not prepared to live the fullness of the gospel—the higher law. The Law of Moses was, as the Apostle Paul wrote, a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). With the infinite Atonement at the end of the mortal advent of Jesus Christ, that lesser law was fulfilled.
Latter-day Saints also believe that all things, including humankind, were created spiritually by our Father in Heaven before they were created physically upon the earth—that humankind, as His spirit children, lived with God in a spiritual existence prior to our earth life. The eternal existence of mankind has been likened unto a three-act play with the three acts comprising our pre-mortal existence, our mortal earthly existence, and our existence after mortality. For those who come into this second act (mortality) with no understanding of the other two acts, the purpose behind the second act—and of the entire play—is very hard to comprehend. In fact, it makes no sense at all.
Just as the Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5), so it was with each of us. Jehovah also hinted at this pre-mortal life when he asked Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding… Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7, emphasis added).
God is the father of our spirits. As Paul wrote, “We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9).
This also helps us understand Paul’s declaration, when he said to the Athenians on Mars Hill that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28, emphasis added).
Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not accept poetry as the basis for doctrine, one of the poets of our own time has insightfully written:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
(From “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth)
There are unique Latter-day Saint teachings besides these reflected in How Often Would I Have Gathered You. I do not wish to impose those teachings on anyone who has difficulty accepting them. But my hope is that the doctrines, as reflected in this book, will provide a perspective that will help others to better understand the glorious doctrines taught and understood by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These doctrines are not taught by the Latter-day Saint because they are found in the Bible–though they are indeed found there–but because God has revealed them to a living prophet in our day as part of the restoration of Divine truth.
The Old Testament: understand it, love it!