Janet Peterson —
Come January 3, 2010, the first Sunday of the new year, gospel doctrine classes worldwide will rotate the yearly course of study from the Doctrine and Covenants to the Old Testament. Perhaps this change will be accompanied by a few moans and groans. After all, the Old Testament is rather lengthy–and is often difficult to read and understand. Perhaps it may not be your favorite of the standard works. As a prelude to the mission of the Savior and another testament of His divinity, the Old Testament is indeed a great canon of scripture.
Among other New Year’s resolutions, many Church members will commit to read the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. Accomplishing this by December 2010 will require consistent and diligent study and much will be gained from doing so. Reading the scriptural text itself is surely the first priority. However, since Sunday School lessons and discussions can cover only a small part of the 1184 pages, events, prophecies, teachings, and stories of the Old Testament, additional study will greatly enhance an individual’s knowledge, understanding, and testimony. (And the callings of many members preclude attending Gospel Doctrine.) Church magazines and manuals, articles in various publications, the Internet, and books can provide a wide variety of Old Testament insights and study aids.
A book worth owning and reading is Val D. Greenwood’s How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints. In 2002, an Old Testament year, Brother Greenwood felt that Church members would benefit from having Old Testament stories available in “a simple, straightforward style consistent with the Latter-day Saint perspective.” This comprehensive book contains 229 stories, arranged chronologically “beginning with the Grand Council in Heaven [drawn from Moses and Abraham] and continuing down through the return of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.” The literary writings and many of the prophetic writings are not included because they contain no stories.
Greenwood states in the preface, “I do not intend that this book should replace or upstage the scriptures in any way. I hope, rather, that these stories will introduce the Old Testament, enhance the scriptural experience, and help [readers] gain greater appreciation for the Old Testament canon. Whereas our friends of other faiths consider much of the Old Testament to be myth, the Latter-day Saints hold a different view. We believe the Old Testament accounts are essentially literal and accurate, insofar as they are translated correctly (Articles of Faith 8).”
The book is written for an adult audience, but young adults and teens will likewise benefit. It is faithful to the scriptural accounts, and its comfortable and reverent style make it engaging. How Often I Would Have Gathered You is also simple without being simplistic.
Helpful to the reader are maps, a pronunciation guide, and separate name and subject indexes. The book also includes extensive footnotes giving insights and pertinent background information. Some black- and-white drawings illustrate the book. The stories are divided into 12 sections: The Council, the Creation, the Fall, and the Early Patriarchs; Abraham and Isaac; Jacob and Joseph; From Egypt to Sinai; Through the Wilderness and Into Canaan; The Reign of the Judges; Saul and David: The Rise and Fall of King Saul; David and Solomon: The House of Judah on the Throne; Divided Israel (Part I): Two Separate Kingdoms; Divided Israel (Part II) Good Kings, Bad Kings, and the Threat of Captivity; Judah’s Captivity: The Prophecies, the Siege, and the Reality; The Captivity of Judah, the Return, and Beyond.
Besides recent years of concentrated study of the Old Testament, Val Greenwood drew upon a wide array of studies and experiences in preparing this book. He received a B.S. degree in journalism from BYU and a J.D. degree from the University of Idaho. His employment with the Church ranged from being a director in the Temple Department, a researcher and writer for the Family History Department, and a faculty member of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). He has also taught institute classes. He is the author of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, considered the standard in this field. Val’s depth of knowledge and testimony of the Old Testament are clearly evidenced in How Often Would I Have Gathered You.
Thanks to Val Greenwood’s book, discussions with my Gospel Doctrine teacher-husband, and studious reading, I plan to become better acquainted with the Old Testament this coming year!
How Often Would I Have Gathered You is available through major Internet bookstores, //NewViewOldTestament.com, BYU Bookstore, or can be ordered through any bookstore.
The Old Testament: understand it, love it!