For the year 2014, the Gospel Doctrine course of study is The Old Testament—perhaps the least noticed and read of the four standard works. Its length and difficulty are sometimes daunting. This coming year gives each of us Church members, whether we attend Gospel Doctrine class or are fulfilling other callings during the Sunday School hour, a wonderful opportunity to delve into, study, discuss, and become better students of the Old Testament. By so doing we can strengthen our testimonies of God the Father; Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah of the Old Testament; prophets; and the covenant children of Israel.
While the Old Testament itself is the primary and essential book to read, an in depth study of it can be enhanced by using other sources for additional study to gain a clearer understanding of its complex material, lengthy history, various peoples, kings, and prophets, and its symbolism.
A unique and excellent study aid is How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints by Val D. Greenwood.* First published in 2005 [actually 2007], this book is now available as an enhanced edition (2013). How Often Would I Have Gathered You contains the 229 stories of the Old Testament told chronologically, in modern English and in a straightforward, effective style. Stories are great teaching tools because readers or listeners engage in them and therefore remember them. Stories convey principles and knowledge through many layers of meaning. Val stated, “I do not intend for this book to 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 you gain greater appreciation for the Old Testament canon itself. The best approach, I believe, is to use these stories and the Bible together.”
This extensive collection of stories, all of which are true to the King James Version of the Bible, does not contain embellishments or lessons and morals drawn from them. Arranged chronologically, the book begins with the Grand Council in Heaven (from modern scriptures), the Creation, the Fall, and the early patriarchs. It continues through the sagas of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph; Moses and the escape from Egypt; getting to Canaan through the wilderness; the reign of the Judges David and Solomon; the two kingdoms of Israel; and Judah’s captivity. The final section retells the stories of the Jews’ return from captivity and the rebuilding of the temple and of Jerusalem. While most readers know a number of the stories, many will find stories with which they had little familiarity and not much understanding. Val’s skillful rendering of them will provide clarity, historical perspective, and preparation to study particular chapters and verses.
This book, however, offers more than stories. Foremost, it is written from an LDS point of view.
- Footnotes, rather than endnotes, containing insights and background to the stories and cross-references between related stories.
- Pronunciation guide.
- Name index.
- Subject index.
- Chart of the kings of Judah and Israel during the divided monarchy.
- Maps and illustrations.
How Often Would I Have Gathered You will aid the serious student of the Old Testament; the Gospel Doctrine class member wanting to stay current with weekly lessons; teachers in helping their students understand the who, where, and when of the numerous Old Testament peoples; parents in preparing family home evening lessons; and anyone desiring to better appreciate and comprehend this portion of the Bible. Additionally, Val’s website www.NewViewOldTestament.com provides a variety of articles and materials on the Old Testament.
How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints is available at Deseret Book, Utah Costco stores, BYU Bookstore, all LDS bookstores, BrighamDistributing.com, Amazon.com, and www.newviewoldtestament.com.
*A lifelong student of the scriptures, Val Greenwood has taught institute and religion classes for years and has served as a CES missionary in Santa Barbara, California, and New York City. He earned a B.S degree in journalism (BYU) and a Juris Doctor degree (University of Idaho). Val’s Church employment includes faculty member of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), researcher and writer in the Genealogical Department (now Family History Department), and Director of Special Services and Temple Facilities in the Temple Department. His book, The Researcher’s Guide of American Genealogy, is considered the standard in the field.
The Old Testament: understand it, love it!