Scriptures for Families

Review of Thomas R. Valletta, gen. ed. The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999. xiv + 672 pp., with glossary and bibliography. $49.95.

Review of Thomas R. Valletta, gen. ed. The New Testament for Latter-day Saint Families. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1998. xi + 500 pp., with glossary, pronunciation guide, and bibliography. $39.95.

Scriptures for Families

Reviewed by Rebecca M. Flinders and Anne B. Fairchild

As mothers of several children each, ranging in age from newborn to twenty-one,
we found The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families and The New Testament
for Latter-day Saint Families
to be wonderful resources in our family scripture
study. As stated in the introduction of one of the books, “The purpose of
[these books] is not to offer a rewriting of the [scriptures] in more modern language.
The text [of the scriptures] has not been changed. The illustrations and the reading
and understanding helps are designed to complement and not replace the official
LDS edition of th[ese] sacred work[s]. The intent of th[ese] volume[s] is to help
Latter-day Saints, and especially young readers, develop a lifelong love for the
[scriptures]” (Book of Mormon, p. ix). The compilers and editors of
these books did a superb job in producing books with the capacity to meet this
goal. The many supplementary helps provide the opportunity for a rich and rewarding
scripture study experience that enables family members, both young and old, to
gain a greater understanding of and love for the scriptures.

These books contain resources that are helpful when reading scriptures with younger
children (approximately ages two to ten years). Book and chapter headings differ
from those included in the official Latter-day Saint scriptures, but they still
include an overview of the selection that follows. Often these headings include
“suggestions of important things to look for to give purpose to family members’
reading” (Book of Mormon, p. x). Parents can use the headings to provide
an overview of the chapter or book in easy-to-understand language for their younger
children. The suggestions of things to look for provide something for younger
children to focus on as they read or listen.

A valuable feature is the topic headings printed in red, which subdivide each
chapter and include an average of five to seven verses. Parents can use the topic
headings to break up the chapters into smaller, yet still cohesive, sections when
an entire chapter is too long for very young children to sit through. The headings
also give parents a topical reference that is beneficial when restating and explaining
the scriptures to their young children.

The two volumes include many paintings and drawings that depict scenes or characters
from the scripture stories. Many photographs of places, people, and artifacts
shed further light on the topics covered in the text. In addition, various maps
augment the text. All these tools help capture the reader’s interest. The
high occurrence of illustrations, maps, and photographs—included on almost
every other page—helps to keep the reader focused, and these visual aids
are very appealing, especially for young children. Based on our experience, children
as young as two years old anticipate and look excitedly for the next picture.
These illustrations create an interest in the scripture stories, help explain
those stories, and draw the children into the scriptures for further information.

Many of the difficult words in the text are colored blue, indicating that a definition
or explanation of that word is provided at the bottom of the page. The definitions
are valuable when parents explain the scriptures to young children. Older children
(ten and above) and adults also benefit from these definitions. A few words that
are even more complex, such as covenant, are colored pink, which indicates that
they are explained in even more detail in the glossary at the back of the books.

In addition to the resources mentioned earlier, many other valuable tools are
particularly useful for older children and adults. Verse numbers highlighted in
red refer the reader to the bottom of the page where three symbols are used to
indicate that further insight and a more in-depth explanation of the scripture
verse is given. One symbol, a picture of a sun, indicates that modern-day scriptures
and quotations from latter-day prophets are used to shed light on the scriptures.
The magnifying glass symbol indicates that information is provided “about
the meaning of a verse or about the history, the people, or the customs that make
the verse interesting” (Book of Mormon, p. xi). Some cross-references
to scripture stories with similar themes are also given next to the magnifying
glass symbol. Next to the third symbol, a question mark, thoughts and questions
for pondering or for further discussion are given. All these resources assist
families and individuals in having a richer scripture-reading experience. These
tools are extremely helpful, especially in books that are difficult to understand,
such as 2 Nephi and Revelation.

The previously mentioned red topic headings are also useful for older children
and adults in dividing the scriptures into sections that indicate where stories
or situations begin and end. This is beneficial because it helps parents more
easily lead discussions about the different sections of the chapter, especially
in the New Testament when one chapter can cover many different events.

As in the official Latter-day Saint edition of the Book of Mormon, The Book
of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families
includes the testimonies of the Three
and the Eight Witnesses and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In addition, it includes
an introduction, written partly to the young reader and partly to the parents.
The introduction explains the various helps that are provided and how they are
indicated in the text. It also explains the purpose of the book and how it was
intended to be used. An overview of the Book of Mormon describes the main stories
and people, the various sources of the stories, and the main purposes (given with
scriptural references) of the Book of Mormon. The introduction and overview
provide useful background information for the readers of this book. Having references
to the Joseph Smith Translations given at the bottom of each page in The New Testament
for Latter-day Saint Families is convenient.

One flaw is that the binding is not durable. After six months of reading nightly
with the family, a signature from one of the books fell out. This issue is one
that needs to be addressed in future printings.

When these books are used side-by-side with the official Latter-day Saint version
of the scriptures, their full value becomes obvious. On their own, the lack of
cross-references and indexes included in the regular scriptures can be frustrating.
Some cross-references are included in the helps at the bottom of the page, but
they are limited. Using these books in conjunction with another set of scriptures
gives the family reader a full set of resources with which to study the scriptures.

Overall we were very impressed with these Book of Mormon and New Testament books
designed for Latter-day Saint families. The many resources that were compiled
and included in these books allow readers of all ages to acquire a “lifelong
love for the [scriptures].” They are a valuable addition to the Latter-day
Saint family library but are, needless to say, not a substitute for the scriptures