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LDS Publication of the Bible

by William James Mortimer

An edition of the King James Version of the Bible with new Bible study aids was published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1979, culminating seven years' work by Church leaders and scholars. The goals were to make Bible study more meaningful for Church members by supplying maps, charts, definitions, headnotes, footnotes, and cross-references to all of the four standard works, and also to provide a single Bible edition for use in the Church curriculum.

This project began in 1972, about the time the study of the scriptures became the primary goal for the adult curriculum of the Church. Previously Church teachers had relied mainly on lesson manuals prepared by individuals or committees. The work was commissioned by the First Presidency, who appointed a Bible Aids committee to oversee the project. This committee (later called the Scriptures Publications Committee) consisted initially of Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ashton was later given another assignment and Bruce R. McConkie was appointed.

The committee called scholars, editors, and publication specialists from Brigham Young University, the Church Educational System, and Deseret Book Company to prepare Latter-day Saint-oriented aids to help readers better understand the King James text. Early in the project the First Presidency determined that the King James text would be used without change. This text of the Bible, along with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, was entered into a computer data base. Each verse was reviewed, and key topics and terms identified. Computer printouts were generated comprising long lists of possible cross-references from which useful citations were then selected. Emphasis was given to references from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price that helped clarify Bible passages along with abundant interbiblical cross-references. These now appear in the footnotes and in the topical guide (an extensive subject index and modified concordance). A Bible dictionary, 24 pages of full-color maps, and a complete gazetteer were included. The Bible Dictionary provides concise explanations of biblical items and often adds points of interest to Latter-day Saints. Brief explanations of some words or phrases from Hebrew and Greek were also included as footnotes, along with about 600 passages from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). Unique summaries at the beginning of each chapter in this edition of the King James Bible suggest the doctrinal and historical content of each chapter from an LDS point of view.

The footnote system organizes all the aids available in this publication of the Bible. Some earlier Bible editions place cross-references in a center column on the page, but this format limits the amount of material that can be included. A flexible system of three footnote columns at the bottom of each page was designed, with "callout" letters (a, b, c, etc.) allocated separately for each verse placed in the text as needed. Included in the footnotes are cross-references to other scriptures, the Topical Guide, and the Bible Dictionary; also explanatory Greek and Hebrew idioms and other clarifying information.

Once the scholarly and editorial work was completed in early 1978, typesetting began. Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, England, was selected as typesetter, because that press, one of the early printers of the King James Version after it was first issued in 1611, has been continuously involved in Bible publications since the late 1500s. Its expert staff proved invaluable to Church members who worked with them in editing the copy for typesetting and preparing the final pages. All the type was set in Monotype hot metal. Each page was prepared so that every footnote was contained on the same page as the verse to which it pertained. To serve the needs of programs in the Church Educational System, a self-imposed delivery deadline of September 1979 for the first copies of the Bible loomed over those involved in this production. The formidable task of typesetting and paginating 2,423 pages of complex text was completed in May 1979 after fifteen months of intense effort.

Printing and binding were first contracted with University Press and Publishers Book Bindery of Winchester, Massachusetts, who subcontracted some of the work to National Bible Press in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What at first seemed impossible production deadlines all came together and the first copies were delivered August 8, 1979. Many Latter-day Saints acknowledged the hand of God at work in this monumental publication.

This edition of the King James Version of the Bible has stimulated further interest in Bible study throughout the Church. It has extended and deepened members' understanding of and appreciation for the Bible as the word of God. It has also demonstrated that all the Latter-day Saint books of sacred scripture are correlated in many mutually supportive and enriching ways.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Scriptural Writings home page; The Holy Bible home page)


Anderson, Lavina Fielding. "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible." Ensign 9 (Oct. 1979):8-18.

Matthews, Robert J. "The New Publications of the Standard Works—1979, 1981." BYU Studies 22 (Fall 1982):387-424.

Mortimer, William James. "The Coming Forth of the LDS Editions of Scripture." Ensign 13 (Aug. 1983):35-41.

Packer, Boyd K. "Scriptures." Ensign 12 (Nov. 1982):51-53.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, LDS Publication of the Bible

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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