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Understanding Scriptural References

By Mel Borup Chandler

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Scripture

In the early days of Christianity, members of the Primitive Church were called saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lets you know as soon as you hear the name of the church that it is Jesus Christ’s church of the latter days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often misnamed the “Mormon Church” after its belief in the Book of Mormon, but the church is not named the Church of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, or even Mormon; it belongs to Jesus Christ.

Scripture-References-MormonLatter-day Saints (“Mormons”) use the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. It is called Authorized because it was authorized by King James of England and later ratified and authorized by an act of the English Parliament. Additionally, “Mormons” have three other books they consider to be scripture that go hand in hand with the Bible. These other scriptures do not replace the Bible; the Bible is an indispensible component of accepted scripture. Together with the Bible, these three other books of scripture are referred to as the “Standard Works” and give multiple testimonies of the divinity of Christ and his universal mission to mankind. These will be discussed in more depth later.

Reading Scripture References in the Bible

One aspect of Christian religions that can be confusing to new adherents is the quotation of scripture in Bibles. Usually Bibles are quite different from conventional books. They are divided into books, followed by numbered chapters and then verses. Usually the format is also in two columns per page with a footnote section at the bottom of each page.

One of the most helpful things a person can do before delving into scripture is to become familiar with the names and order of various books. For example in the Old Testament, the first book is Genesis. Each book name also has an abbreviation. Often books in the Bible are named after prophets in ancient times, like Isaiah or Joshua or Samuel.

In some cases, there may be more than one book with the same name. For example, there is both 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. So, the number before the abbreviation or name represents a different book; in this case the First or Second Book of Samuel. Genesis is abbreviated Gen. The next book is Exodus, abbreviated Ex. and so on. Learning to recognize these abbreviations is critical and the order is also important if you want to find the scripture quickly.

In the New Testament, the first book is Matthew, abbreviated Matt. followed by Mark, Luke, and John. If the name is short, like Mark, Luke, and John, the content page may not list an abbreviation. However, if the Bible is thumb indexed (thumb-sized tabs on the outside of pages to help you easily find the different books) the abbreviation may be Mat., Mrk., or Luk. This is because there is only a limited space to identify each book on a thumb index tab. This should not pose a problem, provided you know more or less what you need to find.

There are scriptural citations with recognizable or similar abbreviations. They are usually independent of your specific Bible, or from a source outside of your congregation. With a little practice, you will get the hang of it quickly and recognize most any citation.

The first three gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as Synoptic Gospels. This means that they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and with similar wording. The Gospel of Mark is believed to have been written before the other gospels. According to the majority view the gospel of Mathew was written using Mark as the source. The gospel of Luke uses both Mark and Mathew. The canonical gospel of John is different than the synoptic gospels and is unique in content and organization.

In scripture, you could have multiple quotations from the same book. For example, Genesis 1:8–9, 2:7–12, and so on. The comma means a different chapter along with the citation. Some scriptures may also have a superscript a, b, c, or d. This means that it may refer to a specific part of a particular verse.

However, in Mormon scriptures, this is usually not the case. In scripture, you might see a superscript a, b, c, or d next to a specific word in that scripture. At the bottom of the page, there is a footnote section. There may be a reference to TG (meaning topical guide) or perhaps an alternate or clearer translation of that word which enhances understanding of that particular scripture.

There may also be other scriptures listed that can clarify that scripture or add understanding. Often these scriptures will have a similar word sequence or similar wording. For example, the book of Numbers is abbreviated Num. In 9:8 (chapter 9, verse 8), the Latter-day Saint version of the KJV says:

And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will ahear what the Lord will command concerning you.

The superscript “a” by “hear” references Doctrine and Covenants 102:23 which is a similar scripture. It says

In case of difficulty respecting adoctrine or principle, if there is not a sufficiency written to make the case clear to the minds of the council, the president may inquire and obtain the bmind of the Lord by revelation.

Here, the superscript “a” in front of “doctrine” references the reader back to Numbers 9:8. Another example is in Nehemiah (abbreviated Neh.), 13:12.

Then brought all Judah the atithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the btreasuries.

In the footnote of the page, the 12a reference refers to tithing in the TG (topical guide) and 12b clarifies that another translation for “treasuries” is “storage houses.”

Scriptural References in Other Books of Scripture

In the Latter-day Saints canon, in addition to the Bible, are the Book of Mormon (abbreviated BOM), Doctrine and Covenants (abbreviated D&C), and the Pearl of Great Price (abbreviated PGP). The books of the Bible contain God’s dealing with his children in the Old World. The books of the BOM detail God’s dealing with the inhabitants of the Americas.

The Doctrine and Covenants is related to the restoration of the gospel in the modern era by Joseph Smith. He organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the Mormon Church) under the direction of God; His Son, Jesus Christ; John the Baptist; and Christ’s original apostles Peter, James, and John in 1830. The Doctrine and Covenants is organized in sections rather than chapters, but contains verses much like the Bible and Book of Mormon.

The Peal of Great Price represents Joseph Smith’s inspired contribution to the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch is the first five books the Bible (i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Jews call it the “Torah,” which translates in English as “Law.” Joseph Smith was inspired to retranslate the Bible, and the Holy Spirit prompted him to add words in that had been lost or change words that had been mistranslated. Some of this translation is contained in the Pearl of Great Price. In addition, Joseph Smith acquired some ancient transcripts from Egypt which he translated as the Book of Abraham. This is also contained in the Pearl of Great Price. These books are all cited in the same way the Biblical books are: the name of the book, followed by the chapter number and a colon, then the verses are listed. For example in Genesis, you might see, Gen 1:8–9. This means the book of Genesis chapter 1 verses 8 and 9. In the Book of Mormon, you may see Alma: 10:33–34. Alma was a Book of Mormon prophet who has a book of scripture in the Book of Mormon just like Isaiah does in the Old Testament.

Reading scriptural references becomes easier with practice.

Mel Borup Chandler writes about science and technology. He is a graduate of Weber State University. He is a former certified document examiner and handwriting analyst and is knowledgeable about archival, and preservation methods for old books and documents. He was once a regular contributor to Autograph Collectors Magazine. His Email address is [email protected].

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