Introduction

By Robert J. Matthews

Robert J. Matthews, “Introduction,” in Scriptures for the Modern World, ed. Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), ix–x.

Introduction

 

Robert J. Matthews was Chairman of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

 

One hundred fifty-four years ago, on April 6, 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded as an organization among men. Among its basic tenets are the concepts that the Holy Bible is a historical record, that God has again spoken from the heavens and revealed himself as he did in ancient times, and that additional scripture in the form of an ancient historical record known as the Book of Mormon has come forth by divine means and is available for reading and research. Since the beginning of the Church, many leaders and members have borne witness to the divine nature and value of scripture and have engaged in serious investigation and study of these sacred records.

In the last 154 years, developments in both secular and spiritual areas have further enhanced scripture study, permitting it to be more rewarding than when only the Bible was available for examination. Various extrabiblical manuscripts available today were not known to the world of scholarship in 1830. Notable among these are the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran community, which were discovered in 1947 and still continue to supply useful information about those Judean peoples. Equally significant is the Nag Hammadi Library from lower Egypt. It was discovered in 1945, but its English translation was delayed until recently by political and academic obstacles. T o these records may be added numerous other archaeological discoveries that illumine the history and culture of the ancient Middle East.

In addition to the Bible and related sources known to the world of scholarship, Latter-day Saints have greatly emphasized during the last 154 years certain documents obtained through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. These products of divine revelation consist chiefly of the Book of Mormon, which tells of the migrations of ancient Middle East peoples to the Americas and describes their civilization, religion, and culture in the western hemisphere; the book of Abraham, constituting a record of that ancient patriarch’s experiences in Egypt; and other items of latter-day revelation, including the Doctrine and Covenants and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Each of these items contributes to an understanding of the others and enables us to gain broader views about the antiquity of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the history of ancient peoples.

With the availability of these revealed texts and the other valuable textual discoveries, which challenge the understanding and appreciation of Saint and scholar, the BYU Religious Studies Center felt it would be rewarding to sponsor a gathering of informed persons to lecture on these scriptural resources. A symposium on these themes was therefore organized by Professors Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs under the aegis of the Center’s Scripture area. The symposium, titled “Scriptures in the Sesquicentennial,” was held at Brigham Young University on March 5 and 6, 1980. This forum enabled participants to discuss inferences, insights, problems, and answers that have arisen from the many sources that supplement the Bible and contribute to our understanding of the sacred records.

The keynote address, “Living Scriptures from a Living God Through Living Prophets and for a Living Church,” delivered by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, epitomizes the theme of the symposium. While many of the participants are firmly committed to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the various papers and panels nevertheless reflect the participants’ own viewpoints and are their responsibility. We believe these essays will be helpful to scholars and general readers, and confidently commend this volume to all who wish to know more about the discoveries and the viewpoints of LDS and non-LDS scholars concerning both ancient and latter-day scripture.