Book Reviews

The Old Testament: understand it, love it!

DESERET NEWS MARCH 23, 2014

Rosemarie Howard — Val Greenwood’s new edition of “How Often I Would Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints,” is an easy-to-read guide through 229 Old Testament stories. “HOW OFTEN I WOULD HAVE GATHERED YOU: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints,” 2nd edition, by Val D. Greenwood, Edenwood Press, $19.95, 378 pages (nf) “How Often I Would Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints,” by Val D. Greenwood, is an easy-to-read guide through 229 Old Testament stories. Arranged chronologically, the stories begin with the pre-Earth council in heaven and conclude with the return of Israel from captivity. Greenwood captures the essence of each story in clear, modern English without sacrificing the sacred nature of the scriptures. “Some books of the Old Testament — notably the literary writings and the books of many of the prophets — are not included within the scope of these stories merely because those books contain no stories,” the author writes in the book’s preface. The stories selected for retelling reflect the theme of the book’s title and illustrate the Lord’s willingness to bless his people when they are obedient and remember to worship him as the only true God, as well as the consequences of disobedience and rebellion. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the author writes from a Mormon point of view, referencing non-Old Testament sources such as the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the works of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. The book is divided into 12 sections, and includes relevant footnotes instead of endnotes; several helpful maps, a pronunciation guide, bibliography, name index and subject index. This second, enhanced edition of the book, which was first published in 2007, also contains additions, corrections and refinements to the text and footnotes. Although the book’s intended audience is adults, not children, it could certainly be used to assist adults in teaching children about the wonderful Old Testament stories. It is a valuable aid to a better understanding of the meaning and relevant messages of this often neglected book of scripture. Greenwood lives in Riverton with his wife, Patty. He also wrote “The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy,” now in its third edition. His website is at newviewoldtestament.com.   The Old Testament: understand it, love...

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MERIDIAN MAGAZINE JANUARY 2014

Janet Peterson— 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. Included are: 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. Bibliography. 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...

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ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS (AML) December 2013

Reviewed by Tabb Clements– …. In looking over the various study aids to assist students during this year’s study of the Old Testament, I can use one hand to count the new items available and even then I would NOT need to use all the fingers on that one hand!  “How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources For Latter-day Saints–Enhanced 2nd Edition” is a welcomed addition to this list!   Author Val D. Greenwood has taken his 2007 edition and has made several changes.  In the “Preface to the Enhanced 2nd Edition”, he notes “Most things have not changed. There are still 229 stories–the very same stories as before–but some are a little different and some even a bit longer to include other important events–and, I hope, more correct.  I do not believe any story is more than a few words shorter than it was before.  Nor are there any stories that have not had some changes.  In some I merely eliminated an unessential word or two or said something in a simpler way.  Others have significant additions and/or corrections.  As a result, I believe that this book is significantly better than the first edition and closer to the perfection I originally sought” (vii).   It is easy to get overwhelmed in studying the Old Testament. The author has purposefully created this book with stories that are “quite short”.   He has also worked at “eliminating redundancy, cumbersome (and sometimes sordid) details, and awkward wording” (vii-viii). For those not familiar with the first edition, this book is written in modern English.   All stories are based on the King James Version and are arranged in chronological order.  This work also contains a pronunciation guide, maps, TWO indexes (a name index and a subject index), and modern equivalents are given for all references to weights and measures. In addition, the 229 stories have extensive footnotes and, for ease of study/review, those footnotes are located on the bottom of each page.  The book is further divided into twelve sections from “Section I: Council, the Creation, the Fall, and the Early Patriarchs” to “Section XII: The Captivity of Judah, the Return, and Beyond”.   Section IX begins with “The Kings of Israel and Judah” chart.  Columns in the chart help to clarify the approximate calendar year, as well as length of time served.  Also, the specific scriptural references associated with each king and the specific story number (of the 229 stories in the book) is also listed.   “How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources For Latter-day Saints–Enhanced 2nd Edition” utilizes texts from the New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, to help clarify sections of the Old Testament being presented.  Greenwood also takes full advantage of the Study Aids found in the LDS version of the scriptures.  The author even shares a website (www.newViewOldTestament.com) where additional articles can be obtained.   The stated goal of the author is that “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” (ix)....

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DESERT SAINTS MAGAZINE

Val Greenwood’s How Often Would I Have Gathered You captures the essence of these wonderful Old Testament messages. His easy style brings the Old Testament to life without embellishing the stories and without fictionalizing the message. . . [The] stories are clear, cogent, and true to their sources.   The Old Testament: understand it, love it!

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DESERET NEWS

Dennis Lythgoe — The author has carefully gathered stories from the Old Testament that share the familiar theme of the title—then he has summarized those stories so that they can be quickly called to mind.   The Old Testament: understand it, love it!

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BYU MAGAZINE, “BOOK NOOK”, SUMMER 2010

Richard Cracroft — In How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints (Edenwood Press; 380 pp.; $29.95), Val D. Greenwood (BS ’62) tells familiar Bible stories masterfully in a simple, straightforward style free of fictionalizing and embellishment and consistent with the Latter-day Saint perspective. Basing the stories on the King James Version, but with modernized language, he arranges them in chronological sequence, beginning with the Grand Council in Heaven (drawn from the Pearl of Great Price) and continuing through the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. Greenwood included rich and carefully researched footnotes applying LDS scripture and the Joseph Smith Translation, as well as maps, a pronunciation guide, a chart of the kings, and a bibliography. Although these stories do not replace the scripture, they are exciting and clarifying retellings that bring new life to a scripture often weighed down by confusing language.   The Old Testament: understand it, love...

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MERIDIAN MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 10, 2009

Janet Peterson — Come January 3, 2010, the first Sunday of the new year, gospel doctrine classes worldwide will rotate the yearly course of study from the Doctrine and Covenants to the Old Testament. Perhaps this change will be accompanied by a few moans and groans. After all, the Old Testament is rather lengthy–and is often difficult to read and understand. Perhaps it may not be your favorite of the standard works. As a prelude to the mission of the Savior and another testament of His divinity, the Old Testament is indeed a great canon of scripture. Among other New Year’s resolutions, many Church members will commit to read the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. Accomplishing this by December 2010 will require consistent and diligent study and much will be gained from doing so. Reading the scriptural text itself is surely the first priority. However, since Sunday School lessons and discussions can cover only a small part of the 1184 pages, events, prophecies, teachings, and stories of the Old Testament, additional study will greatly enhance an individual’s knowledge, understanding, and testimony. (And the callings of many members preclude attending Gospel Doctrine.) Church magazines and manuals, articles in various publications, the Internet, and books can provide a wide variety of Old Testament insights and study aids. A book worth owning and reading is Val D. Greenwood’s How Often Would I Have Gathered You: Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints. In 2002, an Old Testament year, Brother Greenwood felt that Church members would benefit from having Old Testament stories available in “a simple, straightforward style consistent with the Latter-day Saint perspective.” This comprehensive book contains 229 stories, arranged chronologically “beginning with the Grand Council in Heaven [drawn from Moses and Abraham] and continuing down through the return of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem.” The literary writings and many of the prophetic writings are not included because they contain no stories. Greenwood states in the preface, “I do not intend that this book should 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 [readers] gain greater appreciation for the Old Testament canon. Whereas our friends of other faiths consider much of the Old Testament to be myth, the Latter-day Saints hold a different view. We believe the Old Testament accounts are essentially literal and accurate, insofar as they are translated correctly (Articles of Faith 8).” The book is written for an adult audience, but young adults and teens will likewise benefit. It is faithful to the scriptural accounts, and its comfortable and reverent style make it engaging. How Often I Would Have Gathered You is also simple without being simplistic. Helpful to the reader are maps, a pronunciation guide, and separate name and subject indexes. The book also includes extensive footnotes giving insights and pertinent background information. Some black- and-white drawings illustrate the book. The stories are divided into 12 sections: The Council, the Creation, the Fall, and the Early Patriarchs; Abraham and Isaac; Jacob and Joseph; From Egypt to Sinai; Through the Wilderness and Into Canaan; The Reign of the Judges; Saul and David: The Rise and Fall of King Saul; David and Solomon:...

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ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS (AML) MARCH 2007

Jeffrey Needle — A recent “B.C.” cartoon strip made its way across the internet recently. A worm is spitting out a dust ball and his friend, a pre-historic bird of some sort says, “Yuck! A dust ball! How disgusting.” The worm responds, “How can you treat a fellow creature with such disdain?” The bird answers, “I read the Old Testament, buddy.” Indeed, it seems to some readers that the Old Testament is filled with all kinds of loathsome things — murder, incest, prostitution. Reading through this sacred testament can be something of a roller-coaster ride. Is there any redeeming value to reading the Old Testament? Perhaps the same might be said of the Book of Mormon. It, too, has a lot of warfare, a lot of death, a lot of sadness. But readers can sort through all of this and draw out so many important spiritual lessons. Part of our appreciation of biblical history is an acknowledgement that along with the good there is the evil. Such things “must needs be.” The key to appreciating any sacred writing is in the ability to sort through the honest accounts and find that which is good, cling to it, and then be aware of the consequences of evil. Over the years, scholars and teachers have come to recognize that studying the story line of the Old Testament is a valuable tool in understanding the work as a whole. One organization, “Walk through the Bible Ministries,” has designed an entire curriculum that allows the reader to skip portions of the Old Testament without missing parts of the overall story. For example, they would have you read Genesis, Exodus and Numbers, and have you skip Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Yes, you miss some of the teaching, but the story continues unabated by reading the books in this manner. Our present book tries to accomplish this goal — learn the story of the Old Testament, but supplement this in a way that “Walk through the Bible Ministries” cannot: integrate the thoughts of LDS scholars over the years, the unique insights of Restoration scriptures, and the wisdom of generations of Mormon thinkers. The subtitle of the book explains it quite nicely: “Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints.” Greenwood has a goal — he wants you to see the wonderful continuity of the Old Testament story, the blessings of obedience and the challenges of faith. And, in my opinion, he accomplishes this nicely. In a series of 229 brief studies, the author takes you through the story. His prose style is exceptionally easy; his grasp of the story solid. One can read each of the studies in just a few minutes. Each study is preceded by the scripture reference covered. Some of the studies are quite focused, covering just a few chapters of the scripture. Others are very broad — he covers the entire book of Deuteronomy in just one study! But this is as it should be — Deuteronomy does not move the story forward at all. A nice selection of basic maps is included. Greenwood also includes a pronunciation guide to Old Testament words. A brief bibliography and both name and subject indices, close the volume. A word of caution about the indices – I neglected to read a note at...

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