I curiously read April’s release of an annual project commissioned by the American Bible Society to monitor beliefs and behaviors of U.S. adults in relation to the Bible. Zealous headlines read that as of 2014, the number of “scripture haters” equals the number of “scripture lovers.”
Since hate is such a strong word, I decided to read the posted results (see americanbible.org/uploads/content/state-of-the-bible-data-analysis-american-bible-society-2014.pdf). It didn’t take long for me to feel nauseated over the fact that the ABS would consider me to be a Bible hater because of my religion.
For analysis, it segmented the poll participants by age as well by religiosity — one group for practicing Protestants and Catholics, one group for non-practicing Christians, and another for those with no faith AND other faith.
To quote the study’s description of that last group, “Individuals who do not consider themselves Christian (including atheists, agnostics and other faiths); Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are also included, even if they describe themselves as Christian.”
Apparently my opinion is equal to that of an agnostic when it comes to the Bible.
To the ABS, it doesn’t matter that each member of my family has a personal copy of the King James Bible next to his or her bed. It doesn’t matter that my daughter’s bookshelves of children’s literature contain no less than 37 non-denominational books on Bible stories. It doesn’t matter that I’m a Sunday School teacher who reads both Old and New Testament scriptures weekly with my students. It doesn’t matter that my teenagers have spent almost an hour before every school day for two years studying the teachings of the Old and New Testaments in depth.
I’m complaining not only for myself but also for the sweet Jehovah's Witness couple who knocked on my door recently. We talked for at least 10 minutes on Bible principles and our love for scripture. If they aren’t Christian — in demeanor, deed and dedication — then I’d have trouble finding their replacements.
I don't buy the statistical results of the ABS’s 2014 Bible survey because they categorically imply that those who also read and cherish the Book of Mormon are Bible haters.
In 1979, a new version of the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was released that included years of painstaking research to cross-reference the writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent with those who lived in the Middle East.
So any time my topical scripture studies might focus on charity, for example, our amazing topical guide offers a list of 15 relevant scriptures in the Bible, seven scriptures in the Book of Mormon and three scriptures in modern-day revelation called the Doctrine and Covenants, with dozens of cross-references on related topics. My personal and class study rarely focus on one book of scripture alone and instead exemplify Ezekiel’s prophecy that the stick of Joseph and the stick of Ephraim would become “one in thine hand.”
Some of the greatest definitions of truth and clarity on people, culture and gospel principles are found in a comprehensive Bible Dictionary — an addendum to our King James Bible that was compiled by Mormon scholars.
Since the ABS survey only deems practicing Protestants and Catholics as viable Bible readers, they are missing out on 6 million American Mormons with a lay ministry whose active members, including teenagers, have an impressive and well-earned comprehension and appreciation of Bible history, theology and everyday application.
Whatever ABS’ motivation to align Mormons with agnostics and ultimately to put them in the Bible-hating category rather than the Bible-loving category leaves out an entire segment that could give them more hope for change that occurs in society where holy writ is valued.