I love the OT. Dave Seely, a professor of religion at BYU and an old friend, has published two bibliographies of LDS work relating to the OT, the first in BYU Studies 37/2 (1997-1998), which is available at byustudies.byu.edu under “Resources,” and then a supplement in BYU Studies 45/1 (2006). I had three items listed in the main bibliograpy and five in the supplement, which makes me among the most prolific Mormon authors writing on OT-related subjects.
One of the ironies of this is that I’ve only actually read the OT all the way through from stem to stern once in my entire life. There was one area on my mission where my comp had scripture tapes, and his idea of joint study was, when the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m., he’d roll over, hit the play button on the tape, and go back to sleep. But I would sit up, turn my light on and follow along, marking things that caught my interest as we went. The steady pace of the tape was probably the only thing that kept me going through every single word. Since, then, I’ve just read specific things in concentrated bursts.
I do love the OT, though. And it is no secret to me as to why. When I was in, I believe, fourth grade, I had a Sunday School teacher who taught us the OT Stories class. Her name was Helen Bingham. She had MS and at that time used a cane; later a wheelchair, and then she died from the disease. She published a book once, a history of DeKalb County, and used the money to finance a two-bus temple trip to Washington, D.C. My wife and I went with my little daughter, who was just a baby, and we had a terrific experience there.
Anyway, Sister Bingham was unlike any other teacher I’ve ever had in the Mormon context. She was a convert to the Church, and she was very serious, to the point of being stern, about her Christianity. Her favorite song was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” and it suited her–we kids all knew that her faith was like a rock, firm and immovable. And she didn’t take any guff whatsoever in class; she thought nothing of cracking that cane of hers on the table to bring us back into line. Very old school. But it worked, at least for me. (This is the teacher who convinced me that words like goll and dang were just euphemistic versions of profane words, and they shouldn’t be used. So for years I wouldn’t utter even so much as a darn. I confess to having backslid in the meantime.)
I also remember that when she taught us the OT stories, she didn’t water anything down, she didn’t homogenize things or try to tidy them up. We got the straight stuff, right out of the Bible. No Primaryesque learning activities, and no limiting ourselves to only those stories that were neat and tidy. If it was in the OT and it was a story, it was fair game, and we would talk about it.
I remember when we learned the story of Jacob, Leah and Rachel, that I asked the question how Jacob and Leah were able to have children together, since they weren’t in love. I had not learned the facts of life yet and in my little boy brain two people had to be in love to have babies. She didn’t even flinch, but without going into detail she explained that a man and a woman can have a baby without being in love, which at that time was all the answer I was looking for.
Because she was such a serious and earnest teacher who did not dilute the material but gave it to us straight, she created in me a love of the OT that has persisted my entire life. She was one of the most powerful teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from, and I just wanted to take this opportunity to do her homage.