The Scripture Channel

I recently fell asleep one night while reading the scriptures. It wasn’t because they were boring me, I was just dog-tired. A suggestion–someone needs to print a version that has special drool resistant pages. Anyway, here I was asleep the other night, face down on the bible and I have this dream. Whether it was inspired or not, I leave to you. In the dream, there was a big screen TV, and the following commercial advertisement came on.

[Beginning of Dream]

Announcing: The Scripture Channel!! [choir music in the background, a sound vaguely resembling the Tabernacle Choir singing “Nights in White Satin” except in a minor key with a pipe organ]

Do you feel enormous guilt for sitting around watching the TV when you should be reading your scriptures–like right now? Do you find that TV time just keeps getting in the way of reading the scriptures–like right now? Well, here’s an exciting new opportunity for you! The Scripture Channel!

Yes, on The Scripture Channel you will have 24/7 access to the scriptures, all day, all the time. The Scripture Channel is easy to use, you just turn on the channel and … voila there are the scriptures! Our patent-pending, state-of-the-art technology allows The Scripture Channel to bring you a continuously scrolling text of the scriptures in large print on your very own TV screen, accompanied by a pleasant voice-over reading of that very same passage you are reading simultaneously on the TV screen! Amazing! Menu options on your remote control even allow you to format the picture so that it actually looks like a scroll!

With The Scripture Channel, reading the scriptures has never been easier! Just turn on the TV and watch The Scripture Channel for 30 minutes, and, before you know it, you will have actually read the scriptures for about … a half an hour! Just think–during half time in a football game, you can read several letters by Paul and compare and contrast his ancient sports metaphors with modern athletic endeavors! But wait! If your TV has split screen technology, you can even watch the football game AND read the bible … at the same time! There has never been a better multi-tasking tool than The Scripture Channel.

It’s also easy to use with Tivo. Say your favorite passage from Leviticus is scheduled to be read on The Scripture Channel at 3:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, you don’t have to miss it, just Tivo it and read it tomorrow at your leisure! What if you just can’t wait till tomorrow? The Scripture Channel also has a pay per view-on demand option! Read it now! You’re watching that football game and some guy holds up a poster that says “John 3:16”–read it now!

Parents, worried about your children reading something they shouldn’t in the scriptures? Don’t be! The Scripture Channel is V-chip friendly. Your children won’t be exposed to any sex or violence, in accordance with your programmed preferences! (Please note: Song of Solomon, large sections of the Torah and the Book of Mormon, Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham and Section 132 of the D&C are automatically V-chip blocked.)

But wait! The Scripture Channel comes in high definition and stereo! And, our special “Mark it Elder Rigdon!” on-screen highlighting function allows you to use the remote control to actually mark your favorite passages of scripture so you’ll recognize them when they come around again. The Scripture Channel is also close-captioned for the hearing impaired.

But wait! If you subscribe now, we’ll send this free leatherette TV set cover shaped just like a scripture tote bag, complete with a faux zipper, handle and side pocket for the remote control. Don’t delay! Time is running out on this special offer. Subscribe now by calling this 1-800 number at the bottom of your screen!

[End of dream]

Okay, enough nonsense for a moment. Sometimes it is hard to read the scriptures, and often when we do it, we do it out of mere obligation, because it’s good for us. It’s a daily dose of printed cod liver oil for the soul. For me, it wasn’t until I started reading the scriptures out of sheer pleasure, rather than out of devotion, that I found them un-put-downable. When it was no longer a religious duty, but something I wanted to do, something I wanted to do … at the exclusion of other things. I was completely converted to this way of thinking after taking “The Bible as Literature” at BYU under Steve Walker in the early 80s where he taught us that “the bible is the best book you’ll never read.”

Why do some people have such a hard time slogging through the scriptures? Who’s to blame? Short of a drastic measure such as “The Scripture Channel,” what can be done to get people reading them?


  1. Elisabeth says:

    LOL! This is great, Ed. I’m not that effective at reading my scriptures unless I have to teach them as part of a lesson (or a talk).

    How exactly did your class at BYU turn you on to reading the scriptures for pleasure?

  2. Mark it Elder Rigdon!


    I remember thinking that all I woulod ever need was devotion. But after scores of times through, and the complications of life, I wasn’t as diligent as previous years. You are correct that there can be a desire to read at the exclusion of other stuff…for me, that occurs now when I am researching something. Like Elisabeth, I’m interested in your “switch,” Ed.

  3. KJV

  4. I believe there are radio stations in the Middle East that offer Qur’an recitations 24/7. Aren’t there cable channels completely dedicated to evangelical programming? So it might not be such a crazy idea.

    I remember reading some article about ESPN and how it shocked almost everyone that there was a market for an all-the-time sports channel. Now we take it for granted.

  5. Eric Russell says:

    Elisabeth, it’s the magic of Steve Walker. No one can explain it.

    My favorite Walker quote (there are many): “After sex and Monday Night Football, the Psalms may just be the best thing we’ve got in this world.”

  6. I tend to think that scripture study is just like anything else in the gospel. You don’t want to do it, but once you do, it feels great. Except with the scriptures, you often find yourself with a desire to do read them more and more, once you get going. Unlike some other gospel-related things (like going to church every Sunday–you just never want to go).

    The trick is to do it with full purpose of heart. And that can be hard to come by.

  7. As for comments # 1 & 2, in my bible as literature class I was able to let go of the devotional demands of church, take off the “looking for a moral” glasses and just read the stories as stories, the poems as poems. I found a lot of humor, irony, drama, and some surprisingly bizarre and, at first, disturbing, things that are always passed over in Sunday school, all of which were marvelous, eye-popping discoveries. Some of these things have been hinted at by Ronan and Kevin Barney. I hope to write about some of them in the future. The bible’s like a hard wood floor that’s covered with a shag carpet from the 70s. You need to rip that carpet up and look at what’s really underneath it sometimes.

    I also stopped cross referencing everything to the JST. The bible says something independent of whatever the JST is (different opinion abound). Also, I asked questions like: how do Jews read this book? This opened everything up to me.

    As for the D&C, you can’t just read it as a stand-alone book and enjoy it in my opinion. The D&C is a supplement, really, to LDS history. LDS history, combined with the D&C, is really what the bible is–you can’t separate them in my mind. Perhaps someday a redactor will take the D&C and combine it with an E or J version of LDS history into one great whole? Wait–this was already done once with the Documentary History of the Church. It can be done again … and again … and again. Michael Marquardt’s critical text of the D&C is very useful too. You can’t understand what’s going on in that book without looking at how the revelations have been revised and reinterpreted.

    Now as for the BoM? Other than the chiastic passages, King Benjamin’s sermon, and Nephi’s psalm, I find, quite honestly, it is not “enjoyable” scripture to read. I find no aesthetic pleasure in reading most of it. The FARMS v. Signaturi overlay/reinterpretation of the BoM is really interesting and kept me going for a while, but after many years of reading all that stuff, it’s just a bunch of arguments to me.

    My frank preference is the bible as my source of pleasure and comfort. I’m not big on doctrine anyway.

  8. That is a great point regarding the D&C, Ed. I hadn’t thought of it combined with our history as an OT of sorts, but it resonates. That is precisely why it my favorite thing to read. As an aid, I have enjoyed Woodford’s thesis.

  9. That can’t be good for your eyes.

  10. I’m just gonna put this out there. Not everyone will, does, should like reading the scriptures. If it’s part of their devotion and it’s always painful, fine but everyone is looking for their switch then there are going to be a lot of disappointed, self-deprecating Mormons out there. Some people like it, some don’t. Like golf or beets.

    That said, I mostly like the scriptures when I get to talk about them. When I haven’t been able to liven up Sunday School, I’ve started renegade scripture groups. We read, talk, and reassure ourselves that we’re the right kind of Mormons. The kind God really wants in heaven.

  11. I looked at Ronan’s comment “KJV” and I think it’s in response to the question: “who’s to blame?”

    I certainly think the KJV has its place when reading psalms, proverbs and some narratives. But if you’re reading Paul and, well, you actually want to understand what he’s saying, you’d best pick a newer translation. Also, the KJV wording is so well known in the gospels that when you read it your mind is often on auto-pilot. A different translation helps you wake up afresh to the text, see it anew. I find the RSV is the best of both worlds–KJV stately language with more up to date and readable translation.

  12. Okay, here’s where I argue with myself for a second. OTOH, if you want to understand Joseph Smith (add to that the BoM), you need to be familiar with the KJV text vocabulary, usage and images.

    There’s a similar problem in studying literature–with all the allusions to the KJV throughout the history of US and European literature, you need to have a familiarity with it as well. Same goes for classical mythological allusions. Otherwise you’ll need a heavily annotated text to help you understand the allusions.

  13. Elisabeth says:

    This is a silly observation, but when I read the Bible/Book of Mormon for the stories instead of for deep spiritual meaning (not that these approaches are mutually exclusive), I sometimes feel like I’m reading myths rather than things that really happened. I remember reading the stories of the Roman and Greek Gods and Goddesses in school, and being fascinated by the characters and range of emotions displayed by the Gods (and Goddesses)- but I couldn’t understand how these myths could be a foundation for a set of religious beliefs.

  14. Elisabeth, I’d say Greeks and Romans didn’t focus so much on belief as observance. Belief really didn’t matter to them, it appears. If you move to a new town you could adopt its patron deity along side your own and offer sacrifices to each. Christianity comes along and focuses on beliefs, and makes theirs an exclusive belief.

    One difference between classical myth and Judeo-Christian scriptural narratives is that the classical gods become characters in their stories, observed in the narratives by 3rd person narrators. This happens some in the OT (where, I would be bold to suggest, there is some mythical/legendary material–here I’d point to at least Jonah and Samson, although I view Jonah as more of a satire and Samson as legend), but by the time you get to the NT God is pretty inscrutible and no longer an observable character.

  15. Ed,
    Yeah and no. I think beliefs were important to ancient “pagans,” it’s just that these beliefs were pretty fluid. But the same case can be made for early Israelite religion. Until the “beliefs” surrounding the One True God were canonized, I think “belief” was also pretty nebulous for ancient Israel. Note also that Jesus doesn’t have much to say about belief. And the biblical accounts of Yahweh walking around with Abraham for example (which I love) are not so unlike the Classical “myths.” It’s just that we say that “our” myths are “true.”

  16. Ronan, I was just taking shortcuts–it’s more complicated isn’t it.

    I’m convinced that the OT picture of ancient Israel was theologically corrected over time to smooth over a wide range of earlier popular beliefs. J’s narratives, standing alone, are more similar to pagan myth than P’s narratives I think, as you indicate. In fact, Noah’s story seems very myth-like and is found in classical and other pagan myths with very similar story lines. As a combined narrative (J/E & P), however, the OT becomes less like pagan narratives, but it’s a continuum that over time reduces the presence of God as a character in the biblical story. Here’s how I see the classical and Judeo Christian “myths” differing.

    But I don’t see a lot of evidence for pagan belief “for belief’s sake.” Paul’s ideas about faith in Christ placing people in a correct position with God doesn’t seem to have an analogous concept found among pagans.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    A lower tech version of your scripture channel is how I managed to read the OT for the first time. I was on my mission, and I had a companion with the Bible on tape. When the alarm went off in the morning, he would turn the tape on, then roll over and go back to sleep. This was his idea of our companionship study.

    I would actually turn the light on by my bed and open my scriptures and follow along. I read the whole OT that way.

    Anyone who actually reads the OT is automatically in at least the 90th percentile of scripture knowledge within the Church.

  18. I’ve always wondered why someone hasn’t (maybe they have) published a Hebrew Bible text that contains narratives separate from the other texts, in chronological order and has footnotes showing alternative texts. By alternative texts, you’d have Kings with footnotes from Chronicles, for instance, so you wouldn’t necessarily have to read duplicated text.

    Jack Welch did something this for the D&C a while back, D&C by Themes or a similar title (although, again, without a really good LDS historical narrative, the D&C I consider an incomplete text).

    Granted, for the bible you’d miss certain things intended by the redactors, but this “reader’s edition” would serve very useful purposes. The intent would not be to harmonize the OT, but to make cross references more easily accessible. You’d have to make exceptions where poems fall into narratives, but this way you’d separate narratives out that are otherwise hidden in law codes, etc.

  19. Ed, Friedman’s The Bible with Sources Revealed may be in the ballpark of what you’re looking for. The order is the same, but he uses different colors to separate J, E, JE, R, JER, D, P, etc. HE also provides some good footnotes explaining why each part is assigned to a particualr source. IIRC, it’s only the pentateuch, so no Kings/Chronicles.

  20. Ben-thanks. I’ve got Friedman’s book–it’s really cool. It’s worth the purchase price just for the introduction I think. There’s no better succinct discussion of the doc. hypothesis around.

    I’d also like a “redlined” synoptic gospels text that shows me via redline in Matt and Luke how they changed Mark. Might be harder to do.

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