In May of 1994, while on a Study Abroad program in the Holy Land, my wife Camille and I took our children and sixteen Hebrew students to the hills of Bethlehem for an open air devotional and testimony meeting. We were approximately one mile north of Bethlehem and four miles south of Jerusalem in rough pasturage among rocks, wild olive trees, and patches of grass. Our location was beautiful and symbolic, possibly near where the ancient shepherds tended their flocks when Jesus was born. We were located on a small patch of bedrock under the shadow of an olive tree about twenty yards from an ancient sheepfold. Two interesting things occurred during our devotional—we witnessed a beautiful sunset and a shepherd guided his flock within feet of our group.
After listening to several powerful testimonies of Jesus Christ, it became my opportunity to share my testimony. I stood on that small patch of bedrock on the hillside as I shared my testimony of Christ, using approximately the following words: “Even as I am standing on this rock I testify that Jesus is the Rock, firm and steadfast.” I pointed to the beautiful setting sun and stated, “Even as we can rely upon the sun to rise and set every single day of our lives, we likewise can rely upon Jesus to be there for us every moment of our lives. We can trust Jesus to be more regular and certain than the rising and setting of the sun.” I referred to the shepherd and sheep that we had seen moments earlier and declared: “Jesus is the Shepherd, who cares for each and every one of his sheep. Jesus is also the Lamb of God who was slaughtered on our behalf so that we can live eternally with glorious resurrected bodies in the presence of our Father in Heaven and Jesus.” I gestured toward the olive tree and testified, “Even as this olive tree produces olive oil which may be used to heal the sick, so Jesus is our Messiah or Anointed One (with oil) who will heal us from our spiritual sicknesses.” I also stated, “Similar to the manner in which olive oil was used to produce light for the homes and villages of ancient Israel, so is Jesus the light of the world.”
Long before becoming a professor of Hebrew Bible I had a testimony of Jesus Christ, his atoning sacrifice, and his power to heal and to make each of us, to borrow from Paul’s language, a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Alma’s words also fit this context. He asked his audience, “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14). My testimony is based on the Spirit to spirit communication that Paul referred to in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
As a professor of Hebrew Bible, my research and teaching focus pertains to the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament). In the classroom, I teach students elementary and advanced Biblical Hebrew grammar, verbal forms, and vocabulary to enable them to read and translate the Hebrew Bible. My research focus pertains to various aspects of the Hebrew Bible, whether it is the Masoretic Text or the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran) Bible. All of my experiences with this sacred text—teaching, research, writing, and personal reflection—serve to add to my faith and understanding of God and his dealings with humanity, and, more significantly, of the Lord’s divine and infinite atonement. I consider the Hebrew Bible to be the first witness of the Lord, the New Testament to be a second witness, and the Book of Mormon to be another testament. That the Book of Mormon is an ancient work, translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, I have no doubt.
Donald W. Parry (Ph.D., University of Utah), Professor of Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls at Brigham Young University, is married to Camille Mills, from Las Vegas, Nevada; they have six children. He has served as a member of the International Team of Translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls since 1994. He is also a member of several other professional organizations, including the Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Society, Princeton, New Jersey; the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, Groningen, The Netherlands; the Society for Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia; and the National Association of Professors of Hebrew, Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Parry served as a member of the Board of Directors of Brigham Young University’s Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (formerly the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, and now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship) from 1987-2005.
Dr. Parry has authored or edited more than twenty-seven books, ten of which pertain to the Dead Sea Scrolls. He has translated the Dead Sea Scrolls books of Samuel (1 Samuel and 2 Samuel) and Isaiah. He has also published Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon (2007); A New Edition of the Great Isaiah Scroll: Transcriptions and Photographs (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1998). Many of his books are written for the Latter-day Saint community, including Understanding Isaiah (Deseret Book, 1998); Understanding the Book of Revelation (Deseret Book, 1998); Understanding the Signs of the Times (Deseret Book, 1999); and Temples of the Ancient World (Deseret Book, 1993), among others.
Dr. Parry has written and published more than eighty articles, which have appeared in the Ensign; the Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research; the Revue de Qumran; Textus; and BYU Studies, as well as various conference proceedings at other places. Many of his articles pertain to Book of Mormon topics. One of Dr. Parry’s major projects was the creation of a computerized database of the Qumran scrolls. The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), in conjunction with Brigham Young University, developed this reference library which includes photographs of the scrolls and scroll fragments, transcriptions of the writings on the scrolls into Modern Hebrew characters and English translations of the Hebrew texts.
Currently, he is assigned to the book of Isaiah for the new edition of the standard Hebrew Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Quinta.
See, additionally, Dr. Parry’s chapter in Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars.
Posted October 2010