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Updated maps and photos in Bible keep the faithful 'on the same page'

Included in the 1979 Bible was a grouping of maps meant to help Mormons better visualize and understand the Holy Land.

While the maps have changed since their first inclusion, that purpose remains the same.

Rob Jex, director of scriptures coordination for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the 14 maps and 32 photographs found at the back of today's Bible are a great help to members for gaining deeper understanding of the scriptures. Updated in 1999, the maps depict various empires, as well as the changing look of Jerusalem from Old Testament to New Testament times.

"They help you get a feel for what life would have been like for these people that lived at a different time and a different place than the people who are reading the scriptures," Jex said. "They allow the scriptures to come alive."

Each of the photographs contains contextual information, such as significant events that took place at each site. Those events are also cross-referenced to the corresponding scriptural accounts for enhanced study.

"You can see where these places are in relation to the world today and you … can gain greater insights as you study the text as to how they relate to one another," Jex said.

Prior to 1979, there was no standardization of the maps and photos as they changed with different translations and versions of the bible. In 1999, the church created the current maps under the direction of the First Presidency. The consistency that comes with having uniform maps and photos is a great benefit in both teaching and study settings, Jex said.

"The reason we standardize on a single volume or edition is so that we can have a community of Saints. … (a) feeling that all the Saints are studying from the same text," Jex said.

In addition to the community that comes with everyone being literally on the same page, there's also an efficiency-side of things.

"It makes it convenient and effective in classroom study if everyone is studying from the same editions," he said.

The maps and photographs are also available in larger print formats through Church Distribution Services and can be found in the "study helps" section online at www .scriptures.lds.org.

e-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com