Dec 10

Are the Standard Works Perfect?

Our eighth Article of Faith states: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” But are the Bible and the Book of Mormon perfect?

No. Even the Scriptures are not free from error. Regarding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding McConkie explains, “Moroni said, ‘Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been’ (Morm. 9:31). Of the restored gospel the Lord said, ‘These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time’ (D & C 1:24–28). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding McConkie)

It’s not a perfect book, nor does it make the claim to be. As a matter of fact, it explicitly says that it is not perfect. It was prepared through the Lord’s prophets, who were human beings, just as fallible as you or I. This may be the reason that there have been literally thousands of corrections made in the text of the Book of Mormon since the first edition was printed.

Neither is the Bible perfect. However, unlike the Book of Mormon, it does not expressly state its fallibility. Nonetheless, we can consider some of the ways that we know that the Bible has some imperfections in it. First let’s take a look at some verses that contradict each other.

Acts 9:7 – “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

Compare to:

Acts 22:9 – “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Then, we have the following:

Job 7:9–10:

“9 As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

10 He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27: 52–53:

“52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

And finally:

Acts 1:16–18:

“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27:3–5:

“3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

There are more, but this should suffice for our purposes here. Another way we know that the bible is imperfect is by all of the scriptures it mentions that are not contained therein. Let’s consider a list of them:

That is a lot of missing scripture. The Bible is not complete as we have it. The Book of Mormon even tells us that things have been taken out. Nephi tells us this in 1 Nephi 13:26,28–29:

“26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.”

As we have seen, many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. We can see evidence of this in analysis of the Bible itself. The Book of Mormon also clarifies this for us.

The Book of Mormon also tells us that there is scripture that we haven’t even received, yet. 2 Nephi 29:12–13 says:

“12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”

We have scriptures from the lost tribes of Israel that we have yet to receive.

Numerous things have been changed in the Bible, as well. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 327).

He also said, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 9-10)

For a quick example, let’s take a look at Matthew 5:22 in the King James Version, which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Note the phrase “without a cause.” This phrase does not appear in some of the other translations of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version, the American Standard Version, and the New International Version. So is it supposed to be there or not?

Fortunately, we can turn to revelation as we have discussed in the first part of this book. This is exactly what Joseph Smith did as he corrected the Bible. If we look at footnote ‘b’ for verse 22, it says, “JST Matt. 5:22 and 3 Ne. 12:22 omit the words ‘without a cause.'” Because of revelation, we know that this phrase does not belong.

The point here is not to detract from how essential the scriptures are to us. They are of utmost worth. We believe in them. We honor them as being true. It’s just important to remember that, as their stewards have been imperfect men, they cannot be perfect.

Brother Robert L. Millet stated:

“We do not believe the Bible must be transmitted perfectly to be spiritually normative and eternally valuable. Errors in the Bible should not tarnish its image for Latter-day Saints. For that matter, while we accept the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scripture, we would not rush to proclaim their inerrancy. The greater marvel is that an infinite and perfect God can work through finite and imperfect humans to deliver his word to his children.”

Robert L. Millet, “What the Bible Means to Latter-day Saints,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 1–10.

Brother Millet summarizes the thought eloquently. Even though there is ample evidence that the scriptures have been altered, or have errors in them, we still know that they are true. We hold them in the highest regard.

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Dec 03

Do We Need Scriptures?

The Book of Mormon

Much of the Christian world today believes in a closed canon, and rejects the idea of continuing revelation in these, the latter days. This is perhaps because of scriptures like Revelation 22:18–19, which says:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The first issue here is that there’s way too much ambiguity associated with what’s written in this verse. Explain in unmistakable detail exactly what is meant by “this book.” Of course we assume it to be the Bible. Is that exactly what we’re talking about here? What does “add unto these things” mean? Precisely define “take away” exactly as it is meant, here. What exactly is “the book of this prophecy”? The second problem is that, even though the book of Revelation appears last in the Bible, it may not have been written last. So anything after it would be adding unto it if we were to take that concept at face value.

Speaking of which…

There is a nearly-identical verse in Deuteronomy 4:2, which reads:

“2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

What does “add” mean exactly? And “diminish”? And here we have “the word which I command you.” If we are to interpret this the same way most people interpret the passage from Revelations, then that would invalidate everything in the Bible after Deuteronomy 4:2. But of course this is ludicrous, and we know there is another interpretation for it.

What these verses are saying is simply that we not distort or misconstrue what is revealed to prophets, whether past, present, or future. The Lord is not talking to the prophets themselves, but to everyone else. It is not their place to change anything.

For example, there are thousands of extant scrolls and codices that date from many centuries ago. Some date even to the 2nd century A.D. What scholars have found is that there are differences in nearly all of them. Why? Because of careless or malicious copyists who changed things they were not authorized to change. The types of warnings in Revelation and Deuteronomy that we have looked at is for these types of folks, not the prophet.

It does not mean that the canon is forever closed. There is much scripture that we know about, and probably a lot that we don’t know about that will yet be revealed. For example, let’s take a look at what James E. Talmage said on the topic:

“Missing Scripture. — Matthew’s commentary on the abode of Joseph, Mary and Jesus at Nazareth, “and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene” (2:23), with the fact that no such saying of the prophets is found in any of the books contained in the Bible, suggests the certainty of lost scripture. Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the ground that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures, and that alleged revelation not found therein must therefore be spurious, may profitably take note of the many books not included in the Bible, yet mentioned therein, generally in such a way as to leave no doubt that they were once regarded as authentic. Among these extra-Biblical scriptures, the following may be named; some of them are in existence to-day, and are classed with the Apocrypha; but the greater number are unknown. We read of the Book of the Covenant (Exo. 24:7); Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numb. 21:14); Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13); Book of the Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25); Book of Enoch (Jude 14); Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); Book of Nathan the Prophet, and that of Gad the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29); Book of Ahijah the Shilonite, and visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chron. 9:29); Book of Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12:15); Story of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chron. 13:22); Book of Jehu (2 Chron. 20:34); the Acts of Uzziah, by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (2 Chron. 26:22); Sayings of the Seers (2 Chron. 33:19); a missing epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9); a missing epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3); missing epistle to the Colossians, written from Laodicea (Col. 4:16); a missing epistle of Jude (Jude 3).”

Jesus the Christ, James E Talmage, p. 113

And then the sealed portion of the plates from Ether 4:4–6, we read:

4 Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.

5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.

7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

The next point is that you can only understand spiritual things by the power of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 helps illustrate this concept:

“14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The very ability to interpret spiritual things depends on the power of the Holy Ghost to reveal their meaning to you. In other words, it’s not what is written that carries the meaning and authority nearly as much as the Holy Ghost does.

I did not say that the written word holds no meaning.

Let me illustrate with a story from Wilford Woodruff:

“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’ When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.’ ‘And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the [p.23]writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.'” (Conference Report, October 1897, p.22)

It is the living Prophet who leads the Church by the power of revelation that carries the ultimate authority to us.

The one problem is that the Prophet cannot be with all people at all times. The scriptures are there to bring the Spirit into our lives. They are there to help us understand the Gospel. They are available to anyone and everyone who wants them. They certainly fill these needs in ways that nothing else can. For a further discussion on what scriptures can do for us, see “What Are the Scriptures?”

Do we need the scriptures? Yes, we need them. We need them because the Lord saw fit that we should have them. We need them for the reasons listed above and many others. However, they are not as authoritative as the living Prophet and Apostles. Stick to what the Brethren say and you’ll never go wrong.

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Nov 18

Write It Down

Many of us receive impressions from the Spirit from time to time. When that happens, what do we do with those impressions? Do we ponder over them? Do we treasure them? Do we care enough about them to write them down and keep a record of them?

Let’s take a look at what the scriptures say about writing down impressions as they come.

In 1 Nephi 6:3, Nephi informs us:

3 And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.

From this we can see that it was more important to Nephi to write down the things of God than anything else. He wrote the things down that were of the greatest importance. What could be more important than direct, personal communication from Heavenly Father?

The Nephite people did the same thing and felt the same way. In 2 Nephi 25:23, we are told:

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

They wrote for their posterity, to help them come unto Christ. In verse 26, we learn:

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

They kept records to help their children know the Gospel. They wanted their children to really know Christ.

We learn that the same thing was done in Jacob 1:4, which tells us:

4 And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.

Again, we see that they wrote down their spiritual and sacred experiences so that they would be preserved for the benefit of the people.

King Benjamin explained in detail the purpose of keeping records of sacred and spiritual experiences in Mosiah 1:2–7, which explains:

2 And it came to pass that he had three sons; and he called their names Mosiah, and Helorum, and Helaman. And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.

3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.

4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.

5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.

6 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.

7 And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.

King Benjamin taught his sons how important the plates were. He also taught them the great value in maintaining and keeping the records. He even warned what would happen if the records were not kept properly.

In Omni 1:17, we in fact see what happens to a people when proper records are not kept:

17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.

From these verses, we can learn the importance of writing down things that we learn from the Lord through the Holy Ghost. Elder Richard G. Scott had this to say about an experience he had with personal revelation:

“…strong impressions began to flow to me again. I wrote them down. The message included specific counsel on how to become more effective as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. I received such an outpouring of impressions that were so personal that I felt it was not appropriate to record them in the midst of a Sunday School class. I sought a more private location, where I continued to write the feelings that flooded into my mind and heart as faithfully as possible. After each powerful impression was recorded, I pondered the feelings I had received to determine if I had accurately expressed them in writing. As a result, I made a few minor changes to what had been written. Then I studied their meaning and application in my own life.”

“Subsequently I prayed, reviewing with the Lord what I thought I had been taught by the Spirit. When a feeling of peace came, I thanked Him for the guidance given. I was then impressed to ask, ‘Was there yet more to be given?’ I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, ‘Is there more I should know?’ And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.”

“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” General Conference Report, October 2009

Not only should we write down our thoughts and impressions, but we should ask if there is more that the Lord would have us to know. In many instances, such as with Elder Scott, there may be much more there for us. Who knows who might benefit from our doing this?

See also:

1 Nephi 5:21
Jacob 1:4
3 Nephi 27:23
Mosiah 2:8–9
2 Nephi 25:23,26
Mosiah 26:33
Ether 4:1
D&C 68:4

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Nov 08

The Scriptures We Are Missing

It amazes me the amount of scripture that we know that is missing. There are missing scriptures mentioned in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon. And then there is the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon as well.

Here is what Elder James E. Talmage had to say on the topic:

Missing Scripture.—Matthew’s commentary on the abode of Joseph, Mary and Jesus at Nazareth, “and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene” (2:23), with the fact that no such saying of the prophets is found in any of the books contained in the Bible, suggests the certainty of lost scripture. Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the ground that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures, and that alleged revelation not found therein must therefore be spurious, may profitably take note of the many books not included in the Bible, yet mentioned therein, generally in such a way as to leave no doubt that they were once regarded as authentic. Among these extra-Biblical scriptures, the following may be named; some of them are in existence to-day, and are classed with the Apocrypha; but the greater number are unknown. We read of the Book of the Covenant (Exo. 24:7); Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numb. 21:14); Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13); Book of the Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25); Book of Enoch (Jude 14); Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); Book of Nathan the Prophet, and that of Gad the Seer (1 Chron. 29:29); Book of Ahijah the Shilonite, and visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chron. 9:29); Book of Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12:15); Story of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chron. 13:22); Book of Jehu (2 Chron. 20:34); the Acts of Uzziah, by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (2 Chron. 26:22); Sayings of the Seers (2 Chron. 33:19); a missing epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9); a missing epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3); missing epistle to the Colossians, written from Laodicea (Col. 4:16); a missing epistle of Jude (Jude 3).”

Jesus the Christ, James E Talmage, p. 113

And in 2 Nephi 4:1–2, we read:

1 And now, I, Nephi, speak concerning the prophecies of which my father hath spoken, concerning Joseph, who was carried into Egypt.

2 For behold, he truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass.

In Alma 33:3 and many other places, the writings of the prophet Zenos are referenced.
In Alma 33:15, the words of Zenock are also mentioned.

And of course the writings of the isles of the sea (2 Nephi 29:11).

And then the sealed portion of the plates from Ether 4:4–6, we read:

4 Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.

5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.

7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

My personal belief is that we will someday receive much of these scriptures either again, or for the first time. What a wonderful thing to look forward to!

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