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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Mar 05

‘Praying with’ vs. ‘Praying for’ the Holy Ghost

Personal PrayerIt should be noted that praying to receive the Holy Ghost and praying by the power of the Holy Ghost are two separate things. Praying by the power of the Holy Ghost assures that we are in tune with the will of God.

Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26). But we read that the Nephite Twelve, while praying, “did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire” (3 Ne. 19:24). Our most productive prayers will include all three members of the Godhead; we will address our prayers to our Father in Heaven, pray in the name of Jesus Christ, and pray as prompted by the Holy Ghost. Having the Holy Ghost express God’s will for us through our prayers should be the goal of all Latter-day Saints. That way, “the time will come when we shall know the will of God before we ask. Then everything for which we pray will be right. That will be when, as a result of righteous living, we shall so enjoy the companionship of the Spirit that he will dictate to us what we should ask.”

Individuals who ask for the companionship of the Holy Ghost and pray by the power of the Spirit will discover marvelous things happening in their lives. God will give them temporal and spiritual direction, and at length their lives will be spiritually transformed through Christ. The time will come when these Saints will be “purified and cleansed from all sin,” and then they will “ask whatsoever [they] will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.

“But know this, it shall be given [them] what [they] shall ask”(D&C 50:29–30).

Ensign, January 1996, p. 38 (“After This Manner… Pray Ye” by Donald W. Parry)

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Mar 24

In What Ways Will the Lord Try and Teach Us

Heavenly Father wants to give us every opportunity to do what is right.  Because of this, He will use different methods of teaching those who have varying levels of receptivity to Him.  The highest level is to be taught personally by God. The next highest is to be taught personally by Christ. The level just below that is to be taught by the Holy Ghost. Next are angels, holy men and scriptures, which are used to preach repentance and also to teach. If that does not work, the Lord sends natural disasters and calamities to help people repent. If that proves unsuccessful, they are delivered into the buffetings of Satan.  See the scripture references below for a more thorough study of this concept.

D&C 43:24–26 states:
24 O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!
25 How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!
26 Behold, the day has come, when the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full.

God

Jesus

  • Ether 3:13,19–20
  • 1 Nephi 11:1
  • 3 Nephi 10:12
  • Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Three 1838-39, p.150
    Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions-Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.
  • 3 Nephi 11-27

Holy Ghost

Just Men/Scriptures/Angels

Natural Disasters/Calamities

“The Lord said they would not heed that warning voice no more than they had heeded the warning voice of his servants. But I want to call the attention of the Latter-day Saints, and indeed if I had the power, the attention of all the world to the fact that God is speaking through the elements. The earthquakes, the sea heaving itself beyond its bounds, bringing such dire destruction as we have seen arethe voice of God crying repentance to this generation, a generation that only in part has heeded the warning voice of the servants of the Lord.
Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October, 1923, p. 31. (Italics added)

Satan

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Oct 18

Inviting the Spirit

Something for which I strive daily is to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. For different activities in which you may be engaged throughout your day, there may be an assortment of ways appropriate for doing this.  My hope is that it will be of benefit to discuss some ways to invite the Holy Ghost to be with you as you are in different situations.

A few weeks ago, our family sat down to think of ways that we could bring the Spirit into our lives.  The following are some of the things that we thought of:

  • Listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – I do this every moment that I am working on this website.
  • Praying – Plead with the Lord to bless you with the power and influence of the Holy Ghost.
  • Singing Hymns – I cannot tell you how many times “I Am a Child of God” has calmed our children.
  • Studying the Scriptures – Written through revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost, scripture study is one of the best ways to invite the Spirit.
  • Performing Service – How can you serve someone and not feel the warm confirming influence of the Spirit inside you?
  • Being nice to everyone we come into contact with – Wishing someone a good day may have more impact in their life than you can ever know.  It can also bring the Spirit into your day.
  • Clean and tidy up our home – The Holy Ghost will not dwell in unclean places, as we have been told.  How much better do you feel when your room or home has been straightened up and is clean?
  • Visit the temple grounds – Taking children to the temple grounds is great occasion to help them recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost because of how strong it is there.
  • Talk about the Gospel – Gospel discussions, if done with a spirit of love, can be prime occasions for feeling the influence of the Holy Spirit.

This is a mere handful of the great many ways that you can invite the Spirit into your life.  I leave the challenge with you to sit down with your own family, or even by yourself.  List out as many ways as you can that will invite the Holy Ghost into your life, especially as you are doing other activities.

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Oct 16

Scripture Study Session Format

When studying the scriptures, one of the primary goals is to learn about the Gospel.  As it is the Holy Ghost that instructs us, it raises the question: How can we best study such that we have the Holy Ghost with us?

As studying the scriptures itself brings the Holy Ghost, that is one thing we will already be doing.  Singing a hymn also brings the Holy Ghost.  Before you study next time, sing all of the verses of “I Am a Child of God.”  Then take note of the feelings brought to you through the presence of the Holy Ghost.

What else is very simple that we can do to feel the Spirit as we study the Gospel?  What if we said a prayer asking the Lord to pour out the power and influence of the Holy Spirit upon us as we study and ponder His holy teachings?

It is my experience that a hymn followed by a prayer as a prelude to studying the Gospel brings a much richer experience in my studies of the scriptures and Gospel scholarship as a whole.

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