Five Chapters Per Day

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Just over a month ago I thought that I needed to start reading more of the Book of Mormon each day. Reading quickly (or in my case, listening and reading) isn’t studying the scriptures but I believe there is a benefit to such immersion. Going through quickly can lead to insights about major themes and characters that are not as obvious when going through as a slower pace.

As a full-time missionary I read the Book of Mormon 11.5 times (because of transfers timings I served for 23 months). I also read the other books of scripture and a number of gospel-related books and articles. Depending on what mission a missionary is in (i.e., learning a new language or what a particular expected schedule is), there is a minimum of one hour to study and read. I typically averaged 2-3 hours per day. This is shared only as an example of how much time full-time missionaries have to read and study the scriptures. Currently, I don’t have as much time available to read and study but I knew I could spend more time than I was spending.

So over a month ago I decided to get through five chapters of the Book of Mormon per day. Why five? It was arbitrary. It worked out, however, to be a good number of chapters to listen to during my commutes to work each weekday. I can get through five chapters listening at 1.5 speed within the span on my commute (sometimes including time while walking from the parking lot to my office). When there are shorter chapters (such as the first chapters of Moroni) I listen to or read more but I always try to get through at least five chapters (there were a couple days when I read fewer than five chapters but I made sure I caught up to the 15 chapters by the end of the third day).

How long does it take to read or listen to five chapters in the scriptures per day? Since I typically listen to the chapters at 1.5 speed, I usually get through five chapters in 20-35 minutes. At a slower pace five chapters would take 30-53 minutes of time per day (these are rough estimates based on my  recent experience with the Book of Mormon).

The Book of Mormon has 239 chapters. At five chapters per day, it take 48 days to finish the book (47.8 days to be precise). At this rate, one can go through the Book of Mormon seven times completely and be 63% through it for the 8th time.

What if someone wanted to read through all the LDS Standard Works? Based on the current English versions of the texts that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use, there are 929 chapters in the Old Testament, 260 chapters in the New Testament, 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon, 140 ‘chapters’ in the Doctrine and Covenants (including the two official declarations), and 19 chapters in the Pearl of Great Price. This is a total of 1587 chapters. At 5 chapters per day, one will finish the entire standard works in 318 (317.4) days.

Additionally, there have been an average of 36.75 talks given per General Conference over the past four General Conferences. We’ll round that up to 74 Conference talks per year (this includes the General Women’s Session and the General Priesthood Session). Reading or listening to two General Conference talks per day would allow someone to finish the standard works and all conference talks in just under one year.

The problem with reading and listening at this rate is that it does not count as in-depth study so other time could be spent reading topically or more slowly. I’ll certainly modify my reading pattern over time but five chapters of the Book of Mormon per day has been a wonderful experience.

The Book of Mormon Provides Clarity

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There is minor disagreement among scholars as to the identity of the “beloved” disciple of Christ. Read this Wikipedia entry for a summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disciple_whom_Jesus_loved. It is postulated that the beloved disciple is John, Lazarus, Mary Magdelene, or someone else. While there is weak to no evidence for the beloved disciple to be anyone other than John, discussion still continues (even though it should never have started).

In the Book of Mormon we have a record of Jesus speaking to three of His Nephite disciples who desired to remain and preach the gospel until Christ’s return: “And he [Jesus] said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.” (3 Ne. 28:6).

Instant clarity. End of discussion.

I use this as an example of the role of the Book of Mormon. It clarifies much of what appears controversial or unclear in the Bible. The Book of Mormon serves as another witness of Jesus Christ and of the Bible. It establishes the truth of the Bible so that we may more fully believe it and believe Christ.

Establishing the Word of the Lamb

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Last night I was really struck by the following verses in the Book of Mormon:

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records [the “other books” – likely the Doctrine and Covenants and other scriptures], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [the Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.” (1 Ne. 13:40-41).

I love these verses because they really establish the centrality of the Savior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not that there is any doubt of Christ’s role but there are many who do not believe members of the LDS Church are Christian. That’s another discussion but what verse 40 states is that the additional scripture that we Mormons have clarify the Bible and serve the purpose of establishing that “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men [and women] must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” We recognize and proclaim Jesus’ divinity. He was and is much more than a great teacher. Jesus is the Savior of the World.

The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price all serve to establish the veracity of the Bible. The contain the words of the Lamb of God. What we know is that it is not sufficient to believe just the Bible. “All men must come unto [Christ], or they cannot be saved. And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed [the Book of Mormon], as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [the Bible].” This means that we can only and truly come unto Christ by heeding His words as contained in the Book of Mormon; the Bible is necessary but not sufficient. Even the Book of Mormon is not sufficient – there are living prophets we must heed and ordinances we must receive and perform.

That might sound like a bold proclamation – that the fulness of the gospel and the only true path to salvation resides in the teachings and actions of Christ as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This does not negate any of the good in other teachings and religions but Christ established the way and that way is inseparable from the LDS Church. That is one reason why we do so much work for the dead in the mountains of the Lord’s houses – baptisms, confirmations, endowments, and sealings. God established the way home and that way can be understood from reading the scriptures – ancient and modern.

Is the Bible Infallible?

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While doing a search online to see what people say about whether or not the wise men visited the infant Jesus in the manger (they didn’t), I came across a comment about the Bible that I’ve heard numerous times – namely, that the Bible is literally God’s word given directly to man. In other words, there are those who believe that the Bible needs to be taken strictly literally. It is God’s completely infallible and perfect word. While that is a nice sentiment, it is not the case. The Bible was written by inspired men but men nonetheless. However, to borrow a phrase from the Book of Mormon, if there are flaws in the Bible, they are the flaws of men.

So if we take the Bible literally in everything, we do get wise men who visited the young child Jesus in a house. They didn’t find the mother and infant in a manger. Jesus was as old as almost three by the time the wise men found Him. But this isn’t really the purpose of this post. I want to continue on with the topic of the literality of the Bible.

There are those who take everything in the Bible as strictly literal. They also usually take it as God’s perfect, unblemished word. These same people also balk at the LDS article of faith that states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). “How could the Bible be anything less than perfect?” they argue. I’ve heard this many times from different people. We as Latter-day Saints don’t even claim perfection from the Book of Mormon. We believe it was translated correctly but it is not without error. But again, those errors are the works of men (and are very, very minor). God uses imperfect humans to do His work (at least on this side of the veil).

So, is the Bible perfect? Should we take it completely literally? Since I referred to the wise men previously, let’s continue on in Matthew 2. After Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned from Egypt, they moved to 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.” (Matt. 2:23). With the slaughter of the children and infants in Bethlehem, a prophecy was fulfilled (see Matt. 2:17-18). With Joseph and family moving to Nazareth, another prophecy was fulfilled. The trouble is that this other prophecy is not found elsewhere in the Bible. There existed a prophecy stating that the Messiah would be from Nazareth but this is not included anywhere in the Old Testament. Clearly then, there are prophecies that are not in the Bible. There is no other logical conclusion that can be drawn from this. So is the Bible complete and perfect? Maybe that particular prophecy wasn’t meant to be in the Bible. But then why was it quoted in Matthew? Maybe the Bible isn’t complete. Maybe it isn’t perfect and infallible.

There are a number of other examples similar to this that can be found in the Bible. There are even times when writers/translators of the Bible seems to contradict one another. I won’t point out any specifics but they exist. There are numerous sites that document contradictions, some from a view of faith and others from a view of anti-faith. There are even sites that seek to point out contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which might scare some away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but are all non-issues for the believer. I’ve found that the Bible is only clarified by the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelation; any other contradictions are due to errors in the Bible (which is something that I demonstrated is possible) – the doctrines in the Book of Mormon are pure, even if the grammar or particular choice of words in some cases isn’t always perfect; that’s one of the difficulties in translation and in writing down the translation in a time before there were wide consistencies in grammar and spelling.

My point in pointing out that the Bible is not infallible is not to weaken faith, rather it is to highlight that we need to have faith in Jesus Christ more than in the Bible. Truth comes from Christ; what is in the Bible are multiple translations of that Truth. The great teacher Truman Madsen taught about faith, testimony, and prophets in this manner:

“What about witness? That leads us both to the question of authority and the question of our own testimony. Said the Prophet [Joseph Smith] again, ‘No generation was ever saved or [for that matter] destroyed upon dead testimony‘ (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 159). I think he means by ‘dead’ the record of the remote past. We’re not fully accountable to that, but we are accountable to a living witness who bears living testimony to our living spirit. That’s when we reach the zenith of responsibility. We recognize that and perhaps run from it. When a child runs away with hands over ears, what is happening? Doesn’t the child already pretty well know the message? Do we cover our ears while saying, ‘I didn’t hear you’?

“Heber C. Kimball, without being grammatical, put the point elegantly after the outpourings of the Nauvoo Temple. He said, ‘You cannot sin so cheap no more.'” (Madsen, T. G. 1994. On How We Know. BYU Speeches, p. 5).

His point and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s point is that you need concurrent revelation. If we look throughout the Bible, the teachings of Noah didn’t save the children of Israel from the Egyptians. Even Christ didn’t teach all the world; He sent out His apostles after His resurrection to do that. If we put all of this together, we can conclude that not only is the Bible not perfect, it is also not complete. Yes, I am biased because I believe that we have a living prophet upon the earth – Thomas S. Monson at this time – but I’ve found no evidence in the Bible that the Bible is complete and perfect. It wasn’t even put together in its present form for many years after the deaths of the original apostles. What we have in the LDS Church are Christ’s prophets who speak to us today and teach us what God wants us to know.

Now I’m going to shift gears back to talking about whether or not we take the Bible literally. It seems that if we do, we realize that the Bible is neither complete nor perfect. However, if we don’t take it literally then we ignore a lot of important doctrines (such as the literal and physical resurrection of the Savior). Another doctrine we might miss if we don’t take the Bible literally is that of baptism for the dead: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for thedead?” (1 Cor. 15:29). Well, maybe we get to pick and choose what to take literally from the Bible. That way we can say it is something just figurative. Well, who gets to make the judgment call on what is literal or not? It sounds like something a prophet would do.

I think other Christians would find (if they give LDS Church members a chance) that we take the Bible very literally; I think to an extent that few other Christians do. There are things that we don’t take literally though (e.g., the Creation story is one because we know that the 7 days were 7 time periods of unspecified length – millions to billions of years, most likely. I’m not saying that we do not believe in the Creation, I’m just saying that LDS Church doctrine specifies that the earth was not created in 6/7 24 hour days).

So, taking the Bible literally is a two-edged sword. On it’s [the Bible’s] own, it is difficult to know what to take literally or not. This is where having the witness of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and modern-day prophets is so important; it allows us to discern what is literal and what is not. Those without this knowledge are in a bind – if the Bible is 100% infallible, why are there missing passages? Why are there some contradictions? Why is there a need for multiple translations of the Bible? Why do the Catholics have a different Canon than most of the Protestants? Further, if the Bible is taken literally, how do you account for teachings that contradict doctrines of many Christian religions? How can you pick and choose what to accept?

I know some of the things I wrote about are not entirely this simple, but I wanted to respond to those who take the Bible as “GOD’S PERFECT WORD” (again, that’s a description of the Bible I read and hear frequently). The Bible forms the foundation of the LDS canon of scriptures, we place it first in our scripture sets, we love the Bible and follow its doctrines. However, we are not limited to the Bible. We have the Book of Mormon and other scriptures; we have living prophets and modern revelation. Our canon is not fixed and closed, it is open and expanding. God speaks to us today, just as He did in Biblical times.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 5

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I’ll address other ways the Book of Mormon can help clarify the Bible. For instance, there are many differences in beliefs about the resurrection. Some people believe we will remain as spirit bodies. Others believe we will have physical bodies. Some believe that all will be resurrected while others believe only some will be resurrected. The Book of Mormon teaches that we will all be resurrected – all who ever lived on the earth – and that it is a physical resurrection (see Alma 40; Mosiah 15). Having these two witnesses (we also have additional teachings by modern prophets – see D&C; 76, for example) clarifies doctrine. We no longer have to rely solely on the Bible, even as wonderful as it is. We can understand the doctrines with more clarity and purity. However, it is the living prophets who provide true clarity and additional light and knowledge. [image by AllAboutMormons.com].

Without living prophets and even with the Book of Mormon, the doctrines of the gospel would quickly corrupt (we certainly have a broad range of opinions about many doctrines or practices within the Church, even among the General Authorities), just as they did following the Savior’s resurrection and the deaths of His original apostles. It’s not the books that the most important – what’s most important is the gift of the Holy Ghost – the ability to receive personal witnesses and revelation concerning the truths of the gospel – and the Priesthood power and authority. The priesthood allows for the organization of the church to function and exist. The priesthood keys as held by the prophet (and given to others through delegation and inspired callings) allow the ordinances of the gospel to be performed here on earth and be notarized in heaven.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we claim that the Bible is the word of God. We do not, however, accept it as a closed canon. We view scripture as open, expanding, and contemporary through ongoing revelation. We believe this view to be Biblical. Just as what Amos wrote added to what Moses had written (to refer back to Elder Holland’s quote at the beginning of this essay) and what Paul wrote added to the words of the Redeemer, we claim that modern prophets give new scripture. Instead of simply retranslating the Bible into more modern English, we have prophets who receive new revelation. We certainly can apply the doctrines and teachings of the Bible to our day and adapt them to our understanding and lives but we are not limited any more to the Bible. Does God love His children today any less than those who lived during Biblical times? No! He speaks to prophets today just as He did then. He caused the Book of Mormon to speak from the dust (see Isaiah 29:4; 2 Nephi 26:16; 2 Ne. 33:13). He restored His Church through the prophet Joseph Smith, a restoration that brought about the blessings and promises of the fullness of the gospel, including the blessings of continuing revelation to prophets who speak with authority from God. God speaks to us today – individually (just as He has done throughout the ages) and through prophets. Not only does the Book of Mormon stand as Another Witness of Jesus Christ, but also the testimonies of the prophets verify the truth of the Bible and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Atoner.

Link to part 4 of this essay.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 4

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“And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day. And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews [the Bible, mainly the Old Testament], and also my words [the Book of Mormon], and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God [contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and spoken by modern prophets], behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day” (2 Nephi 33:10-14).

As we accept the truths of the Book of Mormon we will better understand the doctrines found in the Bible. In addition to verifying the truth of the Bible, the Book of Mormon can clarify its teachings. Over the years of translations and copies of copies, changes were introduced into the Bible – on purpose or inadvertently. Most were inadvertent and could have included simply choosing to translate one word in a particular manner. Even aside from changes, people interpret the Bible in many different ways. Interpretations might be similar but many are significantly different.

Some people take the Bible as a completely figurative and spiritual book while others take everything strictly literally. Joseph Smith explained it well: “The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others….the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith-History 1:9,12).

Joseph did not state that the Bible was false or untrue or wrong; he just said that people argued and debated over what particular passages of scripture meant. Some of the arguments were and are very bitter. If he asked the Baptists, they said one thing. If he asked the Methodists, they said another. These debates continue today; look at the myriad Christian churches throughout the world. There are as many different and distinct churches as verses in the Bible (to be a bit hyperbolic)! So who has the truth? Do they all have the truth? I believe all have truth but do all have all the truth (or at least all the truths necessary for salvation)? No. How can we know the truth? Who is the source of truth? Who inspired prophets in Biblical times and gave them revelations that they wrote down? The Lord did.

Because God is the source of truth, Joseph’s solution was to do as the Bible suggested in James 1:5 (verse 6 is also linked to), “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph knew he had to ask the Lord in prayer. The Lord is the source of Truth so Joseph went to that Source. In response to Joseph’s prayer at the age of 14, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. They called him by name and called him to be the prophet, a role he would grow into over the years.

Link to part 3 of this essay.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 3

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As Latter-day Saints we believe that the Book of Mormon is a collection of the writings and teachings of prophets who lived in the Americas over a span of a few thousand years. The Savior taught “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). When the Savior visited some of the people in the Americas after His resurrection He said, “And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (3 Ne. 15:21). However, He had even more sheep that needed to hear His voice: “And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister” (3 Ne. 16:1). We believe that God’s words do not cease. He speaks to us today through His prophets just as He did in Biblical times.

Brigham Young said something that I think is important here: “Learning a, b, c, d, does not hinder me from learning e, f, g” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 245). In other words (and to adapt his quote to this essay), just because someone happens to know a and b does not mean they cannot also know c, d, and e. Believing in the Bible does not preclude believing in the Book of Mormon. Or, having the Book of Mormon does not lessen the importance of the Bible. In reality it increases the importance of the Bible because it stands as another witness to the veracity of the Bible. We have that additional testimony that the Bible is true! “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1; see also Deut. 17:6, Matt. 18:16, D&C; 6:28). God establishes the truth of His words through many witnesses. However, many believe that the Bible is enough. The Lord cautioned those who state that the Bible is all they need.

“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible…. Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one?…Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?

Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written….

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. 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” (2 Nephi 29:3,6-13; emphasis added).

Those are strong words but sometimes the truth is hard to bear. However, they are also very loving words; they show God’s care and concern for all His children. He speaks to many nations so they may know His words of great joy and love. He wants all His children to hear His words. I think all would be glad to know that God speaks to us today (except for those who find it more convenient to believe God is dead, God doesn’t exist, or God at least only spoke to a bunch of old dead guys)! His words and works do not cease. His work and glory is to provide eternal life to as many as will accept it (see Moses 1:39). I testify that the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ. It builds, strengthens, and fortifies the Bible.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 2

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What is key to understand is that the Bible is a collection of individual books. These books were selected over the years, eventually comprising what we now know as the Bible. The two main divisions of the Bible – the Old and New Testaments – can be viewed as old and new covenants with the covenant people of the Lord (and with the broader world). This is not strictly true because the “new covenant” was largely the original “oldest covenant” (although there were some differences – animal sacrifice being one of them. Adam offered up sacrifices unto the Lord); when Moses was called to restore the covenant that had been lost during the years of the captivity of the Israelites in Egypt, he found that the people were slow to listen. They had grown stony hearts in Egypt, hearts that yearned too much for the deaf but permissive idols of the Egyptians. [Image source].

The Lord, understanding the hardness of His people’s hearts, restored unto them through Moses, not the covenants originally made with Adam but a new covenant of strict ordinances and laws – a covenant that would command them in many things but ultimately prepare them to receive the higher and original covenant. It was not until the coming of the Savior upon the earth that the new covenant was made (or, more closely, re-introduced). However, this new covenant was quickly lost from the earth. The priesthood, which allowed the ordinances of the covenant to be performed with true authority, was lost. The people apostatized. The covenant would not be known in its fullness until the Lord started revealing it unto His prophet Joseph Smith in 1820. That restoration took a number of years before it was complete. Our living prophet continues to receive more light from the Lord. We live in a day when we have the fullness of the gospel, a thing that never occurred before on the earth, at least not in the general and widespread manner it is today.

As Latter-day Saints we have the Bible. We revere it and love it. We follow its teachings and place it first in our canon. Elder Ballard spoke these words about the Bible at General Conference in April 2007,

“It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior. The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham Lincoln said of the Bible: ‘This Great Book . . . is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong’ (Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 [1989], 628).”

We do not, however, view the Bible as the breadth, width, and depth of God’s words to His children. The Bible is a collection of the words of prophets. That is what makes it special! It is a record of the revelations given to prophets over thousands of years. Surely prophets received many other revelations that are not recorded in the books of the Bible! We know that the Savior taught many things are not contained within the Bible: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30); “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25). While John was using hyperbole, the underlying meaning is true – there are many things that the Savior said and did that are neither contained in John’s writings nor the writings of the other prophets.

There are many things Jesus said and did that we do not have in the Bible. This is true for all the prophets throughout history. Scrolls and tablets and other things to write on were relatively expensive and difficult to manage. Scrolls decomposed quickly, parchment was very expensive, and tablets or plates were awkward. In addition, not every one could write. Many prophets lived in circumstances where they traveled a lot or they had other things to deal with – wars and families and employment. The words and prophecies that were recorded were selected because they were the most important or they were selected because they survived time, or both. It is a miracle we have the Bible as it is!

Link to part 1 of this essay.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 1

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There are three recent General Conference talks that relate to this essay. All have to do with the Bible and Latter-day Saint beliefs about scripture. This is an important doctrine because unlike most other Christian religions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in modern and ongoing revelation to prophets of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In April 2008 Elder Holland gave a talk, “My Words…Never Cease” about ongoing revelation. In it he also gave a brief history of the Bible. In October 2007 Elder Nelson spoke on Scriptural Witnesses. In April 2007 Elder Ballard spoke about The Miracle of the Holy Bible.

I’ll start with a quote from Elder Holland.

For centuries after John produced his writing [Revelation], the individual books of the New Testament were in circulation singly or perhaps in combinations with a few other texts but almost never as a complete collection. Of the entire corpus of 5,366 known Greek New Testament manuscripts, only 35 contain the whole New Testament as we now know it, and 34 of those were compiled after A.D. 1000.2

The fact of the matter is that virtually every prophet of the Old and New Testament has added scripture to that received by his predecessors. If the Old Testament words of Moses were sufficient, as some could have mistakenly thought them to be,3 then why, for example, the subsequent prophecies of Isaiah or of Jeremiah, who follows him? To say nothing of Ezekiel and Daniel, of Joel, Amos, and all the rest. If one revelation to one prophet in one moment of time is sufficient for all time, what justifies these many others? What justifies them was made clear by Jehovah Himself when He said to Moses, “My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.”4

The Bible did not generally exist in the form it has today until over a thousand years after the Savior’s life (although there are very rare copies of the Bible from the 4th century that are similar to what we have today; the Codex Sinaiticus is one example). “The Hebrew Bible-the Old Testament-as Jesus knew it, consisted of from twelve to twenty such scrolls of different sizes. They were never united into what we could call one ‘book’ until the invention of printing made that possible, in the fifteenth century” (Edgar Goodspeed, How Came the Bible?, p.10 as cited by Robert Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet, p.5). Committees of scholars and Church leaders decided on what they believed to be the most authoritative and authentic books to include in the Bible. However, the books of the New Testament that are accepted into the modern canon were generally denoted as canonical by about 400 AD (Millet, Selected Writings, p.9).