Contentions in the Church

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After signs and wonders of Christ’s birth were seen in the Americas, a great work of conversion occurred. Nephi kept busy teaching and baptizing. This inevitably resulted in increased peace in the land. Peace, unfortunately, rarely lasts long. In 3 Nephi 1:24-25 we read:

“24 And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.

“25 But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.”

These verses remind me of the movement pressing for the ordination of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve written of this movement previously: Response to Ordain Women.

There are some within the Church who are following the pattern of contention described in the scriptures. They are at best premature and at worst completely off the mark. “Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures [and the teachings of the prophets].” We would all be wise to follow the prophet and avoid contention.

2013 Edition of LDS Scriptures

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As a full-time missionary I started a process of finding the typographical errors in the LDS edition of the scriptures that I owned (I am a bit of a copy editor at heart). Examples include:

  • Alma 9 footnote 4a – there was a double dash between (9–10) instead of a single [this might have been an issue with the master copy from which prints were made].
  • Leviticus 20:9 included an extra space
  • In the Topical Guide under Affliction, “D&C” needed to be inserted after Helaman 12:3.
  • In the Index to the Triple Combination under Power, Powerful the reference listed as Alma 3:15 should be Alma 31:5 [correct online – I’m not sure about the new printed version]

Then there is my favorite typo (this has been corrected for a number of years but was a typo in the scriptures I received in 1992) from Luke 7:39.


The LDS Church did many other things than just fix the sporadic typos that occur – they standardized fonts, headings, and updated context based on all the work they’ve been doing with primary sources, particularly from Joseph Smith’s life. This is where the great and potentially greatly beneficial changes are – in updating the context of modern day revelations and providing clearer chronologies of church history.

One other thing I like is that the Church documented all changes. Even though 99% of changes were to supplementary material (e.g., Topical Guide or headings or footnotes), there will be individuals who use these changes as yet another tired way to attack the LDS Church (“I thought the church was perfect!”). I say that from experience because corrections or changes over the course of various editions of the LDS scriptures came up frequently when I interacted with certain individuals as a full-time missionary for the LDS Church. I was always frustrated by people dogmatically picking at such motes – not frustrated by their arguments, just frustrated that they criticized the LDS Church for having the audacity to update its own scriptures yet they saw no problem in changing which translation of the Bible they used. Some of the translations of the Bible are substantially different from the others. These same people were also not willing to read the Book of Mormon themselves; they tended to rely on the word of their pastor or “un-fettered” [anti-Mormon] writings about Mormons instead of finding out for themselves. Many of the people I talked to who were this way were pleasant individuals, they just did not care to hear about Mormons from Mormons. We all have our biases and inconsistencies, which is why the Savior taught that we should not worry so much about judging others as we should making sure that we are free from sin.

If you have time and interest, peruse the detailed summary of changes (PDF linked to in the preceding paragraph). There are many interesting changes.

Hidden Truths

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In Alma 45 we read of a beautiful exchange between Alma (the Younger) and his son Helaman.

“Alma came unto his son Helaman and said unto him: Believest thou the words which I spake unto thee concerning those records which have been kept? And Helaman said unto him: Yea, I believe. And Alma said again: Believest thou in Jesus Christ, who shall come? And he said: Yea, I believe all the words which thou hast spoken. And Alma said unto him again: Will ye keep my commandments? And he said: Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart. Then Alma said unto him: Blessed art thou; and the Lord shall prosper thee in this land.” (Alma 45:2-8).

Before passing on the responsibility of keeping the scriptures and before adding other responsibilities to his son, Alma interviews Helaman to assess his testimony in the Savior and the teachings of the prophets. In many ways, this was similar to our modern temple recommend interviews or personal priesthood interviews in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After Helaman bore his testimony, Alma continues on to prophesy of things to come, acting in his role as seer. Prophecies of the future (or past) are not unique in the scriptures – there are many such prophecies; what is unique, or at least explicitly stated is that Alma prophesied things to Helaman that Helaman was not to reveal to anyone else; he was to record it upon the records but not tell anyone else. Why the secrecy? What was this important prophecy and why, if it was important, keep it from general knowledge?

Keeping revelations and prophecies and doctrine secret or, rather, sacred, has been the practice of prophets from the beginning. Christ taught this in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matt. 7:6). We also know there is a sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that has not yet been revealed to the world. There are prophecies of the brother of Jared and John the Beloved that are not widely revealed. Sometimes these are kept from the world because the prophecies are so great that most people are not ready for them. Isaiah taught of the importance of solidifying foundations before grasping at straws of doctrines beyond current comprehension: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10) and “But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:13). What Isaiah meant is made clear in the Book of Mormon: “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30).

This reminds me of working with my oldest daughter on mathematical concepts and problems. She is young enough that she is still learning arithmetic; while I am constantly trying to push the boundaries of what she knows, we cannot jump ahead to trigonometry or calculus or even much algebra because she does not have all the basics of mathematics learned yet. This does not mean I cannot or do not teach her pre-algebra (I do) or introduce more complex concepts of mathematics but most of what I could teach her is not possible for her to understand – she doesn’t know enough of the basics to understand more and her brain is physically/physiologically/neurologically not capable of comprehending these higher order concepts of mathematics yet; these concepts require complex abstractions that a very young brain cannot process. Thus, my daughter’s understanding is not just limited by a lack of knowledge (ignorance) but also a lack of physical development.

Gospel and spiritual knowledge are the same way. We cannot comprehend greater light and knowledge without understanding the foundations of the gospel – the doctrines of Christ – faith, repentance, resurrection, the Atonement, charity, and so forth. In a like manner, we might not be able to understand “higher” doctrines simply because we are spiritually undeveloped – our spirit brains, if you will, are not yet matured. This spiritual maturation comes from learning, accepting, and living the gospel over time. Without such development, we cannot understand what some call deeper doctrines.

This is why Alma asked about Helaman’s testimony; this is why many prophecies remain hidden to us (and this specific prophecy of Alma remained hidden until the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) – many people who might hear them or read them are not ready for them. So what did Alma tell Helaman?

“Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief.” (Alma 45:10)

Not only will Christ appear to the Nephites following His resurrection but also there will come a time of general apostasy among the Nephites and Lamanites. This apostasy mirrors that of the Old World among the Jews and early Christians. When Moroni wrote his last words on the plates of gold and sealed up the record it was around 421 AD. Christ appeared to the Nephites around 30 AD (plus or minus 6 years or so), which means that by the time 400 years had passed, the Nephites were all extinct. Alma continued:

Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct—Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities; yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away before this great iniquity shall come. And when that great day cometh, behold, the time very soon cometh that those who are now, or the seed of those who are now numbered among the people of Nephi, shall no more be numbered among the people of Nephi. But whosoever remaineth, and is not destroyed in that great and dreadful day, shall be numbered among the Lamanites, and shall become like unto them, all, save it be a few who shall be called the disciples of the Lord; and them shall the Lamanites pursue even until they shall become extinct. And now, because of iniquity, this prophecy shall be fulfilled.” (Alma 45:11-14).

So the day will come when the Nephites will all be destroyed or will no longer be called Nephites, having joined the Lamanites (this makes it clear that Nephite and Lamanite are mainly political terms rather than strict references to genealogy). Further, the few righteous disciples will be hunted down and killed. Why would knowing the timeline of the destruction of the Nephites be hidden knowledge? Knowledge brings accountability. This prophecy was also not essential for the Nephites and Lamanites to know. How would it benefit their salvation? How would it increase faith in Christ? It wouldn’t. It was the type of knowledge reserved for a few righteous individuals, those with solid spiritual development. What this means is that people were not ready for the revelation. This was like the revelation of the brother of Jared – specific revelation about future events; we still do not know what is contained in that revelation. Why do we not have access to that revelation? We are not ready and at this point it is not important for us. What is important for us to do is to have faith and do what is right. Light and knowledge will come as we demonstrate our faith over time.

For Our Day

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As I go through and read the Book of Mormon, I try to keep in mind that it is a book that was written for us in our day. Everything selected for inclusion by Mormon and his son Moroni was selected to help strengthen and teach us in our day. That is one reason why it is such a remarkable book.

Mormon lived during the collapse of his civilization. He lived about 350 A.D. in the Americas. Mormon was the leader of a small group of people called the Nephites. At this point in their history, most Nephites had become wicked and many had either been killed or had defected to their enemies, the Lamanites. During this time of fighting, leading armies in battle and trying to salvage whomever of his people that he could, Mormon was also involved in editing the records – sacred and secular – of his people. He transcribed the sacred history of his people onto plates made out of gold, a laborious task made difficult by the difficulty of writing on gold plates. Gold was important to use though because it does not corrode; gold plates would last the 1500 years until they were needed to help bring light to a dark world.

As his civilization collapsed, Mormon edited the scriptures he had been given stewardship over into a single volume. He chose words carefully and only included things that the Lord revealed unto him to include. Everything was chosen to bless the lives of those who would read it in the future. The Book of Mormon really was written for us; only Mormon and Moroni (and possibly a select few others at the time) ever had access to the plates. Only Joseph Smith and a few others in his day ever had access to the plates (there were about 15 individuals who saw the gold plates). What was important was not the composition of the plates but the words inscribed upon those plates; the message was what was more than worth its weight in gold.

As I read, I try to think about why the particular scripture verses were included. Why was the precious space on the precious plates used for those particular scriptures and that particular message? What can I learn and what can the world learn from from the Book of Mormon?

There is an LDS Seminary song that fits well with this post. Click here to listen to the song (right click {or command click on a Mac} to download). There is also piano / vocal sheet music of the song available (.pdf format).

Filled With the Spirit Through Reading the Scriptures

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“And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Nephi 1: 11-12).

What’s the context of these verses? Lehi had a vision; he saw God, Jesus Christ, and the twelve original apostles of the Savior. One of them – Peter – gave Lehi a book to read. This book was a book of prophecy and revelation; in essence, it was scripture. When Lehi read the book, when he read the scriptures, something important happened: “he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.”

When Lehi read the scriptures he felt the Spirit. But even more, Lehi was filled with the Spirit. That is one reason why it is so important to read the scriptures – so we can be filled with the Spirit. This is a principle that missionaries use – let people read the scriptures for themselves so that they might feel the Spirit. There, I revealed one of the tricks that missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use – have people read the scriptures themselves. It’s so tricky because then the missionaries don’t have to do any convincing, they just let the Spirit of the Lord do it for them – they let God convince those reading the scriptures of the truthfulness of what they read. It’s much easier on the conscience to reject people than it is to reject God.

What is important though is that however we feel, if we feel lost and alone, if we feel discouraged or distraught, if we feel burdened down by cares and concerns, we can find solace in the scriptures. The solace comes from the words of the prophets but more importantly from the Spirit of the Lord that accompanies the reading of the scriptures.

Feast Upon The Word

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16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:

17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (Luke 14:16-24).

We have all been invited to a feast, a daily feast upon the words of Christ.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3).

The call was made, will we respond? Will we make excuses not to partake because we are too busy – our car needs washing, a book needs reading, a movie needs watching? Will we ignore the feast and starve ourselves spiritually? It does not take long for a body to die without physical nourishment. How long does it take the spirit to waste away without spiritual nourishment? Daily scripture study and frequent feasting upon the word of God can provide spiritual sustenance necessary for spiritual life.

Do we respond to the Savior’s call to feast at His great supper, or do we make excuses and not partake?

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.

Are All the Answers in the Scriptures?

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While listening to a talk in church this morning something a speaker said reminded me of something I had been taught in my youth. This is something I was taught in church or seminary that is not true. The speaker today did not teach this but something she said reminded me of this false teaching. What is this great falsehood? All answers to our questions are found in the scriptures. Sometimes this was softened with a “most answers” instead of “all answers” but while the sentiment is good, there is a lurking untruth at the core of this teaching. Occasionally I had teachers who got it right though – they said that the answers might not be in the scriptures, the scriptures will tell us how to find the answers. That is the truth, not that the answers are all in the scriptures.

We have living prophets and the gift of the Holy Ghost precisely because all the answers are not in the scriptures. Joseph Smith read the Bible but had a question that could not be answered by the scriptures – “which of all the churches was right?” What he did find in the scriptures is how he could get an answer – ask God in prayer. The scriptures guided Joseph to his answer but God provided the answer. That is how it should be in our own lives – we seek knowledge from the scriptures but guidance best comes from the living prophets and the Holy Ghost.

Knowing that the scriptures do not, in fact, have all the answer does not diminish the importance of them; to the contrary, it raises their importance as a source of direction but the scriptures are given greater power by the prophets and by the Spirit. The scriptures were never meant to be a closed canon of the summation of God’s teachings for us. Personal revelation and ongoing revelation is vital in our lives.

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.

Tools for Gospel Students and Teachers

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I hold the opinion that the most important tools for teachers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the scriptures and the Holy Ghost. Sensitivity to the Spirit and knowledge of the scriptures will allow a teacher to teach powerful lessons that help those being taught have a stronger desire to live the gospel. “Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (D&C; 50:21-22). Having the Spirit of the Lord is vital in gospel teaching.

There are other tools that can benefit gospel teaching and learning. The LDS Church recently released their Gospel Library iPhone app. While there were other LDS library apps out previously, none were official apps of the Church. I use this app on my iPod to both prepare lessons and to teach my lessons. In the app you can annotate the scriptures or lesson manuals by adding your own cross-references and notes. The other boon for my lessons is the fact that most of the Teachers in our quorum (okay, 2 out of the 3 active young men) have either an iPhone or an iPod Touch. This means that not only do they always have their scriptures with them, they also have the Aaronic Priesthood manual that we use for the lesson. This allows them to follow along with the lesson (at the portions of the lesson when I’m using the manual) and find the scriptures quickly. For the one youth who does not have an iPod or iPhone to use, the lack of the device has not been an issue because I never make it one.

If everyone had an iPod Touch or iPhone or iPad then I would make the app a little bit bigger portion of my lessons but for now I’m just glad that some of the Teachers can follow along with the lesson. This will help them remain a little more focused on the lesson, or at least the gospel if they are browsing through the app during the lesson.

One thing I like about having the LDS Gospel Library app on my iPod is having scriptures and lesson manuals and conference addresses with me at all times. If I have some down time I can read the scriptures or prepare a lesson or listen to General Conference whenever I want to and wherever I am (within reason, of course!). Many times I’ve been riding the bus to or from the campus where I attend school when I had a gospel insight – or rather, when one came to me through the Holy Ghost – that I jotted down in my iPod note app. Now I can also jot down these thoughts right in the LDS Library app near an appropriate scripture. Soon these notes or highlights or cross-references will sync with the new LDS Gospel Library website. Or, if I annotate my scriptures online, it will sync with my iPod app. I’m looking forward to these tools.

Most of my gospel study and reading is done on a computer (iPod included). This has been the case for nearly two years now. While I occasionally pick up my hard copy scriptures and read them (something that I miss but not enough to make it my primary method of study), I mainly use electronic forms of scriptures. I do this in part because this blog is a large part of my gospel study. Having tools that allow me to better consolidate and correlate my study is a step forward in adding consistency to my study. Being able to sync my mobile study with my at home (or school) study allows me to transfer information to this blog better. It also allows me to have all my notes for my Sunday lessons in multiple places but synchronized between those places. This will also allow the young men that I teach to highlight scriptures on their iPods or iPhones in class or in Seminary and have that information also available online.

One issue I can see is when they go on missions but I think it is a good idea to have a new set of scriptures just for a mission that get read and annotated and cross-referenced with things that are most meaningful to the missionary at the time. I have to admit that I have not added much in the way of notes or cross references in my scriptures since I returned home from my mission almost 9 years ago. I added some notes but I haven’t generally been able to devote hours per day to scripture study like I could as a full time missionary. I figure that between studying in the mornings before we went out, studying sometimes at lunch time, and studying and reading at night before bed or at other random times, I got in a good 2-3 hours of gospel studying every day. I did not have to learn a new language (something that is both fortunate and unfortunate) so I could devote much time to studying the gospel. I cannot often devote that much time to gospel study now due to family, school, and church responsibilities. However, what having this LDS Gospel Library app on my iPod does is allow me to make better use of my ‘downtime’ (such as when I ride the bus or walk across campus). As a related note, that is also why I enjoy having the General Conference podcast on my iPod – I can listen to talks as I walk across campus or ride the bus. On weekdays I typically get through at least two talks. They are great sources of knowledge and Spirit, especially because I often miss talks the first time around due to dealing with young children.

These are all tools the Lord is helping make available so gospel study and hearing and reading the words of His prophets are more accessible than ever. While we should never let technology overwhelm our lives (not that I’m one to preach much about that because I am almost never away from a computer or my iPod – due in part to what I do as a student but also due to my preferences for leisure time), technology is a part of our lives. It can be used for both good and evil. If we spend our time with the good we will not have time for the evil (not that that is sufficient reason to not do evil – “I’m only not sinning because I do not have time to” – rather, our reasons to not sin should be because we are sanctified and have no more disposition to do evil; however, crowding out the evil with the good is certainly a start). If you are going to spend the bulk of your time using technology (e.g., computers), at least make it productive and worthwhile and do good.

Whether we are teachers at church or home or simply studying for ourselves, there are new tools that allow for easier and more frequent gospel study. I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to have access to God’s words wherever I am.