What Mormons Believe About Scripture

As Christians our ultimate authority is God but how can we know what God is like in what he wants. Let’s take a look at what Mormonism teaches about scripture and revelation so that we can compare our own beliefs. First of all Mormons believe that the Bible is not sufficient. Mormons revere the Bible but they believe that the Bible alone is not enough. They believe that other scriptures are needed and so in the Book of Mormon it has God saying this in second Nephi chapter 29 “wherefore because that ye have a Bible, you need not suppose that it contains all my words, neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” The LDS Church recognizes four standard scriptures. Along with the Bible, they also have the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. And the Pearl of Great Price contains smaller books like The Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham and some other writings. And Mormons believe that God could bring forth other scripture in the future to add to those. 

But for traditional Christians by contrast, the Bible stands alone. We recognize that the early church went through an extensive process to discern what books had the marks of scriptural authority and many books simply did not make the cut. And unlike other books that claim to be Scripture the Bible has the support of history and archaeology. Now Christians recognize that Jesus, not any book, is God’s final and fullest form of revelation of himself to humanity. We see this in Hebrews chapter 1 “Long ago God spoke many times in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets and now in these final days he has spoken to us through his son.” So if God has spoken to us through Jesus, then the Bible is the source through which we know that revelation because it’s the Bible that tells us God’s plan and history leading up to the coming of Jesus. It’s the Bible that tells us Jesus’ life and his work. It’s the Bible that lays out his message and shows us how his message spread around the ancient world. And it’s the Bible that describes how the early Christians in those faith communities put Jesus’ words and message into practice in their everyday lives. So we believe that the Bible is a sufficient revelation of God. 

Now the Mormons also believe not only that the Bible is not enough, but that the Bible is corrupted. For Mormons, the Bible cannot ultimately be trusted. We read about that in the LDS church’s bible dictionary. Joseph Smith taught that many important points touching the salvation of men had been taken from the Bible or lost before it was compiled. He also said that the Bible was correct as far as it came from the pen of the original writers but that ignorant translators, careless transcribers or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. This is why Mormons believe that the Bible can only be rightly understood in light of Latter-day Saint Scriptures or modern prophets. In fact Joseph Smith undertook a major revision of the Bible called the Joseph Smith translation. But traditional Christians by contrast believe that the Bible has been divinely preserved. In fact latter-day saints can’t point to any specific example of a verse that they can tell us that has been corrupted. In fact the evidence shows that the Bible has not been corrupted at all. All you have to do is look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written many hundreds of years earlier than the earliest copies of manuscripts that we had at one time, to see that tremendous correlation even over centuries between these two copies. That shows that the Bible has been miraculously preserved. Now one more thing that the Mormon Church believes about scripture and revelation is that we need continuing revelation from modern-day prophets. Along with additional scripture, Mormons believe their church continues to be led by modern day prophets who receive continual revelation from God as needed to lead the church. In fact here’s how one of those prophets Spencer W Kimball described this idea of continuing revelation: “But again we testified in the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day.” And in the articles of faith which are found in the Pearl of Great Price, we read: “We believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” 

Now the Bible never really says that God cannot or will not ever reveal himself again but we saw in Hebrews chapter 1 that the coming of Jesus renders the old form of prophetic revelation obsolete. That form of revelation was for a previous age, not the age that we live in now. Why would we want to go back to an imperfect form of revelation that marked a bygone era when now we have something so much greater? What’s more, the Bible makes it clear that any claim of new revelation has to be tested against what God has already revealed. And it has to measure up to what God has already said. We see that in Deuteronomy 13:1-3 “Suppose there are prophets among you are those who dream dreams about the future and they promise you signs or miracles and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say come let us worship other gods, gods you have not known before, do not listen to them.” The point of this warning is that anything a prophet says that leads in a different direction is illegitimate. It doesn’t matter if he can do great miracles. If the words of that prophet lead to a conception of God that was previously unknown, then that prophet and his teaching is to be absolutely rejected. If we want to know the nature of God and the will of God, the Bible is perfectly reliable but the additional scriptures of Mormonism, the additional revelations of Mormonism lead in a very different direction as we’ll see in the other lessons in this series.