To know where I’m coming from and why I’m doing this, click the graphic below to be taken to the introductory post for this series:
I think the logical place to start would be with the sacred documents that make up the foundation of the Mormon faith: The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants. There’s a lot to cover here, so bear with me.
According to Mormon history, a teenaged Joseph Smith prayed and asked God which church he should join. He then saw a vision of God and Jesus, and they told him not to join any church, because none of them “had the fullness of truth.” (source) God told Joseph Smith that no church on earth contained God’s truth. Not the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Catholics – none of them were approved by God. This is known in Mormon history as the Great Apostasy (this period in time pretty much occurred from the time of the Apostles until the mid 19th Century) – where all churches on earth fell away from the gospel, because even though they all had the Bible, they didn’t have the complete gospel (more on that later). Obviously, if the Bible isn’t the fullness of truth, then in order to truly know Who God is and what He wants, you need the “Bible + something.”
Their Bible + started with the Book of Mormon. Smith received the beginnings of the Book of Mormon on golden tablets from an angel named Moroni. Moroni was an angel, who used to be a man who lived on earth in Ancient North America. He wrote the history of his people onto golden tablets and buried them to keep them safe before he died. Moroni as an angel then led Joseph Smith to the golden tablets. The writings on these tablets are what make up the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is made up of a bunch of books, chapters and verses. It tells of the history of the family of Moroni, as well as many very detailed prophecies foreshadowing the events of the New Testament.
The introduction to my edition says, “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness [sic] of the everlasting gospel…Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.’…We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true.”
Another installment in the Bible + idea in Mormonism is Doctrine and Covenants is considered “open canon” by the Mormon church. That means that there is always the option for more to be added to it. Much of the actual practical Mormon culture and theology is taken from D&C, not the Book of Mormon. The dietary restrictions, such as alcohol and caffeine, are in the D&C, as an example.
Next in the Mormon Bible + anthology is The Pearl of Great Price. Pearl of Great Price is an anthology divided into 5 sections containing Joseph Smith’s versions of select portions of the Bible, his autobiography (not his whole life, just a few years), the Articles of Faith and the Book of Abraham.
The Articles of Faith are the 13 basic beliefs of Mormon theology. One of them is, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” The next one says, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Those are significant statements that on the surface sound benign but actually have broad implications.
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” Lots of people teach and believe that the Bible as we have it today contains substantive mistranslation errors that require us (or, allow us) to dismiss portions we disagree with or alter meanings to suit our preferences.
This is not the case. While there are no original copies of the books of the Bible, there are enough secondary and tertiary copies (copies made from the originals) that date back from the 1st Century AD, which are still used for translations and teaching today. The Dead Sea Scrolls are one famous example of ancient Old Testament writings that still exist today. There are thousands more. I’ve seen some of them with my own eyes – ancient documents carefully preserved throughout the ages that assure us that the text we have today is reliable. I mean, when they discover some new small tribe in South America, they don’t start with the King James Bible to make a new translation. They go back to the original languages.
If one says, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly,” and we know that the Bible has maintained it textural integrity through the years (and we do), then logically we must believe the Bible entirely. However, as we already saw above, Joseph Smith taught that the church and the Bible had been filled with errors over the centuries, and thus the world needed another testament, a new word from God. “…that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Hence, the Book of Mormon.
Let me add: this Bible + idea isn’t limited to Mormonism. Whether it’s the printed word, a strange “stirring in the spirit” or a book claiming to know secrets about God and Jesus, there are many belief systems whose very existence depends on a Bible + concept. For some, their Bible + is the Bible + some other written work, like the Book of Mormon, et al. For others, it’s the Bible + whatever the head of their religion proclaims or “prophecies” that month or year. For others, it’s the Bible + some secret context that only existed in the 1st Century AD which changes everything! No matter how you slice it, the Bible + theology looks at the Word of God and says, “Either God didn’t think to tell us everything we needed to know in the first place, or God wasn’t powerful enough to preserve the integrity of His Word from generation to generation.”
It is a wholly unChristian position. The Bible tells us that, “The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. . . . Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17 and Jude 1:3.) The “faith” has already been delivered to us, “once for all.” The Bible as we have it today is sufficient for all our needs. The Bible + idea is not biblical. Bottom line.
I know I sped past this and there’s a lot more I could cover, because obviously we’ve got three large written works to examine. I opted to err on the side of brevity rather than type out pages and pages of history and theological spot-checking. However, if there is something that I missed that you think should be brought up, please share it in the comments.
But the point is this: The Christian position, from Canonization until today, is that there is no need for the Bible + anything. Yahweh God has given us His perfect, inerrant, infallible Word, and said it was just fine the way it was. The Bible + concept is not a Christian one, regardless of who is presenting it.