Mormon Scripture – The Articles of Faith/Part 20
|By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2003|
|Marvin Cowan explains that the revision of some of Mormonism’s primary documents presents a problem. Since the ninth Article of Faith says Mormons believe “all that God has revealed,” should they believe it as it was first revealed or the way it was “revised”?|
The ninth Article of Faith declares, “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.” Only two books of LDS scripture are mentioned by name in the Articles of Faith: the Bible (as far as it is translated correctly) and the Book of Mormon. The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price are not mentioned in the Articles of Faith even though Mormonism classifies them as “standard works” or scripture. But the ninth Article of Faith is broad enough to include them as well as any other “revelations” that Mormon leaders want to include.
In 1833 Joseph Smith’s revelations were being printed in the Book of Commandments in Missouri when a conflict between the Mormons and their neighbors ended the printing. The Mormons left the area and only a few copies of the Book of Commandments were preserved. So, in September 1834 the LDS First Presidency was appointed to select which “revelations” of Joseph Smith would be published in Kirtland, Ohio in 1835. Smith revised some of his revelations and others were added to the new volume that would be called the Doctrine and Covenants (Church History in the Fulness of Times, a manual published by the LDS Church for study in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, p. 159). Some questions that Mormons need to consider about “revised” revelations are: 1. Why would a true “revelation” from God need to be “revised”? 2. Since God “knows all things” (I John 3:20), why couldn’t He reveal it correctly the first time? 3. Some of the revised revelations have added material with no indication of any change. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants (D. & C.), Section 20 verses 65, 66, and 67 were not in the original revelation. Since the ninth Article of Faith says Mormons believe “all that God has revealed,” should they believe it as it was first revealed or the way it was “revised”?
Smith also wrote,
- During the month of January (1835), I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling” (History of the Church, vol. II, p. 180).
- The book’s title referred to its two major divisions. The first part, designated “doctrine,” contained seven lectures on faith (theology) delivered in the School of the Elders the previous winter. The second section, entitled “Covenants and Commandments,” included forty-five revelations in addition to those found in the Book of Commandments (Church History in the Fullness of Times, p. 160).
On August 17, 1835, a “General Assembly” of the LDS Church was held in Kirtland, Ohio and the Doctrine and Covenants was accepted by a unanimous vote of each priesthood quorum and then “the whole congregation, accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote” (History of the Church vol. II, pages 343- 346 or the last chapter in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants entitled “General Assembly,” pages 255-257).
The Lectures on Theology comprised 75 pages in the Doctrine and Covenants until1921 when the LDS First Presidency deleted them without a vote by the members. Since
1921 the “Covenants and Commandments” section of the 1835 edition has been published under the title “Doctrine and Covenants.” More about the Doctrine and Covenants are in our previous articles.
The other LDS book of scripture not mentioned in the Articles of Faith is the Pearl of Great Price. It contains only four small books: Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith-Matthew and Joseph Smith-History. The thirteen Articles of Faith are also published in it. Joseph Smith said the book of Moses was revealed to him like the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. It has a story of creation to the time of the flood which is very different from the Biblical story. In it God often speaks to Moses saying “I God” or “I, the Lord God.” And in Moses 1:6 God said, “There is no God beside me.” Compare that statement to chapters 4 and 5 in the book of Abraham below.
Smith said the book of Abraham was translated from Abraham’s own writings on Egyptian papyri that were purchased from Michael Chandler in 1835. So, the book Abraham was a translation like the Book of Mormon, not a revelation like the book of Moses. But Egyptologists who have studied the papyri that Smith “translated” claim that it contains very common Egyptian burial documents that have nothing to do with Abraham. The Egyptian writing on the papyri is not even from the time period in which Abraham lived.
The book of Abraham also has a story of creation which differs from both the Biblical account and the account in the book of Moses. Instead of God speaking and working alone in creation as He did in the book of Moses, Abraham 4:2-4 says, “And the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters. And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light and there was light. And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright…” The words in parenthesis are in the text. Yet, God said in Moses 1:6, “There is no God beside me.”
Do these LDS “scriptures” really clarify God’s message? Mormons often claim that their scriptures are needed to “clarify” God’s message in the Bible. Joseph Smith-Matthew is just Matthew 23:39 through 24:51 in the King James Version of the Bible with a few words added. Joseph Smith-History is the story of Joseph Smith and the visits he claims he had from God the Father and Jesus, the angel Moroni, John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. Mormons not only have the four books of scripture already mentioned, but they also have the President of the LDS Church who they accept as a “living prophet” able to give them current revelation from God.
We will look further into the LDS concept of continuous revelation in our next article. For those who want to read more on this subject, we recommend Mormonism and Inspiration by Jack Free, published by Pacific Publishing Company, Concord CA in 1962.