Mormonism and the Bible/Completeness
Completeness of the Bible
If these new revelations contain only what has been already made known, where is the necessity for them? and if they reveal what is not to be found in the Bible, how are we to know that they are from God, and not from Satan, who is transforming himself into an angel of light, imposing upon men by his lies?
—Samuel Haining, Mormonism Weighed in the Balances of the Sanctuary, and Found Wanting: The Substance of Four Lectures (Douglas: Robert Fargher, 1840), 56. off-site
Question: Does the Bible alone contain all necessary or essential knowledge to assure salvation, thus making the Book of Mormon and modern prophets unnecessary?
The Bible nowhere makes the claim for sufficiency or completeness
Other churches claim the Bible contains all necessary or essential knowledge to assure salvation. Therefore, things like modern prophets or additional scripture (such as the Book of Mormon) are unnecessary or even blasphemous.
Claiming inerrancy and completeness:
- is not a Biblical doctrine
- has not been sufficient to prevent a vast range of Biblical interpretations and Christian practices, all of which cannot be correct
- ignores that the Biblical canon is not unanimous among Christians, and ignores non-canonical books which the Bible itself cites as being authoritative
- ignores that the Bible contains some errors and internal inconsistencies
However, Mormons cherish the Bible. Those who claim otherwise are mistaken. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:
Occasionally, a few in the Church let the justified caveat about the Bible—“as far as it is translated correctly”—diminish their exultation over the New Testament. Inaccuracy of some translating must not, however, diminish our appreciation for the powerful testimony and ample historicity of the New Testament...
So when we read and turn the pages of the precious New Testament, there is a barely audible rustling like the quiet stirrings of the Spirit, something to be 'spiritually discerned.' (1 Corinthians 2:14). The witnessing words came to us—not slowly, laboriously, or equivocally through the corridors of the centuries, but rather, swiftly, deftly, and clearly. Upon the wings of the Spirit these words proclaim, again and anew, “JESUS LIVED. JESUS LIVES!”
The Bible nowhere makes the claim for sufficiency or completeness.
Furthermore, the thousands of Christian sects and groups provide ample testimony that the Bible has not been sufficient to encourage unanimity among Christians about proper authority, doctrine, or practice. Critics would like us to accept that their reading is the correct one, but this means we must appeal to some other standard—one cannot use their reading of the Bible to prove their reading of the Bible!
There is also no unanimity among Christians concerning what constitutes the "true" Bible canon—once again, some other standard is needed to determine which Bible is the "true" or "inerrant" version.
There are also other writings which the Bible itself refers to as authoritative, and yet these books are not in the present Bible canon. Either the Bible is wrong in referring to these writings as authoritative, or some modern Christians are wrong for arguing that the Bible is a complete record of all God's word to His children.
Mormons consider the Bible an inspired volume of scripture of great value, but they also recognize that there are some errors and contradictions
While the LDS do not like to denigrate the Bible or call attention to its errors, since they consider it an inspired volume of scripture of great value, they also recognize that there are some errors and contradictions in the Bible which are the result of human error or tampering. This does not reduce the Bible's value in their estimation, but it does call into question any claims for the Bible's "inerrancy."
Said early LDS leader George Q. Cannon:
This book [the Bible] is of priceless worth; its value cannot estimated by anything that is known among men upon which value is fixed. ... But in the Latter-day Saints it should always be a precious treasure. Beyond any people now upon the face of the earth, they should value it, for the reason that from its pages, from the doctrines set forth by its writers, the epitome of the plan of salvation which is there given unto us, we derive the highest consolation, we obtain the greatest strength. It is, as it were, a constant fountain sending forth streams of living life to satisfy the souls of all who peruse its pages.
∗ ∗ ∗
We are not called to teach the errors of translators but the truth of God's word. It is our mission to develop faith in the revelations from God in the hearts of the children, and "How can that best be done?" is the question that confronts us. Certainly not by emphasizing doubts, creating difficulties or teaching negations.... The clause in the Articles of Faith regarding mistakes in the translation of the Bible was never intended to encourage us to spend our time in searching out and studying those errors, but to emphasize the idea that it is the truth and the truth only that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts, no matter where it is found.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Neal Maxwell, "The New Testament—A Matchless Portrait of the Savior," Ensign (December 1986), 20. (italics in original)
- George Q. Cannon, "The Blessings Enjoyed Through Possessing The Ancient Records, etc.," (8 May 1881) Journal of Discourses 22:261-262.
- George Q. Cannon, "?," The Juvenile Instructor 36 no. ? (1 April 1901), 208.