Question: Does the fact that the Bible states that nothing should be "added to" or "taken away" from the book mean that the Book of Mormon is false?

Question: Does the fact that the Bible states that nothing should be "added to" or "taken away" from the book mean that the Book of Mormon is false?

Misuse of the Book of Revelation

Some Christians claim that the Book of Mormon cannot be true because nothing should be "added to" or "taken away from" the Holy Bible. However, those who claim this misuse Revelation, misunderstand the process by which the Bible canon was formed, and must ignore other, earlier scriptures to maintain their position. Their use of this argument is a form of begging the question whereby they presume at the outset that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures are not the Word of God, which is precisely the point under debate.

The verse often cited (as by Martin, above) is Revelation 22:18-19:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books

Some claim that this verse states that the Bible is complete, and no other scripture exists or will be forthcoming.

However, the critics ignore that:

  • The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books, and prior the Bible being assembled into a collection of texts. Therefore, this verse can only apply to the Book of Revelation, and not the Bible as a whole (some of which was unwritten and none of which was yet assembled together into 'the Bible'). While the traditional date of the book of Revelation is A.D. 95 or 96 (primarily based on a statement by Irenaeus), many scholars now date it as early as A.D. 68 or 69. The Gospel of John is generally dated A.D. 95-100.[1]
  • The New Testament was organized by placing the gospels first, and then the letters of apostles and other leaders in order of decreasing length.
Since the book of Revelation is neither a gospel nor an epistle, it was placed at the end of the canon in its own category. Therefore, John cannot have intended the last few sentences of Revelation to apply to the entire Bible, since he was not writing a 'final chapter' for the New Testament and since the Bible would not be completed and canonized for some centuries later.
  • Other scriptures (such as Deuteronomy 4꞉2, Deuteronomy 12꞉32, and Proverbs 30꞉6) likewise forbid additions. If the critics' arguments were self-consistent, they would have to then discard everything in the New Testament and much of the Old, since these verses predate "other scripture" added by God through later prophets.
  • Further evidence that Rev. 22:19 is not referring to the entire bible when it reads "words of the book of this prophecy" is found if one reads Revelation 1:3,11:

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand...Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

It is clear that the book referred to at the beginning of Revelation is the same book being referred to at the end.

Everything that John saw and heard in between these two statements are the contents of that book.

Many biblical authors warned against editing their work

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman wrote:

The very real danger that [New Testament] texts could be modified at will, by scribes who did not approve of their wording, is evident in other ways as well. We need always to remember that the copyists of the early Christian writings were reproducing their texts in a world in which there were not only no printing presses or publishing houses but also no such thing as copyright law. How could authors guarantee that their texts were not modified once put into circulation? The short answer is that they could not. That explains why authors would sometimes call curses down on any copyists who modified their texts without permission. We find this kind of imprecation already in one early Christian writing that made it into the New Testament, the book of Revelation, whose author, near the end of his text, utters a dire warning [quotes Revelation 22꞉18-19].

This is not a threat that the reader has to accept or believe everything written in this book of prophecy, as it is sometimes interpreted; rather, it is a typical threat to copyists of the book, that they are not to add to or remove any of its words. Similar imprecations can be found scattered throughout the range of early Christian writings.[2]

God may add to God's word

Even if the passage in Revelation meant that no man could add to scripture; it does not forbid that God may, through a prophet, add to the Word of God. If this were not possible, then the Bible could never have come into existence—the Old Testament, for example, would have precluded having the New Testament.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • “Mormonism in America,” The Christian Witness (Plymouth, England) 5, no. 1 (January 1838): 23–24. off-site
  • Anon., "Difference Between the Baptists & Latter-Day Saints. From the North Staffordshire Mercury," Millennial Star 1 no. 12 (April 1841), 296–99. off-site
  • George J. Adams, "[Letter to Parley P. Pratt, 14 December 1841]," Millennial Star 2 no. 9 (January 1842), 141-43. off-site
  • M.S.C., “Mormonism,” Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Ohio) 2, no. 35 (15 February 1831): 1-2. off-site
  • Philander Chase, A Pastoral Letter of Bishop Chase, to the Clergy of His Diocese of Illinois (1843), 1-8. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the way. No. VIII,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (26 September 1840): 106–07. off-site
  • John A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way No. X,” Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) (10 October 1840): 114-115. off-site* H., Letter to the Editor, Observer and Telegraph (Hudson, Ohio) (30 December 1830). off-site
  • Samuel Haining, Mormonism Weighed in the Balances of the Sanctuary, and Found Wanting: The Substance of Four Lectures (Douglas: Robert Fargher, 1840), 4, 15-16. off-site
  • Walter Martin, Mormonism (Minneapolis, Bethany House Publishers, 1976), 29.
    "[Joseph] Smith apparently was either oblivious to the expressed warning about adding to or subtracting from the Word of God, or willfully disobedient to it (see Rev. 22:18,19)."
  • Philanthropist of Chester County, Mormonism Unmasked, Showed to be an Impious Imposture, and Mr. Bennett’s Reply Answered and Refuted (Philadelphia: T. K. & P. G. Collins, 1840), 6. off-site Response
  • Erastus Fairbanks Snow, E. Snow’s Reply to the Self-Styled Philanthropist, of Chester County (Philadelphia?: s.n., 1840?), ??. off-site
  • La Roy Sunderland, “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman (New York) 3, no. 6 (10 February 1838), 22. off-site
Past responses


  1. For more information on the dating of Revelation, see Thomas B. Slater's Biblica article.
  2. Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco, [2005] 2007), 54–55. ISBN 0060859512. ISBN 0060738170.