The Book of Mormon as the most correct book

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The Book of Mormon as the most correct book



Question: Why did Joseph Smith say that the Book of Mormon was the "most correct book"?

Joseph Smith: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth"

In the History of the Church, the following entry is recorded as having been made by Joseph Smith on November 28, 1841.[1]

Sunday, 28.--I spent the day in the council with the Twelve Apostles at the house of President Young, conversing with them upon a variety of subjects. Brother Joseph Fielding was present, having been absent four years on a mission to England. 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.

Critics of the Church assert that the phrase "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth" means that the Prophet Joseph Smith was declaring the Book of Mormon to be without error of any kind. Since each edition of the printed Book of Mormon since 1829 (including editions published during the life of Joseph Smith) has included changes of wording, spelling, or punctuation, critics declare Joseph Smith's statement to have been demonstrably false, thus proving that he was a false prophet.

Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" because of the principles it teaches

When Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the "most correct book" on earth, he was referring to the principles that it teaches, not the accuracy of its textual structure. Critics of the Book of Mormon have mistakenly interpreted "correct" to be synonymous with "perfect," and therefore expect the Book of Mormon to be without any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity of phrasing, and other such ways.

But when Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon was the "most correct of any book," he was referring to more than just wording, a fact made clear by the remainder of his statement: He said "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." When read in context, the Prophet's statement refers to the correctness of the principles it teaches. The Book of Mormon is the "most correct of any book" in that it contains the fulness of the gospel and presents it in a manner that is "plain and precious" (1 Nephi 13:35,40).


Question: Does the Book of Mormon contain mistakes?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #3: Are There Mistakes in the Book of Mormon? (Video)

Mormon said "And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men"

It should first be noted that the Book of Mormon itself does not claim to be free of errors. As Mormon himself stated in the introduction to the Book of Mormon:

And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men: wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ. (1830 Book of Mormon title page)

Moroni said "because of the imperfections which are in it"

Mormon's son Moroni also acknowledges that the record that has been created is imperfect:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you. Mormon 8:12

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Articles about the Bible



The Book of Mormon as the most correct book


Question: Does the Bible itself claim to be inerrant?

The Bible nowhere makes the claim that it is inerrant

As Blake Ostler observed of the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy":[2]

The doctrine of inerrancy is internally incoherent. In my opinion, numerous insuperable problems dictate the rejection of inerrancy in general and inerrancy as promulgated in the Chicago Statement in particular. First, the Chicago Statement is self-referentially incoherent. One cannot consistently assert that the Bible is the basis of his or her beliefs and then assert that one must nevertheless accept biblical inerrancy as asserted in the Chicago Statement...This statement contains a number of assertions, propositions if you will, that are not biblical. Inerrancy, at least as recently asserted by evangelicals, is not spelled out in the Bible. Nowhere do the words inerrant or infallible appear in the Bible. Such theoretical views are quite alien to the biblical writers. Further, inerrancy is not included in any of the major creeds. Such a notion is of rather recent vintage and rather peculiar to American evangelicalism. Throughout the history of Christian thought, the Bible has been a source rather than an object of beliefs. The assertion that the Bible is inerrant goes well beyond the scriptural statements that all scripture is inspired or "God-breathed." Thus inerrancy, as a faith commitment, is inconsistent with the assertion that one's beliefs are based on what the Bible says. The doctrine of inerrancy is an extrabiblical doctrine about the Bible based on nonscriptural considerations. It should be accepted only if it is reasonable and if it squares with what we know from scripture itself, and not as an article of faith... However, it is not and it does not.

The Chicago Statement can function only as a statement of belief and not as a reasonable observation of what we find in the Bible. The Chicago Statement itself acknowledges that we do not find inerrant statements in the Bible, for it is only "when all facts are known" that we will see that inerrancy is true. It is very convenient to propose a theory that cannot be assessed unless and until we are in fact omniscient. That is why the Chicago Statement is a useless proposition. It cannot be a statement of faith derived from the Bible because it is not in the Bible. It cannot be a statement about what the evidence shows because the evidence cannot be assessed until we are omniscient.[3]


Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:461. Volume 4 link
  2. On the Chicago Statement, see Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. and exp. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 181–185.
  3. Blake T. Ostler, "Bridging the Gulf (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 103–177. off-site (italics in original)


Question: Is any book of scripture perfect?

No book of scripture is "perfect"

Latter-day Saints do not subscribe to the conservative Protestant belief in scriptural inerrancy. We do not believe that any book of scripture is perfect or infallible. Brigham Young explained:

When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities.... Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings.[1]

So while the Book of Mormon has come down to us with fewer doctrinal errors and corruptions than the Bible, even it could be improved if we were ready to receive further light and knowledge.

Infelicities of language are also to be expected when produced by revelators with little education, said George A. Smith:

The Book of Mormon was denounced as ungrammatical. An argument was raised that if it had been translated by the gift and power of God it would have been strictly grammatical.... When the Lord reveals anything to men, he reveals it in a language that corresponds with their own. If you were to converse with an angel, and you used strictly grammatical language he would do the same. But if you used two negatives in a sentence the heavenly messenger would use language to correspond with your understanding.[2]


Notes

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311. [13 July 1862]
  2. George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 12:335. [15 November 1863]


Question: Do Latter-day Saints consider the Bible to be untrustworthy?

Early LDS leaders' views on the problems with biblical inerrancy and biblical translation would seem mainstream to most today

It is claimed that Latter-day Saint leaders diminish the Bible as untrustworthy.

Do the Latter-day Saints detract from the Bible? Do they criticize it? No more so than the majority of Biblical scholars.

Early LDS leaders' views on the problems with biblical inerrancy and biblical translation would seem mainstream to most today. Only those who completely reject modern biblical textual criticism would find LDS leaders' views radical or evil. In fact, LDS beliefs on the matter accord well with many other Christian denominations. Those who vilify LDS belief on this point tend to be at the extreme end of the debate about scriptural inerrancy, and would also reject a modern creedal, orthodox scholar's views.

The Latter-day Saints believe that the Bible is true. It is inspired and inspiring, having been inspired by God and written by prophets, apostles, and disciples of Jesus Christ.

In 1979, the Church produced its own King James Bible, complete with a set of footnotes and cross references, as well as translational notes and study helps

Prior to this publication, the Church purchased most of its King James Bibles from Cambridge University Press. Does this sound like an organization that is using the Bible merely as a public relations gimmick? If so, millions of members were never told. The Church and its members have a deep love and appreciation for the Word of God as found in the Bible.

The bold assertion that the LDS do not value the Bible is amusing. There is no presentation of statistics, only anecdotal claims that first, LDS members do not read the Bible and are not familiar with it, and second, that they constantly hear from their leaders that the Bible is less than trustworthy.

In a survey published in July 2001, Barna Research Group, Ltd. (BRG) made the following observations:

The study also revealed that barely half of all Protestant adults (54%) read the Bible during a typical week. Barna pointed out that Mormons are more likely to read the Bible during a week than are Protestants-even though most Mormons do not believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.[1]

BRG is not affiliated with the LDS Church, nor was the LDS Church involved in the survey. Members of the LDS Church likewise would not categorize their faith in this fashion—they do, in fact, regard the Bible as authoritative and the Word of God. Yet the survey indicated that they certainly do read the Bible consistently. Also, over the course of two years out of every four years, every member of the Church is asked to read and study the entire text of the Bible as part of the Church's Sunday School curriculum. Asked by whom? By the leaders of the LDS Church.

Early LDS study of biblical languages

One of the often-neglected events in LDS history happened in 1836. Joseph Smith arranged for a Hebrew scholar to come and teach Hebrew to the members of the LDS Church in Kirtland Ohio. The members of the Church had already been studying the Hebrew language, having purchased some grammars, a Hebrew Bible, and a lexicon, and had previously attempted to hire a teacher. The Hebrew scholar who came was Joshua Seixas. He spent several weeks instructing many of the members of the Church in Hebrew.[2] Why the interest in the Hebrew we might ask? Clearly it was to be able to (in the words of Pope Pius XII) 'explain the original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern.'

What this shows is that not only were the early LDS aware of the challenges associated with the Bible, but that they were just as interested in going back to the original language and to the original texts (if possible) as was the rest of Christendom who were aware of these discrepancies. Despite the critics' unfounded assertions to the contrary, there has never been a leader of the LDS Church who has ever suggested that the Bible was not suitable for study and for learning the Gospel due to any shortcomings it may have.

The Book of Mormon on the Bible

Critics often discuss two of Nephi's statements regarding the Bible as found in the Book of Mormon. Nephi's perspective is that of modern Latter-day Saints: The Bible contains truth from God. However, it is still the work of men, and is only as reliable as the men who wrote, translated and copied it.

It is interesting that the Book of Mormon itself has begun to be seen as a witness to the textual criticism of the Bible. Source critical theory of the Old Testament splits the story of David and Goliath into two separate accounts that were later merged into the common story that we have today.[3] Scholars believe these two traditions represent an earlier source and a later source. One of the primary evidences for this argument is the fact that some of the added material is missing from the Septuagint (LXX). In a paper presented at the 2001 FAIR Conference, Benjamin McGuire presented evidence that Nephi, in borrowing from the story of David and Goliath, relied on a text that did not have the added or late material.[4] This would be in harmony with current scholarship of the Old Testament, which indicates that this material was added at the time of the captivity in Babylon, and certainly after Nephi had left Jerusalem with his Brass Plates.


Notes

  1. The full survey, entitled "Protestants, Catholics and Mormons Reflect Diverse Levels of Religious Activity," can be found at the Barna Web site at www.barna.org.
  2. Perhaps as many as 120 members of the LDS Church studied under Seixas while he was in Kirtland.
  3. See, for example, Emmanuel Tov, "The Composition of 1 Samuel 16-18 in the Light of the Septuagint Version," in Jeffrey H. Tigay, Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 97-130.
  4. Benjamin McGuire, "Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi" (text), or video.


Notes