Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Orson Pratt condemns the Bible

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Orson Pratt condemns the Bible?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 383-4 (hardback and paperback)

  • LDS leaders "were condemning the Bible..."

Author's Sources

Endnote 31, page 603 (hardback); page 601 (paperback)

  • Orson Pratt, "The Bible and Tradition, without Further Revelation, an Insufficient Guide," Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon—No. 3," December 1, 1850, 47. Reprinted in Orson Pratt, Orson Pratt's Works, vol. 2.


Pratt nowhere attacks the Bible, but merely attacks the false (and unbiblical) notion that the Bible is sufficient for all the needs of the Church of Christ. Pratt even bemoans those who:

...seeing the contradictions, the vagueness, and the uncertainty of all modern religions, professing to have emanated from the same God, have been so disgusted that they have renounced the Bible as a fable invented by priestcraft; others, fearing to do this, have poured over whole libraries of uninspired commentaries, seeking after the true meaning of that which they believe God has revealed; and at last, finding the learned commentators as widely disagreed as the sects themselves, they have concluded that the Bible is a great mystery and that God did not intend to have it understood when He revealed it.

He concludes by outlining the fundamental problem:

Others still having a little more perseverance, and believing that God would not send a revelation which He did not wish the people to understand, have with great diligence collected vast numbers of the most ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the sacred books, but here they find themselves utterly confounded: these ancient manuscripts, which they had hopes would reveal the truth, are perverted and corrupted in almost every text, so that they find "an incredible number of different readings" on every page and almost every sentence.
From this heterogeneous mass of contradictory manuscripts they give an English translation, and call it the Bible; thus leaving millions to guess out the true meaning and quarrel, and contend with each other because they do not guess alike.

Detailed Analysis

Leaders did not "condemn the Bible," but (as the title of Elder Pratt's work shows) argued that the divided state of Christendom was ample testimony that the Bible alone did not seem sufficient to settle all doctrinal arguments and difficulties. It is difficult to question this, with various Christian sects which continue to proliferate.

Some representative quotes from Elder Pratt's pamphlet include:

  • "There are many things practiced by both Romish and Protestant churches which the scriptures do not clearly reveal, therefore they must both of them consider that the scriptures are not a sufficient guide. We are informed in scripture that marriage is ordained of God, but we are not informed in the scripture who has the right to officiate in this ceremony. Who can tell from the New Testament anything about the order to be observed in relation to this subject? We read that "what God hath joined together let no man put asunder"; but through what particular office does God join together the sexes in matrimony? Can laymen officiate? Can those out of the Church officiate? Can a woman officiate? Can the parties join themselves together in matrimony, in the name of the Lord? Who can answer these questions from the Bible alone? No one. The Bible does not guide the Church in this important ordinance."
  • "Who can tell from the Bible whether Teachers and Deacons have authority to baptize, or not? Baptism is an important ordinance, and should be administered by proper authority, but can anyone in the Church administer it? Can private members baptize? Can women baptize? Does the Bible anywhere forbid them, or say that they are not authorized? John the Baptist, who held the Priesthood of Aaron, had authority to baptize. Apostles, Elders and Evangelists baptized. Did the authority extend to any lower officers or members? The Bible does not inform us; therefore the Bible is not a sufficient guide."
  • "Is infant baptism right or wrong? Does the Bible anywhere teach infant baptism by command or example? If infant baptism be right, the Bible has not informed us of it, therefore it must be an insufficient guide. If infant baptism be wrong, at what age should children be baptized? Upon this question the Bible also is silent."
  • "If Protestants suppose the Bible to be a sufficient guide, as they are constantly telling their followers, will they be so kind as to point out what part of that sacred book called Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Wesley and hosts of others, to preach, baptize and administer many other ordinances such as the ancient Church administered? Indeed, what part of the Bible calls and commissions any of the ministers of the present day? It can be said without any fear of contradiction, that the Bible nowhere has called a single individual to the work of the ministry for the last seventeen centuries. Therefore, for the calling of the ministry, the Bible is an insufficient guide."
  • In those sacred books written by prophets seers and apostles which have not descended to our day, but which we know once existed, as their names are referred to in scripture, there may be many great and important doctrines and ordinances revealed that are not contained in our scriptures. Indeed, no one, without further revelation, knows whether even one-hundredth part of the doctrines and ordinances of salvation are contained in the few books of scripture which have descended to our times, how then, can it be decided that they are a sufficient guide? May there not be some great and important things contained "in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah, and in the visions of Iddo, the seer and in the book of Gad, the seer"? (2 Chron. 9:29.--1 Chron, 29:29) See: Lost_scripture
  • Many Protestants say they take the Bible as their only rule of faith; if the Bible is to be taken as our only guide, it is of infinite importance that the divine authenticity of the Bible be infallibly established. How do the Protestants prove the truth of the Bible? What evidence have they that the book of Matthew was inspired of God, or any other of the books of the New Testament? The only evidence they have is tradition. They have received into their canon such books only as tradition accredits to be genuine; while those books which have not a sufficiency of tradition to establish their divine inspiration, are rejected from the canon. See: Bible complete and sufficient? / Sola scriptura
  • Would God reveal a system of religion expressed in such indefinite terms that a thousand different religions should grow out of it? Has God revealed the system of salvation in such vague, uncertain language on purpose to delight Himself with the quarrels and contentions of His creatures in relation to it? Would God think so much of fallen men, that He would give His Only Begotten Son to die for them, and then reveal His doctrine to them in a language altogether ambiguous and uncertain? Such questions, doubtless, have passed through the mind of many a religiously-inclined person. Millions have been sensible of the midnight darkness, but have not known the true cause; they have acknowledged that they could not understand a very great proportion of the Bible, yet they have believed it to be the word of God; they have wondered that the Bible should be their only rule of faith, and yet so few be able to understand it alike.