Monday, February 23, 2009

The Bible- Plain and Precious Truths

In one of my earliest posts, I made a bold statement about the Holy Bible, but one that has been said before. I wish to justify and expound this statement now. In the post “About the Book of Mormon,” I stated, “However, both accidentally and purposefully, many plain and precious truths have been lost or taken away from the Bible.”

As Latter-day Saints, we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly (see Articles of Faith 1:8). This statement, as one blog follower pointed out, is obvious because “people of all religions only believe their religious texts to be inspired as far as they are translated correctly.” He went on to also make the point that, “The implication, then, is not that the Bible should only be trusted when translated correctly (which is kind of obvious, I think), but that the Bible has not been correctly translated.” Perfect. The “claim” is that the Bible has not been correctly translated. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 327).

Another one of the bases of this statement comes from Nephi, a prophet who fled with his family from his home in Jerusalem and was guided by the Lord to the American continents 600 years before the birth of the Savior. The Lord showed Nephi a vision, in which Nephi saw what would happen to the Bible, which he refers to as the book that, “proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew.”

From 1 Nephi 13:20-29:

20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

22 And I said unto him: I know not.

23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

The Bible is not untrue because it has been translated so many times and plain and precious things have been lost and taken from its pages. The Bible is still true; the words contained therein are still the words of the Lord through His prophets and the words of the Savior Himself. The principles taught in the Bible are true and we will be happier when we live by them. The commandments recorded in the Bible are true and the Lord blesses us when we live by them. The Bible just is no longer as pure as it was when penned by the original authors. These discrepancies are both purposeful and accidental. However, God does not expect us to guess what His words mean and we do not have to go without the blessings of living by the teachings no longer contained in completeness in the Bible. God continues to speak to His children, and He has once again restored those plain and precious truths that were lost in translation.

The Lord has restored those plain and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has another book, the Book of Mormon. But the Church has so much more than that. It has the Doctrine of Covenants, the books of Moses and Abraham, and countless modern revelations in the form of talks given in the General Conferences of the Church, articles in the Church magazines, and other instances when the Lord’s present-day apostles and prophets have spoken. With all the revelation and all of the teachings present in the LDS church, none of the books or revelations detracts, distracts, or takes away from the Bible and the teachings contained therein. On the contrary, since the words uttered forth by the Lord’s prophets and apostles are, in fact, the words of God the Father Himself, they only contribute to, help clarify, and ultimately support the Bible. Elder M. Russell Ballard (1928-present) said, “The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor de-emphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it. The Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible, and both testify of Christ” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign, May 2007, 82).

Indeed, the Bible is a miracle and a blessing. The apostle Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) stated:

". . . the Bible is a book of books. It has enlightened and influenced the Christian world generally as no other book has ever done. Such measure of truth as was preserved in its pages (as soon as this truth became known to people generally) was instrumental in bringing to pass the Renaissance and of laying the foundation for the restoration of the gospel. When the Bible is read under the guidance of the Spirit, and in harmony with the many latter-day revelations which interpret and make plain its more mysterious parts, it becomes one of the most priceless volumes known to man" (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1979, 82-83).

Joseph Smith taught that readers, “can also see God’s own handwriting in the [Bible]: and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it; and when once discovered, it will not only receive an acknowledgment, but an obedience to all its heavenly precepts” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 56).

The Bible is true. It is a magnificent book that has only survived through the ages by the will and power of God. It is not a book that was written to make people feel good, to give people commandments and guidelines by which to live, and influence society to be a little better. God commanded the prophets to write His words and His teachings, which were later complied to make the Bible so that we, His children, would know the pathway back to Him.

The Bible is not to be taken lightly, the teachings are not traditions that people follow because their grandparents lived by the Bible; the words in the Bible came from God. Because one has a Bible on the shelf at home does not make on a believer, does not grant salvation, and should not be used to relieve one of the guilt that comes from ignoring the teachings of the Savior. The ten commandments, the beatitudes, the miracles Jesus Christ performed on the earth, the words of Paul are not simply good counsel that helps the world be a better place and to give people a reason to go to church on Christmas and Easter. The Bible was written to be read, to be studied, its teachings to be applied in our everyday lives. So very many sacrifices were made to preserve the version of the Bible we have today. People gave their lives to preserve the sacred text and to enable their posterity—us—to know that God loves them.

The Bible is also not a tool to be used to discriminate, to hate, to judge, or to condemn others. It contains many hard and harsh teachings against those who ignore or forsake the words of the Lord. But our place is not to enforce those teachings. “Judge not that ye be not judged,” taught our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Our place is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to strive for perfection in ourselves even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Our place is to lovingly, gently, with righteous, soft intentions share the message of the gospel of peace and proclaim the life and teachings of the Savior, that all of our brothers and sisters on the earth may know the blessings contained within the pages of the Bible.

The Bible is true. The teachings of Jesus Christ change lives. The Bible tells of the Atonement, of the suffering and miracle of the life and death of our Brother and Savior Jesus Christ. Although incomplete and to me slightly confusing at times, the Bible is the word of God and is to be prized among our most precious possessions.

Jesus Christ atoned for each of our sins and shortcomings. I know that He loves us and that our Father in Heaven loves us. I know that they both desire our happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. I know this because the Lord speaks to us through His prophets whose words are recorded in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and in modern revelations.

For further reading:

M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign, May 2007, 80–82

Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘My Words … Never Cease’,” Ensign, May 2008, 91–94

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 83–86