Sunday, March 22, 2009

Open Canon of Scripture

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9).

I have been debating for quite some time how to address the topics of prophets and an open canon of scripture. I cannot figure out how effectively to separate the two and I feel that a post that encompasses both of the subjects might be too lengthy for any of you to have the desire to read.

However, I found two articles that perfectly explain the concept of an open canon. These articles are the bulk of this post; they explain everything so well that I don't have much to say beyond what is said in these articles.

The first is a speech given by Elder Hugh B. Brown at BYU in 1955 entitled, “The Profile of a Prophet.”

The second is a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during the May 2008 General Conference entitled, “My Words … Never Cease.”

Both of these talks beautifully illustrate the concept of an open canon of scripture, that God speaks to man in our day, and that He continues to call prophets to lead us as He did in Biblical times. The concept is almost intuitive; God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He spoke and He speaks both to prophets for the benefit of mankind and to His children personally for their own benefit.

President John Taylor taught this of continuing revelation:

Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck. (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943], p. 34.)

Quite seriously, I don’t think that I even need to write anything further because the two articles and the quote above explain everything so well.

However, I am so grateful that the canon of scripture is still open.

I am grateful for a God and Father in Heaven who loves me enough to continue to talk to me and help me with my trials that are unique to me in this day and age.

I am grateful that He, through His modern prophets, clarifies ancient scripture and expounds on His doctrine laid out by the prophets in Old and New Testament times.

I am grateful that the Great Jehovah, even Jesus Christ, called Adam, Moses, Noah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others to preach the gospel, lead His church, and write their words that subsequent generations may benefit from them.

I am grateful that Jesus Christ Himself descended from His throne on high to live and die for me.

I am grateful that He called Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul, and other apostles and prophets for the perfecting of the saints, that we may be instructed more perfectly (see Ephesians 4:11-14).

I am grateful that the Bible was compiled and that the Lord preserved that sacred text for our day.

I am grateful that inspired men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale withstood persecution and eventually became martyrs in order to translate the Bible into a language that the common people could read and understand.

I am grateful that Gutenberg was inspired to invent the press with moveable type, which made possible the printing and mass distribution of the Holy Bible.

I am grateful to the colonists who, under God, established the United States of America, a land of religious freedom where people are free to read the Bible and worship in a way they find appropriate.

I am grateful that Joseph Smith was born into a family that studied the Bible together.

I am grateful that he knew the Bible is the word of God intended to help man in life’s journey.

I am grateful that “at length [he] came to the conclusion that [he] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else [he] must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (Joseph Smith—History 1:13; see also James 1:5) so that he could know where to find truth and find out which church is the true church—namely the one Christ established when He lived on the earth.

I am grateful that in the spring of 1820, the morning broke and the shadows fled and God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph in answer to his humble prayer.

I am grateful that They restored Christ’s church in its fulness to the earth and restored the missing doctrines, calling apostles and prophets, restoring the keys of the priesthood, and giving us the Book of Mormon.

I am grateful that the Lord spoke to His children in the ancient Americas and that they wrote His words.

I am grateful that I have the words of the prophets of Israel, the words of the prophets in the Americas, and the words of the prophets today.

I am grateful that the keys of priesthood authority are passed down to each new prophet that we may all receive the saving ordinances of baptism and more.

I am grateful that God speaks to His prophets in these latter days.

I am grateful for the instruction and help the prophets give that I may know how to be happy and successful in this life, that I may keep an eternal perspective, and that I may have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (see D&C 59:23).

I am grateful that through the prophets I know that families are forever and that if I live according to the teachings God gives through His prophets, I may live together with my family for eternity.

I am grateful that the heavens are open, that God is and not was, that he speaketh and not spake.

Indeed, I am grateful for an open canon of scripture.

To all of you the invitation is extended to come, listen to a prophet’s voice. Find out for yourselves that God continues to call prophets in these latter days. Read their words and ask to know if they are from God, for by their fruits ye shall know them (see Matt 7:20). The Lord hears and answers prayers in every day and age and He will hear and answer yours.


Further reading:

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Great Things Which God Has Revealed,” Ensign, May 2005, 80

Charles Didier, “Man’s Search for Divine Truth,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 48

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104–7