Two Books, One Witness

I’m going to cover my accuser’s second argument mentioned in my previous blog post. In his mind, the doctrine of the Bible and the doctrine of the Book of Mormonobviously were not in accordance with one another, even to the point that he admitted he would never prayerfully consider the divinity of the Book of Mormon.

Those that claim the Book of Mormon teaches doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible are simply choosing to interpret the Bible only one way. They are the ones that blind themselves from other possibilities. Think about this: how many lines can you draw through a single point? The answer would be… infinity. You can interpret the Bible an infinite amount of ways. One says this, another says that. But engender another point into this scenario, and now how many lines can be drawn through those points? Only one. Only one straight line may be drawn, therefore there can only be one interpretation. Any other line drawn will be curved and littered with logical fallacies.

Let’s look at one example: Romans 3, verses 27 and 28,

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The born-again might say, “Aha! Faith alone is what saves us. Our deeds in this life mean nothing.”

The devout Catholic might respond, “Oh, but sir, Paul is speaking of the Mosaic law. Paul was speaking to those still practicing that law, explaining that the rituals have no effect, but faith in the Savior is the key element.”

They could turn to James and read how our faith must be shown by our works, or to the words of the Savior Himself saying, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

You could then go to Ephesians 2:8 and 9, which reads,

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So what do we make of all this? It’s clear that these verses can create quite a difference in such a simplistic doctrine as faith and works. Let’s turn to the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi wrote,

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Ah! So it is by grace that we are saved, but after we have put forth our honest effort. So we see that we cannot have one without the other. You can be the most righteous person in the world, yet still be damned without the grace of Christ. But the atoning power of the Savior will not be in effect unless we take the effort to apply it in our lives. We will inevitably fall short of what God expects of us, but we still have agency to make good choices out of our own power.

This is one simple analogy, but one to show that the Book of Mormon serves to supportthe Bible, not tear it down. I know for myself that, like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have considered it, pondered it, and prayed to God about it. The Spirit has told me it’s true. I invite you to do the same.

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Articles of Faith IX: Revelation

Number nine is all about revelation.

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.

God continues to speak to us and reveal His word. His words and works never cease. In regards to the scriptures, Latter-day Saints do not believe in a closed canon. God is not limited to one book or one period of time. But just as He has done since the beginning of time, God still speaks to prophets today, revealing His word through them.

I’m going to use some verses from the Book of Mormon to explain this, since they state it better than I ever will. It’s a bit to read, but it’s worth it.

Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.

And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.

Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. (2 Nephi 9:6-10)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a progressive church. By progressive I mean literally it is a church of progress. Living prophets and apostles do exist, and they are the Lord’s instruments in revealing His word to us. If God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, His works cannot and will not ever cease.

 

Articles of Faith VIII: Two Records

Number eight is where a major difference is shown between the LDS church and “mainstream” Christian denominations.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Once again we’ll break it down.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God.

This reaffirms our devotion to the Holy Bible. In the eyes of Latter-day Saints, it is God’s word. We love and cherish the Bible and the message it bears, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In no way do we view the Holy Bible as anything less than that. When we list our standard works (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), the Bible is always first.

As far as it is translated correctly.

It is true that we do not believe the Bible to be infallible. Through centuries of translations, corruption has leaked in. However, it has, for the most part, remained intact. Some translations are more correct than others. The official version the LDS church uses is the King James Version. We believe it to be the most correct version, and also love it for its more… shall we say…. poetic… text.

We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

The Book of Mormon has only gone through one translation, by the prophet Joseph Smith. (Yes, changes have been made throughout the years.) The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It does not add or remove from the Bible, but serves to reaffirm the Bible’s message.

Together these two records bear testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. Many believe that Mormons regard the Book of Mormon as superior than the Bible. I’m sure there are some that actually do, and such are individual opinions. The Book of Mormon does serve a unique purpose, however, apart from the Bible. It serves as a witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, and that through him Jesus Christ restored His church.

The Book of Mormon, however, does not contain Christ’s mortal ministry or the acts and writings of the apostles. It does not contain the history of the children of Israel in the Old Testament. Therefore, both records are of equal value. They are two records, but they are one testimony of Jesus Christ.

From the Ground to the Heavens

Pride is said to be the mother of all other sins. It’s true, that pretty much every kind of sin can be traced back to an issue of pride. In the book of Luke, Christ presents a parable to illustrate the seriousness of a prideful mindset.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

This Pharisee is as prideful as any person can get. One would note that he is not a thief or an adulterer. In fact, apparently he fasts twice a week and even gives tithes of most of his possessions, which are most likely numerous. This man certainly follows the letter of the law, but he completely misses the spirit of the law. Meaning, on the outside all seems to be good. He obeys all the major commandments and makes sure his life is in accordance to the more temporal of God’s laws. However, the underlying reasons behind these commandments he has either ignored or simply missed. God’s commandments bring us closer to Christ. Obviously, this prideful Pharisee is anywhere but close to Christ. In fact, note the wording “prayed thus with himself.” He’s not even praying to God, but instead, he’s offering a narcissistic prayer to feed his ego.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)

Publicans were the tax collectors. Just like today… they were despised. So much, in fact, that they were thrown into the same category as the overall sinners, the thieves and harlots and such. “Publicans and sinners” is a common phrase in the New Testament. Now, tax collecting doesn’t make one a sinner, ’cause we’re all sinners. This humble observation is something the Pharisee missed, but the publican remembered quite well.

He acknowledged the fact that he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy to be upon him. Although the Pharisee most likely kept the law better than him, this man’s humility and his admittance of sin justified him.

What do we learn from this parable? We are all sinners, and we all rely on God to support us. With Him we are truly nothing, capable of achieving nothing. If we boast of our own strength, we will be left to our own strength (which is nothing). But if we are humble and acknowledge our dependence upon Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they will lift us up.

 

Bible + Book of Mormon = Prophecy

There are multiple prophecies in the Bible concerning the Book of Mormon. One such is a prophecy concerning Joseph, the son of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Each of Israel’s sons receives a prophecy. Joseph’s is this,

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. (Genesis 49:22)

The beginning of the Book of Mormon follows a family that leaves Jerusalem (about 600 B.C.) and sails across the ocean to the American continents. The patriarch of this family is Lehi, who is a descendant of Joseph. Truly, this prophecy is more literal than it seems. Joseph’s descendants, his branches, most definitely ran over the wall. In fact, they ran over the ocean and into a new land.

Other Biblical prophecies about the Book of Mormon can be found, such as the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph becoming one (Ezekiel 37), or the sealed book that is delivered to the unlearned man (Isaiah 29).

The truth of the matter is that the Bible and the Book of Mormon support each other. They both testify that Jesus is the Christ. I’ve met many people that say the Book of Mormon is false, and that it contradicts the Bible. If I was more bold I’d call them fools, for it is foolish to think such things. Many of them have never read the Book of Mormon… many of them haven’t even read much of the Bible.

Well, I’m here to tell you that these two books go hand in hand. They support each other, not contradict. If you don’t believe me, read the Book of Mormon. If you’ve already read it and still disagree, then you did not understand what you read, and you did not search it diligently. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ. I am a witness of that. But don’t take my word for it. Read the Book of Mormon and listen to the Spirit of God.

The Brass Serpent

The children of Israel were a pretty moody bunch. Most of the time they just complained against Moses and against the Lord. Despite the fact that they were freed from the Egyptians, no longer forced to be slaves, they still found things to be unhappy about. Food was a big one. The Lord provided plenty of manna, but apparently bread falling the sky didn’t cut it for ’em.

The Lord didn’t exactly appreciate all the complaints. He had made them a free people and was giving them free bread to sustain them. How could they possibly sit around and whine? So, the Lord sent fiery serpents to bite them. As a kid, I always hoped that was a reference to dragons, but it was probably just a bunch of snakes. So a lot of the Israelites died from poison. The ones that lived thought it might be a good idea to go to Moses and see if he could work something out between them and the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9)

So the Lord tells Moses to make a brass snake and set it on a pole. The Israelites that were suffering from the poison would be healed if they would only look upon the snake. Such a simple thing! Just as the snake was lifted up for all to see, so was Jesus Christ lifted up. All that look upon Him can be healed.

Some of the Israelites, because of stubborn pride, and perhaps because the task seemed too simple, didn’t look and were not healed. In this way, we can sometimes shirk the mercies of Christ and His healing power. Our pride might take hold of us and we refuse to look to Him. This is a mistake, and can only lead to us perishing.

When it comes down to it though, it really is this simple. If we want to be healed of our afflictions, we just need to look to the Savior Jesus Christ. Follow His example and be obedient to His gospel and God’s commandments. If we do so, we can be recipients of His love and healing power.

Of Sheep and Goats

It’s impossible to earn your way into Heaven. Everyone knows that. No human power can bring about salvation. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved. But doesn’t Jesus Christ bid us to follow Him? Did not the apostles state that He, Christ, set the example for us to follow?

I ask you, what did Jesus do? Perhaps a better question would be to ask what He didn’t do, but I’ll answer the first one. Christ carried out the will of the Father. He performed miracles, forgave sins, and set the ultimate example of righteousness for us to follow. He is the Good Shepherd, and those that follow Him are His sheep. Those that do not follow Him are goats. We read in Matthew 25, verses 33 through 40…

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The goats, on the other hand (literally), did not tend to the hungry, the poor, the sick and afflicted, or the needy in general. They did not work righteousness. They still, however, acknowledged Christ as their Lord. They believed, but they did not follow Jesus’ example. They didn’t do the will of the Father. Christ said Himself that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of the Father.

The prophet Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, stated,

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, but only after all we can do, for we will be judged by our righteousness. So don’t be a goat! Believe in Christ. Believe He can save you, and then follow His example and work righteousness.

 

Living Scripture

I gotta be honest here. Something that kind of annoys me is when people think Mormons don’t respect the Bible, or that we don’t hold it in any significant regard, or something along those lines. Let me put it simply. We love the Bible. Yes, we believe it is holy scripture. We read it and treasure its teachings, especially those that come from the Savior Himself. We do not think the Book of Mormon is better than the Bible.

But if someone truly wants to understand how we view scripture, they need to understand that we believe in living prophets and apostles.

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:20)

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has called prophets since the beginning of the world, so why would He stop? If you want to understand us, understand this, that we believe in modern-day prophets and apostles.

So what is the Bible? Words of the prophets and apostles, right? Their word is scripture. Whether it is from the mouth of the Lord or the mouth of His prophet, it is the same. It is scripture. The prophet today is Thomas S. Monson. When he speaks to the Church twice a year in General Conference or at any other time, it is scripture. We believe in modern-day revelation from prophets and apostles. Therefore, scripture has not ceased. The words of the prophets are scripture. Each time they speak, it is scripture. Yes, the Bible is scripture, but there is more. The Book of Mormon is more scripture, but still there is more.

I testify to you that God’s words have not ceased. He still speaks to us through prophets and apostles, just like He did anciently. Their words are His words; they are living scripture.

The Search for Happiness: The Iron Rod

When Lehi told his family of his vision, Nephi desired to see it for himself. Because of his great desire and unwavering faith, the Spirit visited him and showed him the dream. When Nephi is witnessing the vision, the thing that Lehi talked about are explained. The symbolism is made clear.

The iron rod is one of these symbols. In the vision, Nephi sees the iron rod along the straight and narrow path, extending to the tree of life. The multitudes of people in the dream are following the path to the tree by holding on to the rod of iron. Mists of darkness envelope the people. Many of them let go of the rod and become lost. But those who hold tight to the rod eventually make it to the tree of life and eat of its fruit.

Nephi understood this symbolism.

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God. (1 Nephi 11:25)

So what is the word of God? The scriptures, naturally. But what exactly are the scriptures? The Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern-day revelation. Essentially, the words of God and Jesus Christ and the prophets.

Nephi, the same that saw his father’s vision, said,

Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32:3)

The words of Christ and the words of His prophets (which are the same) will tell us all things that we should do. And if we should heed the words of the prophets now passed, then surely all the more reason to heed the words of the living prophets.

I testify that holding strongly to the word of God in His holy scriptures will keep us on the straight and narrow path to eternal life. I know that we also have living prophets today, found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We must listen to their counsel just as thoughtfully as we study the words of their ancient predecessors. The iron rod leading to the tree of life is indeed the word of God. It will safely guide us through.

A Second Witness

The Book of Mormon is something that is often misunderstood. I’ve met a lot of people that refer to it as the “Mormon Bible”. Some people don’t think that Latter-day Saints even believe in the Bible, or that we don’t put the Bible into any high regard.

Here’s the truth: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” ~ Joseph Smith (Articles of Faith 8)

The Holy Bible is the word of God. Mormons firmly believe this. We love the Bible for what it contains, especially concerning Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry and the dealings of His original twelve apostles. Through the centuries it has gone through numerous translations and unfortunately has been, to a degree, altered by man. It is a miracle that it has survived throughout the years. No doubt God has preserved it. But corruption has entered in. Many precious truths that it once contained have been changed or removed by those under the influence of Satan.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, is exactly what the subtitle suggests. It is another testament. The Bible contains the Old and New Testaments; the Book of Mormon contains Another Testament. It does not add to or take away from the Bible, but is simply more of God’s word. The Book of Mormon serves to support and complement the Bible, and it gives important and necessary doctrines that the Bible lacks. Together they go hand in hand to testify and teach of Jesus Christ.

If you don’t believe me, read the Book of Mormon. See for yourself what it contains.

This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2 Corinthians 13:1)

The Book of Mormon is a second witness of Jesus Christ. Read it and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, find out for yourself. I can promise you that if you do so sincerely, wanting to know if it is true, and having faith in Jesus Christ, you will receive your answer.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (1 John 21:25)