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Mormon Beliefs: The Bible and Other Scriptures

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes nicknamed Mormons, began with a Bible. In 1830, a teenager named Joseph Smith was reading the Bible. He came to James 1:5, in the New Testament, which said that if a person lacks wisdom, he should ask God for the knowledge he needs, and, if he asks in complete faith, he will receive the knowledge he needs. Joseph became very excited by this passage, because he had an important question he needed to have answered. He had been visiting many of the local churches, trying to decide which one to join. Each claimed to have the word of God, but each contradicted the others. He understood that they could not all be equally right if they disagreed on essential truths, but he didn’t know how to tell who was right.

Bible, Book of MormonJoseph Smith went into the woods near his home to pray for the wisdom he needed. During this prayer, he received a vision in which God and Jesus Christ appeared to Him. God introduced Jesus Christ and then Jesus instructed Joseph not to join any of the churches because none had the complete truth.

When Joseph Smith reached adulthood, Jesus sent an angel, Moroni, to prepare Joseph to become the first prophet of the restoration. This restoration included being led to a place where ancient records had been hidden away by Moroni during his mortal life. They contained the history and spiritual teachings of a group of people who came from the Holy Lands during Old Testament times to what is now called the American continent. Although Mormons in the past sometimes presumed they came to an empty continent, since no other people are mentioned, today, this was never canonized and today most believe, due to population studies done by LDS scholars, that there were others here and that the Book of Mormon people mingled with them, possibly converting others and intermarrying.

These people left behind a record of their dealings with God. This record includes fervent testimonies of Jesus Christ and it validates both the Bible and the divinity of the Savior. It is impossible to believe in the Book of Mormon and not believe in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, since the book testifies of both.

Because Jesus Christ appeared to the people of the Book of Mormon after His death, there can be no doubt of His divinity. There are those today who try to suggest Jesus was not divine, did not rise from the dead, and did not perform the atonement. They suggest He simply mislead the few people who knew Him. However, when one reads that He appeared to another group of people on another continent after He died. This leaves no question of His divinity. They had no way of knowing the details of His life, ministry, and death except through a personal visit.

Mormons believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon are companion scripture. Both serve the same purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. While some insist a Bible is all a Christian needs, a brief look at all the churches that use the Bible will tell us this isn’t so. If the Bible alone were enough, there would be no need for so many churches and there would be no conflicting doctrine. The Bible was not written as a single document. It was compiled long after the death of Jesus Christ by a committee of people who sorted through the various religious scrolls and decided which ones were valid or necessary. Not everyone agreed on the choices, which is why Catholics, for instance, have different books in their Bible.

In addition, the Bible has been translated many times. These translations often serve to meet a specific political or religious need of the time and so they are not always accurate. Mormons believe the books of the Bible were perfect when they were written, and that those who compiled it were inspired. However, since each translation is different, the accuracy of the translations is always a factor to consider. The Bible is considered today to be as accurate as the translation we are reading.

Mormons use the King James translation of the Bible in English. In other languages, the church has often designated a particular translation to be the official version. While the Mormons have created a “Mormon” edition, the actual Biblical text is unchanged from the King James translation. The “Mormon” portion of it is the chapter summaries, the footnotes, and the study materials that are included.

Mormons also use two other books of scripture. The Pearl of Great Price is a small book containing a number of important religious documents, including translations of ancient scriptures, excerpts from Joseph Smith’s life, and the Articles of Faith. The Articles of Faith are thirteen statements of core beliefs written by Joseph Smith at the request of an editor. An additional book of scripture is the Doctrine and Covenants, containing modern revelations from God.

Mormons spend a great deal of time in scripture study. Children ages 18 months to age three study stories from all the scriptures in church. Four to seven-year-olds have a two year rotation of scripture study in their Sunday classes. One year they study the Old and New Testaments, with a focus on the life of the Savior. The second year they study the Doctrine and Covenants, Church history, and the Book of Mormon. From age eight through adulthood, there is a four year rotation of scripture study in church classes. The Bible is studied for two years, the Book of Mormon for one year, and the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history is studied for one year.

In addition to these Sunday classes, Mormon teenagers attend a class most school days in which they do an in-depth study of the scriptures. It follows the same four year rotation, but on different years, so the teens are studying two books of scripture each year. College students also attend in-depth religion classes and choose from a variety of courses based on scriptures and church teachings.

Mormons are also taught to study the scriptures in their homes. They are encouraged to hold both family and personal scripture studies. There is no set pattern for these studies and families and individuals create personalized study programs for themselves.

Additional Resources:

Read the Book of Mormon for free online.

Learn some basic Mormon beliefs.

Learn about Jesus Christ in Mormonism.

Unofficial articles on the Book of Mormon.