The Bible and the Book of Mormon

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Consistency in scriptures

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Scripture By Ganesh Cherian

The Old Testament
The New Testament
The Book of Mormon

When Moses under the direction of God organized the children of Israel into a church body as mentioned in the previous chapter. One of the events that accompanied this reorganization was the writing of scripture. It is not clear when Moses wrote each of the books Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy. But it played an important role in establishing the Church of Israel as a real entity. For instance the Children of Israel most probably had scripture prior to this time. In fact the writing of prominent past prophets including Israel and Joseph, would have been very sacred and widely read. Yet it was necessary for Moses to write Genesis which gave a brief history of the world and the creation of Israel as a chosen nation. Maybe as a Prophet he was also able to expand on the special role Israel had and abridge the words of prior Prophets. The other four books that Moses wrote detailed church history, law and the covenants that Israel made. Most importantly all these books gave the Children of Israel something tangible, which they could refer to, in a knowledge that Moses was indeed receiving revelation from the Lord on their behalf. Israel understood that they were part of a living church where a living God gave revelation very personal and meaningful to them. Obviously there would have been some who questioned his authority to receive revelation and especially to write new scripture. Why wasn’t what we already had sufficient? Surely 2500 years of the writings of the Prophets from Adam to Joseph will have all the answers we will ever need! Maybe they even felt that since it had been a few hundred years since they had received revelation that in fact the heavens were sealed!

Likewise when Jesus began to organize his church in the first century, revelation was an important feature of the establishment of a new uncorrupted connection to God. Visitations of Angels, Voices from Heaven, Appearances of Past Prophets, Transfigurations, Visions, and with it New Scripture. While the ecclesiastical leaders of the time were probably expert in the scriptures they had strayed far from the truth of them. So much of the dialogue of the savior was about understanding the Old testament in the context of which it was given. He taught the same simple truths of the Gospel which had always been taught, but which had been lost though uninspired and corrupt leaders. These truths along with the writings of the Apostles are what make up our present New Testament.

So what does that tell us? Well for one thing new scripture is an important hallmark of a living church. Revelation and scripture go hand in hand. Therefore the only excuse for no new scripture is no revelation. And if that is the case then we are in trouble. However when you are in that position you don’t see it that way. Obviously the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first Century didn’t think they had a problem. They knew the scriptures, and had full justification that they were instructing the people in the right way. It is interesting to note that even with all that first hand knowledge of the scriptures they still disputed the doctrine of resurrection. Even with this major contention the one thing they were united on was that the Christians were wrong, and they fought fervently to oppose this "new" doctrine.

If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints indeed affirms a new connection to God, then it is expected that new revelation and most importantly new scripture would accompany this claim. Such is the Book of Mormon.

For some people, the idea of Scripture outside the realms of the Bible, is quite difficult to accept. Since the Bible has been held as the only connection we have with God, we guard it with much apprehension, fearing that anything else will take away our security and faith. Also many have built their lives around the culture associated with a particular faith, and accepting change is both humbling and challenging, especially when it involves families and friends that are not supportive. Such struggles have always been common to the Gospelof Jesus Christ, as already discussed early saints in the first Century faced these same trials.

With the closing of Revelations, stating that no one should add to or take away from this book, you could quite easy get the impression that nothing more is out there relating to the Lord.

Before we can really discuss the Book of Mormon and indeed continuing revelation, we need to know more about the make up and compilation of the Bible.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament begins with Moses and the children of Israel. I say that because while Genesis describes the beginning of the world and Adam and Eve. It really is an abridged version. Moses covers 2500 years of history in about the same amount of words that he uses to describe 40 years of history for the children of Israel. Moses was a prophet and likely to have known so much more than he wrote in the book of Genesis, indeed he mostly likely had access to the writings of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Israel and many more. So why did he only write such a small amount? I think that this was for two reasons. Firstly access to writings of previous prophets were probably available to the first readers of the book of Genesis, so it was unnecessary and impracticable to rewrite everything that was written. Also the purpose of the book of Genesis was to briefly state the heritage and lineage of the Children of Israel going back to Adam and most importantly highlight the promises and covenants given to their forefathers of which they had an inheritance. You’ll notice as you read Genesis that along with the references to major events, the spiritual parts of the book are in relation to the promises God gave to the Prophets and their families. So important were these promises that they were followed up in consequent generations even if they weren’t in the direct line that lead to Israel. However over time it was impossible to keep track of all people and the records of promised generations were lost as the people were separated.

From the time of Moses through to about 1000 BC The Children of Israel were united as a people. Then they divided into the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. By about 721 BC, the Kingdom of Israel and the ten tribes that made up that group, were conquered by the Assyrians and taken away.... never to be seen of again. So after this time the Old testament became the record, principally of the tribe of Judah, or the "Jews". The Old Testament then makes a close about 300 BC.

This raises some interesting problems. We can already see that we are missing some important records of the dealings of God with most of the people that he made explicit covenants with. We do not have any first hand records from any prophets prior to Moses nor their descendants (excluding the house of Israel). On top of that we do not have records of any of the Ten Lost tribes. What are we suppose to believe about these people? Did God fulfill his promises? Did he remember them despite their wickedness or captivity? Did he send them prophets? Did he reveal to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ? If God is to be consistent then the answer to all of these questions is YES. After all He delivered Israel from the Egyptians, and sent prophets to the captured Judah. So where is the evidence, where are the records which tell of these great events, obviously someone wrote them down. The truth, where ever it is, is not in the Old Testament, and it is not because it is not important, it is because it is not part of the history of the Jews, and we cant expect them to write about things that did not happen to them. As much as the Bible is a spiritual record it is also a history, and histories have limitations.

Some other points to note, is that many of the books of the Old Testament are not in Chronological order, so sometimes following the story line is difficult because it jumps around a little. Also the period between 300BC and Jesus Christ is not recorded in the Protestant Bible. However the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches have a series of books which fill in this time period and are contained within their Old Testament. They are referred to as the Apochrapha by the Protestants, and are mainly historical books detailing important Jewish Families. Up until the 19th Century all Bibles included these books, although it is clear from as early as Luther’s German Bible in the 15th Century that they weren’t as highly regarded. This brings up some interesting questions, is the Protestant or Catholic Bibles the most accurate? Also who had Authority and mandate to include or exclude these works?

Another thing to consider is that reference is made in the Old Testament to books which are not now available. These include: Book of the Covenant (Ex. 24:4, 7); Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14); Book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18); A Book of Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25); Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41); Books of Nathan and Gad (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 9:29); Prophecy of Ahijah and Visions of Iddo (2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22); Book of Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12:15); Book of Jehu (2 Chron. 20:34); Acts of Uzziah, written by Isaiah (2 Chron. 26:22); and Sayings of the Seers (2 Chron. 33:19). These obviously had authoritative and special meaning to the Prophets of the Old Testament. Why were they not carried through to us?

We also know of righteous groups of people other than the Tribes of Israel. The Old Testament tells of the Midianites (descendants of Abraham) who held the priesthood and had prophets, also Jonah’s mission to Ninevah (capital of Persia) highlights another huge empire who had the teachings of God. Surely these people would have written scripture?

In Summary our present Old Testament doesn’t contain all of Gods dealings with the people of this world. We really only have the writings of the House of Israel from approximately 1500BC to 700BC and the records of the tribe of Judah, down to the time of Christ (300 of those years in dispute as to whether it is scripture). Is this really a complete example of Gods dealings with all his Children?

The New Testament

The New Testament begins with the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which basically tell the story of Jesus. Acts then go on to tell the story of the Apostles and the early Church, followed by the letters of Paul to those that he converted. Next are some general letters to the Church, with Revelations at the very end.

As with the Old Testament, the New Testament sometimes does not follow Chronological order. For instance the Epistles of Paul were ordered by their size rather than when they were written, which makes reading them quite confusing. Likewise Revelations was not the last book to be written, biblical scholars believe John wrote his Gospel after writing Revelations, and Matthew and Luke were written a couple of decades afterward. Revelations was placed at the end of the Bible because it was so different from the other books as it dealt mainly with future events. Which brings us back to the last statement of Revelations which reads "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book". Obviously this did not relate to the whole Bible or the New Testament. Because the New Testament wasn’t organized till some 300 years later. Since there were no copyright laws at the time this was written, John protected his work by giving a stern warning to anyone that would change the revelations which he had recorded. With good reason, some of the books that we have in our New Testament were written decades after the first Apostles died. Examples of this are the Gospels Matthew and Luke which use Mark as a base.

Clement who lived in the first Century and according to Catholic tradition succeeded Peter as head of the Church, was one of the first to suggest an authoritative canon. His version included many of the Old Testament Apocrypha along with his own epistles and constitution. Noticeably missing was John’s Revelations. His authority to recognise these books as scripture seems to be linked directly with his own identification as an apostle, and personal writings of scripture for the church.

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book VIII, 85

Let the following books be esteemed venerable and holy by you, both of the clergy and laity. Of the Old Covenant: the five books of Moses--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; one of Joshua the son of Nun, one of the Judges, one of Ruth, four of the Kings, two of the Chronicles, two of Ezra, one of Esther, one of Judith, three of the Maccabees, one of Job, one hundred and fifty psalms; three books of Solomon--Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; sixteen prophets. And besides these, take care that your young persons learn the Wisdom of the very learned Sirach.

But our sacred books, that is, those of the New Covenant, are these: the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; two Epistles of Clement; and the Constitutions dedicated to you the bishops by me Clement, in eight books; which it is not fit to publish before all, because of the mysteries contained in them; and the Acts of us the Apostles.

But the New Testament was not formally organized and canonized until the 4th Century during the third synod of Carthage (A.D. 397). There are no clear accounts as to the exact process by which it happened. However it is clear that, of the multitude churches that had been set up in the Mediterranean area, many had different views as to which books were authoritative. As many of the Apostles laboured in particular regions, books gained their popularity because they had a tie to a particular leader. Others had more popular doctrine. So there was a hope to gain a consensus from the differing churches as to which books would be standardized as an authoritative canon. And what we have today is what they decided to include. Obviously choosing the books for the New Testament wasn’t an easy or unanimous decision. Many were the source of much debate, and may have been included or excluded by one or two votes. Generally speaking, the books that were disputed for some time but were finally included were James, Hebrews, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter, and Revelations. Other books, widely favoured but finally rejected, were Barnabas, 1 Clement, Hermas, and the Didache.

There were also a great number of other gospels and epistles that were not selected. While it is easy to say that those writings that were not accepted were obviously not scripture, you have to consider that these people who took upon themselves to prescribe the New Testament, had different beliefs about what was scripture. What they could agree on were the writings closest to Jesus Christ, namely those seemingly of his original Apostles and including Paul. This would probably mean that unless the church fell into an immediate apostasy after the first century, there would have been a lot of other scripture left out of the New Testament canon. Undoubtingly secondary apostles and church leaders such as Barnabas and Clement would have written important doctrine which may add greatly to an understanding of the original church.

The New Testament also refers to missing scripture, examples are an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians 1 Cor. 5:9); an epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3); an epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16); Epistle of Jude (Jude 3); and the Prophecies of Enoch (Jude 14). The prophecy that Christ should be a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23) and the prediction, known to the scribes in our Lord's day, that Elias must restore all things before the coming of Christ (Matt. 17:10), are both unknown in the Bible.

Interestingly it appears from Paul's writings that he had information about Enoch which is not contained in the Old Testament. (Heb. 11:5.) Jude recorded in his epistle a prophecy made by Enoch, thus indicating that some of Enoch's writings may have been extant in New Testament times. (Jude 14:15.) This adds weight to previous ideas that the book of Genesis was only a abrigement of other works, and that the Chidren of Israel had access to writings of past prophets.

While the New Testament gives us so much of the first century Christian church, it is unlikely that it tells us everything. One poignant example is the forty days Christ spent with his Apostles and disciples after his resurrection and glorious ascension. Christ must have taught some extraordinary doctrines and strengthened the church immensely. Yet very little is written about this most significant period of time. Have you ever wondered what the newly resurrected savior of the world did and said? Maybe there are some things too sacred even for the Bible!

The Book of Mormon

The main body of the Book of Mormon details the spiritual history of a couple of families from the tribe of Joseph who were instructed by the Lord to leave Jerusalem in 600BC and were guided to the American Continent. There they established two great rival nations the Nephites and the Lamanites, (named after two of the leading brothers). The book of Mormon is principally the record of the Nephites which were the predominantly more righteous of the two groups. The people followed a pattern of prosperity and apostasy as they accepted and rejected the Gospel. They had some marvelous blessings and their prophets wrote some of the most revealing discourses on the Savior. The crowning event is the ministry of Jesus Christ among these people after his resurrection in Palestine. He taught them the same sweet truths of the Gospel and gave the people some wonderful blessings. The book of Mormon makes a close in 421AD with a great apostasy by the inhabitants, resulting in the virtual annihilation of the Nephites by the Lamanites.

The Book of Mormon also relates briefly the story of another family which came out of Mesopotamia at the time of the Lords confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel. This righteous family was spared the Lords punishment and lead to the American Continent about 2200BC. They too followed a course of prosperity and apostasy resulting in the total destruction of their nation by 600BC.

Now the Book of Mormon could be true without any link to it from the Bible at all. However the Lord has a history of informing his prophets of important future events, and new scripture, I think qualifies! At least we should find evidence from the Bible that the Book of Mormon is possible and perhaps highly likely.

Extra biblical scripture was eluded too by many of the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah in chapter 29 gives a very detailed account of the Lord giving enlightenment. There are some key element which are worth consideration. Isaiah says:

A book/revelation will come forth after a great apostasy as part of a marvelous work which the lord would do.

This book/revelation will bring joy to many and restore a plain understanding of the Gospel.

This book/revelation will come when Lebanon becomes fruitful.

This book/revelation will show Israel (Jacob) in a blessed light.

Isaiah 29:11-24
11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed:
12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
13 Wherefore the Lord said, For as much as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, [even] a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall be hid.
15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
17 ¶ [Is] it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
19 The meek also shall increase [their] joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

The Book of Mormon satisfies the stipulations of this scripture. It came as part of a marvelous work and a wonder in an age of spiritual blindness to an unlearned young man, it has brought joy to millions as well as clarified many doctrines. It is a record of some of the children of Jacob with a very special testimony of Jesus as the Holy one of Israel.

Another vindication of the Book of Mormon is in the 49th chapter of Genesis. Israel (Jacob) blessed his sons and told them of the promises and blessings that the Lord had for them. Of the twelve brothers (who headed the twelve tribes) two blessings stand out, that of Judah and that of Joseph.

Judah’s blessing is very special, he is told that his lineage would be praised by the others, that his decedents would be the kings and lawgivers of the people, and most importantly the Messiah (Shiloh) would come through his line. Because we have the record of Judah (the Bible) we know that these things did happen.

Genesis 49:8-12
8 ¶ Judah, thou [art he] whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand [shall be] in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
9 Judah [is] a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the people [be].
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
12 His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Joseph on the other hand had become the birthright son after the transgression of Reuben. Israel blessed him in excess of all the other brothers. Joseph was told that his decedents would prosper exceedingly, that some of them would go places none of the others would go, and that the land of his inheritance would be one characterized by "everlasting hills". He even gave Joseph a double blessing in that his sons Ephraim and Mannaseh were counted as tribes of Israel when Levi was chosen to administer the priesthood. It is interesting that Joseph along with the other ten tribes were taken away from Palestine, we do not have a history which details their blessings and gives fulfillment to this most prophetic of all the blessings of Jacob.

Genesis 49:22-26

22 ¶ Joseph [is] a fruitful bough, [even] a fruitful bough by a well; [whose] branches run over the wall:

23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot [at him], and hated him:

24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty [God] of Jacob; (from thence [is] the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)

25 [Even] by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

The Book of Mormon is a literal fulfillment of this blessing. A branch of Joseph taken over the sea (wall), further separated from his brethren to enjoy greater blessings, to a land marked by a continuous mountain range (the American Continent). Moses further blesses Joseph in Deuteronomy 33:13-17 telling him the land of his inheritance would be the greatest of all including the ancient mountains and lasting hills.

Ezekiel gives weight to the idea that there was to come another record detailing the spiritual history of Joseph, with his prophesy about the joining together of Judah and Joseph (Ephraim)..

Ezekiel 37:15-17
15 ¶ The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and [for] all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

Jesus in his message about the good shepherd alludes to the possibility that others would also hear of his voice and know his Gospel. Since Joseph was even more greatly blessed than Judah it is likely that his descendants were entitled to a visit from the Savior, and probably had an even greater experience with him than the Jews.

John 10:14-16
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.

The Book of Mormon’s greatest event is the visit of the Savior. At the same time he ministered to his disciples in Jerusalem during the forty days following his resurrection, he repeatedly visited the people of the America’s. They seemed better prepared than their New Testament counterparts and received some of the greatest of all possible blessings.

The Book of Mormon is well supported by Biblical prophesy. The question is not, is it possibly for their to be extra biblical scripture? The question is, is the Book of Mormon the writing of Joseph, a companion scripture foretold of in the Bible? Certainly if it is not the truth, we should be searching for a book with the same properties!

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Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:37  

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