Mormons believe that the Bible was written by ancient prophets—inspired men who spoke with God and learned his will. They believe that in their original form these writings were perfect.
Joseph Smith said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers, [but] ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 327, Eighth Article of Faith). Considering that the separate individual writings of the prophets were gathered, translated many times from language to language, edited, interpreted and “corrected,” it would require closing one's eyes to not see that changes to the original, as well as omissions, were made. The books were not compiled in the Bible in chronological order (Revelation, for instance, was not the last book written but is presented as the last book in the Bible) and references to books and other revelations not in the Bible are frequent, so it's easy to see that books were either left out or lost and the Bible is incomplete. For instance, one of the prophets of the Mormon Church, James E. Talmage, points out that the original prophecy to which Matthew 2:23 refers is missing. Matthew records: “and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene. . . .Those who oppose the doctrine of continual revelation between God and His Church, on the grounds that the Bible is complete as a collection of sacred scriptures, and that revelation not found therein must therefore be spurious, may profitably take note of the many books not included in the Bible, yet mentioned therein, generally in such a way as to leave no doubt that they were once regarded as authentic.” (Jesus the Christ, p. 120). Talmage then lists no fewer than 18 books referred to in the Bible that are missing.
Mormons Value the Bible
“Yet with it all, the Bible is a book of books,” Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie says in Mormon Doctrine (pp. 82-83), “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...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. . . . These books contain doctrinal, historical, prophetic, and poetic materials of transcendent worth. Members of the Church are commanded to teach the principles of the gospel 'which are in the Bible'” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:12).” To think that Mormons don't love the Bible because they have and love other scriptures, too, is akin to thinking that a parent with several children can't still love their first-born.
Brigham Young proclaimed that “The Bible is true. It may not all have been translated aright, and many precious things may have been rejected in the compilation and translation of the Bible; but we understand that if all the sayings and doings of the Savior had been written, the world could not contain them... As far as it [the Bible] is translated correctly, it is nothing but truth” (Journal of Discourses 14:135-136). Mormons love the Bible. They read it. They study it. They ponder it. They pray about it. But their studies reveal that much of the Bible has gone through the hands of not only non-prophets but even non-believers. This is like a science text book having been translated, edited, and re-written by non-scientists. The authenticity and accuracy of such a translation is, of course, questionable. The book would have to be read with care, checking with scientific authorities when in doubt. While Mormons believe that most of the Bible is accurate, they have discovered some inaccuracies and--perhaps mostly--vague areas that seem to contradict because parts are missing. Joseph Smith began translating the Bible and stopped after a brief time, explaining that mostly the Bible is true.
Ezra Taft Benson, a prophet of the Church, said, “I love the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. It is a source of great truth. It teaches us about the life and ministry of the Master. From its pages we learn of the hand of God in directing the affairs of His people from the very beginning of the earth's history. It would be difficult to overestimate the impact the Bible has had on the history of the world. Its pages have blessed the lives of generations “ (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 78). Mormons believe that the Bible is the most influential book for good that has been written. They count it as one of their standard works, or authorized scriptures.
In May 1983, the First Presidency of the Church told the Saints that “When it is read reverently and prayerfully, the Holy Bible becomes a priceless volume, converting the soul to righteousness. Principal among its virtues is the declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, through whom eternal salvation may come to all.” (Ensign, p. 86). Mormons believe that any book that testifies that Jesus is the Christ and tells of his atoning sacrifice is of value.
Mormons Counseled to Read the Bible
The Thirteenth Article of Faith states that “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” And so constant learning is integral to the Church. The Latter-day Saints love to learn, and they are continuously urged to seek learning, whether secular or non-secular. Brigham Young University hosts Education Week on its Provo Utah, campus every August during which many dozens of classes are presented for the Saints of many ages, backgrounds, and nationalities.
Central to Mormon learning is the study of the scriptures, including the Holy Bible. Mormons primarily use the King James version. Though they certainly are not forbidden to read other versions, they believe that this version is most accurate.
Mormons are encouraged to read the Bible frequently and to know what it contains. They study the cross references at the bottom of the pages of their Bible with the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. They highlight scriptures and makes notes on the pages. They add tabs and color codes. Indeed, if people were to pick up any anonymously-owned Bible or other Mormon book of scriptures, they would be likely to find that it is heavily and colorfully marked. Mormons are encouraged to notate their spiritual insights as they read.
Individual study and family study of the Bible and other scriptures is a tenet of the Mormon faith. Members are urged to pray before they study, so that they will have the Holy Ghost with them to enlighten their minds so they can understand what they read. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles calls this “learning by faith.” He says that this “Learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart” (Ensign, Sept. 2001, p. 61). Doing this makes them ready to read, to discuss, to meditate, and then to put what they learn into action in their lives. Bednar also states that “True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar. . . . “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26) and “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22)” (Ensign, Sept. 2007, p. 63). Mormons could never be accurately accused of doing nothing, hence why Utah and some Church organizations have the beehive for their symbol. Industry is a virtue that Mormons value. An important concept is that what people believe can be seen by what they do.
Mormons also study the scriptures in Sunday School classes--Gospel Essentials and Gospel Doctrine for adults, and specific classes for Mutual-aged youth (ages 12-18) and Primary children (ages 3-11). Even nursery children are presented with simple Bible messages, songs, games, and pictures. Women attend Relief Society classes where they also study the gospel, while the men and male youth attend priesthood classes. Study of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants is alternated and often taught at the same time since they all support each other in their teachings. Individual Church members are called to lead these classes in study, and class members are encouraged to ask questions and offer their insights and observations so that all may benefit.
Mormons love the scriptures and appreciate the strength they receive from them, so they also study them throughout the week. Parents teach their children about the scriptures from the time they're babies. They teach them to pray about them and sing about them. They discuss them at mealtime and other times. They also teach the children lessons--and allow the children to teach lessons--about the Bible and other scriptures during a weekly Family Home Evening.
High school students study the scriptures in Seminary classes before school each day. These classes parallel the study courses on Sunday in their focus, alternating among the scriptures. This study prepares them for missions, which young men serve from ages 19-21 and young women may serve at age 21. During their missions, they teach and testify of what they've learned about the scriptures. Mormon youth often attend college for a year or two before they leave for their missions and then return to college after their missions. During their college years, they study the scriptures in Institute classes during the week. Older adults also often attend special Institute classes.
Both Seminary and Institute prepare members of the Church to serve in various teaching and leadership callings in the Church throughout their lifetimes and to walk daily in the footsteps of their Savior. They are prepared to teach their families in their homes and to live as worthy examples to their children. Mormons believe Christ's commandment to be like Him. One of Christ's names is The Word. To be like The Word, Mormons believe they must first know The Word and then to follow The Word.
- Learn more at MormonBible.org