What do Mormons believe about the Bible and the Book of Mormon? What about other religious canon? - the fact and myth cheat sheet
This is part of the Mormon fact and myth cheat sheet on this website. The main list of Mormon facts and Myths can be found here. This section specifically discusses Mormon belief about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and about other gospel canon.
This is a compilation of facts and myths about Mormon beliefs compiled from comments and other resources. I add things to this list as I run into them so this list has more information on it than I have had time to write about in detail. Some of these can be uncommonly random.
Some of these comments may have been collected from someone that is trying to imply that Mormons won't tell you about these things. This is partially accurate simply because we don't actually believe in many of these things. On a similar note, I have pulled some of this information from several "campaigns" which claim that they just want to help us Mormons realize the error of our ways. However, most of these campaigns are not actually targeted to Mormons. They are targeted to those who are not Mormon and may be curious about what we really believe. In war and politics it is known as a "disinformation" campaign and it's used to keep other people in the dark or doubtful of factual information. If these campaigns were intended to target Mormons, they would talk to us directly, instead of referring to Mormons in the third person as "they," and they would use our real teachings to try and convince us of our error.
You may notice that after the first sentence, these descriptions are written in a way so that anyone can quote them if they need to. The disadvantage to this is that there are some things that get repeated in the explanations more than once. It should be noted that this site is not an official source for Mormon doctrine, so if you're going to quote from this site I would recommend that you point out the sources or link back to this page so readers can verify accurate sources for themselves. I have also bolded some things in each statement to help identify the key points.
Speaking of repeating stuff, this introduction is fairly standard on the other fact and myth pages so you can probably skip it on the next one without missing much.
Editing and referencing is still an ongoing process for this page.
Mormon belief about scriptures and gospel cannon
"Mormons believe both the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be the word of God":
This is true.
Mormons believe that both the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God. They believe them to be the sticks that are discussed in the book of Ezekiel chapter 37 that join together to form one. The Book of Mormon is also the book that Isaiah talks about in the Old Testament starting at Isaiah 29 verse 11.
"Mormons do not believe the Bible to be authoritative":
This is false.
Mormons believe that both the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God, and therefore authoritative. They believe them to be the sticks that are discussed in the book of Ezekiel chapter 37 that join together to form one. Latter-day saints do not believe that certain theological interpretations of scripture are authoritative.
"Mormons believe the Bible is not perfect and contains some errors":
This is true.
Mormons believe both the Book of Mormon and the Bible to be created by mankind under the direction of revelation and inspiration. They believe that the problem there is the mankind part. Some things don’t always end up in there exactly as they were supposed to. For example, there are 24,000 changes to the King James Version of the Bible between the 1611 and 1769 editions. Critics tend to estimate the Book of Mormon to have about 4000 changes from its original edition.
"Critics like to quote non-doctrinal sources as if it was part of the Mormon canon":
This is true.
There are several sources that critics quote as doctrine of the Mormon church even though the LDS church does not endorse the things within them. The two most common sources are the Journal of Discourses, and the Seer by Orson Pratt. The Journal of Discourses was exactly that; it was a collection of talks, prayers, funeral services and other discourses. The events were recorded in short hand and later transcribed and published in Europe. They were considered beneficial to the saints, but many mistakes, errors, and other variances were found in the transcriptions. They were never reviewed by the presiding officers of the church and were never considered as official doctrine, as doctrine required unanimous approval of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. The Seer was a different publication that was the work of a single person, Orson Pratt. The church publicly denounced the Seer in 1865 shortly after its publication.
"Mormons believe that anything a prophet says is considered canon":
This is false.
In the LDS church, something can only been declared as doctrine if the prophet, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve unanimously approve it.
"Mormons believe that the Journal of Discourses is canon":
This is false.
The Journal of discourses was a collection of talks, prayers, funeral services and other discourses. The events were recorded in short hand and later transcribed and published in Europe. They were considered beneficial to the saints, but many mistakes, errors, and other variances were found in the transcriptions. They were never reviewed by the presiding officers of the church and were never considered as official doctrine, as doctrine required unanimous approval of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
"Mormons believe that The Seer by Orson Pratt is canon":
This is false.
The Seer was condemned by the LDS First Presidency in 1865 "so that the Saints who now live, and who may live hereafter, may not be misled by [their] silence, or be left to misinterpret it."
"Mormons believe the Declaration of Independence to be scripture":
This is false.
Mormons believe that God had a hand in the creation of the Declaration of Independence but Latter-day Saints do not consider the document to be scripture.
"The Book of Mormon has been edited to close loopholes and the original is no longer in print by design":
This is false.
Like most books that are almost 200 years old, the original version of the Book of Mormon is no longer in print. However the LDS church has several copies online. A photographed copy is available to the public online at the Joseph Smith Papers project. This copy was provided by the LDS Church History Library. Another copy is available online through Calameo, though it has been processed by Google Docs. A digital version is available on the Gospel Link website. Critics estimate the Book of Mormon to have about 4000 changes; the majority of which are spelling and grammatical fixes. By comparison, the King James version of the Bible has about 24,000 changes between the 1611 edition and the 1769 edition.
"The Book of Mormon was plagiarized from another work":
This is false. No work has ever been found that matches the Book of Mormon well. There have been some minor similarities to other books, but this happens with every book to a varying degree. Did you know that most of the words used in the Book of Mormon can also be found in the Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary? There's probably a better chance that I plagiarized Jeff Lindsay in my statement below:
Every now and again the claim arises that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized from another source. One of the original claims was that the Book of Mormon originated from a manuscript called the Spalding Manuscript. The Spaulding family insisted that the Book of Mormon lifted precise similarities from the manuscript. This claim was the primary explanation used to explain the origins of the book for several decades by those who did not believe it's divine claim. However, in 1884 an original copy of the manuscript was found, and it was discovered that the two bore very few similarities. More recently, some critics have claimed similarities between it and another called the Late War. This comparison was done by a computer matching four word pieces between books. Critics claim to have found the origin again. However, comparing the two shows completely different contexts in which the words are used. For example, the claim is made that both books have a battle at a fort where the righteous are attacked by an army of natives. The white protagonists are prepared for battle and slaughter their opponents to such an extent that they fill the trenches with bodies and the surviving enemies flee into the wilderness. However, there are significant differences between this account and the account actually given in chapter 29 of the Late War. In the Late War, the bodies are strewn about the ditch, not to such an extent that they fill it. In the Late War, the attackers retreat in to vessels and depart. And where were the howitzers and the destroying engine in the Book of Mormon? And where's the sworn revenge afterwards, or the confounded march beforehand in the Late War? Another connection is made with the words "curious workmanship", however a simple search on Google Books reveals that the phrase was fairly common in the 1800's. So much that the website forgottenbooks.org has an entire page dedicated to it. It's not that far fetched to believe that a translation made in the 1800's could also contain the same wording, which is exactly what is found in The Iliad of Homer, and Keating's General History of Ireland, originally written in Irish. However, the match where almost 15% of the positive hits came from is the most unsettling. The copyright notice was left in both books and used in the comparison.