Are the Standard Works Perfect?

Our eighth Article of Faith states: “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.” But are the Bible and the Book of Mormon perfect?

No. Even the Scriptures are not free from error. Regarding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding McConkie explains, “Moroni said, ‘Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been’ (Morm. 9:31). Of the restored gospel the Lord said, ‘These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time’ (D & C 1:24-28). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding McConkie)

It’s not a perfect book, nor does it make the claim to be. As a matter of fact, it explicitly says that it is not perfect. It was prepared through the Lord’s prophets, who were human beings, just as fallible as you or I. This may be the reason that there have been literally thousands of corrections made in the text of the Book of Mormon since the first edition was printed.

Neither is the Bible perfect. However, unlike the Book of Mormon, it does not expressly state its fallibility. Nonetheless, we can consider some of the ways that we know that the Bible has some imperfections in it. First let’s take a look at some verses that contradict each other.

Acts 9:7 – “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

Compare to:

Acts 22:9 – “And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

Then, we have the following:

Job 7:9-10:

“9 As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

10 He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27: 52-53:

“52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

And finally:

Acts 1:16-18:

“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Compare to:

Matthew 27:3-5:

“3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

There are more, but this should suffice for our purposes here. Another way we know that the bible is imperfect is by all of the scriptures it mentions that are not contained therein. Let’s consider a list of them:

  • book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14)
  • book of Jasher (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18)
  • book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:41)
  • book of Samuel the seer (1 Chr. 29:29)
  • book of Gad the seer (1 Chr. 29:29)
  • book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chr. 29:29; 2 Chr. 9:29)
  • prophecy of Ahijah (2 Chr. 9:29)
  • visions of Iddo the seer (2 Chr. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22)
  • book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15)
  • book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20:34)
  • sayings of the seers (2 Chr. 33:19)
  • an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, earlier than our present 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9)
  • possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3)
  • an epistle to the Church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16)
  • and some prophecies of Enoch, known to Jude (Jude 1:14)

That is a lot of missing scripture. The Bible is not complete as we have it. The Book of Mormon even tells us that things have been taken out. Nephi tells us this in 1 Nephi 13:26,28-29:

“26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.”

As we have seen, many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. We can see evidence of this in analysis of the Bible itself. The Book of Mormon also clarifies this for us.

The Book of Mormon also tells us that there is scripture that we haven’t even received, yet. 2 Nephi 29:12-13 says:

“12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”

We have scriptures from the lost tribes of Israel that we have yet to receive.

Numerous things have been changed in the Bible, as well. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 327).

He also said, “From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith, 9-10)

For a quick example, let’s take a look at Matthew 5:22 in the King James Version, which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Note the phrase “without a cause.” This phrase does not appear in some of the other translations of the Bible, such as the Revised Standard Version, the American Standard Version, and the New International Version. So is it supposed to be there or not?

Fortunately, we can turn to revelation as we have discussed in the first part of this book. This is exactly what Joseph Smith did as he corrected the Bible. If we look at footnote ‘b’ for verse 22, it says, “JST Matt. 5:22 and 3 Ne. 12:22 omit the words ‘without a cause.'” Because of revelation, we know that this phrase does not belong.

The point here is not to detract from how essential the scriptures are to us. They are of utmost worth. We believe in them. We honor them as being true. It’s just important to remember that, as their stewards have been imperfect men, they cannot be perfect.

Brother Robert L. Millet stated:

“We do not believe the Bible must be transmitted perfectly to be spiritually normative and eternally valuable. Errors in the Bible should not tarnish its image for Latter-day Saints. For that matter, while we accept the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price as holy scripture, we would not rush to proclaim their inerrancy. The greater marvel is that an infinite and perfect God can work through finite and imperfect humans to deliver his word to his children.”

Robert L. Millet, “What the Bible Means to Latter-day Saints,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 1–10.

Brother Millet summarizes the thought eloquently. Even though there is ample evidence that the scriptures have been altered, or have errors in them, we still know that they are true. We hold them in the highest regard.

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