Book of Mormon and Mormon Doctrines
Thus, begins an article by Robert J. Woodford of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). The Mormons exist solely because of the alleged “revelations” given to one Joseph Smith, Jr. The originals were so filled with grammatical and spelling mistakes that the “changes” and editings were surely needed. A few typographical errors and some mistaken grammar might be tolerated in these “revelations.” If such were the only problem, there would not be as much “controversy” as Woodford recognizes. The controversies split Mormonism into various factions many years ago. Changes in Doctrine and Covenants, however, deal with much more than spelling and grammar. There are over fifty changes in meaning between the original, called Book of Commandments, and the current edition called Doctrine and Covenants. For an example, consider the original and current version of Doctrine and Covenants 18:2-5, compared to Book of Commandments 15:2-4.
Behold I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances that the things which you have written are true. Wherefore you know that they are true; and if you know that they are true, behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock. Wherefore if you shall build up my church, and my gospel, and my rock, the gates of hell shall not pre against you. (Book of Commandments l5:2-4)
One would assume that if the Lord actually did reveal something to someone like Joseph Smith, Jr. it would be right the first time. However, with this alleged prophecy to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, witnesses of the gold plates, a necessary change had to take place and it involved much more than mere spelling and grammatical changes. Here is the way it reads in the version of Doctrine and Covenants now. Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true; wherefore you know that they are true. And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock. Wherefore if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. (Doctrine and Covenants, l982)
In the edition used by all Mormons (except the Temple Lot group) the word “foundation” is inserted twice. It was not in the original. The reader can easily recognize this as a change of idea and thought, not merely some “editing” out of poor spelling and grammar. In the Temple Lot Church of Christ (Mormon) edition, they have it as the original Book of Commandments reads. In the preface of the LDS (Mormon) group’s edition one reads that the original was inspired. We, therefore, feel willing to bear testimony to all the earth, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments (the original Book of Commandments, DRS) were given by the inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men and are verily true. (Ibid., preface). The context of this alleged prophecy reveals that the church mentioned had not been established. The date for its establishment is 1830. So, this piece of “revelation” was intended to give guidelines for establishing the LDS Church.
The original “revelation” affirms that all things had been written that would be necessary for building the church, the gospel and the rock. But the revision of this “prophecy” teaches that the building to be done involved building more of the church, more of the gospel and more of the rock. It becomes obvious why such a change was needed by Smith. If, as the original passage reads, “you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things (my emphasis, DRS) written concerning my church, my gospel and my rock,” there would be no way future “revelations” could be received. Either “all things which are written” (in the Book of Mormon) may be relied on to build the Church, the gospel and the rock, or not. If additional “revelation” became necessary, then those things that were written were insufficient.
More obvious is it when you consider things in the LDS Church that are not in the Book of Mormon. Just here, let me also explain that “the things written” could only be the Book of Mormon. Nothing else at that time had been written by which they could build anything. In the LDS Church one finds the following that cannot be found in the Book of Mormon.
There is really nothing in the Book of Mormon that is an essential Mormon doctrine. There is nothing about the LDS system at all in their Book of Mormon. Such doctrines had to be revealed much later in the Mormon scenario. When the original was given, it meant that all the things needed for the church and the gospel were in the Book of Mormon. Since many more things were added to their doctrinal baggage, not written in the Book of Mormon, the original “revelation” had to be changed. The meaning of the statement had to be changed so as to allow for future revelations and doctrines. The simple insertion of the word “foundation” took care of it for Smith.
Honest Mormons surely have a big question about the “inspiration” of this book lurking somewhere in their hearts. How can something “inspired” that means one thing, be changed to mean something else? No wonder that controversies sprang into existence when the Book of Commandments was overhauled and became Doctrine and Covenants. Little wonder that among those pledging their allegiance to the Book of Mormon, there is a wide variety of positions regarding the Doctrine and Covenants. Personally, I agree with David Whitmer, one of the witnesses. He wrote: There are false doctrines of importance in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and I desire to prove them false doctrines, and get you to lay them aside and believe only what Christ taught and meant for us to believe. (An Address to Ail Believers, 1887, p. 38.)