On a recent radio broadcast a commentator repeated the conclusions of some eminent scholars, who had been asked to list fifteen of the best and most sought-after books in the world today. Six of them selected The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but not one of them listed the Bible.
Now, while the reading of Mark Twain’s boyhood adventure classic should not be discouraged, its overwhelming acceptance to the exclusion of the Bible indicates a potential danger in the changing values of the modern world.
Speaking at a youth conference in the East recently, I told of my concern when, as a young missionary, I observed the attitudes of various church leaders I came in contact with and their regard for the Bible. I believe that the problem of our missionaries in our day, too, might be not so much to prove that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are indeed the word of the Lord but that the Bible, which is generally accepted as the word of God, is being doubted as having been derived from the words of inspired prophets of past generations.
The commentator, whom I mentioned before, went on to denigrate the worth of the writings in the Bible, saying that the words recorded were not put down by highly educated scholars as we think of such historians in our day. They were fishermen, farmers, laborers, tax collectors, carpenters; and yet, the writings were precise and direct in documenting doctrines of the gospel and in narrating historical events through which the world of their day was passing.
Making an invidious comparison, the commentator cited the fact that the play-by-play broadcaster at a football or basketball game today goes into more detail and uses more words in one game than the early prophets used in narrating the entire story of the creation of the world.
As I contemplated these observations, I thought of the rare gems of sparkling wisdom that are to be found in the epistles of the apostle Peter, one who was of the ranks of the so-called common people. The secret and the explanation of the writings of these profound teachings are explained by this same great but impulsive and strong-willed leader, Simon Peter, in these few but meaningful words: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Pet. 1:21.)
These prophet leaders had given us the simple, direct words of God as they were impressed upon them after much soul-searching; and sometimes because of a great crisis, they were under the influence of that greatest of all spiritual endowments, the gift of the Holy Ghost, one of the Godhead.
True, there are passages in the Bible that are not sufficiently clear, due to the mistakes of men; therefore many stumble and there is controversy among the so-called Christian nations. All of this was foreshadowed by an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon:
“… 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.
“… 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 exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Ne. 13:26, 29.)
Knowing by the light of revelation of the skepticism that might attend the coming forth of this new volume of scriptures, the prophet further warned:
“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne. 28:29–30.)
In this day when the Bible is being down-graded by many who have mingled philosophies of the world with Bible scriptures to nullify their true meaning, how fortunate that our eternal Heavenly Father, who is always concerned about the spiritual well-being of his children, has given to us a companion book of scriptures, known as the Book of Mormon, as a defense for the truths of the Bible that were written and spoken by the prophets as the Lord directed.
Of this new witness contained in this volume of scriptures the Lord declared: “Behold, this is wisdom in me; … I have sent unto you … the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel. … the record of the stick of Ephraim.” (D&C 27:5.)
It has always been significant to me that, despite the greatness of the master teacher, Jesus the Christ (recognized now by even those who would not believe in his mission as the literal Son of God), there have been left to us no sculptured models or accurate descriptions of the Savior.
In this connection it should be pointed out that sculpturing was in existence among the ancient Greeks during the Master’s time, as the apostle Paul noted when he came to debate with the wise men of ancient Athens. It has seemed clearly evident to me that it was so because it was not desired that Jesus be worshiped as an idol in stone or brass, but that the profound teachings that he has left us be the center and core of that which should convince anyone of the divinity of his mission.
Just as in the wisdom of God there have been no accurate descriptions in words or in stone or marble of the Savior, so there was no elaborate explanation from the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he bore testimony of the coming forth of the gospel in this dispensation. His was only a simple, straightforward testimony of the facts with no profuse embellishing explanations to detract from the central theme of his message and declaration of faith.
It has seemed fortunate, too, that we were not told of the exact spot in the Sacred Grove where the young boy Joseph knelt in humble supplication in his search for truth and where the Father and the Son appeared. Nor do we know the exact location of the room where Joseph was visited by heavenly messengers three times as his mission began to be unfolded; no exact location where the ancient records were found in the Hill Cumorah; no exact locations where the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored; or indeed, no exact place where the Book of Mormon translations actually took place.
From what we have seen when we have visited the Holy Land in Palestine, we can readily imagine how quickly the Lord’s words, as we learn from the inspiration of his holy revelation, could in our day have led us to become worshipers of shrines rather than concentrating on the hidden things of God which can only be understood by the Spirit of God.
It has always seemed to me that the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in counsel to the brethren, impressing the value of the Book of Mormon, have greater significance than many of us attach to them. His statement was, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461.)
To me this means that not only in this volume of scriptures do we have portrayed the accurate truths of his gospel teaching, but also that by this second witness we may know more certainly the meaning of the teachings of the ancient prophets and, indeed, of the Master and his disciples as they lived and taught among men. This should inspire all who would be honest seekers after truth to put these two sacred scriptures together and study them as one book, understanding, as we do, their true relationship.
As did Joseph Smith, so do we declare to the world: “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.” (A of F 1:8.)
Truly, as has been written by the noted historian Dr. Johann Mosheim, an authority on early Christian church history: “There is no institution so pure and excellent which the corruption and folly of man will not in time alter for the worse, and load with additions foreign to its nature and original design.”