03194_000_017The above text is from the talk given by Elder McConkie in the “Using the Scriptures” Churchwide satellite fireside.
We have been given the Holy Scriptures—those marvelous compilations of the divine word—by a gracious God to guide us back into his eternal presence. These volumes are of infinite worth. They contain “the will of the Lord, … the mind of the Lord, … the word of the Lord, … the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:4.)
Indeed, it was Paul, our apostolic colleague of old, who told his beloved Timothy: “The holy scriptures … are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15.) Truly, salvation, the greatest of all gifts, is available to those saints who live the Lord’s law as recorded in his holy word!
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16–17.)
Another marvelous passage, one filled with divine wisdom and insight, extols the scriptures in these poetic words:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
“The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
“Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:7–11.)
As we are all aware, the revealed word which has come to us in our day conforms to the ancient standard. As the Lord’s law, it is perfect; through it, testimonies are received and souls are converted.
How precious is the divine word, revealed anew to modern men, to meet modern needs, to guide us in all the circumstances, unknown to our ancestors, that now exist in the last days. What great rewards await us if we learn that which has come forth in our day and if we live as therein decreed!
The Book of Mormon
What is the Book of Mormon? In many respects it is the most marvelous book ever prepared by prophetic hands. Call it an American Bible if you will, for it goes hand in hand with the Bible itself in announcing the mind and will of the Lord and in proclaiming the eternal plan of salvation.
As all members of the Church know, the Book of Mormon is a history of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. It is the history of fallen peoples. Some of them came from the Tower of Babel when the Lord confounded the tongues of all people. Others were led by a divine hand from their Jerusalem home to a promised land, lest they be taken captive into Babylon with the rest of rebellious Israel in the days of Nebuchadnezzar.
These two groups—known generally as Jaredites and Lehites, after their first leaders—inhabited the Western Hemisphere for thousands of years. They had the fulness of the everlasting gospel, received revelations, saw visions, entertained angels, performed miracles, and heard the words of their prophets—prophets who saw the Lord, knew of his goodness and grace, and taught of Christ and the salvation that comes through his atoning blood.
As with the Bible in the Old World, so with the Book of Mormon in the New. Both record the teachings of holy men of God who spake as they were moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Thus, the Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture. It speaks of God, of Christ, and of the gospel. It records the terms and conditions whereby salvation comes. And it does it all with a plainness, clarity, and perfection that far surpasses the Bible.
The Bible of the Old World has come to us from the manuscripts of antiquity—manuscripts which passed through the hands of uninspired men who changed many parts to suit their own doctrinal ideas. Deletions were common, and, as it now stands, many plain and precious portions and many covenants of the Lord have been lost. As a consequence, those who rely upon it alone stumble and are confused and divide themselves among many churches, all based on this or that interpretation of the Bible.
On the other hand, the Bible of the New World, as I choose to designate the Book of Mormon, has been preserved for us by a divine providence which kept the ancient record in prophetic hands. Written by inspiration on plates of gold, it was hidden in the soil of Cumorah, to come forth in modern times by angelic ministration and then be translated by the gift and power of God.
After the translation, the voice of God, speaking from heaven to witnesses chosen beforehand by him, declared two things—that the translation was correct and that the book was true. We, of course, believe the Bible as far as it has been translated correctly, but we place no such restriction on the Book of Mormon. And so it is that there has come into our hands a book that is as perfect, or near perfect, as mortal hands can make it. It is a divine book, a book like none other ever written, translated, or published.
In telling what transpired at a meeting of the leaders of the Church in his day, Joseph Smith, who under God stands as the translator of this holy book, said: “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.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 194.)
Now, what of our study and use of such a book? Certainly we want to read and ponder this divine word so as to get near to the Lord, so as to gain testimonies of the truth and divinity of the Lord’s great latter-day work, so as to learn the doctrines of salvation, so as to place our feet firmly on the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life.
Would it help if we were guided in our study of the Book of Mormon? Truly it would, and hence the helps and aids offered to us in the newly published edition of this divine book. Let us note some of them.
First, the name of the book itself. It now reads, “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” This change was made in the wisdom of the Brethren and with the approval of the Holy Spirit.
Its purpose—in this godless age, when many who oppose the truth cry out that the Latter-day Saints are not Christians—is to send forth the signal that Christ is the center of that revealed religion which has come to us.
Just as truly as the New Testament, sent forth from the Old World, proclaims the divinity of God’s Son, so does this testament preserved in the New World. Indeed, it would not be amiss to say there are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Third Nephi. And the witness is as sure—the testimony as fervent, the doctrine as sound—in the new word that comes from the Western Hemisphere as in the old word from Palestine.
Second, there is a new introduction which succinctly and carefully sets forth the purpose and nature of the book and has the effect of inviting all men to read and ponder its truths.
Third, there are new chapter headings, plus helpful running heads at the top of the pages. The chapter headings, for the first time, summarize the content of each chapter and thus guide students in their search for truth. For instance, Mosiah 3 is introduced with these words:
“King Benjamin continues his address—The Lord Omnipotent shall minister among men in a tabernacle of clay—Blood shall come from every pore as he atones for the sins of the world—His is the only name whereby salvation comes—Men can put off the natural man and become saints through the Atonement—The torment of the wicked shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone.”
New headings summarize the content of each chapter and guide students in their search for truth. The heading of Mosiah 3 tells of King Benjamin’s address and his prophecies of the Atonement. Of special interest in the 1981 editions of the scriptures are textual changes. These hark back to the original manuscripts and editing of the Prophet Joseph Smith and serve to clarify meanings.
Fourth, new footnotes of inestimable worth are included. For instance, 40 percent of pages 152 and 153 contain footnotes, which verse by verse cross-reference the scriptural content to other like passages of the standard works and to the Topical Guide, where extended references are found on all of the subjects involved.
Fifth, there is an extensive new index of 416 pages, covering the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Articles of Faith. The comprehensive nature of this index is seen from the fact that these books themselves contain only a total of 886 pages. Truly the index is a work of art.
Sixth, and perhaps of greater interest than all else, come the textual changes. Except for a few technical corrections in spelling and the like, which clearly were the mistakes of men, all of the changes hark back to the original manuscripts and editing of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Such changes as the following are of special interest:
Speaking of the Lamanites, 2 Nephi 30:6 heretofore read: “Their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.”
Now it says: “They shall be a pure and a delightsome people.” [2 Ne. 30:6]
Heretofore 1 Nephi 13:6 said: “I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the foundation of it.”
Now it reads: “I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.” [1 Ne. 13:6]
Second Nephi 29:4, which heretofore read, “Do they remember the travels, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews?” now reads, “Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews?” [2 Ne. 29:4] And so it goes.
The Doctrine and Covenants
It is now our privilege to speak of the Doctrine and Covenants, another unique book, a book written in effect by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, a book of revealed truth sent forth for the salvation of all who will believe and obey in these last days.
May we ask these questions:
If we could have only one book of scripture, what would it be?
If we hunger and thirst after righteousness and desire to know the mind and will of the Lord for those now living, to what book of scripture shall we turn?
If there is a book of truly modern scripture that records the mind and will and voice of the Lord as given in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, what is it?
If I, for one, were called upon to answer these questions, my answer would be the Doctrine and Covenants, that volume of holy writ that reaffirms the scriptures of the past, charts our course of the present, and foretells that which will yet be when the Lord returns and the Millennium is ushered in.
In the new explanatory introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants, the book is defined as “a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. …
“In the revelations one sees the restoration and unfolding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times.”
The first quorum of Twelve Apostles called in this dispensation gave this testimony to the truth of the book of Doctrine and Covenants: “We … bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of the earth, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us, that these commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men and are verily true.”
This same testimony is anchored with a sure certainty in the hearts of the Apostles who now serve as special witnesses of the name of the Lord who has redeemed us with his blood. And I, as one among them, bear this witness: I know by the revelations of the Holy Spirit to my soul, as certainly as did my predecessors, that the Doctrine and Covenants—as also the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price—are true; that they are the voice of the Almighty to all men now living; and that the Saints are bound, by eternal covenant, to learn that which is in them and to conform their lives thereto.
Is it any wonder, thus, that we find the Lord himself saying: “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” (D&C 1:37.)
To aid us in our search we now have two new styles of chapter headings, new cross-references and footnotes, two new sections, and supportive material for the official declarations—one of which declarations announces the receipt of the revelation offering the blessings of the priesthood and the temple to those of all races, solely on the basis of righteousness.
Section heads in the Doctrine and Covenants guide us in our study. The regular head sets forth the time, place, and circumstances surrounding the receipt of a revelation. The supplemental head segregates the section by verses and makes a definitive statement about the content of each series of verses.
Let us take section 76 as an illustration of how the section heads guide us in our study of the revelation itself. [D&C 76]
First, there is the usual heading setting forth the time and place and circumstances surrounding the receipt of the revelation. In this instance this heading includes a statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith telling why the term heaven must include more kingdoms than one.
Then comes the supplemental section heading. In it the revealed word is segregated by verses and a definitive statement is made about the content of each series of verses. Thus we read:
“1–4, The Lord is God; 5–10, Mysteries of the kingdom will be revealed to all the faithful; 11–17, All shall come forth in the resurrection of the just or the unjust; 18–24, Inhabitants of many worlds are begotten sons and daughters unto God through the atonement of Jesus Christ;” and so on.
The footnotes and cross-references follow the same pattern found in the other standard works. The two new sections, numbered 137 and 138, are included, together with maps showing where places of import in Church history are found. [D&C 137; D&C 138]
The great advantage of all this to the student is self-evident.
The Pearl of Great Price
Now let us say a word about the Pearl of Great Price. This priceless pearl of divine wisdom consists of a selection from the revelations, translations, and narrations of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The purpose of selecting and publishing them in one volume is to make them readily available to the Saints and the world and to show that they came by the spirit of inspiration, and are true, and should be accepted by all truth seekers.
The first portion of the Pearl of Great Price is entitled “Selections from the Book of Moses,” rather than simply, “The Book of Moses,” as heretofore. It is, in fact, an extract from the translation of the Bible as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.
These selections from the Book of Moses, as also the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, now cited as “Joseph—Smith Matthew,” rather than “Writings of Joseph Smith,” as heretofore, are of course complete and perfect and are included in our canonized word. Other Inspired Version changes are found in the footnotes of our new edition of the Bible. Those too lengthy for inclusion in the footnotes are published in a seventeen-page section at the back of this Bible edition. All of these changes and additions are scripture and have the same truth and validity as if they were in the Pearl of Great Price itself. It is important that this is clearly understood by all who seek to learn the law of the Lord and to be in tune with that which has been revealed by the great seer of latter days.
As to the selections from Moses that are now in the Pearl of Great Price, they are divided into eight chapters and contain 356 verses, many of which are rather long and complex and have more than one thought in them. The comparable material in Genesis is 151 verses, most of which are short and confined to a single thought.
What is important to us about the writings of Moses, as we now have them in the Pearl of Great Price, is that they completely revolutionize the concept of a Christian Era growing out of a patriarchal past. They show that Adam and those before the flood had the fulness of the everlasting gospel, the same gospel in all its parts that we have. They worshipped the Father in the name of Christ by the power of the Spirit, as we do. They held the holy priesthood, were married for time and all eternity, and by faith wrought many mighty miracles.
The Book of Abraham is also holy writ of wondrous worth. As with the Mosaic word, and all else with which we are dealing, it has new chapter headings, new footnotes, and its contents are newly identified in a modern index.
One minor textual change in Abraham is significant. A single letter is changed and a whole new doctrinal meaning is revealed. Heretofore the text read, “the first man, who is Adam, our first father,” which is a simple recitation of the fact, also set forth in other scriptures, that Adam, the first man, is also our first father. If he is the first man he is obviously the first father of other men. The new rendition, according with the ancient manuscript, reads, “Adam, or first father,” making the word Adam a synonym for “first father.” That is, the name Adam means first father. (See Abr. 1:3.)
There are certain blessings that attend the study of the scriptures which are denied those whose studies and interests are in different fields. It is the study of the scriptures that enables men to gain revelations for themselves. Those who read the Book of Mormon, in the way Moroni specifies, gain a testimony of its truth and divinity, of the divine sonship of Christ, and of the prophetic call of Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith himself read in the book of James the famous words known to us all: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)
In describing his feelings at the time, he said: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again.” (JS—H 1:12.)
Then, because the hour had come for the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, and because he was the one chosen and foreordained from eternity to commence the work, the Great God and his Beloved Son, descending in eternal splendor from the courts of glory, manifested themselves to this guileless and believing youth.
But, be it remembered, the scripture was the guidepost leading to the receipt of the First Vision, a vision equalled by few in import and glory in all the history of the world.
I have spent many hours poring over and pondering the scriptures. In seeking to learn the doctrines of salvation, I have studied, weighed, and compared what the various prophets have said about the same subjects.
Time and again, after much praying and pondering about a given point, new and added concepts have burst upon me showing deep and hidden truths that I had never before known. It can be so with all of us if we will read, ponder, and pray about the holy word.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
“For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7:7–8.)
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like the wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
“For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:6–7.)
His voice comes to us in many ways. He may speak audibly to attuned ears. His voice may come by the power of the Spirit. It may also be given by the mouths of his servants as they recite the words revealed to them. All of the Saints are entitled to hear his voice in each of these ways.
But there is another way to hear the voice of the Lord, and, almost universally, it should be our first approach in seeking revelation. It is available to us all, but sadly is overlooked or ignored by many of us.
After revealing certain truths through Joseph Smith to his modern apostles, the Lord, continuing to speak to Joseph Smith, said:
“And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it.
“These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
“For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
“Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” (D&C 18:33–36.)
If the Spirit bears witness to us of the truth of the scriptures, then we are receiving the doctrines in them as though they had come to us directly. Thus, we can testify that we have heard his voice and know his words.
Let us now highly resolve that we will search the scriptures and make them a part of all that we do.
And if such be our course, we shall surely receive peace and joy in this life and inherit eternal life in the realms ahead.