What are the scriptures?
When holy men of God write or speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, their words “shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4). The official, canonized scriptures of the Church, often called the standard works, are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
The principal purpose of scriptures is to testify of Christ and to guide the children of God so they can come unto Him and receive eternal life (see John 5:39; 20:31; 1 Nephi 6:4; Mosiah 13:33-35). The Book of Mormon prophet Mormon taught:
“Whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
“And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out” (Helaman 3:29-30).
God, who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (2 Nephi 29:9), continues to reveal scripture in modern times as He did in ancient times. Latter-day prophets counsel people everywhere to study the scriptures daily, including the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. They encourage individual and family scripture study. They encourage us, as Nephi encouraged his brethren, to liken the scriptures to ourselves, finding ways that the sacred accounts of old apply in our lives today (see 1 Nephi 19:23-24). They exhort us to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39) and “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3). Daily, meaningful scripture study helps individuals be receptive to the guidance of the Holy Ghost. It builds faith, fortifies against temptation, enlightens, and helps individuals draw near to our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.
The Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a sacred record of God's dealings with His covenant people in the Holy Land. It includes the teachings of such prophets as Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. The New Testament records the birth, mortal ministry, and Atonement of the Savior. It concludes with the ministry of the Savior's disciples.
Because the Bible has been translated many times, it is printed in different versions. In English, the King James Version of the Bible is accepted as scripture by the Church.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we revere the Bible and its sacred teachings. We can receive strength, comfort, and guidance from the biblical accounts of God's dealings with His people.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
The Book of Mormon came forth in this dispensation by the will of the Lord. It is a record of God's dealings with the people who lived in the ancient Americas. Prophets of the Lord engraved the original records on gold plates. The Lord declared that the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9; see also D&C 42:12).
On September 22, 1827, an angel named Moroni—the last Book of Mormon prophet—delivered these records to the Prophet Joseph Smith. By the gift and power of God, the Prophet Joseph translated the record into English. Since then, the Book of Mormon has been translated into many other languages.
The primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince all people “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (title page of the Book of Mormon). It teaches that all people “must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40). Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion, and a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (introduction to the Book of Mormon).
The Book of Mormon is another witness for the truths taught in the Bible. It also restores “plain and precious” truths that have been lost from the Bible through errors in translation or “taken away” in attempts to “pervert the right ways of the Lord” (see 1 Nephi 13:24-27, 38-41). The Bible and the Book of Mormon “shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace” (2 Nephi 3:12).
Near the end of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni teaches us how we can know the book is true: “When ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4; see also Moroni 10:3 and Moroni 10:5).
The Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants contains revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. It also includes a few revelations given to other latter-day prophets following Joseph Smith. This book of scripture is unique because it is not a translation of ancient documents. It is a collection of revelations given by the Lord to His chosen prophets in the latter days.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the Doctrine and Covenants is “the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man” (section heading for D&C 70).
The Pearl of Great Price
The Pearl of Great Price contains the book of Moses, the book of Abraham, the Prophet Joseph Smith's inspired translation of Matthew chapter 24, and some writings of the Prophet Joseph.
The book of Moses is a small excerpt from Joseph Smith's inspired translation of the Bible. It is a more complete record of Moses's writings at the beginning of the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. It contains many doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and gives additional information about the plan of salvation, the creation of the earth, and the Lord's dealings with Adam and Enoch.
The book of Abraham is a translation of ancient records written on papyrus that came into the possession of the Church in 1835. The Prophet Joseph Smith translated the records by revelation. This book contains truths about the premortal Council in Heaven, the creation of the earth, the nature of God, and the priesthood.
Joseph Smith—Matthew is an excerpt (Matthew 24) from Joseph Smith's inspired revision of the Bible and adds to our knowledge of the Savior's teachings about His Second Coming.
The writings of Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price include:
Joseph Smith—History, which is an excerpt from the Prophet's history of the Church. It is a narrative of the events leading to the restoration of the Church, including the First Vision, the visits of Moroni to the Prophet Joseph, the obtaining of the gold plates, and the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.