Book of Mormon and Other Mormon Scripture
Mormon scripture is an essential element of the faith, because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as “Mormons” are officially known) derive their doctrine from their scriptural canon, and also because daily individual and family scripture study is a central part of life for Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”). Mormon scripture is a means whereby members of the faith can increase their religious knowledge and invite the Spirit of the Lord into their lives, bringing them peace, joy, personal inspiration, and guidance. There are five major components of the Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, scriptural canon: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and continued modern-day revelation from appointed prophets and apostles.
Latter-day Saints believe the Bible—the complete Old and New Testaments—to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. They believe the King James Version of the Bible to be the most accurate of any translation. Because the life, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ are central to the Mormon faith, the Bible is an important record. However, Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) believe that many plain and precious truths were lost from the Bible due to the transmission and translation of the text as well as the wickedness of men.
Latter-day Saints also believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a testament that Jesus is the Christ. Mormons believe that after Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem, He appeared in His resurrected body to the Nephites, a remnant group of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that traveled from Jerusalem to the American continent approximately 600 years before Christ’s birth. As He did with the Jews in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ taught these Nephite people the truths of the gospel and established a church, complete with a prophet and apostles who held the true priesthood authority to administered saving ordinances like baptism. The Book of Mormon is a record of some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, and most importantly, of Christ’s dealings with them.
The Doctrine and Covenants
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of revelations, given mostly to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith as he reorganized Christ’s church on the earth after a period of apostasy. These revelations answered specific questions which Joseph Smith had about doctrines and the organization of Christ’s church. Other revelations were given to Joseph Smith for specific people. All these revelations are instructive to any seeker of truth.
The Pearl of Great Price
Another collection of important revelations, the Pearl of Great Price, was assembled after the organization of the Church. It contains the Book of Moses (an extract from the Book of Genesis in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible); the Book of Abraham (a translation of some Egyptian papyri that came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835); Joseph Smith—Matthew (an extract from the testimony of Matthew in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible); and Joseph Smith—History (excerpts from Joseph Smith’s official testimony and personal history). This book of scripture is invaluable in outlining the Mormon doctrine of the pre-existence (life with God before life on this earth), God’s plan for His children and His true relationship to them, and many other things.
One of the most unique and important doctrines in the Mormon faith is the idea of continuing revelation. For Latter-day Saints, the heavens are still open. Modern-day prophets and apostles and other general authorities speak to the worldwide church at semi-annual General Conferences. Their addresses are also considered to be the word of God. And although these words are not canonized scripture, they are considered to be scripture. The words of the living prophet always take precedence over the words of a dead prophet.