We Mormons are often accused of rejecting the Bible because we do not interpret it the same way as historic Christians. But what about the rest of Christianity? Surely there are some evangelicals and other conservative groups who truly attempt to adhere to the Bible and centralize it in their teaching. But what about the Christian world as a whole? Do they really take the Bible seriously?
I read 2 Nephi 29-31 this morning and reencountered a verse that has caused me to ponder a lot throughout the years:
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. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
On first glance, it might be tempting to argue that, considering the material before it about those who say that all is well in Zion, that the prophecy is against those within the church who do not accept God’s word (or at least don’t live by it).
However, the harsh rebuke in the immediately following chapter is against those who complain, “A Bible! We need no more Bible!” Admittedly, in that chapter, the Lord’s condemnation does not involve a threat to take away previously given knowledge, but the prophecy from chapter 28 and its proximity to chapter 29 make me think that the prophecy ought to be read as a rebuke against those who do not accept the Book of Mormon. After all, even if the two rebukes (chs. 28 and 29) are against different audiences, are they not guilty of the same offense? Is a “sectarian” who clings to his Bible but shuns the Book of Mormon any more or less guilty than a church member who ignores the warnings of modern prophets?
…for he that receiveth, to him shall be given; but he that continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Similar changes by Joseph Smith occur in the other synoptic parallels. So the prophecy in 2 Nephi 28 is not the only occurrence in Restoration scripture of the thinking that receivers get more and rejectors are deprived of what they have.
In the context of the statements above, consider this prediction from Brigham Young:
And we take this book, the Bible, which I expect to see voted out of the so-called Christian world very soon, they are coming to it as fast as possible, I say we take this book for our guide, for our rule of action (Journal of Discourses 13:236).
Considering the scriptural precedents, Brigham Young’s “hard saying” deserves serious consideration and should probably not just be dismissed as an ephemeral opinion. There may have been a sentiment among the early Mormon leaders that Christians who did not accept new revelation from God would ultimately lose (or, more specifically, reject) the revelation they already had: the Bible.
Such a sentiment may not be unwarranted. Do secularly-minded Christians who downplay the Bible’s importance as God’s word reject the Bible? Do non-Mormons who (without modern revelation) misinterpret the Bible’s teachings thereby inadvertently reject the Bible? Does the modern religious world reject the Bible by not living by its teachings? On the other hand, some may feel that it is Mormons who reject the Bible by accepting doctrine some believe to be antithetical to its teachings. In my view, and argument could be made for any one of these positions.
In any case, what do you think about Brigham Young’s statement? Please take advantage of either the poll (my first one!) or leave your comments below. Or do both.