In a recent Associated Press article (reprinted in the “Religion” section of The Democrat Gazette), there is detail given about a recent change to the Book of Mormon that is sparking debate. In short, the word “among” was added to a section related to native American Indians, who are long believed (by Mormons) to be the lost tribe of Israel. Traditionally, the Mormons believed the Indians to BE the lost tribe, and now it is saying that they are AMONG the lost tribe.
Now, that is not the lesson for us in particular. The lesson relates to the theology behind the change. Periodically through the years Mormons have made major edits to the Book of Mormon. At one point, polygamy was promoted, even commanded. As well, there was incredibly racial language used toward those of “darker” skin. Both of these issues were changed, especially as it became unlawful or anti-cultural.
None of this is a problem, however, for the Mormon because they have in their theology the principle of continuing (or open) revelation. This means that new information can come about that can be added or removed from the canon of the Book of Mormon. This is something that evangelicals should pay close attention to.
Many people debate whether or not God still speaks today. What the debate centers on is whether or not God can say something new, not even necessarily “fresh”, just new… “thus saith the Lord” kind of stuff, just with no scriptural support. While God certainly does “speak” to us today through His word and even impressions of the Holy Spirit consistent with the Bible, we do not believe that biblical revelation is still open and can alter what we have as recorded scripture.
Those who hold to such beliefs are destined to fail, because their beliefs are always subject to forthcoming change. Many Mormons apparently believe that the story of the American Indians will one day be dubbed as folklore and not fact. But when so much of their beliefs are based on John 10 when Jesus says that He will go to “other sheep”, where does that leave Joseph Smith and is magical stone that interpreted the Book of Christ’s new work in the Americas? When will the Book of Mormon be changed to include information about Joseph Smith being a charlatan? Will the entire Book of Mormon be dubbed folklore at some point?
Now, some might say you could say the same thing about the Bible. Not really. While some have problem with the miraculous, the Bible is consistent with archeology and, where addressed, with science. You could take the DNA of an American Indian and there would be no consistency with any Jewish tribe (according to the AP). For thousands of years, the Old and New Testaments have withstood scrutiny and examination, with periods of verified archaeological evidence (Dead Sea Scrolls – 20th century / 5 Pillar colonnades of John 5 – 19th century…).
We have to be cautious about looking for some “new” revelation. While we need to be freshly filled with the Holy Spirit for bearing spiritual fruit, we must realize that all that we need has been provided in the holy writ of Scripture as we have it. Sure, there are many translations and paraphrases (don’t study the paraphrases), and some are better than others. But that is why we take the Word of God as translated by godly men throughout the ages, using the oldest copies of the original manuscripts in the original languages, and believe that God has completed His revelation that we may be certain that our hope of salvation rests on Christ (the Word, logos) and not on our own developing intellect.
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:20-25