I was asked to speak on the scriptures. What does that mean, Scriptures?
The term scripture usually means written documents. But for us as Latter Day Saints, the concept of scripture has two complementary definitions. first, a narrow view that includes only the standard works as the scriptures, and secondly, a broader definition that includes all revelation from God as scripture. both of these are authoritative, since both are viewed as coming from God.
In the first definition, we would include only what we refer to as the scriptures, or the four standard works: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These constitute the canonized, authoritative corpus of revealed writings against which all else is measured. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them……We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine” (DS 3:203)
In the second definition, we view scripture as synonymous with such terns as “inspired” or “divinely revealed”. Speaking of those who have been called and ordained to proclaim God’s word, section 68:4 of the Doctrine and Covenants says: “Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upn by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the work of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation”.
In this light, we hold in high regard the words of church leaders at all levels. Especially authoritative are the official pronouncements of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who we have sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators”. Their writings and addresses, particularly in general conference, are cited frequently as guides for living and for authoritative interpretation of doctrine. Statements issued by the First Presidency represent the official position and policy of the Church.
Joseph Smith taught that “ a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” HC 5:265. So, the words of prophets carry the force of scripture only when they are uttered under the influence of the Holy Ghost. We freely acknowledge this divine influence in their teachings and counsel and consider it a privilege to be instructed by them. We view their inspired direction to be scripture in the broad definition and strive to live our lives with it.
While the church views its scriptures as a canon in a strict sense, they are not viewed as closed. The doctrine of continuing revelation is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Church. As was expressed by Joseph Smith in the 9th Article of Faith, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”. While accepting “all that God has revealed”, whether canonized in the scriptures or not, we also believe that revelation continues to enlighten the leaders of the church. We believe that the heavens are not closed, and that God continues to “pour down knowledge from heaven upon our heads” D&C 121:23
Forthcoming revelations are expected to include both ancient truths restored and new truths uncovered, and will be added the scriptures. Some parts of the Doctrine and Covenants were added during the lifetimes of many here today.
Additionally, the scriptures specifically foretell of the restoration of many books that will make known plain and precious things taken away from the world. Over twenty of these are mentioned in the existing scriptures, including the book of Enoch and additional account of the events on the Mount of Transfiguration, the fullness of the record of John and of visions about the end of the world, the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, which includes the vision of the brother of Jared, the brass plates, a more complete record of the teachings of Jesus Christ to the Nephites, and perhaps most startling and voluminous will be the records of the lost tribes of Israel.
How or when these scriptures will come forth is unknown, beyond the general belief that further revelations will come in the Lord’s time when people repent, exercise faith, and are prepared to receive them.
And in practice, we view certain other texts with special respect, based on their use, each with its own measure of authority. For example, exact prayers are specified for baptism and for the Sacrament. Other authoritative texts and words – with differing levels of authority – include messages of the First Presidency, temple ordinances, patriarchal blessings, the hymnal, handbooks for priesthood and auxiliary organizations, and manuals for teaching in the various ward organizations.
How blessed we are to have so much scripture easily available to us. Previous generations have not been so fortunate. In the middle ages the Catholic church actually forbid the laity from even possessing Bibles. They decreed: “No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments…..and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop……so that they may be burned”
Today Scriptures are plentiful. Ours is a time of fulness, including “things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world” (D&C 128:18). 2Nephi 27:11 says, “and the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth”.
thus, just as there will continue to be many more church members, families, wards, stakes and temples – later on, there will also be many more nourishing and inspiring scriptures.
And we enjoy easy access and availability to the scripture that only a few years ago was the stuff of science fiction. Besides our printed copies, we have the digital access of the internet. We can sit down at our computers, or pull out our tablets and phones, and have instant access to the vast library of scriptures, conference reports, church magazines, devotional talks, and other writings of the Prophets and General Authorities. We can listen to them as audiobooks as we travel down the road. We have access to scripture anytime, anywhere.
the corpus of LDS scripture is substantially larger than the of the canon of most other religions. the work “canon” is used infrequently when speaking of LDS scripture, in part because it connotes finality, completion, closure.
the perpetual unending character of LDS scripture, a corpus ever augmented by living witnesses in a setting of prophecy and testimony, is a sign and symbol of the LDS faith.
The Jewish Philosopher, Martin Buber wrote, objecting to the views of the Torah as a closed world, “To you God is one who created once and not again; but to us God is He who “renews the work of creation every day.” “To you God is one who revealed Himself once and not more; but to us He speaks out of the burning thornbush of the present….in the revelations of our innermost hearts-greater than word”. This statement captures much of the spirit of the LDS approach to scripture.
As Latter-day Saints we believe that the world has seen only the beginning of the great doctrinal and scriptural restoration whereby God will “gather together in one all things in Christ”. Heavenly and earthly records of all dispensations are to be gathered together and nothing shall be withheld.