Of Course we Believe the Bible!
In an attempt to appear orthodox and align themselves with the mainstream Christian churches the Mormon Church must embrace the book that everyone associates with the Christian faith, the Bible. Having started a religion that is based on an unreliable Bible they have realised what a liability they have in a message that distrusts the Bible and prefers the Book of Mormon. In Mormonism the Bible is the only book of scripture that is not viewed as wholly reliable. Just look at their eighth article of faith:
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.”
However, this idea cannot be allowed to enter into the perceptions of the world “out there” before there has been an opportunity to “explain” the Mormon position on the Bible.
This is nowhere better illustrated than in the experience of a friend of mine who met several times with Mormon missionaries. On their first visit he set out to establish their attitude to the Bible, declaring, “I am a Christian and trust the Bible as the fully reliable word of God. I have been told that Mormons are not Christians and do not fully trust the Bible”. Their reply was an unequivocal endorsement of the Bible and they promised that they took exactly the same view as my friend.
Several meetings later, frustrated at not being able to deal with the Bible verses my friend used to challenge what they were teaching, they declared the Bible to be unreliable and corrupt, “translated incorrectly”. Challenged to square this with their first declaration of full trust in the Bible they struggled to hold two contradictory thoughts in their minds at the same time. On the one hand the “official” stand before the world is that Mormons trust the Bible, on the other the true position is that the Bible is only reliable “as far as it is translated correctly”.
The average Mormon’s knowledge of translation-work generally and how we got our Bible in particular, is woefully inadequate. They fall back on the myths manufactured by the Mormon Church and trust that their leaders are keeping them reliably informed. The truth is that the popular Mormon account of Bible translation work is embarrassingly fanciful and is designed with a built in prejudice against the Bible and for the restored gospel of Joseph Smith. A common Mormon explanation of how we got our Bible is that it is “a translation of a translation of a translation…” Each generation is seen as a translation of a previous translation, a truly ridiculous notion and easily refuted but still fondly adhered to by Mormons the world over.
Using this flawed reasoning Mormonism leads people to believe that modern translations of the Bible are merely paraphrases of previous Bibles, subject to the fads and prejudices of translators. The following is again taken from the same section of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
The official position of the Church is stated in its eighth article of faith: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." The message of the Bible is held to be true, while details of accuracy and completeness are accepted within certain limits. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors" (TPJS, p. 327). And again, "From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled" (TPJS, pp. 9-10). (Italics added)
And the following was written by Mormon apostle Orson Pratt:
The Bible has been robbed of its plainness; many sacred books having been lost…and what few we have left, were copied and re-copied so many times, that it is admitted that almost every verse has been corrupted and mutilated to that degree that scarcely any two of them read alike. (The Seer, p.213, 1854)
The very process of translation is seen as having a corrupting effect, the more modern the Bible, the more times it has been translated, the more corrupt the text. Thus the Bible is explained away. Not wanting the world to know this they are happy to declare that the Bible contains “the fulness of the everlasting gospel”. Having gained a hearing by presenting themselves as Bible believing Christians who simply have more to offer, they can then proceed to teach their message of a corrupt Christianity and an unreliable Bible. The trouble is that this leaves them with a claim to be a restoration of something that has always been here, and with a book that claims to be another testimony of something we fully knew all along.