Recently, a push poll informed people that the church considered the Book of Mormon to be more important than the Bible. Is this true? The belief stems from one of the Thirteen Articles of Faith. These are thirteen statements of belief written by Joseph Smith to explain the religion to a newspaper editor. The eighth Article of Faith says:
“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.”
Some people take this to mean we consider the Book of Mormon to be more important than the Bible. In fact, the Article of Faith says both are the word of God. It does not suggest that anything God says is unimportant or less important. All of God’s words matter to us. The Article of Faith only says we consider the Book of Mormon to be better translated. The Bible has been translated many times by many different groups of people. Religions and readers have a wide range of translations to choose from, and each translation is very different from the others. If you read a scripture from several of these translations, you will quickly find yourself confused as to the true meaning.
The Bible was not originally written in English. It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In 382 A.D., a Latin translation was undertaken. John Wycliff, who made a later translation, based his translation on the Latin, so any errors made in that edition were carried on into this one. A great many other translations were made, until finally, the King James version, used today by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes called Mormons, and many other religions, was created. This translation was a revision of earlier English translations, rather than a new translation.
For more information on how the modern Bible came to be, read “A Bible! A Bible” by Robert J. Matthews, Ensign, Jan 1987, 22
In modern times, even more translations have occurred. Each translation increases the risk of error, but it also allows the doctrine of men to creep in. Translators know that one can seldom translate text word for word. Instead, the translator must evaluate the meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence, and then find a similar word in the other language. This allows the translator to make choices as to the meaning of the text, and those who read only the translation are not aware of the other possibilities made available by the original text.
In contrast, the Book of Mormon was translated into English only once. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon directly from the original writings, with direct guidance from the Holy Ghost. Only a prophet can claim a perfect translation. As a result, the Book of Mormon remains true to the original intent of the authors.
This does not make it more important than the Bible. Were the Bible to be perfectly translated, it would stand equal to the Bible in its translation and in its use by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, when the meaning of a Bible verse is unclear or debated, we turn to the Book of Mormon to understand the Word of God as God meant us to understand it.
The Bible is a precious book. It contains the teachings of many ancient prophets and tells us of the Savior’s life. The Mormons could not do without their Bibles. In fact, the church’s modern-day story began with a Bible, when Joseph Smith read James 1:5: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
The church’s scripture education program rotates through a four year plan–two years for the Bible, one for the Book of Mormon, and one for modern scripture and church history. As you can see, the Bible is as important as the Book of Mormon and we spend twice as much time studying it as we do the book more closely identified with our faith.
To the Latter-day Saint, the Book of Mormon is critical in that it serves as a second witness to the reality of the Savior. It doesn’t replace the testimony of the Bible, but instead stands beside it, providing testimony and greater light as to the Savior’s mission and his concern for all people, not just those who lived in the Holy Lands.
Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the current prophet, said, “The Bible had stood for centuries. It is a precious and wonderful book. Now there was a second witness declaring the divinity of Christ. The Book of Mormon is the only book ever published, of which I know, that carries in it a promise that one who reads it prayerfully and asks concerning it in prayer will have revealed to him by the power of the Holy Ghost a knowledge that it is true (see Moroni 10:4).“ (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 83–86)
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.