(July 22nd, 2012)
This started as a discussion with a relative, who has concerns about my faith and the final state of my soul. She has asked me, quite fervently, "But, Pam, what if your faith is wrong? What if you go to (the bad place)?". This morning, I set out to answer the question (and perhaps not entirely fairly, since I've answered questions like this for years using much the same technique - the Bible is quite useful for proving the validity of the Book of Mormon). Afterward, I thought it'd be a good idea to add this topic to my blog, for any who might wish to read it.
First, we'll start off with a definition of the word 'proof': "the establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration". In this sence, we are using the term 'proof' to denote a logical progression that uses what's found in the Bible to prove that it necessitates, if one believes in Jesus Christ, a belief in the idea of on-going, present-day scripture. We will also be using a law of justice and order. By whatever measure you judge one passage, the same measure shall be used upon another with similar or identical wording. Then, the consequences of that interpretation, both in ancient times and in the modern age, shall be followed to their natural conclusions.
Let's start with the only real (albeit rather pathetic) weapon those of our day have against modern scripture...
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelations 22:18-19)
The popular interpretation of this is to say that it, somehow, gives us permission to tell God to shut His mouth and stop giving us scripture, i.e. that God's word and work is done and we now live in paradise with Jesus presiding over us. Hm, I don't know about anyone else, but the world I live in doesn't seem very paradisiacal, with starving babies in Africa and people shooting others because they have a gun and can, so I'm not totally sure how the idea that God can no longer give scripture became associated with something that, at least on the surface, sure seems to be saying not to edit the work itself. It's not like another earlier Biblical prophet ever said the same thing or anything...
"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deuteronomy 4:2)
For those who don't know, Deuteronomy was written by Moses and is the last book of the Pentateuch, i.e. the five books of Moses that form the foundational basis of the Torah (Jewish scripture). This is relevant because, both in Jesus's day and today, the Jews believe and teach that Deuteronomy is the end of scripture, since they, too, interpret this passage to mean that it somehow gives them lisence to say God shall never give new scripture. As I often point out to people, if you want to use Jewish logic to eliminate the Book of Mormon, you first have to use it to eliminate Jesus and the New Testament (as well as most of the Old Testament).
But my relative (who shall remain nameless in this article, out of consideration for their feelings) attempted to reconsile these two by saying that Deut. 4:2 was only talking about commandments, not the entirety of scripture, which they believed was the intent of Rev. 22:18-19. That took the conversation down an interesting path because Jesus did something very interesting with the commandments given by Moses...
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:21-22) (See also: Exodus 20:13)
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28) (See also: Exodus 20:14)
That sure looks like he's adding to the Ten Commandments to me, and by the interpretation that Duet. 4:2 refers only to a prohibition against any future commandments or additions thereto, wouldn't Christianity, of neccessity, be forced to reject Jesus for adding to the Ten Commandments? By that interpretation, God could never reveal a higher law than the Law of Moses, and we'd be stuck gouging out each other's eyes forever. As Jesus taught (Matt. 5:17-18), he came to fufill the Law. How can a law be fulfilled if that law is to be the end all and be all of commandments that can never be transcended, added to, or halted? If people really believe that this is the proper interpretation of Duet. 4:2, then why aren't they Jewish? Why try to believe in Jesus at all if your own interpretation of the Bible makes him something God forbade through the prophet Moses? In order to believe in Jesus as the Christ (meaning "Annointed One", which Christians hold to be on par with the word "Messiah"), do we not need an interpretation that allows for continuing scripture?
The reason acceptance of modern scripture and belief in Jesus Christ go hand-in-hand is that, throughout the Bible itself, people have constantly said, "God's word? I have God's word and need no more of God's word." and "God does not speak anymore." To believe in Jesus, one must accept an interpretation of Duet. that does not exclude the New Testament, and that same interpretation, when applied to Revelations, must then, under the demands of justice, free us up for modern scripture. Alternatively, I'll quote a passage from a book of modern scripture which tries to reason with the people of my day...
"Because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. ... Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. ... Because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written." (2 Nephi 29:3,7-8,9-10)
It always amazes me how many people seem to want to have it both ways. They want to be able to reject any modern scripture by twisting ancient scripture into a form that causes it to eliminate and contradict itself because they seem to prefer a Bible they can't understand to a plain truth that God still gives scripture even today. Nowhere in all of Sacred Writ (i.e. in all of scripture) does God say to mankind, "Well, I'm done with you. You've rejected my prophets, murdered my Son, and burned my teachings. I'm never speaking to you again. Good riddance!" or "Now that I've given you some of my word, you may feel free to tell me to 'Shut up!' if I ever dare try to teach you again.". Any interpretation of Revelations that eliminates the Book of Mormon must also be applied to Deuteronomy and eliminate most of the Old Testamant and all of the New Testament. As Jesus said to the scribes and priests of his day (who preached using the authority they claimed came down from Moses, just as Christian preachers today use the authority they believe somehow comes to them from Jesus)...
"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me." (John 5:45-46)
I'd like to give one more Biblical scripture about prophesy and scripture (one that serves to drive home my point):
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
All the tradition in the world doesn't change this simple fact. If God lives, it neccessitates Him being able to speak and act. If He doesn't speak or act today, but once did, and the cause isn't our unrighteousness and unwillingness to follow His teachings, then how can He be an unchangeable God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever? Furthermore, I wonder about the wisdom of declaring, "Our interpretation of the Bible, self-contradictory as it may be, is more important to us than hearing what God has to say." Modern scripture teaches that those who reject the idea of modern scripture would have rejected Jesus and all the prophets before him. An analysis of the Bible (and it's many cycles of faith and unbelief) leaves one with little doubt that this is true.