Official Mormon teaching and practices today are based primarily in the continual divine revelations and interpretations of the LDS President and Prophet and only secondarily in Mormonism's four written scriptural books that consist of the Bible (King James Version only), Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
In Mormonism all contemporary experiences of revelation and interpretation by the LDS President and Prophet surpass all past written records of revelation in authority, including the Bible. When today's LDS President and Prophet speaks, Mormons listen very carefully. Joseph Smith made it clear from the start of Mormonism that the authoritative ongoing revelations and interpretations of the LDS President and Prophet alone ultimately establish and determine the official teaching and practices of the LDS Church.
In the Mormon mind, what God communicated in the past-even if identified as Holy Scripture-is always secondary to what God is saying to ordained Mormon apostles and prophets today. Mormons believe that they are divinely guided and directed concerning the straight and narrow road to eternal exaltation of godhood ultimately through the contemporary revelations and interpretations of their President and Prophet. The LDS President and Prophet is the single authorized mediator between God and Mormon leaders and members.
Because of the primacy of contemporary revelation through Mormonism's President and Prophet over all its scriptural books, official LDS doctrine and practices are always dynamic and changeable. Any of the most central LDS beliefs today can be changed or updated at any time. This crucial understanding of the changeable nature of official LDS doctrine is confirmed by Mormonism's ninth Articles of Faith creedal statement, "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."
Through the contemporary revelations and interpretations of Mormon apostles, nothing precludes the LDS Church from embracing future changes or additions to its doctrine and practices. Most Mormons actually expect that there will be changes and additions in the future. As historically proved in the overturning of Doctrine and Covenants revelation endorsing the practice of polygamy and other major changes, what Mormons are obligated to believe and practice today is not necessarily what they will be required to profess and obey tomorrow. As a result of the changing nature of official LDS teaching and practices, individual Mormon certainty in their faith can be only temporarily embraced and sustained, for tomorrow another kind of Mormonism can emerge.
Mormon Scriptural Books
Following the absolute authority of the revelations of the LDS President and Prophet, Mormons' official teaching and practices are contained in their written scriptural books collected under the title The Standard Works of the Church. Again, the LDS Standard Works are the Bible (King James Version only), Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
Although individual Mormons are encouraged to read these scriptural books and receive inspiration from them for their daily lives, it is important to understand that official and authorized LDS interpretations of these books-including the Bible-are determined only by the Mormon Church's top fifteen male apostles and prophets who are currently functioning in the Quorums of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles. Dr. Stephen Robinson makes this clear:
The only official interpretations and applications of these doctrinal sources are those that come to the church over the signatures of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (collectively). All the rest is commentary.
Absolutely no one else in Mormonism-no matter how significant or educated-has the right to officially speak on behalf of the LDS Church. In fact, speaking against the official doctrinal positions and interpretations of the LDS Church can lead to Mormon court trials, disfellowship, and excommunication, something that has happened throughout Mormon history.
The LDS Church today primarily uses the 1611 version of the King James Bible that contains interpretative chapter notes composed by Mormon systematic theologian Bruce McConkie. But although Mormonism includes the Bible in its collection of scriptural books, Mormon understanding of the absolute authority of the Bible falls drastically short of the high doctrinal standard of the Christian church. The major difference between Mormonism and Christianity concerning the Bible is rooted in the fact that Mormonism believes that the Bible is corrupt, contains errors, and is missing God-inspired books and truths.
In sharp contrast, Christians hold the Bible up as the chief and only standard of their faith and practice. We believe that the entire written Bible-Old and New Testaments-fully communicates all of God's special revelation to humanity. The Bible is fully accurate and totally reliable in all things. In Mormonism, the Christian view of the Bible is simply not taught. Mormons consider Christians fools for believing in only the Bible. As the Book of Mormon's 2 Nephi 29:6 reads:
"Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible." This is what Bruce McConkie writes: "There is no more false or absurd doctrine than the sectarian claim that the Bible contains all of the word of God."
Again, unlike Mormonism, Christianity stands firm that the Bible alone is the ultimate and final authority of faith, practice, and teaching. The most important biblical passage supporting the Christian position concerning the trustworthiness of the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."
Christians believe that the Bible is the written Word of God. Mormonism's eighth Articles of Faith creedal statement, how ever, emphasizes that the Bible is the Word of God only as far as it is correctly translated. The bottom line for Mormonism, as previously stated, is that the Bible is authoritative only as it is understood and interpreted by the Mormon apostles and prophets. Dr. Robert Millet writes:
The declaration, clarification, and interpretation of doctrine for the church as a whole rest with the presiding councils of the church, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The Bible Is Corrupt and Filled with Errors
Although Mormons do not believe that the Bible is totally unworthy or nonvaluable, they do believe that God's original revelation has not been soundly preserved through the centuries, that it contains errors, and that its contents have been badly altered and corrupted. The LDS Church believes not only that the Bible contains numerous errors, but also that many God-inspired truths and books have been taken away or excluded from the original Bible by apostate Christians. The LDS Church believes that several inspired books are not in the Bible that should be, and that other "God-breathed" writings that once existed are now missing. Mormonism states that these "lost books" were probably destroyed or excluded by the apostate Christian church. As a result, the Bible today is a fundamentally incomplete Bible. Since it is corrupt and contains errors, the Bible is functionally subordinate and fully subject to clarification and revision by the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.