One of the strongest proofs that Mormonism does not believe the Bible is complete or trustworthy is the fact that Mormon founder Joseph Smith in the summer of 1830 began to write his own inspired revision of the Old and New Testaments. Since Joseph Smith believed that many plain and precious truths were missing from the Bible, he claimed that God had instructed him to publish an accurate and fully revised version of the Bible. Today, this is known as the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). Actually, it is very misleading to identify Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible as an authentic translation. It certainly was not. The word translation indicates that he used original texts and ancient languages. Instead, Smith makes it clear that his revision of the Bible was accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit and not by scholarly interpretation. He claimed that God's miraculous guidance enabled him to correct, delete, and add words and whole passages to the Bible. This is how the official LDS Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual describes the process:
Joseph Smith went through all the Bible, dictating to a scribe changes, deletions, or additions, but he did not complete a revision of the entire Bible. He never considered what he had accomplished as ready for publication, and he probably would have made many more corrections had he lived longer.
Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible was started, but it was never published during his lifetime. The manuscript of his Bible revisions and additions was kept by his widow Emma Smith, who refused to follow Brigham Young to Utah after Smith's death, and helped to start the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints under the leadership of her son. The Reorganized Church published the JST for the first time in 1867.
Although Mormonism has not included the JST in its scriptural books, it does claim that Joseph Smith's translation is truly inspired, and that it does restore to the Bible many plain and precious truths that had been lost or excluded by apostate Christianity. Yet no ancient manuscripts reveal that the content that Joseph Smith and the LDS Scriptures have attempted to restore to the Bible ever appeared in the original biblical texts in the first place. In fact, Dr. Craig Blomberg, distinguished New Testament professor at Denver Seminary, affirms that "more than 97 percent of the New Testament and over 90 percent of the Old Testament can be reconstructed beyond any measure of reasonable doubt." Dr. Blomberg goes further in his absolute support for the trustworthiness of the Bible:
None of the ancient manuscripts support the contention that the type of "restorations" that the Joseph Smith translation or the uniquely LDS Scriptures make were ever in the original biblical texts. Neither do any ancient manuscripts exist to support the claim the early church left out entire books from the Bible that would have included distinctively LDS doctrine.
How Do Mormons Read the Bible?
How a person approaches and reads the Bible reveals his or her real trust in its completeness, authenticity, and inspiration. Unlike Christians, who believe that the Bible is the sole primary authority of God's revelation and truth, Mormons read and interpret the Bible only through the filter of the LDS scriptural books and leaders:
Just as traditional Christianity has no hesitation in viewing the events and teachings of the Old Testament through the lenses of the New Testament, so Latter-day Saints do not hesitate to read the Bible through the lenses of the Book of Mormon, modern scripture, and the words of living apostles and prophets.
Book of Mormon
Mormonism places much more certainty and authority in the Book of Mormon than it does in the Bible. Mormons emphasize that the Book of Mormon is more accurate and trustworthy than the Bible because it is free of errors and contains the fullness of the gospel. The thirteenth Mormon President and Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, reveals how the LDS Church elevates the Book of Mormon over the Bible:
The Bible sits on the pulpit of hundreds of different religious sects. The Book of Mormon, the record of Joseph, verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things.
The Historical Story of the Book of Mormon
Surprisingly, unlike the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon contains very little uniquely LDS doctrine. The primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to provide a historical record of several groups of Old Testament Israelites who supposedly migrated to and lived on the American continent.
The first American migration story told in the Book of Mormon concerns a group of Israelites called the Jaredites, named after their leader, Jared. The Jaredites supposedly came to America at the time the tower of Babel was being built in approximately 2200 BC. Although very hard to even imagine, the Jaredites supposedly left the Middle East in eight barges that were illuminated by divinely powered, glowing rocks. They drifted the ocean for 344 days until they arrived on the eastern shore of Central America, and grew into a society of millions of people, who spread throughout the Americas until they died off in approximately 400 to 500 BC.
Most of the Book of Mormon, however, focuses on the offspring of a Jewish prophet named Lehi and his family, who escaped Jerusalem during the period of the Babylonian captivity in approximately 600 BC. The prophet Lehi is said to have received a revelation from God, telling him and his family, including his four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, to flee Israel and go to an unknown land.
According to the Book of Mormon story, Lehi and his family traveled for eight years through the wilderness, probably the Arabian Peninsula, until they apparently came to the Red Sea coast. It is said that they built a ship there. Similar to the biblical story of Noah, Lehi's family and sons, consisting of no more than twenty people, sailed from the Red Sea across the Indian and Pacific Oceans until they landed somewhere in Central or South America.
On the American continent, the Lehi family multiplied and prospered from 600 BC to approximately AD 400. They allegedly constructed many buildings and a temple similar to the size and glory of Solomon's temple. Mormons also say that when Jesus spoke about "other sheep" in John 10:16-"I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd"-he was speaking about the Jewish descendants of Lehi who inhabited America. But no Christian Bible teachers affirm this very speculative interpretation.
As the Book of Mormon story unfolds, it reveals that the descendants of Lehi separated into two warring nations known as the righteous, light-skinned Nephites led by the youngest son, Nephi, and the wicked, dark-skinned Lamanites led by the oldest son, Laman. In fact, most of the narrative of the Book of Mormon is about conflicts and wars between the Nephite and Lamanite nations.