Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often nicknamed Mormons) believe that the Book of Mormon is scripture. This does not mean, however, that they do not accept the Bible as scripture as well. Most Christians accuse Latter-day Saints of having a “Mormon Bible.” This is not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses the King James Version of the Holy Bible as its English Bible all over the world. Obviously, different translations are used in different languages, but the KJV is considered the most accurate translation available in English. Latter-day Saints do have their own edition of the KJV published with footnotes and references to other scripture, but the translation is the same as any other copy of the KJV.
The Bible is considered to be the word of God by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, it has been revealed that many plain and precious truths have been lost from the Bible over the course of nearly two thousand years. Some things were lost through the translation and transmission of the text. Other truths were lost due to the wickedness of men who changed doctrine to fit their own preferences.
The Book of Mormon is a companion book of scripture to the Bible. It is a religious and historical record of two different groups of people who were led to the Americas by the hand of God. This record was kept for more than 1000 years before it was buried to protect it from being destroyed. For hundreds of years it sat buried until the time was right for it to come forward, and God led a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith to find the record. Joseph Smith was called of God to be the first prophet of our dispensation. A dispensation is a period of time when the fulness of the gospel is on the earth. Due to the wickedness of men, the fulness is eventually lost in each dispensation. Then a prophet must be called again in order to restore the fulness. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, His apostles were systematically martyred. The fulness of the gospel lost fairly quickly. In 1820, though, God and Jesus Christ visited the young boy named Joseph Smith and called him to restore the gospel in our day.
Joseph Smith was able to find and translate the ancient record that was then published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. This book does contain the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a companion book of scripture to the Bible because it restores and clarifies doctrine lost from the Bible. It is another testament that Jesus is the Christ, the immortal Son of God. Reading the Book of Mormon brings a power into the reader’s life that cannot be gained in any other way. The Spirit of God can testify directly to the heart of whoever reads this sacred text.
Latter-day Saints believe there is other scripture in addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Unlike most other Christians, “Mormons” believe that God has not ceased speaking to His people. Thus, He is constantly adding to our scripture. The Doctrine and Covenants is another book in the Latter-day Saint canon. It contains many modern revelations which were given in answer to questions asked about the gospel. Most of these were given to Joseph Smith, though some were given to other church leaders.
The Pearl of Great Price is the last of the four printed books which make up the Latter-day Saints’ standard works (or canon). However, as stated above, Latter-day Saints believe that God continues to speak to us today through His prophets. Thus, the words of modern-day prophets are also valued as scripture. Twice a year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a General Conference in which church leaders speak to members worldwide and share spiritual messages with them. These words are considered inspired and are also scripture.
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Personal revelation is inspiration given to us personally, by God, through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Everyone arrives on earth at birth with the light of Christ. People often call this “conscience.” This light dims when we commit sin, or when we reject it. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and being spirit, can dwell within us. The Holy Ghost testifies to us when things are true, leads us toward God and Christ, warns us of danger, and comforts us. After baptism by immersion by the proper authority, the “gift of the Holy Ghost” can be conferred by the laying on of hands. This is a permanent gift, as long as the person receiving it remains worthy. The gift of the Holy Ghost is something that is always with us, guiding us through life. Through our actions, we chose whether to listen to that guidance or to drown it out with the voices of the world, beckoning us to join in its sin.
How does one recognize revelation from God? While I know, from personal experience how I receive revelation, I do not know how you, the reader, or anyone else in this world receives revelation. It’s a personal thing that is given differently, conforming if you will, to each individual’s personality and ways of processing information. One of our great tasks as we sojourn on earth is to recognize the voice of God when He speaks to us.
Revelation can be given and received in many different ways. One example is having a thought in your head, which you never would have come up with on your own. This could be an idea or a choice of words that sound a little different than your normal thought process. There are times, when I’m writing or I’m talking about the gospel. I can go on for hours conversing and discussing different topics with someone, and then at the end of the discussion, I don’t remember one thing that I said. I know, during those times, that I was speaking through revelation that was being given to me, through the gift of the Holy Ghost.
There are also times, when the small voice in your head, can get rather loud. This is necessary to jolt your system, when you are in danger and need to get away, or do something as fast as possible. I would like to share two experiences where that loud voice in my head, saved me from something terrible.
The first experience was when I was 13 or 14 years old. It was during the summer, at the time when certain fireworks were legal in Utah. I didn’t have much experience with fireworks, because I had spent most of my life in foreign places, where they didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Wanting to get some fireworks of my own, I went around to my family members and asked them if they could take me to the store. Being the youngest and smallest, I was ignored, while the others were in an intense conversation. I do not remember the topic, but I remember that all their faces were serious. Getting annoyed and frustrated, as I often got as a child, I decided to do it myself, another thing that I was quite known for doing. So, I hopped onto my bike and rode down the hill to the grocery store. When I got to the store, I found out that my funds were not sufficient enough to buy the things that I desired. Being very stupid, I went around the store and asked people for small amounts of change. There was a particular man, whom I asked and he gave me a dollar. After collecting enough to buy the fireworks I wanted, I went to the check-out stand, only to find out that I was too young to purchase fireworks. Down-hearted and sulking, I went around the store to find the people I had borrowed money from and one by one, returned their change to them. When I got back to the man who gave me a dollar, he asked me what was wrong. I explained my situation, to which he offered an exchange. He would buy my fireworks with what money I had, if I helped him put his groceries in the car. With a now wide smile on my face, I agreed, gave him my money, and then waited for him by the front door. He purchased his things and mine, afterwards showing me to his truck, he handed me my fireworks, then proceeded to put his bags away himself, which I found odd. After he was done, and put his cart away, he looked at me, and said, “Hey, why don’t you hop in the front seat of my truck and we can have a talk.” Now, I had not been taught about “stranger danger” to the extent that other American children had, since I lived in little towns where everyone knew everyone. But the second that he said that, my body shocked, and something in me (I know now that it was the Holy Ghost) yelled. “RUN.” So, I politely excused myself, smiled, then turned and casually got on my bike. Once I got around the corner, I hid behind a fence and watched him pull out of the parking lot. When he went the other way, I got back on my bike, and I tell you, Mount Everest would have been a breeze to bike, the way I was peddling.
The second experience, funny enough, also had to do with my bike and me. Riding home on my bike one very dark night, I followed the path that I was familiar with, since my night vision was not the best. Suddenly, that loud voice in my head, told me to close my eyes. A flash of thought about how stupid that was (since it was pitch dark) entered my head, but I heeded the thought and closed my eyes. The second that I did, a branch that was sticking out over a fence, hovering over the sidewalk, whacked me across the eyes, scratching my eyelids, eyebrows and the bridge of my nose. Without a doubt, I knew that the Holy Ghost, to save me from what was sure to be a major eye injury, had guided me.
I have had other revelations in my life, but those are things that are between Heavenly Father, and me and should not be discussed casually. But I want to bear my testimony, that the power of personal revelation is real, and that if we surround ourselves with positive things of the Gospel and not of the world, that voice will become more and more clear every day, guiding us along the path that will lead us to eternal salvation, with our Heavenly Father.
Your Own Idea, or God’s
Discerning personal revelation is a life-long journey, and all believers must learn to recognize God’s voice. The “still, small voice” of the Holy Ghost can be heard by the heart and mind, and the words uttered sear into one’s soul. Sometimes gentle promptings will repeat again and again, and we can act on them or ignore them. If we want to be God’s hands in serving others, we need to heed His promptings to visit the sick or call a troubled friend.
One measuring stick that we can always use in discerning whether promptings are from God is that revelation from God will ALWAYS urge or guide us to do things that uphold the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will never lead us in a direction that will harm us, or have us go against Christ’s commandments.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes strongly in the sanctity of the family and the bond and commitment between a husband, his wife and their children. God would never go against His own teachings and instruct an individual to stray from that sacred covenant. Recently I heard of a wife and mother in a seemingly happy family who felt instructed by God to abandon her husband and children and enter into a relationship with another woman. She claims that she has submitted to the will of God and has received daily confirmations from God in prayer. Her “inspiration” has not passed the test and could not be from God.
In the LDS Church, when we are confused, we have recourse to blessings from men who hold the Holy Priesthood. With the laying on of hands, they can convey messages from the Lord that will help us on the path to eternal life and enable us to serve others.