18 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:
19 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.
Sound scary? Well, a clearer understanding will remove any fear that John was condemning Latter-day Saints and their additional revelations.
As usual, context matters. Moses made a similar comment in Deuteronomy. Proverbs mentions a similar concept. And John himself likely wrote his Gospel and epistles after writing Revelation.
No, the canon (New Testament) wasn’t closed with John’s words in Revelation 22.
In this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, Laura Harris Hales interviews scholar Nicholas (Nick) J. Frederick about New Testament intertextuality in the Book of Mormon.
As an undergraduate classics major at BYU, Frederick became interested in studying Book of Mormon intertextuality. He wanted to discuss with other scholars what he was finding but encountered resistance from those who thought he was attacking the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Further frustration came as he realized that the few resources on the topic were primarily written by critics of the Book of Mormon arguing against historicity. Their research was overreaching and didn’t address how these New Testament elements were functioning within the text.
Frederick, who has since written a dissertation, book, and articles on the topic, hopes to expand the discussion of the New Testament elements in the Book of Mormon beyond that of simply whether they speak to historicity. That the New Testament can be found in the Book of Mormon is undeniable, but some might struggle with the notion of the New Testament as an antecedent text. Frederick suggests that we negotiate this roadblock by untethering the gold plates from the 19th century English document that we call the Book of Mormon because they are “two different texts that are related through translation.” Moving past the issue of why these passages are in the Book of Mormon to how the Book of Mormon affirms, comments on, corrects, and reimagines the New Testament is an important and fascinating discussion.
Unfortunately identifying common phrases isn’t as simple as it would seem. Sometimes there are direct quotations, such as from the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi—though even there Frederick discusses the fascinating influence of John’s gospel on quotations from Matthew. But the presence of the New Testament is often subtle. He explains that the Book of Mormon will “carefully weave these New Testament passages into the larger text,” so the interdependence does not readily stand out to the casual reader. The Book of Mormon seems to masterfully deconstruct and reconstruct New Testament concepts and phrases for its own purposes.
In an attempt to broaden the discussion, Frederick proposes a methodology for determining the probability of intertextuality, which goes beyond simply identifying common phrases. He adds four additional criteria to solidify connections. Through multiple examples, Dr. Frederick shows us how intertextual studies can enrich our study of the Book of Mormon.
About Our Guest: Nicholas J. Frederick served a mission in Brussels, Belgium, then attended BYU where he received his BA in classics and his MA in comparative studies. He then attended Claremont Graduate University, where he completed a PhD in the history of Christianity with an emphasis in Mormon studies, after which he returned to work at BYU. His research focuses primarily on the intertextual relationship between the text of the Bible and Mormon scripture. He enjoys teaching courses on the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, particularly the writings of Paul and the Book of Revelation.
From 1975 Ensign by Richard Lloyd Anderson: Simon Peter
A few paragraphs below:
“Was Peter impulsive, pious, or vacillating? Was he the first pope?
These questions reflect distorted opinions of the personality and life of Christ’s chief apostle. The authentic Peter towers in the New Testament, where more information is found on this apostle than any other except Paul.
None of the first disciples is mentioned as frequently in the gospels and the Acts; Peter’s recorded speeches, letters, and deeds exceed what remains from any other original apostle.”
From Elder McConkie in 1981:
Key section of Elder McConkie’s talk:
“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” Jesus says, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)
Then again Jesus alludes to the difference in paternal ancestry between him and Peter and continues his words of blessing and doctrine by saying: “And upon this rock”—the rock of revelation—“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.)
And how could it be otherwise? There is no other foundation upon which the Lord could build his Church and kingdom. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit.
God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. No man can know that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.
From the LDS Student Manual on Matthew 16-18:
Matthew 16:18. Revelation Is the Rock upon Which the Church Is Built
As the Savior taught Peter about revelation, He used a wordplay on Peter’s name, declaring to Simon, “Thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
The Greek word petros means an isolated small rock or stone. The Greek word petra can also mean “a stone,” but in addition it can refer to stony soil, bedrock, or a large mass of rock.
From these words we learn that it was not upon Peter as a man that the Church would be built, but upon the bedrock of revelation.
To read about the significance of Peter’s name being changed from Cephas, see the commentary for John 1:42.
President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) taught: “‘And upon this rock I will build my church.’ Upon what rock? Peter? Upon a man?
No, not upon a man, upon the rock of revelation, the thing which they were talking about.
He had just said, ‘… flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ This revelation that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation upon which he would build his Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 112; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 195)
This talk discusses what this part of the verse means. A few paragraphs below:
“The Greek word used to denote church in Matthew 16:18 is ecclesia, which literally means a “calling out” and originally referred to a civil assembly. Thus Jesus’ use of the phrase “my church” referred to an assembly “called” by him.
In the present dispensation, the Lord used church in this same sense. He revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. …
“Behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67, 69.)
In these instances the “church” is not so much an institution as it is a group of individuals who repent, come unto Christ through the ordinances of the gospel, and endure in faith to the end. Upon them the adversary has no claim.”
We all must be personally built upon the rock. Read this 1992 Ensign talk: Built Upon the Rock.
Super talk by Noel B. Reynolds. You can read or listen to it here.
– INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT
– SENTIMENTALISM VS. SPIRIT
– DISCERNMENT IMPORTANT
– LIGHT OF CHRIST
– USEFULNESS OF REASON
– THE ROLE OF SIN
– CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD
– GUIDELINES TO KEEP FAITH
– INTELLECT AND FAITH
A wonderful quote:
“Too much of the literature used, seen, and quoted in the Church today is just sentimental trash which is designed to pull our heartstrings or moisten our eyes, but it is not born of true spiritual experience. The tendency of our youth to use sentimental stories in Church talks creates a culture of spiritual misunderstanding in which thinking and learning are discouraged.”
Revelation is communication in which God is a flawless, divine encoder, but mortals are the decoders. Various kinds of “noise” prevent perfect understanding.
There is no evidence that Joseph Smith thought in technical terms of communication theory, but he understood these ideas well. He did not assume as we might that his revelation texts were faxed from heaven.
He understood that the Lord could certainly send signals seamlessly, but he knew better than anyone else that he lacked the power to receive the messages immaculately or to recommunicate them perfectly.
He considered it “an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord,” as he put it, largely because he felt confined by what he called the “total darkness of paper pen and Ink and a crooked broken scattered and imperfect Language.”
Joseph often revised his revelations before publishing them. He would reflect, edit, and revise. In contrast to what became Joseph’s approach, Joseph dictated the Book of Mormon and only later made few changes.
Consider these thoughts (the conclusion from Dr. Underwood’s devotional):
October 13, 2009, Grant Underwood. Professor of History, Brigham Young University
In conclusion, let us listen to two great students of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The first is F. Henry Richards, one of our Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) “cousins” and longtime member of their First Presidency.
Edwards counseled readers of the Doctrine and Covenants to “not be unduly concerned about the exact phrasing in which revelation is recorded, nor even when further light makes it possible to enrich this phrasing in the attempt to convey this further light.
What is important is that the record shall prove the gateway to understanding, as it has to many thousands who have studied it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” My brothers and sisters, however we may view the process by which scriptural texts are composed, Edwards reminds us that in the end those texts should become a “gateway” to God rather than an idol that replaces Him.
Similar thoughts were expressed by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his April 2008 general conference address, and to him we give the concluding word. Said he,
“The scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge for Latter-day Saints. They are manifestations of that ultimate source. The ultimate source of knowledge and authority for a Latter-day Saint is the living God.”
In the spirit of Elder Holland’s insightful reminder, may we ever strive to let the written “word of God” in its full divinity and humanity lead us to the Living Word himself. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Another view of the story behind the revelations.
Published by FAIR Mormon in 2015. The video subtitle is “Using the Joseph Smith Papers to Understand the Doctrine and Covenants.”
Just yesterday a friend of mine claimed that it’s arrogant to say you’re the only true church. After all, he said, other faiths say the same thing.
We debated for some time, reaching no agreement. I thought I’d YouTube the question. Among other things I found, I liked the video below. I shared it with my friend who hasn’t yet commented on it directly.
Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, and the inaugural holder of the Jellema Chair in Philosophy at Calvin College. He is a Protestant and considered by many to be America’s leading Christian philosopher.
Plantinga explains that, according to his view, only one faith can be correct. And it isn’t true one is arrogant to believe this. I agree with Dr. Plantinga’s arguments. I disagree, however, that Protestantism holds the Gospel’s fullness.
I believe Joseph Smith restored the fullness of Christ’s teachings through gradual development and miraculous visitations.
Finding a balance between loyalty or commitment to one’s faith and sympathetic openness to other faiths is one of the biggest challenges Mormons face in an age of inclusiveness.