By Kurt Van Gorden, © 1992
In answering the resolution “Does the Bible allow for additional Mormon Scripture?” the panel representing the Christian position denies such a proposition. Before my case can be built, it is necessary to define the terms of this resolution.
The word Bible as I use it in my talk and throughout the debate consists of the Old and New Testaments, containing 39 books in the Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi), and 27 books in the New Testament (Matthew through Revelation). This 66-book collection comprises the only scriptures sanctioned by Jesus and His Apostles, as noted in Hebrews 1:2.
The term allow in our resolution carries the normal sense of “permit.” Does the Bible permit additional Mormon scripture to be interwoven in its message? The phrase additional Mormon scripture must be defined even more carefully. Mormonism claims special revelation as a modus operandi since Joseph Smith’s First Vision of 1820. Although revelation has filled its history, Mormons have made it clear that not every revelation is scripture. With all due respect to our opponents, the following lists authoritative Mormon scripture outside of the Bible, which we share in common.
First is the Book of Mormon; second is The Doctrine and Covenants; third is the Pearl of Great Price; fourth is the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (sometimes referred to as the Inspired Version); fifth are the words of the current Mormon prophet, who, according to prophet Ezra Taft Benson, is “the only man who speaks for the Lord. . .” and who “does not have to say ‘thus saith the Lord’ to give us scriptures;” and sixth are the Mormon Temple ceremonies which, although somewhat esoteric and not published for the public, are nevertheless “translated by the Prophet” Joseph Smith from his Egyptian papyrus, according to the Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie, and they are sacred ordinances that are “essential to the eternal salvation and exaltation of Latter-day Saints in the celestial kingdom of God,” to quote the tenth Mormon prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith.
In order for these six Mormon scriptures to be added to that of the Bible, our opponents first would have to prove that their revelations fit the historical time frame for those who were qualified to judge — namely, the Apostles. The New Testament writers claimed their revelations to be exclusive (Romans 15:19, “I have fully preached the gospel;” 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power hath given us all things that pertain to life and godliness;” Jude 3, “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”). Second, our opponents would have to prove express apostolic authorship or endorsement. Third, they would also have to prove consistency with the same gospel message. Finally, they would have to prove these writings were received as inspired by the Apostolic community of believers to whom they were addressed.
There is no other way for our opponents to show that Mormon revelations belong with the body of scriptures we know as the Bible. We intend to win this point of the debate by proving the impossibility of the contrary. If we apply the same standards to the Mormon scriptures that affirm to us that the New Testament is authoritative, we discover they do not fit the criteria. For that matter, this is the same test that excludes all other modern revelations that mention Jesus Christ. The Koran, the Divine Principle, the Urantia book, and many other religious writings fall short of the Bible for the same reason.
Before I elaborate upon the criteria for authoritative scripture, let me defuse irrelevant Mormon arguments that only confuse the issue.
Any argument presented concerning an open or closed canon of the Bible is a fallacy of irrelevance, that is, it attempts to prove the wrong point. An open canon or closed canon of the Bible does not address the content of Mormon revelation, which we must address.
Any argument presented concerning the dates of New Testament canonical booklists is also the fallacy of irrelevance. The proposition is not concerned with the dates of canonical lists, but rather, does the Bible allow additional Mormon scripture?
Any argument presented to show stylistic similarities between the Mormon scriptures and the Bible is a fallacy of irrelevance, because the style of the language does not prove the authenticity of the content.
Any argument presented to show the need for continued revelation is the fallacy of irrelevance, because saying that God speaks through a messenger is different than saying He did it through Mormon prophets.
Finally, a fallacy of begging the question needs to be avoided. One cannot quote the Book of Mormon to prove the Book of Mormon. If one claims that the Book of Mormon has internal statements saying its message is the same as as the Bible, then one is merely using the contents to prove the whole.
To prove that the Bible does not allow additional Mormon scripture, we need only to compare the Bible to Mormon scriptures. All purported scripture must pass these four tests: (1) Does Mormon scripture fit the historical time frame of those qualified to judge it? (2) Does Mormon scripture have express Apostolic authorship or endorsement? (3) Does Mormon scripture contain the same gospel message as the Bible? (4) Was Mormon scripture received as inspired by the Apostolic community of believers?
Does Mormon scripture fit the historical time frame for those who were qualified to judge it — namely the Apostles? No, it doesn’t. The closest Mormon scripture to fit the historical time frame is the Book of Mormon, but it lacks verifiable contact with any Apostle of the first century. Why must additional Mormon scripture fit the historical time frame? The Bible tells us that Jesus was sent in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4). It was through His Apostles in Palestine that He sent His gospel to the world. He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19). “You shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They were His chosen witnesses to the world, resulting in the historic time frame known as the Apostolic age.
Does Mormon scripture have express Apostolic authorship or endorsement? No, it doesn’t. The Book of Mormon was supposed to have been written by others who never knew the Apostles. The other Mormon scriptures were by men of the 19th and 20th centuries, which places them outside of the realm of knowing the Apostles. It begs the question, again, to claim that New Testament Apostles appeared in Pennsylvania in 1829 to restore “apostleship,” because that uses a Mormon revelation to prove Mormon revelations. Mormon scriptures cannot be added to the Bible because they lack express New Testament Apostolic authority or endorsement.
The Apostolic authorship or endorsement of every New Testament book is self- evident. As Luke records about the apostles, they were eyewitnesses from the beginning (Luke 1:2; Acts 1:1).
Our third test asks, Does Mormon scripture contain the same gospel message as the Bible? No, it does not. The contradictory messages between the Bible and Mormon scripture are many. The Bible teaches the eternal existence of one true God, whereas the Mormon scriptures teach the existence of many true gods. The Bible teaches the heavenly Father is an omnipresent Spirit and not man, but Mormon scriptures teach that He is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bone, dwelling on a planet (D&C; 130:4). The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works; while Mormon scriptures teach that salvation depends on self-meriting works.
The Mormon scriptures do not carry the same gospel message as the Bible. There are strict warnings by the Apostle Paul about following a different gospel. Second Corinthians 11:4 says, “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may will put up with it!” In Galatians 1:6-8 he says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Our fourth test asked, “Was Mormon scripture received as inspired by the Apostolic community of believers?” No, it was not. The Book of Mormon was supposedly an ancient record, but had no reception as inspired scripture among the Apostolic community of believers. There is no corroborating evidence that such writings ever existed until Joseph Smith claimed his discovery eighteen centuries later. In contrast to this, the Bible in both Old and New Testaments has corroborating historical evidence on three continents. The deliberate dissemination of the Bible is evident in Paul’s writings, where he expected his letters to be shared among the churches (Colossians 4:16). It was through this receiving and dissemination of the inspired writings by the churches that we have such a wealth of biblical manuscripts.
It is by showing the impossibility of the contrary that I have built my case for why the Bible does not allow additional Mormon scripture. It is impossible to take the affirmative position on this resolution because the Bible does not allow it.