open book with pages set on fire against a black background

Defects of an Open Canon

Ask a Latter-day Saint about their faith, and they’ll proudly proclaim that God has given them new scripture. In addition to the Bible, they have The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Their modern-day prophets and apostles also speak scripture over the pulpit twice a year at General Conference.

In a recent article entitled, “Why the Bible Needed to be Rescued” LDS blogger Greg Trimble argues that the Bible is not complete. He says, “So, when someone says the Bible is complete, my question is, where did they get that from? Who said that God was going to stop talking to us through prophets? Why would He? He’s been doing it since the day he dropped a garden in Eden… so why would He stop now when we need it the most?”

When I was a Latter-day Saint this was my trope as well. Why would a loving God stop talking to us? It didn’t make sense. However, if we turn the tables, we will see that an open canon is more problematic than a closed one.

Imagine that a book came out called, “Everything You Need to Know about Marriage.” Then, a year later volume 2 came out. A year later volume 3 made the New York Best Sellers list. What would this do to the original title? Would it save it, like The Book of Mormon supposedly saves the Bible? No. These new volumes would undermine the original book, because clearly, it does not teach us everything we need to know about marriage.

This is exactly what The Book of Mormon does to the Bible: it weakens it. By adding new revelation to the equation, the LDS church says the Bible is insufficient. The Book of Mormon is subsequently weakened by the Doctrine and Covenants, and it by the Pearl of Great Price. All these religious texts are weakened by modern Mormon prophets.

According to Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young once took the stand, laid out the LDS scriptures, and said, “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost to our day. And now, when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books (Conference Report, October 1897, p.22).”

In Mormonism, the dead prophets are weakened by the living prophet. In October of 1990, President Hinkley gave a talk entitled, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’” in which he quoted a missionary saying, “While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church that bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.”

Hinkley and his successor President Monson both pushed for the famous “I’m a Mormon” campaign. But when Russell M. Nelson became the prophet, all that was hewn down. In October of 2018 he gave a talk entitled, “The Correct Name of the Church” wherein he said that using the nickname Mormon is “a major victory for Satan”.

As long as new scripture is able, not only to add to old scripture, but to contradict it, an open canon is worthless because we never know what’s coming that might obliterate something we believe in now. With an open canon, there’s no guarantee that even gospel basics won’t be changed somewhere down the road.

The Book of Mormon’s subtitle is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” It is championed as being a second witness to support the stories of the Old and New Testaments. The reality, though, is far different. It claims that many plain and precious things were taken out of the Bible, and because of that, “an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Nephi 13:29)

This statement only serves to weaken the Bible, to say that it has the story wrong, and that it’s insufficient. To say The Book of Mormon came to its rescue, is like saying a lifeguard jumped into the pool and rescued someone by drowning them.

Another verse I used to cite as a Latter-day Saint was John 21:25 which says: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

I was convinced that John 21:25 supported the need for more scripture, but here’s the dilemma. If so many books were written that the world was filled, all those books could not be read. So, while it’s emotionally satisfying to think we deserve modern scripture, it isn’t very practical.

With a closed canon, God’s word is succinct. It is powerful. It can’t be altered by the whims of a false prophet. To say we need an endless quantity of God’s word, is to say there’s no quality in God’s word, and that simply isn’t true. So no, The Book of Mormon did not rescue the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible rescues us from The Book of Mormon and everything else that corrupts the gospel of Christ.