July 25, 2007

No Book Contains ALL Truth

Orson Pratt
October 7, 1854

A video on YouTube called "Atheism vs. Mormonism" contained an interesting dialogue in the comment section between a critic of the LDS Church and a member of the Church over the Book of Mormon. The critic, MystryBox, was using an old favorite. Essentially, he said the Book of Mormon cannot contain the "fulness of the gospel" as it asserts, because it does not teach every point of LDS doctrine. (It doesn't explain things like the three degrees of glory, baptism for the dead, etc.) Thus, Mormons "reel" people in by having them read the Book of Mormon, and then give them all of the "surprise" doctrines later. (MystryBox is also apparently aware of the condemnation the Church is put under in D&C84:54-57 [1] , as he asserts only 5% of the members of the church have actually read the Book of Mormon).

Indeed, the Lord declares in Doctrine and Covenants 20:8-9 the Book of Mormon contains the "fulness of the gospel," but what does that mean? Mystrybox believes it ought to contain every point of doctrine, large or small. Should it? While we assert the Book of Mormon contains true doctrine, we do not believe it contains all truth. In fact, we believe no book can ultimately contain ALL truth. We also believe the Bible contains the fulness of the gospel (mostly the New Testament, especially Acts 2,) but indeed, it does not contain all truth.

Orson Pratt explained:

Many people think that all the duties of man are recorded in the Bible; that idea is held by many of the sectarian world; they think this book contains all the duties in regard to the relationships between man and man, and that it is a sufficient rule of faith and practice; and enough to govern them in all their dealings with each other, and in their duties towards their God.

Let me tell you, if any one man's duties (if he lived to be an old man) were clearly written, and foretold before he was born, it would take a larger volume than the Bible to contain them all; and when we consider the thousands and millions of human beings that are on the earth now, and the millions that have dropped into their graves in ages past, it is absurd to suppose that one such volume could point out all their duties, even if they all could have been foretold by the spirit of prophecy.

This is reason why the Lord has appointed a living Priesthood on the earth; why He has sent down the Holy Ghost from heaven, why it enters the heart of man, and inspires him with knowledge and information concerning his own duties
, and the duties of others also, that he may impart to them, week after week, and from one meeting to another, in public and in private, before large assemblies and in the family circle, every principle and duty that is necessary to be known; that his family, his wives and his children, and the Church of God at large may be taught by the Holy Ghost-the Comforter that guides into all truth; it is that power that instructs men in regard to all their duties (Journal of Discourses 2:54-61; see also 3 Nephi 26).
Thus, the Book of Mormon can't contain all the truth because written scripture cannot.

Brigham Young put it in this wise:
Language, to convey all the truth, does not exist. Even in the Bible, and all books that have been revealed from heaven unto man, the language fails to convey all the truth as it is (Journal of Discourses 1:112).

It takes continuing revelation to bring us back to God. This is why the Holy Ghost is vital to our progression in life.

The Book of Mormon clearly states its fundamental and main purpose is to convince all people that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that salvation is available through only Him. (see the Title page.) Its purpose is not to reveal all of God’s truth or knowledge.

In fact, the writers of the Book of Mormon directly explain that they are ONLY writing the basics; the “plain and precious” parts. (see 1 Nephi 13:35-40 and 1 Nephi 19:3; among others.) It promises directly that when people receive the “lesser things,” ie: the “basics” in the Book of Mormon, if you will, they will then receive the “greater things.” (See these very clear directions in 3 Nephi 26:8-9.) There are times when Book of Mormon writers cannot record what they've seen or heard, (see 3 Nephi 26:18.)

In other words: more knowledge will come, including details about God, the afterlife, and other points of doctrine that do not directly effect our salvation at this time, (it is not necessary to know everything in order to be saved. Otherwise, no one would be.) Line upon line, precept upon precept is the key. The Book of Mormon does contain the fulness of the gospel, but we must determine what “the gospel” is. The gospel, as you likely know, is the “good news.”

Jesus Christ specifically defines it in the Book of Mormon:
Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil...

And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words. And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end (3 Nephi 27:13-19).
Here the gospel is defined as (1) Christ coming into the world to do the Father’s will, (2) the will being that He is crucified and dies for the sins of the world, (3) because of this atonement all men will be judged according to what they do in life, accepting or rejecting what Christ commands, (4) those who have faith then must repent and be baptized, then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, (5) they then must endure to the end, continue faithful to Christ or (6) be cast out of His presence. (7) The words of Christ shall all be fulfilled. Again, only those who have faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end can be saved.[2]

This is the “fulness of the gospel” promised in the Book of Mormon, which it does contain, in full. All the rest is in "enduring to the end," and we are commanded to receive the Holy Ghost, which will then teach us "all things," and bring all things to our remembrance, as Christ promised in John 14:26.

Thus the importance of the Holy Ghost and guidance of living prophets in our quest to endure to the end is underscored. The other doctrines, such as eternal marriage, the three degrees of glory, etc. are either too sacred to write and must be experienced in person, or they do not directly affect our eternal salvation.

No book can contain it all.[3] As John ended his gospel, so end I this post:
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 (John 21:25).



On the Church being under condemnation for neglecting the Book of Mormon:
"...Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation...And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon," (
D&C 84:54-57).

President Benson said this condemnation had not entirely been lifted:
"Now, my good Saints, we have a great work to perform in a very short time. We must flood the earth with the Book of Mormon—and get out from under God’s condemnation for having treated it lightly," (Flooding the Earth With the Book of Mormon, Ensign Nov. 1988.)

See also these two great sources, where much of this information was already organized:

Daniel H. Ludlow, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Sept. 1985, 17.

FairWiki article: "Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel."

Orson Hyde on continuing revelation:
"The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and commandments of God, given to a generation under one set of circumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time.
It is so with the servants of God. There is a Spirit that is ever ready, and points out, under varied and conflicting circumstances, the very course which the servants of God should pursue. The Bible is not a sufficient guide; it is only the history of the people who lived 1800 years ago. The history of our Church in this day, presents the scenes and transactions of this people-the revelations and words of God to them; but if an individual living an hundred, or eighteen hundred, years hence, under different circumstances, were to adopt the history of this people for his guide in all things, he would not find it sufficient to answer the circumstances surrounding him," (JoD 2:75).

Bruce Neilson on the MormonMatters blog argued that the Book or Mormon actually paves the way for higher knowledge recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. Here is his list, by no means comprehensive:

  • Salvation of those that didn’t have a chance to know - 2 Nephi 9:26-27
  • Word of Wisdom - Mosiah 11:15
  • Physical nature of God / Godhead (not just a Spirit - has a finger) - Ether 3, 1 Nephi 11, Alma 31:15
  • Holy Ghost is a personage - 1 Nephi 11:11
  • Separateness of Godhead - 2 Nephi 31:14-15; compare with 1 Nephi 11:11 and Ether 3 also
  • True nature of hell - Alma 36, Alma 11:43, Alma 12:17, Mosiah 3:27
  • Age for baptism - Moroni 8
  • Importance of temples - 2 Nephi 5:16, Mosiah 2:1, 3 Nephi 11:1
  • Plural marriage - Jacob 2 (see v. 30)
  • Salvation for the dead - 3 Nephi 25 (Malachi 4)
  • Becoming like God - 3 Nephi 28:10

To it I would add a slight hint at the premortality of man. For example, Mormon 9:13 states "And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord..."


Anonymous said...

Hi this is "MystryBox" from YouTube. The point of my comment on that video was to inform the non-mormon who made the video to not waste his time reading the BOM as it wouldn't really help him understand Mormons. I said:

"If you haven't read the BOM you're on par with 95% of Mormons. Note that most Mormon doctrine really doesn't come from the BOM anyway so reading it won't help you much. Mormons have prophets that might put out scripture, and also some sorts of doctrine are known by a sort of "group culture osmosis" but might not even be specifically written down. Being Mormon is more a lifestyle than a religion."


"Many (most?) key subjects of doctrine that define the Mormon church such as salvation and the C. Kingdom, WOW, temples, proxy ordinances for the dead, eternal marriage, priesthood, etc. are simply not in the BOM. They were later revelations. My original point remains that someone that reads the BOM will have no idea what the Mormons are about."

That is all true and it's probably why most mormons don't bother reading the BOM (that and it's really REALLY boring).

Best Regards

BHodges said...

The trouble with your assertions are multiple. I will mention only one.

Your "95%" statistic is pulled from thin air. It has no foundation in fact or even in evidence. It is a bald assertion. I can assert that it is snowing in Hawaii right this second. However, my merely stating that does not make it so. Saying "most Mormons don't read the Book of Mormon" is, I believe, flatly false.

Some of your other assertions (regarding temple and priesthood) are likewise false, as the Book of Mormon discusses those things. You are correct in noting the importance of continuing revelation adapted to current circumstances of Church members, however, so you make a good point there. However, claiming that the Book of Mormon plays no part in what Mormons believe is, frankly, false.

BHodges said...

A person asking me about "plain and precious things" in the Book of Mormon said: "If you polled a group of random, active LDS and asked them to list the "plain and precious truths" that were removed from the Bible, would you be more likely to get a list like "three degrees of glory, deification, celestial marriage, temple ordinances, Kolob and cosmos" or would you be more likely to get a list of "fall, atonement, faith, repentance, baptism, Gift of Holy Ghost"? If the former, why would the church be so unclear on it?"

This goes back to the original question about what the plain and precious things are. Does Nephi give any hints from his own words, or from what he elected to write? And I also wonder why the "plain and precious" truths restored are confined by you to the Book of Mormon. While I believe it plays a significant role in that regard I also see reasons to believe your view is too confined:

1 Ne. 13:38-40
38 And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.
39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

There are books promised. This is confirmed later in the BoM after the visit of Christ to the Nephites. Mormon explains:

3 Nephi 26:6-12
6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
7 But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.
12 Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me.

BHodges said...

To the list I would add the clear concepts of covenants, personal revelation, and another slight hint at the premortality of man. (For example, Mormon 9:13 states "And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord...").

I would also add the excellent explanation of the light of Christ and the universality of the atonement of Christ (as contrasted with limited atonement, etc.)

BHodges said...

2 Nephi 28:30
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

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