The Holy Bible is called the Good Book—but is it God’s book? According to a recent Gallup poll, only 28% of Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally. However, the same poll found that nearly 50% of Americans believe the Bible is the “inspired word of God,” meaning that its contents shouldn’t be taken literally but rather as “metaphors and allegories that allow for interpretation.” [1] These numbers correspond with the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian—76% in Gallup’s 2013 religion aggregate. And the 21% who view the Bible in secular terms (meaning that it was written by man) corresponds with the 22% who identify themselves with another religion or no religion. [2]

While these numbers are interesting, they also tell a story about how many Americans see the Bible—that it is open for interpretation. Pastor John MacArthur, president of The Master’s College and Seminary who also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, said of this poll:

The findings reveal the utter chaos in our culture regarding the nature and authority of Scripture. … Clearly, the prevailing belief in our culture is that while the Bible may be the inspired Word of God, it doesn’t mean what it says. It’s only authoritative as long as the reader is the final arbiter of what it actually means. Debates on Scripture ultimately all come back to the issue of authority, and the majority of professing Christians in America have rejected the objective authority of the inerrant Word of God and have replaced it with the authority of self. [1]

Believing that the word of God is open for interpretation causes much chaos and confusion in the world today. But, as Pastor MacArthur pointed out, the debate really centers on the issue of authority—is the Bible the word of God to man, or the word of man about God? If the Bible is the word of God to man, then it can’t really be subject to debate. If it’s the word of man about God, then it may be open for interpretation. But how can we know which is true? We can begin by asking God—and then reading the Bible. Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which is sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church), said:

… When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline. [3]

The Bible is an amazing gift from God. The more we study its pages, its history and the fruits that it has brought forth, the more we understand and appreciate the miracle that it is, and the truthfulness of its words.

 

The Miracle of the Bible

 

 

The Bible is a miracle, but many people today take it for granted. After all, one can access its words through a variety of media—printed books, smart phones, computers, iPads and myriad other electronic gadgets. But this hasn’t always been the case. The late Robert J. Matthews, who was a religious educator and scholar at Brigham Young University (the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ), illustrated this point:

Today Bibles are plentiful. Most of us have at least one written in our own language that we can read and study with little effort. But Bibles have not always been so readily available. In 2 Kings 22 and 23, written some time around 620 B.C., is the account of temple workmen finding an abandoned copy of the law of God. This discovery seemed to have been a surprise; copies of the scriptures were apparently hard to come by then. King Josiah read these writings, discovered that many religious practices of his people did not conform with the recorded commandments, and decided to make changes. He reemphasized the Passover feast, and conditions improved for a time in Jerusalem. …

In about 520 B.C., Ezra the scribe, after bringing the people of Judah back to the land of Judea from their seventy-year captivity in Babylon, gathered them together so he could read the Old Testament to them. He translated as he read because the scriptures were written in Hebrew and the younger Jews spoke only Aramaic, the language of Babylon. Probably for the first time in their lives the Jews heard and understood the scriptures in their own tongue, and they wept and rejoiced. (See Nehemiah 8.)

These examples lead us to believe that having the scriptures readily available and in our own language is a blessing that most people in bygone days have not enjoyed. And yet the Bible … has been translated into thousands of languages and is available in book form in a multitude of sizes and bindings. [4]

The Bible, then, is truly a miracle. Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen.

It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today. [5]

The miracle of the Holy Bible isn’t just that it exists after so many thousands of years, but also the truths that it contains. Elder Ballard continued:

It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.

The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ. [5]

 

Preserving the Word of God

 

We are indebted to those throughout the ages who have written down and preserved the word of God. Elder Hales taught:

Originally the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, languages unknown to common people throughout Europe. Then, about 400 years after the Savior’s death, the Bible was translated by Jerome into Latin. But still the scriptures were not widely available. Copies had to be written by hand, usually by monks, each taking years to complete.

Then, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, an interest in learning began to grow in the hearts of people. This Renaissance or “rebirth” spread throughout Europe. In the late 1300s, a priest named John Wycliffe initiated a translation of the Bible from Latin into English. Because English was then an emerging, unrefined language, church leaders deemed it unsuitable to convey God’s word. Some leaders were certain that if people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves, its doctrine would be corrupted; others feared that people with independent access to the scriptures would not need the church and would cease to support it financially. Consequently, Wycliffe was denounced as a heretic and treated accordingly. After he died and was buried, his bones were dug up and burned. …

While some were inspired to translate the Bible, others were inspired to prepare the means to publish it. By 1455 Johannes Gutenberg had invented a press with movable type, and the Bible was one of the first books he printed. For the first time it was possible to print multiple copies of the scriptures and at a cost many could afford. [6]

A century after Wycliffe’s death, another man took up the cause: William Tyndale, who was martyred for his work. Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

Tyndale, born in England about the time Columbus sailed to the new world, was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and then became a member of the Catholic clergy. He was fluent in eight languages, including Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Tyndale was a devoted student of the Bible, and the pervasive ignorance of the scriptures that he observed in both priests and lay people troubled him deeply….

He sought the approval of church authorities to prepare a translation of the Bible in English so that all could read and apply the word of God. It was denied—the prevailing view being that direct access to the scriptures by any but the clergy threatened the authority of the church and was tantamount to casting “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).

Tyndale nevertheless undertook the challenging work of translation. In 1524 he traveled to Germany, under an assumed name, where he lived much of the time in hiding, under constant threat of arrest. With the help of committed friends, Tyndale was able to publish English translations of the New Testament and later the Old Testament. The Bibles were smuggled into England, where they were in great demand and much prized by those who could get them. They were shared widely but in secret. The authorities burned all the copies they could find. Nevertheless, within three years of Tyndale’s death, God did indeed open King Henry VIII’s eyes, and with publication of what was called the “Great Bible,” the scriptures in English began to be publicly available. Tyndale’s work became the foundation for almost all future English translations of the Bible, most notably the King James Version. [7]

 

The Fruits of the Bible—Restored Truths

 

 

The miracle of the Holy Bible continues with the fruits that it has brought. The Savior taught:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. … A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. … Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16-20)

The fruits of the Bible include the sacrifice of those who dedicated their lives to preserving its words. Unfortunately, the truths in the Bible are sometimes interpreted in different ways—leading some people to believe that there is more than one interpretation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is pure and simple, and its truths unchanging. But out of the fruits of the Bible we can see that, in some ways, it is incomplete. This is no way changes its significance. Rather, it illustrates the need for clarification. This occurs through other revealed scriptures—which are, literally, fruits of the Bible. An explanation must begin with the reason that some truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ have been lost. Elder Ballard taught:

When Jesus called His twelve Apostles, He laid His hands upon them, ordained them, and conferred upon them the authority to act in His name and govern His church. Peter is commonly understood to have become the chief Apostle, or the President of the Church, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Early Christians endured the challenges of persecution and hardship. Peter and his brethren had a difficult time holding the Church together and keeping the doctrine pure. They traveled extensively and wrote to one another about the problems they were facing, but information moved so slowly and the Church and its teachings were so new that heading off false teachings before they became firmly entrenched was difficult. …

Eventually, with the known exception of John the Beloved, Peter and his fellow Apostles were martyred. The Apostle John and members of the Church struggled for survival in the face of horrifying oppression. To their everlasting credit, Christianity did survive and was truly a prominent force by the end of the second century A.D. Many valiant Saints were instrumental in helping Christianity to endure.

Despite the significance of the ministries of these Saints, they did not hold the same apostolic authority Peter and the other Apostles had received through ordination under the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When that authority was lost, men began looking to other sources for doctrinal understanding. As a result, many plain and precious truths were lost. [8]

The authority that Jesus Christ conferred upon His Apostles was the priesthood—which is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children. After the death of the Apostles, no one on the earth had the authority to govern the Church of Jesus Christ. The resulting time period is often called the Dark Ages—it is the time when the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not found on the earth.

But through the miracle of the Holy Bible, the truth was again restored to the earth. In the spring of 1820, a young man named Joseph Smith was confused about which church he should join. As he was reading in the Bible one day, a verse of scripture inspired him: James 1:5, which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally.” So young Joseph knelt down and prayed. In answer to his humble prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. They told Joseph not to join any churches—that the Lord would restore the fullness of His gospel through Joseph. (See Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17.)

Elder Ballard said:

Their mission accomplished, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, departed, leaving young Joseph physically drained but spiritually enriched with exciting restored truth. He knew with certainty that God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are real, for he had seen them. He knew they are two separate, distinct individuals. He knew that no church on the face of the earth had the authority of the priesthood to act in the name of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. [8]

Elder Hales said:

This humble farm boy was the prophet chosen by God to restore the ancient Church of Jesus Christ and His priesthood in these latter days. This restoration was to be the last, the dispensation of the fulness of times, restoring all the priesthood blessings which man could possess on earth. With this divine commission, his work was not to reform nor was it to protest what was already on the earth. It was to restore what had been on earth and had been lost.

The Restoration, begun with the First Vision in 1820, continued with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. On September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni, who taught him of an ancient record containing “the fulness of the everlasting gospel … preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.” Recorded on plates of gold, the Book of Mormon gives an account of Christ’s ministry in the Western Hemisphere, just as the Bible records His life and ministry in the Holy Land. [6]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today—with His priesthood power and authority.

 

Other Scriptural Witnesses

 

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Thus in The Church of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ—a companion scripture to the Bible, witnessing of its truthfulness. But The Church of Jesus Christ has other scriptures that also complement the teachings in the Bible. They are the Doctrine and Covenants (which is a book of revelations to modern-day prophets of God) and the Pearl of Great Price (which is a selection of revelations, translations and narrations from the prophet Joseph Smith). These four books of scripture complement each other—and clarify the teachings from the Bible. Elder Hales taught:

The holy scriptures are the word of God given to us for our salvation. The scriptures are essential in receiving a testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. The scriptures given to us by God in these latter days are the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These sacred records bear testimony of the Savior and lead us to Him. …

We boldly declare that the answer to the terror, destruction, and even genocide of these last days is found in the scriptures. The gospel in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. The prophecies in the Bible came to pass in the Book of Mormon. The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price bear witness of the fulness of the gospel which is now upon the earth. [3]

Elder Jeffery R. Holland, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation. The Old Testament does not lose its value in our eyes when we are introduced to the New Testament, and the New Testament is only enhanced when we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Thus, one of the great purposes of continuing revelation through living prophets is to declare to the world through additional witnesses that the Bible is true. “This is written,” an ancient prophet said, speaking of the Book of Mormon, “for the intent that ye may believe that,” speaking of the Bible. In one of the earliest revelations received by Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Behold, I do not bring [the Book of Mormon forth] to destroy [the Bible] but to build it up.” [9]

The Holy Bible truly is a miracle—a record of thousands of years of God speaking to His people through His prophets. And the miracle of the Holy Bible continues today through the fruits of its teachings in the Book of Mormon and other modern-day scriptures. Those who discount the teachings of the Bible do so at their own spiritual peril, for where else but the scriptures can they learn of God?

 

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