Back in April (2007) LDS Apostle M. Russell Ballard talked in General Conference about “The Miracle of the Holy Bible.” He spoke highly of the Bible, expressing his love for “its teachings, its lessons, and its spirit.” In his Sunday morning talk he said,
“How grateful we should be for the Holy Bible. In it we learn not only of the life and teachings and doctrines of Christ, we learn of His Church and of His priesthood and of the organization which He established and named the Church of Jesus Christ in those former days…
“Without the Bible, we would not know of His Church then, nor would we have the fulness of His gospel now” (Ensign, May 2007, page 81).
Shortly after Mr. Ballard’s address, the morning Conference session drew to a close. When the afternoon session began, LDS Apostle L. Tom Perry took the stand and spoke on “The Message of the Restoration.” He said,
“Our message is unique. We declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth” (Ensign, May 2007, page 88).
Indeed, Mr. Perry identified the medium through which the fulness of the gospel was restored: The Book of Mormon.
“…the Lord brought forth the Book of Mormon, another testament of our Lord Jesus Christ. This ancient volume of holy scriptures is a sacred companion to the Bible, containing the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. It also provides convincing evidence to the world that Joseph Smith is truly a prophet of God” (Ensign, May 2007, page 86).
The question arises, then: Which of these men, both of whom Latter-day Saints sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, was correct in his teaching at the April General Conference?
Mr. Ballard taught that the Bible is necessary in order for the fulness of the gospel to be present on earth today. He could have meant that the Bible contains the fulness of the gospel (as the Introduction to the Book of Mormon affirms), or he could have meant that the Bible and the Book of Mormon together contain the fulness of the gospel. Either way, his teaching was not consistent with what Mr. Perry taught.
Mr. Perry taught that the Bible does not contain the fulness of the gospel. Though the world has long had access to the Bible, the fulness of the gospel was missing; it needed to be restored — which it was, through the Book of Mormon. Mr. Perry taught that the Book of Mormon, by itself, contains the fulness of the gospel (which is also consonant with the Introduction to the Book of Mormon).
Though the two LDS apostles didn’t agree with each other, Mr. Perry’s talk expressed the majority view found among leaders in the LDS Church. Consider a few pertinent statements from the past:
“Because of the New Testament, Joseph Smith was inspired to pray. And because he prayed, the gospel was restored in its fulness and we now have the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ” (Charles Didier [then general president of LDS Sunday School], Church News, 1/7/95, page 3).
“…the Book of Mormon remains secure, unchanged and unchangeable, …But with the Bible it was not and is not so…it was once in the sole and exclusive care and custody of an abominable organization, founded by the devil himself, likened prophetically unto a great whore, whose great aim and purpose was to destroy the souls of men in the name of religion. In these hands it ceased to be the book it once was…our present Bible contains only a fraction of the holy word that once was compiled with and included in it as the acceptable word of the Lord” (Bruce McConkie, The Joseph Smith Translation, The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, pages 12, 13, 16).
“This Jewish Bible was deliberately altered by the great and abominable Gentile church, which took ‘many plain and most precious parts,’ and ‘many covenants,’ and much gospel out of the book (1 Nephi 13:27). The alterations were done early, for it was after the Bible was altered that it went ‘to all the nations of the Gentiles’ (1 Nephi 13:29). …To rescue the world from this spiritual blindness, the Lord [brought] forth the Book of Mormon and other books to ‘make known the plain and precious things that have been taken away’ from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:35-40)” (Church News, 11/8/2003, page 5, report on the BYU Sidney B. Sperry Symposium on the Scriptures).
It is clear that, according to Mormonism, the Bible is lacking the fulness of the gospel. Notwithstanding Mr. Ballard’s praise for this volume of scripture, for many LDS leaders the Bible takes second place to the Book of Mormon — if not third or fourth.
In this one thing I agree with Mr. Ballard: We should be grateful for the Holy Bible. For in truth, it is God’s Word to us,
Living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).