“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (Articles of Faith 1:8)
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them. And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book? And I said unto him: I know not. And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God. Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God. And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Nephi 13:20 – 29)
If you ask most members of the Church whether the Old Testament had “plain and precious things” missing from its pages, I aspect many of them would answer “yes.” And certainly the passages from 1 Nephi clearly state this. However, Nephi and Joseph Smith in Article of Faith 8 are referring to the whole Bible and not just the Old Testament.
So the question I ask myself is just when, where and how did this “removal” take place? If it happened, was it deliberate, by accident, lost in translation or just lost? And was it an actually removal of text or just changes in gospel principles?
Here a few ways to think about this topic.
1. Loss of Gospel Truth
Rather than view this situation as a removal of text from the scriptures, one can think of it as a loss of Gospel truth. Since the death of the Apostles a great apostasy occurred, as Talmage writes, “from the Church and of the Church.” (Great Apostasy, page 23). Not only was priesthood authority lost, but “we find the Church itself apostate, boasting of temporal power, making its own laws, teaching its own dogmas, preserving only a form of godliness, while denying the power thereof.” (page 23)
In this condition, many gospel truths, such as the true nature of God, clearly a plain and precious truth, were lost until the restoration of the Gospel by Joseph Smith.
2. Missing Books
The Old and New Testament and the Book of Mormon all reference books of scriptures not found in the canons. These books, were deliberately not included, not available at the time of canon creation or just plain lost. Here are some examples:
|The Book of Jasher (whose title fully translated means the Book of the Upright or the Book of the Just)||Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18. Several books have claimed to be this lost text, but are widely discounted as pseudepigrapha.|
|The Book of the Wars of the Lord||Numbers 21:14.|
|Several works of Solomon: 3,000 proverbs; 1,005 songs; and a manual on botany.||1Kings 4:32.|
|The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Chronicles of the Kings of Judah||1 Kings 14:19, 14:29).|
|“The Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer”||2Chr 12:14-15|
|The Covenant Code||Exodus 24:7|
|The Manner of the Kingdom||1Samuel 10:25.|
|The Acts of Solomon||1Kings 11:41.|
|The Annals of King David||1Chronicles 27:24.|
|The Book of Samuel the Seer||1Chronicles 29:29.|
|The Book of Nathan the Prophet||1Chronicles 29:29.|
|The Book of Gad the Seer||1Chronicles 29:29.|
|The History of Nathan the Prophet||2Chronicles 9:29.|
|The Prophecy of Ahijah||2Chronicles 9:29.|
|The Visions of Iddo the Seer||2Chronicles 9:29.|
|The Book of Shemaiah the Prophet||2Chronicles 12:15.|
|Iddo Genealogies||2Chronicles 12:15.|
|The Story of the Prophet Iddo||2Chronicles 13:22.|
|The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel||2Chronicles 16:11, 2Chronicles 27:7 and 2Chronicles 32:32.|
|The Book of Jehu||2Chronicles 20:34.|
|The Story of the Book of Kings||2Chronicles 24:27.|
|The Acts of Uziah||2Chronicles 26:22.|
|The Vision of Isaiah||2Chronicles 32:32.|
|The Acts of the Kings of Israel||2Chronicles 33:18.|
|The Sayings of the Seer||2Chronicles 33:19.|
|The Laments for Josiah||2Chronicles 35:25.|
|The Chronicles of King Ahasuerus||Esther 2:23 and Esther 6:1.|
|The Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia||Esther 10:2.|
|The Assumption of Moses||Jude 9|
|The Life of Adam and Eve is||2 Corinthians 11:14|
|The Apocryphon of Jeremiah||Matthew 27:9, Ephesians 5:14 and James 4:5|
|Sirach||James 1:19, Luke 1:52, Mark 4:5,16-17, Matthew 7:16,20 and Matthew 11:28|
|The Apocalypse of Elijah||1 Corinthians 2:9 according to Origen|
|The apocryphal book of Moses||Galatians 6:15|
|Apocalypse of Elijah||Ephesians 5:14 according to Epiphanius of Salamis.|
|The Book of the Penitence of Jannes and Mambres||2 Tim 3:8|
|Lost Pauline letters|
|The first Epistle to Corinth||1 Corinthians 5:9|
|The third Epistle to Corinth||2 Corinthians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:8-9|
|The Corinthian letter to Paul||1 Corinthians 7:1|
|The Earlier Epistle to the Ephesians||Ephesians 3:3-4|
|The Epistle to the Laodiceans||Colossians 4:16|
|An epistle to the Thessalonians forged in Paul’s name||2 Thessalonians 2:2|
|The Earlier Epistle of John||3John 1:9|
|Missing Epistle of Jude||Jude 1:3|
Book of Mormon
|Zenos||1 Nephi 19:10, 12 ,16 19; Jacob 5:1; 6:1; Alma 33:3, 13, 15 34:7; Helaman 8:19; 15:11; 2 Nephi 10:16|
|Zenock||1Nephi 19:10; Alma 33:15; 34:7; Helaman 8:20;3 Nephi 10:16|
|Neum||1 Nephi 19:10|
|Joseph of Egypt||2 Nephi 4:1-4|
Now it would naïve to think that these books carried the “fullness of the Gospel” and the exclusion of them is the reason why “plain and precious things” were lost. These books could have carried some of those things, but does not seem to fully explain a total loss.
3. Deliberate Removal of the “Plain and Precious Things”
I suspect a number of folks subscribe to this theory that “…in consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, “(D&C 89:4), some deliberately removed “Plain and Precious Things” from the scriptures in order to promote their own agenda. Either a. they were Jews who did not want specific references to the Savior to be included in the Old Testament, thus preserving the Jewish tradition, or b. they were those in the New Testament era who wanted their views of the nature of God, Jesus and the Church to prevail.
But, as they say in the detective game, one has to have motive AND opportunity. I think that motive could easily be established but what about opportunity….?
a. Some Jews removed more specific references to the Savior from the Old Testament.
This idea is actually rather far-fetched in my opinion for the following reasons:
- They would have had to have done it after 33 AD, after Jesus died and was resurrected. As I wrote in part 3 of this series, there were copies of the Old Testament Septuagint as early as 2nd century BC. Since the Jews were looking for a Messiah, it seems hardly likely that they would have wiped out most references prior to Christ’s ministry. Also, they would have had to ensure that all copies of the Old Testament in existence were all changed the same. And I am quite sure they had no idea where they all were or the opportunity to retrieve them.
- While errors in translation are possible and extremely likely, why would only those “plain and precious” passages suffer from translation errors? Comparisons to other existing manuscripts seem to show that not many translation errors really existed.
- If they removed “Plain and Precious things” that clearly referenced the Savior, it appears they forgot a few. Namely, Isaiah 9, 42, 53, Zechariah 9:9; 11:12-13 to name some, but not all.
b. Christian Leaders in the New Testament era wanted their views to prevail.
This one actually has some level of plausibility to it. But, rather than remove text from canonized books, some chose what books to canonize based on their view. We know from the history of the great ecumenical councils that doctrine was discussed, argued about and voted on, or later that Constantine actually dictated what Christians would believe. So, in some cases, the scriptural text says one thing but the prevailing doctrinal view might actually be different.
So, in conclusion, I am more apt to accept theory 1, Loss of Gospel Truth as an explanation of the loss of “Plain and Precious Things” rather than any other theory. I am sure there are other theories, maybe one that is more possible than the one I noted.
I’m interested in your take on this.