Q: What is in the Book of Mormon that is not in the Old or New Testament that is necessary for my salvation? What does the Book of Mormon teach me about salvation the Bible does not?
This is a really interesting question, and to be honest it’s one that stumped me for a good while (which, again being honest, isn’t that hard to do). I think it’s because I was originally only focused on showcasing the differences between these two books. As I continued to study, however, I realized the ultimate answer lies not so much in what one offers over the other, but the symbiotic way in which they complement each other.
In other words,
“The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ and confirms the truths found in the Holy Bible. Far from undermining the Bible, the Book of Mormon supports its testimony of Jesus Christ” (LDS.org)
The Book of Mormon AND The Bible
To be clear, Mormons believe both the Bible AND the Book of Mormon to be scripture; the Book of Mormon does not in any way replace the Bible. The LDS Church’s eighth Article of Faith states:
“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.”
The standard Bible used by the LDS Church is the King James Version. For an interesting discussion on why the KJV is used, click here.
Many people don’t know this, but the Book of Mormon’s full title is actually The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The fact that it’s literally titled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” demonstrates that it’s a unique, but additional witness of the Savior.
According to 2 Corinthians 13:1,
“In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:
“The Bible and the Book of Mormon are both witnesses of Jesus Christ. They teach that He is the Son of God, that He lived an exemplary life, that He atoned for all mankind, that He died upon the cross and rose again as the resurrected Lord. They teach that He is the Savior of the world.”
What is the Book of Mormon?
Before getting too deep into the original question, it’s worth taking a teensy bit of time to discuss exactly what the Book of Mormon is; it’ll be super teensy, pinky promise…
“The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” —Book of Mormon Introduction
Just like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is a compilation of the prophetic writings of many ancient prophets, namely from around 600 B.C.-420 A.D. While the Bible details the goings-on of peoples in and around Israel, the Book of Mormon details the goings-on of peoples (principally two nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites) in and around the Americas.
It’s 531 pages and is written in a chapter:verse form identical to the Bible (you can view it here). Content-wise it’s also very similar to the Bible, containing spiritual guidance from God, prophetic witnesses of the coming, Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as historical accounts of the people.
One of its boldest accounts holds that Christ appeared and ministered to the people in the Americas. As written on the Introduction page in the Book of Mormon,
“The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection”
Eventually (around 385 A.D.), a prophet named Mormon abridged all of the accounts (written on gold plates) into one book (hence the name Book of Mormon…). He then gave the plates to his son who, in order to save them from destruction, buried them in a safe place. Mormons believe that the Lord kept this record hidden for a wise purpose, and when the time was right, the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith through divine intervention to be translated (for more details on how this transpired, click here).
Back to the Question…
So, back to the question: what is in the Book of Mormon that’s not in the Bible?
Firstly, much of what’s in the Book of Mormon is in the Bible in one form or another. In fact, certain chapters and verses from the Bible are included near verbatim in the Book of Mormon. For example, it contains 433 verses from Isaiah (which comes out to almost 1/3 of Isaiah). Three chapters very closely parallel Matthew 5, 6 and 7, in which you can find Christ delivering a rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. There are also many other verses throughout the Book of Mormon that greatly resemble Biblical passages.
While the experiences and historical details differ between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the messages and teachings are inarguably similar.
So if these books are so similar, why do some Mormon beliefs differ from other Christians? A couple of reasons:
- The Book of Mormon clarifies ambiguous points in the Bible
- Modern revelation through modern-day prophets
Clarifying the Bible
The Book of Mormon gives clarity to inconsistencies found in the Bible.
Since the first English Bible (the Tyndale Bible) was published in 1526, various sources state that anywhere from 200-900+ English translations of the Bible have been rendered (the King James, the New King James, the English Standard, the New American Standard Bible, the Living Bible, the New International, the Phillips New Testament in Modern English, the Holman Christian Standard etc. etc. etc.). Joseph Smith once stated:
“I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”
Consequently, over time, many plain and precious truths were lost from the Bible. The Book of Mormon, which works in tandem, clarifies many of them. Here are a few examples:
Baptism as a Commandment
There are differences amongst various denominations when it comes to baptism, and an appeal to the Bible gives conflicting counsel.
Some claim baptism is necessary for salvation:
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)
Some say that baptism by water is not required for salvation, but is a symbolic act to signify one’s commitment to Christ.
Others claim baptism is not necessary at all, since it is a “work” and men are not saved by “works:”
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9)
Which answer is correct?
The Book of Mormon unequivocally teaches that baptism by water is a commandment and is necessary for salvation:
“And if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment” (Mormon 7:10)
And explains why:
“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them” (2Nephi 31:5-9)
Mode of Baptism
While the Bible is somewhat vague on how baptism should be performed, the Book of Mormon unequivocally clears up any confusion as to mode of baptism. Jesus Christ, when he ministered to the Nephites after He was resurrected said:
“On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputation among you…ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name” (3Nephi 11:24-27)
The Book of Mormon also teaches that infant baptism is not necessary (Moroni 8:8)
Grace and Works
I spoke in greater detail on this topic in a previous post, but just to rehash, the Book of Mormon clarifies the topic of grace and works, which appears contradictory in the Bible.
Galatians 2:16 says:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
But then we read in James 2,
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?…See then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (20,24)
Geez which is it?!
The Book of Mormon states:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
The Book of Mormon teaches that we are in fact saved by grace, but access to it is conditional upon our living and keeping Christ’s commandments.
There are many doctrines and practices within the LDS Church that are mentioned in the Bible and Book of Mormon, but aren’t necessarily expounded upon in either.
So where do they come from?
Modern revelation by modern-day prophets, a claim which is supported by the existence of the Book of Mormon.
Ezra Taft Benson, 13th President of the LDS Church explained:
“If the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.”
With the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith asserted that the Lord had restored His gospel to the earth, as well as the calling of prophets to act as His mouthpiece. Since Joseph Smith, there has been an unbroken succession of prophets and apostles.
Many of these doctrines and practices were given by revelation to Joseph Smith in the early years following the organization of the LDS Church, and are included in the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of his revelations), which was canonized as scripture in 1835.
Some examples of doctrines found in the Bible and Book of Mormon, which have been further expanded upon with modern revelation include:
- Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate beings
- Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone
- Performing baptisms for the dead
- Priesthood power and authority
- The laying on of hands for the Holy Ghost, conferring priesthood authority, and blessings
- The building and work of temples
- A Church led by apostles and prophets
- The nature of heaven/after-life
These lists are in no way exclusive, but I think they illustrate the point that Mormons regard the Bible and the Book of Mormon as necessary instruction for salvation, and invaluable sources of peace and comfort.
There’s kind of a lot to work through in this post, sorry! Please feel free to follow-up, I’d love to discuss!