As it has done throughout its history, the Mormon Church has again adapted its Scriptures — although this time around the changes introduced affect for the most part chapter headings, study helps and historical descriptions.
Chapter headings are considered to be a study guide rather than sacred, canonised text, so there are no concerns about alterations changing holy writ. But included alongside the scriptures and produced by the leaders of the church, they still carry the unmistakable imprimatur of authority.
It marks the first time in more than 30 years that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its four books of scripture — the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price — and the changes are generating lots of buzz among members, scholars and bloggers.
Black Skin and the Seed of Cain
Experts say the biggest change is in the lead-in to Official Declaration 2, which describes the church’s 1978 announcement to lift its ban on black males holding the faith’s priesthood.
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What is extraordinary is the admission that in the earliest days of the church, black men were ordained to the priesthood just as white men were. Elijah Abel, a black man, even served in some of the highest governing bodies of the church. Over the years that practice not only ceased, but the history of it was largely forgotten. It wasn’t until 1978 that black men were again allowed to receive the priesthood and black women were allowed to attend the temple. Most members were unaware that there was ever a time when black people were allowed equal participation in the gospel. Trying to explain or defend the racist practice introduced toxic folk doctrines that perpetuated racism into our present day, more than 30 years after the ban was lifted. Even the recent Broadway musical Book of Mormon alludes to this with the statement that “In 1978 God changed his mind about black people”.”
Historians and scholars have known very well that it wasn’t God who changed his mind about black people, it was church leadership. […]
[I]n this statement there is finally an acknowledgment of history, that this ban was not ever revelation despite the desire to end it with one, and that even men ordained to speak the word of God can be blinded by their own prejudice
The admission of racism is important, though it doesn’t even begin to address what LDS prophets and apostles actually taught about black men.
Racism and the IRS
Then there’s the tax issue… There are plenty of people who believe that the ‘revelation’ in which the God of the Mormon Church ended the ban on blacks in the priesthood was inspired by the possibility of a change in church’s tax-exempt status.
But as the author of that article says, “In conclusion, there was probably more than one reason why blacks were finally allowed to have the Mormon Priesthood”
Incidentally, that article, on a website operated by a former Mormon, includes a quote from a message posted in a public forum at The Salt Lake Tribune by Bruce L. Olson — then the Managing Director, of the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department.
Olson was responding to someone’s “claims that the federal government threatened The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with its tax-exempt status in 1978 because of the church’s position regarding blacks and the priesthood.”
It’s one thing to distort history, quite another to invent it.
Pot. Kettle. Black.
There are changes in the information about polygamy as well.
Valerie Hudson, a Mormon political science professor at Texas A&M University, commented in an email to the Salt Lake Tribune: “In these new introductions, we see that ‘plural marriage’ (notice, not ‘plurality of wives’) is to be viewed as a principle and not as a commandment, and that the ‘standard’ of marriage is monogamy.”
That’s interesting. In his book, Under The Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer says
Polygamy was, in fact, one of the most sacred credos of Joseph’s church – a tenet important enough to be canonized for the ages as Section 132 of The Doctrine and Convenants, on of Mormonism’s primary scriptural texts.
The revered prophet described plural marriage as part of “the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth” and taught that a man needed at least three wives to attain the “fullness of exaltation” in the afterlife. He warned that God had explicitly commanded that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same … and if ye abide not that covenenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
Mormon fundamentalist groups — such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which has been in the news so much in recent years — came into existence when the Mormon Church LDS Church was forced to abandon polygamy.
The Mormon Church
Officially named ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,’ commonly abbreviated as LDS, theologically the Mormon Church is instead considered to be a cult of Christianity.
The Mormon Church itself claims, by way of a ‘revelation’ purportedly given by ‘Jesus Christ,’ that it is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” with which the Lord is “well pleased.”
While Mormonism has usurped and adapted many aspects of Christianity, a number of key LDS doctrines and practices — as well as claims regarding the church’s origins, veracity and position within the Christian faith — have led the vast majority of Christian denominations and theologians to declare that the Mormon Church falls outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.
Despite claims to the contrary, Mormons are not Christians, the Book of Mormon — which is riddled with problems — is not, as the LDS Church claims, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” and Mormonism does not have any affinity with Christianity whatsoever.
As we note at our parent site, Apologetics Index: Just like attaching a Roll Royce logo to a Volkswagen does not make the latter a Rolls Royce, using the name of Jesus Christ does not make Mormonism “Christian.” Suggesting the Mormon Jesus is “Christian” is, in fact, as dishonest as selling a counterfeit watch as a “Rolex.” After all, the “Jesus” created by the Mormon Church is far different from – and incompatible with – the biblical Jesus Christ.
For Further Study
- Mormonism and Christianity
- Changes to LDS Scriptures: Over the years the Mormon Church has made thousands of changes to its scriptures. LDS leaders have added and deleted words, and tampered with previously published revelations by writing in new material and falsely attributing it to an earlier date
- Some of the Many Changes in the Book of Mormon
- The Changing World of Mormonism: Free online book, includes documentation of changes made in Mormon Scriptures, and changes made to the church’s anti-black doctrine
- Polygamy in Mormonism
- Mormon words don’t mean the same thing
- Mormonism Research Ministry
Note: the section titled ‘Racism and the IRS’ was added on March 11, 2013, at the suggestion of a reader.