Obviously, the LDS church teaches that the canon is open to new revelation, but what about currently canonized scripture? Can it be revised, rewritten, or emended?
Joseph Smith seems to have had a more fluid intepretation of the written canon than most believers in the Bible, for example. Far from being an inerrantist, Joseph seems to have believed that the text could and should be revised to meet changing needs.
Joseph revised revelation and even ancient scripture as needed. For example, he made significant revisions to the revelations originally printed in the 1833 Book of Commandments for what would become the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (see Melvin J. Peterson, “Preparing Early Revelations for Publication,” Ensign, Feb. 1985, 14). Similarly, in the process of reviewing and correcting the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith made intentional changes to the text as “clarifications or amplifications of the meaning of the text. The Prophet Joseph Smith, of course had a perfect right to clarify to anything that he felt needed improvement” (see Stan Larson, “Changes to the Book of Mormon“). This notion of “improving” scripture helps explain the project of revising the Bible for a latter-day church.
These examples suggest that Joseph Smith viewed canonized scripture less rigidly than perhaps modern church members do. Robert Matthews argues that “too often we make the faulty assumption that the established scriptures are the ultimate source of doctrine, rather than revelation. This was the basic argument Jesus had with the Jews in John 5:39, wherein Jesus told the Jewish rulers that they had placed their confidence in the written scriptures instead of listening to him. For both Jesus and Joseph Smith, the Bible was a teaching tool rather than the basic source of their information” (Ensign, September 1981).
Given this idea that revelation, not scripture, is the “ultimate source of source of doctrine,” is it possible that future prophets could by revelation revise the current canon in response to changing needs in the church?