Can the LDS canon be revised?

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?

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4 Responses to Can the LDS canon be revised?

  1. Odell says:

    No likely to change. About six years ago I attended a stake conference where apostle Russell Nelson made an unexpected appearance. During the leadership “training” he said that Joseph Smith’s role in the restoration was to be the “restorer” of scripture and today’s mission for apostles was to be preachers and spreaders of the world and to administer the kingdom. The clear message was for members not to expect new revelation.

    Also, in the LDS church’s governance and revelatory process, any new “revelation: would have to be accepted by all the First Presidency members and Apostles which I doubt could be achieved.

  2. Thayne Forbes says:

    A Christian friend and I get into a parallel argument fairly often. His question is, “If Joseph Smith retranslated (or reinterpreted) the Bible in the Joseph Smith Translation, then why doesn’t the church use the JST instead of the KJV”. I’ve given the standard answers, but I really think the root of the problem is that acknowledging the JST as canonical would commit the church to any mistakes in the book. As it stands, they can dismiss any problem with ‘as far as it is translated correctly’.

  3. Gus O Kahan says:

    Learning to let go of Joe:

    Joseph Smith, wounded from revised revelations
    Mormon Thought is the Mormon Oxymoron

    Learning to let go of Joe:
    Mormon Intellectuals
    are led by their Leading Scholar, Joseph Smith, the Revelator.

    So Mormon Intellectuals are significantly infirmed by Mormon Tenants
    and Doctrine.
    For Mormonism, a Mormon Intellectual is, in the purist sense, a Mormon Oxymoron. A Mormon intellectual is an oxyMoroni –– that is, in the trade known as, OxyMoronic Mormonism.

    http://www.scari.org/Mormons.Reconstructed.htmll

    If General Joe hadn’t shot himself in both feet his Mormon Brand might have has a chance to gain traction but alas the Mormon Intellectual has revelations to wrestle; at every turn there are those niggling details, revisions to revelations, creating the Mormon Oxymoron for all to see. ‘As far as it is translated correctly’ the work is never done for the Mormon Intellectual.

    GOK

  4. Gus O. Kahan says:

    Learning to let go of Joe:

    Joseph Smith, wounded from revised revelations
    Mormon Thought is the Mormon Oxymoron

    Learning to let go of Joe:
    Mormon Intellectuals are led by their Leading Scholar, Joseph Smith, the Revelator.

    So Mormon Intellectuals are significantly infirmed by Mormon Tenants and Doctrine.
    For Mormonism, a Mormon Intellectual is, in the purist sense, a Mormon Oxymoron. A Mormon intellectual is an oxyMoroni –– that is, in the trade known as, OxyMoronic Mormonism.
    http://www.scari.org/Mormons.Reconstructed.html

    If General Joe hadn’t shot himself in both feet his Mormon Brand might have had a chance to gain traction but alas the Mormon Intellectual has revelations to wrestle; at every turn there are those niggling details, revisions to revelations, creating the Mormon Oxymoron for all to see. ‘As far as it is translated correctly’ “the work is never done for the Mormon Intellectual.”

    GOK

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