“Behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.” -2 Chronicles 33:19c
While the world would keep us constantly in self doubt, having to always prove ourselves by hitting worldly markers of success and staying within the mean, God would have us see ourselves as powerful, complete, forgive and giving. He would turn ourselves away from serving ourselves by accumulation things and toward using our limited time and energy in the service of God and our fellow beings. This life is a test, a limited time to free ourselves from the perceptions given to us by others and our five senses, to living from our eternal spirit and in communion with the Divine Spirit that the physical world separates us from.
In this created freedom, and empowered by revelation, we turn our attention back to the discernment of our sacred texts and traditions. Most in the Middle Ages had this simplified for them by the Church; in fact, the process was entirely taken away. The church informed their traditions, mandated their creeds, and burned and destroyed the texts they did not like. It was the opposite of the divine process. It’s product was control, not the liberation that Christ promised. Now we have ample evidence that their methods were against the divine will. We can no longer trust their canon to be complete, as evidenced by the lack of a list of books that are referenced in scripture as being divine. And we discern the methods and intentions of the people involved to be less than Christ-like.
The worldly definitions used to determine canon, apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and forgery are all flawed and ambiguous and there will never be enough facts known to discern by mortal means. We may now approach with spiritual eyes and discern by spirit.
We must be careful using their terminology. The orthodox believers use scholarly terminology when it suits them. They discount that which scholars label as pseudepigrapha or apocrypha in order to protect their unfounded notions of the sanctity of the canon, while discounting the same scholars’ opinions of the books in the canon. We should not be ignorant of either of their opinions, but neither should we be persuaded by them. We have another source.
When we block information, we take a fear-based approach. This is not the power God promised. We then convert our faith into superstition. Our faith should rest on experience, or spiritual experimentation. We are encouraged to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.”
There is tremendous valuable scholarly information to support the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, which we should consider. Much of the scholarship advanced in the effort to disprove it has not done so, but has forced us to alter some of our preconceptions about the work, which is very beneficial. Again, no fear, but power and a sound mind. Nevermind that scholars dismiss the work because they find the story ridiculous, because we understand their motivations and fears – peer acceptance, fear of humiliation, doubt in miraculous events, the resistance to accept a revelation that may have consequences on how they live their lives, etc., again a fear based approach. Remember the wisdom of God is foolishness tot he world and if we are not willing to be called fools, we are not free, but slaves to other people’s expectations and controlled by shame they lay on us.
Remember it is okay to not know. God does not expect us to know all things at once, because he says we are to learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” To think otherwise is to give ourselves to anxiety, which is fear. Even Christ received “grace upon grace.”
The scholar would immediately consider the Book of Mormon to be a forgery. The Book of Nephi would be considered Pseudepigrapha, because it is assumed that Nephi never existed. Likewise, Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Abraham would be considered to be pseudepigrapha because of the sheer unlikelihood that a genuine text from Abraham could survive so long on papyrus, and the source text burned in the Chicago Fire. Even if the translation could be verified, it would likely be regarded Pseudepigrapha as it was certainly a copy of a copy.
The true believer who knows of the truth of revelation by receiving them his or herself, has another option that the scholar is not permitted to consider – that of Restoration.
We maintain that Abraham did originally write the book. A copy or copies of the Book were maintained for centuries. The exact language of the texts may change over centuries because of hand copying, translation, accidental and intentional interpolation, and the occasional prophetic restorer modernizing the language for contemporary audiences as directed by the spirit. The latter could also be done by a well intention person not under divine direction.
Scholars will favor a later date of composition because a word choice will seem anachronistic. We should not, however, be surprised that someone, inspired or not, chose to replace archaic words with more common ones. This practice is common today and alone negates the underlying theory of dating ancient source documents. Scholars will discount the authenticity or favor a late date because a work contains knowledge that predates events, however, we believe in the actuality of prophecy. As we see, the scholar’s prior commitment to certain parameters force their hand in determining date and authorship. We cannot therefore subject ourselves to the same limitations.
Rather we believe in a living Spirit that brings knowledge to the mind like a wind that we know not whence it came or where it goes. We believe in a super consciousness that underlies all reality and is hidden by the five senses. We interact with a reality that is inaccessible to those committed to the five senses. Let us not make their limitations ours. Remember, they are the ones who are dabbling with our sacred documents and traditions, and their motives are not ultimate truth, but what they can make themselves known for. They are not enemies, but spiritually blind.
Just as Joseph Smith was able by the power of God to restore the Book of Abraham, which was composed by Abraham and lost, so another person halfway between now and then could also restore lost texts by divine inspiration. The Scholar says the Apocalypse of Abraham was composed in the first century AD, but we’ve already considered the flaws in such a date, and may consider what he can’t, that a late prophet like Joseph Smith Restored a more ancient text. In fact, the similarities between the two books indicate a common author, even though the scholars date one in the first century and the other in the nineteenth.
Likewise, they date the Book of Enoch no earlier than the second century B.C., given its use by Jesus and the apostles, we are justified in accepting its authenticity. Whether their date is completely wrong or whether it was in fact written by Enoch, lost and then restored by an anonymous prophet in the second century may be of trifling relevance to the believer. I shall permit those interested to either feel comfortable with the ambiguity, or ask God themselves, keeping in mind that God is just as able as not to reveal truths that are not saving truths, but mere facts.
The caveat to revelation is remembering that not all information is of eternal consequence, being that knowing it or being right about it won’t save you, and being wrong about it won’t damn you. God is willing at times, but not obligated to satisfy your mere curiosity. It is up to you then to not place inordinate importance on such a revelation, notwithstanding its source, and we are never to be combative or contentious about mere facts, or expect others to subscribe to them.
This then leads to the process of apostasy, the formation of canons and creeds. The scriptures are here first and foremost to lead us to God and help develop us spiritually. At first they inform our concept of God, but eventually the Spirit takes over, and God will begin to inform our concept of scripture. Because this is an individual process, we must remember to not take on the role of directing others, except by gentle encouragement. As He says, call no one leader, so we should become no ones leader. The process for other is in God’s hands, as it is for ours.
We should never demand acceptance of an interpretation or withdraw our fellowship over it. We should never shame or even judge someone for holding to a believe, doctrine, tradition or revelation that we deem false. If we do so, we will one day come to know our hypocrisy, as there are many things we inevitably believe that must fall away in due time. The notion that we are endangered for a false doctrine is derived exclusively from those who seek control for personal interests and not those who seek to serve God.
In keeping with everything we have gone over thus far, it is more important to only combat preconceptions and create space for possibility and leave room for the reader to use these principles as tools on their spiritual journey toward knowing the mind of God. Seek each work individually, and build your own canon based upon that which you have been ready to accept and what has been personally revealed to you. Seek the Holy Spirit throughout the process and you may come to even record your own revelations. Do not discount or ignore what other believers or scholars say, but let all be subject to the whispering of the Holy Spirit.
From his upcoming book “A Companion to Scripture.” Originally published July 17, 2019.