I don’t get to attend Sunday School often, but yesterday I was able to attend an interesting lesson taught by Logan. The major topic was the great and abominable church. The discussion made me wonder about one thing (which we discussed briefly in class). The scripture talks about removal of plain and precious things from the Book of the Lamb (which appears to be the Bible). I was wondering — how exactly did / does this occur?
The scriptural verses read as follows:
23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable dchurch, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
As we discussed these, I wondered about this taking. I have heard in many a previous Sunday School class (and probably seminary) that this refers to the Catholic church removing doctrines from the scriptures while they held sole possession of scripture for over a thousand years. (I believe that the book, Mormon Doctrine, also says something of this sort). Thus, the idea is that a pure bible existed (perhaps similar to the contents of the brass plates) but that nefarious priests adulterated it, and we now have the modified version which does not contain the whole truth. (This idea also finds support in the Articles of Faith, as well as LDS discussion of lost biblical books like Zenos).
As I have thought about it recently, this theory makes less sense to me. It seems to me that it would be very hard, perhaps impossible, to coordinate the removal of texts from documents. Not that items cannot be destroyed, especially if they are relatively recent originals. If I own the only extant copy of the book of Zenos, I can light a match and wipe out all copies. But once the book has been copied, re-copied, sent to other places, it becomes much harder to create a “revised” version and make sure that others match.
This difficulty seems particularly acute for the Old Testament. The idea that Catholics could have changed texts from, for example, the Book of Exodus, is highly problematic. Any changes made by Catholics would be readily apparent through a simple comparison with old texts preserved by the Jews.
(Side note — could the Jews have adulterated the book of Exodus? Yes, in theory. But that also runs into serious problems. First, note that Jesus, Peter, Paul, and so on appear to have accepted the Old Testament as it then existed. If changes had been made, why wouldn’t Jesus, Peter, John, etc. have corrected the problems? Second, I don’t believe the Jews ever had text control the way the Catholics may have had in medieval times).
There remains the potential that the New Testament may have been adulterated. I’m not sure how easy that would have been, or how many early texts we have to be able to compare things to. I suspect that it would have been very hard to make substantial coordinated changes. Therefore, the idea held by many LDS members that wicked Catholics changed biblical texts when they had sole possession of the manuscripts, seems wrong or at least highly incomplete and oversimplified.
Does anyone with more knowledge of early scripture than me (that’s probably everyone on this blog) know how LDS scholars treat this topic? Am I missing something?