Plain and Precious ThingsBy: Jeff Spector
“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.” (2Nephi 13:28)
One of the common prevailing ideas taught in the LDS Church is that the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament were tampered with and that doctrinal ideas that directly support the Restoration and key LDS doctrine were somehow removed by the evil designs of men.
While I don’t want to get into a lengthy historical lesson on the canon of scripture, we all know that the books of the Bible were determined largely by committee and some books are included in some churches’ versions of the Bible and others are omitted. There are books described in the scriptures, which are not available. So, some part of the loss of “Plain and Precious Things” could be attributed to the lost books or books not included in the modern canon. But, perhaps there is more to it than that.
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (Article of Faith 8)
Oh, and BTW, we also consider the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price to be the Word of God. Some also think the Wheat and Tares blog is the Word of God. :) It’s not.
I suppose this serves as some level of justification for Joseph Smith’s Translation (JST) of the Bible. As you remember, it was translated by inspiration, not by use of manuscripts. And while the LDS Church uses the JST to some degree, the main English language Holy Bible is the King James Version. Selected verses of the JST are used from time to time and are part of the LDS edition of the Holy Bible. The Community of Christ does use the JST as its main Bible.
So, back to the idea of the Bible having been tampered with regard to the loss of Plain and Precious things.” There really is no evidence that this happened to the Old Testament or the New Testament. The first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, pretty much existed in the original language. Hebrew, prior to the coming of Christ, so if someone knew something and removed references to Jesus in the Torah, they were a seer. In fact, there is some evidence that those books of scriptures may have existed as early as 180 BCE!
“Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;” (D&C 27:5)
The Book of Mormon was given to Joseph Smith to be translated and given to the people of our day. Because it is a direct translation, it is felt that no corrupting influences were allowed to tamper with its content. However, it seems, because it is a translation from ancient languages, it was in fact translated using language and expression from the time Joseph received it. In addition to passages that are almost word for word the same as the King James Bible English, there is French and there is Greek in the book.
One of the things that always intrigued me was the use of “Jesus Christ” in the early parts of the Book of Mormon to write about the Savior. How did those who came Jerusalem, who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic use a Greek name to describe the Savior?
I concluded a while ago that it was merely the effect of the modern translation as described above. In other words, Joseph Smith used the name Jesus Christ because more people would immediately understand who He was. I suppose he could have used “Messiah” anytime the word “Christ” is used or, as I have often wondered, used the term “Jehovah” when referencing the pre-mortal Jesus. That argument falls a bit short because Nephi and others were referring to Jesus as Savior, not the pre-mortal Jehovah, co-creator of the earth. Finally, I also suppose he could have used his actual Hebew name, Yeshua ben Yoshef. In the end, I’ve just concluded Joseph used Jesus Christ because it was the most recognizable to the majority of people.
So, here you have an abridged record of a people, who originated in Jerusalem, that seem to have a clear knowledge of the Savior from about 600 BCE. I’ve never quite understood how the records found in the holy land seem less detailed about Jesus. There are illusions, but not the same specific detail as the Book of Mormon contains. Perhaps those books have yet to be found.
In further pondering this question about the loss of “Plain and Precious Things,” one can also observe that the main loss of those key doctrines were mostly the result of the “philosophies of men,” rather than the actual tampering with scripture. In other words, alternate interpretations have been the main driver behind the loss.
For instance, the knowledge of the true nature of God and the Godhead, the eternal nature of man, the Plan of Salvation, the Temple, and the Priesthood among other things were all restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith because those doctrines were lost to most of the Christian world.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Paul seems to predict the loss of “sound doctrine” as well.
As we have discussed recently here on the blog and in other forums on the bloggernacle, some believe the modern LDS Church has the same issue of the loss of “Plain and Precious Things.”
Some look at the elimination of in polygamy, changes in the Temple ceremonies, some administration changes, and changes in church practice as evidence of the loss. For example, some have said that changes in the Endownment were made because current day members cannot handle the doctrine that was being taught. That because some members complained about what appeared to be violent acts, those parts were removed for future generations.
So what are your conclusions, are there losses of the “Plain and Precious Things.” Both in history and as well as today?