Lost Books and Latter-Day Revelation

By Luke P. Wilson

Joseph_Smith_receiving_golden_platesThe Mormon church offers four reasons for rejecting the historic Christian position that the 27 New Testament books are the final installment of divine revelation. It claims that some of Jesus’ teachings were never recorded because of their sacred nature and have been lost; that soon after the time of the apostles, apostates removed some books or parts of books from the original New Testament writings; that other inspired books were rejected in the canonization process; and finally, that God continues to give new revelation through latter-day prophets. However, the New Testament itself refutes the notion of secret teachings of Jesus, and Mormons are unable to cite any credible evidence of lost or rejected Scripture. The claim of a universal apostasy in the early church defies logic, history, and the Bible, and the claim of “restored truth” from “latter-day prophets” clashes with the unique office and teaching of Jesus’ handpicked apostles.

Most differences between the Mormon faith and historic Christianity originate in disagreements over the nature and extent of revelation from God. This includes disagreement on the question of whether the authority of the Bible is unique and final. It is a basic tenet of Christian orthodoxy that the Bible is complete and the canon of Scripture is closed.

By contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon church) believes in an “open canon” — that is, that God is continuing to reveal new truth beyond what is contained in the Bible that is at least equal in authority to the Bible. Indeed, latter-day revelation is said to be of greater importance than the Bible. In the words of Henry D. Moyle, first counselor to former Mormon President David O. McKay: “The greatest of all scripture which we have in the world today is current scripture. What the mouthpiece of God says to his children is scripture.”1

This article examines four arguments the Mormon church uses in rejecting the historic Christian position that the 27 New Testament books, along with the 39 books of the Old Testament, are the final and complete revelation of God: (1) some of Jesus’ teachings were never recorded and have been lost, (2) sometime after the death of Jesus’ apostles, apostate Christians removed some books or parts of books from the original New Testament writings, (3) some inspired books were rejected in the canonization process, and (4) God continues to give new revelation through latter-day prophets.

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