Tuesday, January 18, 2005

LDS RELIANCE ON THE BIBLE

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If you haven't guessed by now, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the "LDS Church" or "Mormon Church"). Over the last few years I have encountered numerous critics of my faith, many of whom profess adherence to some flavor of Christianity (most anti-Mormons, I think, are of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety).

One of the chief gripes I hear from these folks is that we Latter-day Saints don't have enough reverence for the Bible. I think this observation derives mostly from a confluence of 1) the rejection by LDS of the concept of "inerrancy" of scripture; and 2) a seven-word caveat in the 8th Article of Faith, which is accepted as scripture by Latter-day Saints (emphasis added):

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.
Our critics, I think, are far too eager to find fault on this point, and try their best to make Mormons look their worst for it. However, I just came across a discussion on the Times & Seasons blog that offers some interesting evidence that contravenes this argument:

Thanks to a cool feature on the scriptures.byu.edu website, it’s easy to rank the scriptures by the frequency they’ve been cited in General Conferences since 1942. I guessed number one, but was surprised by several of the top ten. Before checking the answers, make a few guesses: What are the most prominent scriptures in Mormondom?

The Passages of Scripture Most Cited in General Conference, 1942 - 2004:

1 Moses 1:39
2 JS-H 1:15-20
3 Matt. 22:37-40
4 John 17:3
5 Matt. 6:33
6 Moroni 10:4-5
7 D&C 68:25-28
8 2 Nephi 2:25
9 A of F 13
10 Matt. 25:40
11 D&C 84:33-38
12 D&C 89:18-21
13 Abr 3:25-26
14 John 7:17
15 James 1:5
16 Matt. 28:19-20
17 John 14:6
18 Matt 5:48
19 John 3:16
20 Exodus 20:8-15
21 Matt. 16:16
22 Acts 4:12
23 Rom. 1:16
24 Dan. 2:44
25 John 14:27
26 Acts 3:21
27 Rev. 14:6-7
28 Matt. 11:28-30
29 D&C 59:23
30 Mosiah 18:9
31 D&C 121:41-45
32 Matt. 5:16
33 John 11:25
34 D&C 59:9
35 Mal. 3:10
36 John 3:5
37 2 Nephi 31:20
38 D&C 14:7
39 D&C 93:36
40 Mosiah 3:19
41 1 Nephi 3:7
42 Luke 23:34
43 Gen. 1:27-28
44 D&C 76:22-24
45 D&C 20:77
46 1 Cor. 15:22
47 Moro. 7:47
48 Matt. 3:17
49 John 14:15
50 Mark 16:15
51 Josh 24:15
52 Amos 3:7
53 D&C 130:20-21
54 1 Pet. 2:9
55 Matt. 16:17
56 D&C 1:30
57 D&C 18:10, 15-16
58 D&C 19:18
59 D&C 110:15-16
60 Matt. 24:14
61 Eph. 4:12
62 3 Nephi 11:7-10
63 D&C 101:80
64 D&C 58:27
65 Matt. 7:12
66 2 Nephi 2:27
67 3 Nephi 27:27
68 Matt. 6:9
69 Alma 41:10
70 D&C 88:118
71 D&C 89:8
72 D&C 1:38
73 Moroni 10:32
74 D&C 82:10
75 Matt. 24:14
76 A of F 1
77 James 1:27
78 A of F 9
79 John 5:39
80 A of F 3
81 A of F 4
82 D&C 38:30
83 Gen. 3:19
84 Philip. 4:7
85 D&C 13:1
86 D&C 38:27
87 Luke 22:42
88 Acts 3:21
89 BofM Title Page
90 John 14:26
91 Ether 2:12
92 John 16:33
93 Isa. 9:6
94 John 8:12
95 Eph. 2:20
96 Isa. 29:14
97 Matt. 4:4
98 Matt. 25:21
99 1 Tim. 4:12
100 A of F 12
Here's how the Top 100 breaks down by percentage:

Bible Quotes: 53%
Other-than-Bible Quotes: 47%
Put another way:
New Testament: 44%
Doctrine & Covenants: 24%
Book of Mormon: 14%
Old Testament: 9%
Pearl of Great Price: 9%
My gut instinct and personal experience has long been that our critics are wrong on this point. I think these numbers bear out that impression. Of course, inerrantists will never be satisfied by anything but wholesale acceptance of that dogma, so if you are a Mormon, don't expect this gripe to go away any time soon.