The 8th article of faith says “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.”
Brigham Young once said that “if [the Bible] be translated incorrectly, and there is a scholar on the earth who professes to be a Christian, and he can translate it any better than King James’s translators did it, he is under obligation to do so.” ( Journal of Discourses 14:226–27)
You would think with a statements like these, that Mormons would be at the forefront of biblical study, since it affects what we actually believe and not believe in the bible. We would be leaders in higher criticism, and have our own translation of the Bible that would rival the Book of Mormon as “the most correct of any book on this Earth”. We definitely have scholars that can translate better than the KJV translators did. In fact “Google translate” could probably do a better job at translating the best Greek manuscript we have now compared to what the KJV translators did with what they had to work with.
So where does this leave us? Recently BYU professor Thomas Wayment published a New Testament translation for Latter-Day Saints which Rick B. talked about here on Wheat & Tares. This is a good first step, as it exposes members of the church to the idea that “translated correctly” has real ramifications as we study the bible. In fact the publisher made him put the BY quote referenced above on the front page of his book. I’m guessing the quote was inserted to appease any “KJV only” members from revolting when they saw the book at Deseret Books.
Is there a limit to what an orthodox member of the church can believe about what is commonly accepted in higher criticism of the bible? For example, most scholars date the book of John to c. 90-100, and obviously not written by “John the Apostle”, yet on page 15 of the Come Follow Me Sunday School lesson manual, it says referring to the Book of John:
John was a disciple of John the Baptist and later became one of the first followers of Jesus Christ and one of His Twelve Apostles.
Another example is the doxology in the Lords Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” It is not contained in Luke’s version, neither is it present in the earliest manuscripts of Matthew. Most scholars do not consider it part of the original text of Matthew and modern translations generally omit it. This obviously presents a problem for the LDS student as the doxology is found in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 13:13)
Brother Wayment also agrees the doxology is not original to Matthew. His explanation on how it could have made it into the Book Of Mormon is quoted here from Rick B’s Mormon Tangents podcast:
You have Joseph who speaks in King James Bible. That’s who he is. That’s his world. If he were to write an account of his property holdings, there would be King James Bible language in it. If he told you how to build a wagon, he would have King James Bible in it. And that’s just who he is. And so, I think sometimes as Latter-day Saints, we have to be charitable that Joseph’s language comes through there and that’s hard. I know that some Book of Mormon scholars will not appreciate me saying that, but my own view as a Bible scholar is it’s the only way to account for that type of stuff in the Book of Mormon. I could see myself confronting Joseph and saying, “Did you know when you did second Nephi 2 that you have some really strong language from Corinthians in that or Romans?” (which are both there) and him saying, “I didn’t know that.”
These are just two of many issues that arise when a faithful LDS student starts to study the bible in depth. My question is, can a faithful member dive deep into the history of the bible and keep their faith? Is Brother Wayment the first crack in the dam, and can we expect more bible scholarship like this to be forthcoming? Is there a middle way answer to the above issues and all the others that will arise? Have issues like those listed above kept the LDS church from developing an official new translation of the Bible?