If scriptures are inspired, why do they need to be revised?
Every standard work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has undergone some changes in wording over the years. But such revision to divinely revealed works has been troubling to some Church members. Author James R. Harris explains why Church leaders make occasional changes to scriptural texts by examining the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, a collection of sacred works that includes additional ancient scripture written by bilblical prophets. The Prophet Joseph Smith originally restored the book of Moses in 1830 as part of his translation of the Bible; three manuscripts of the book, each in different stages of the revision process, are still extant. In 1867, Orson Pratt used the latest of these manuscripts to make more extensive revisions to the Moses text. By comparing the original printed text, the Prophet's working manuscript, and similar passages in the book of Abraham, Harris concludes that not only do Pratt's changes clarify the intended meaning, but that additional clarifying changes might be necessary in the future. Harris explains that God usually communicates in concepts rather than words in order to avoid misinterpretation. While these concepts are divine, the prophets to whom God speaks are human. Therefore, the wording of revealed doctrine often has to be revised to make its intended meaning clearer. Because they believe in a living prophet, members of the Church need to be willing to accept such change.
James R. Harris -
Dr. Harris has been assistant professor of graduate studies in religion at Brigham Young University and has published in the Improvement Era and BYU Studies.