When many people talk about the “Mormon Bible” they think they are referring to the Book of Mormon. Actually, of course, Mormons use the King James translation of the Holy Bible in English, and other versions of the Bible in other languages. They use both the Old and the New Testaments, and they also use several books of scripture unique to Mormonism. The Book of Mormon is best-known, but they also use the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a book of modern revelation, and the Pearl of Great Price, a small volume of various scriptures and records.
Which of these do the Mormons consider the most important? Mormons believe that all four, combined with wisdom from current prophets, must be combined in order to completely understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Reading just one book gives you only a partial understanding of God’s doctrines.
For instance, suppose you read only the Old Testament. God, in this book, sometimes seems a bit harsh because He was constantly trying to give His people the discipline they needed to live the gospel. However, when you add the New Testament, you still see an emphasis on obedience to the commandments, but you also hear a great deal more about love than you do in the Old Testament. Combined, the two give you a more complete understanding of who God is and what He expects from us. We learn from the New Testament of how Jesus Christ brought a higher law to the land.
In the same way, the Book of Mormon enhances our understanding of the Bible. Its teachings are often more in-depth than what is in the Bible. As an example, the Book of Mormon adds to our understanding of what the Bible tells us about atonement. Following is a portion of a sermon given in the Book of Mormon concerning the atonement. I have chosen selections but you can read the entire sermon here:
Abinidi on the atonement.
Abinidi tells his listeners, in verse 27, that they are falsely teaching that salvation comes through the Law of Moses. Abinidi lived on the American continent in ancient times, but although Jesus had not yet been born, the people there knew of Jesus Christ and His future atonement. They had come from Jerusalem long ago and had brought with them the Jewish scriptures of the time. However, some groups were now teaching false information.
Abinidi told them that while it was true they had to obey the Law of Moses now, there would be a time when they would not.
And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses (Mosiah 13: 28).
He taught them that the Law of Moses was in effect only because the Jews had not been willing to listen to the teachings of God and had trouble remembering God, and so this strict law was necessary for them, so they would have to think about Him all the time. However, the law was merely a type of the coming atonement.
32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
This sermon talks about the atonement in-depth, where the Bible often came to us with just a few sentences sprinkled throughout the book. Throughout the Book of Mormon, you’ll find such sermons.
This is not to say the Bible is not important. Mormons love the Bible. It introduces them to how and why the world was created, shows why we need prophets, helps us understand how God interacted with the world, and let us look into the Savior’s mortality. We learn from it what Jesus taught His own people during His mortality. However, we know it does not contain every word He said. It contains what a few people wrote—and some of the apostles used source material from other prophets. It has also been translated many different ways and not all scriptures that were written were chosen to be in the Bible. As an example, the Catholics and the Protestants use a different canon and in fact, there has never been just a single canon. The many different facets of Christianity rely on different canons.
Mormons love the Savior and they love that their larger body of scripture gives them access to even more of His words and His experiences. They feel these additional scriptures testify that Jesus was not just the God of a small group of Jewish people in ancient times, but the God of all the world in all times. God hasn’t retired to a back room, unwilling to continue communicating with His children, unwilling to guide them with prophets as He did in ancient times. While it’s true that we can each receive personal revelation, it is also true that this has not been effective in helping everyone know what is true. There is a need for a prophet, as much today as there was in ancient times.
Mormons often refer to the Book of Mormon as the cornerstone of their faith, but a cornerstone alone does not make a building. Every part of the structure is important and to a Mormon, each book of scripture offers a specific value and glimpse into the mind and heart of God. They are equally important in the eternal scheme of things.