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Rob Bowman

Handbook 21.1.7 on measuring the accuracy of a Bible translation

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

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While I love the new handbook, I understand the retainment of this particular statement to be unfortunate in wording and presentation, and leading to more confusion than it solves. That's all I have to say about it.

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It goes back to the fact that the identity and foundation of Mormonism is on a new foundation of a new revelation which provides the filter through which anything from antiquity is interpreted, including the Bible.

While the Bible is a standard work, it is definitely with the condition that it is "translated correctly." Translated correctly in the context of what Joseph Smith was doing has little if anything to do with what the "original text" (whatever that is claimed to be) or criticism shows. Translated correctly in Joseph-Smith-jargon can be observed to mean that the transmission to the modern day of the core intent of the gospel and gospel truth has been accomplished.

To whatever degree the torn and tattered remnants of antiquity agree with that new revelation is the degree to which the Bible along with any other tradition from antiquity is of value to the modern Church.

To whatever degree that textual criticism and study of Biblical languages can shed more light on how a better translation of the Bible can be shown to agree with the new revelation of our dispensation, it is of value.

But no, to be perfectly blunt, the core foundation of the new dispensation is not on tradition from antiquity.

Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

I'd be interested in knowing who wrote that in light of D&C 90:15, among other things:

"and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people."

That Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book does not require us to ignore the various admissions that it may not be perfect and contains the mistakes of men. Given that, in our scripture, the notion that mistakes of men might make into an edition of the Handbooks, should not be particularly noteworthy. Personally, I think the appearance of such statements in the handbook casts more light on the spiritual state and personal temperament and the author than on the scriptures. The kind of person who gets a job writing a handbook is not going to be, nor should they be, particularly adventurous. I'd expect an SJ temperament, loyal, traditional, wanting to toe the line sort of person. That's okay, because the LDS community contains all sorts, other temperaments, just as loyal, not as traditional, more experimental and adventurous.

Joseph Smith himself pursued the study of Hebrew and German. He apparently did not consider either an English Book of Mormon or the presence of seer stones to be enough for him. Me, I dabbled in French, and never became proficient. But I can still study and learn and become acquainted with good books and people to the extent of my abilities and opportunities.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Still, Joseph Smith's study of ancient materials and languages resulted in his gaining further revelation as part of the transmission of the truth of the new dispensation to this Church.

When individuals who are not prophets/revelators embark on such things as textual criticism or ancient language study, their conclusions are tentative and are not binding on the church.

Yet they are of value to provide more information from which people who study such things can gain personal insights leading to more personal revelation.

I think the point is, we are dependent on Joseph Smith for our new revelation that is the foundation on which we build. The Bible agrees with it, but is not the core on which we build.

I'd be interested in knowing who wrote that in light of D&C 90:15, among other things:

"and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people."

That Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book does not require us to ignore the various admissions that it may not be perfect and contains the mistakes of men. Given that, in our scripture, the notion that mistakes of men might make into an edition of the Handbooks, should not be particularly noteworthy. Personally, I think the appearance of such statements in the handbook casts more light on the spiritual state and personal temperament and the author than on the scriptures. The kind of person who gets a job writing a handbook is not going to be, nor should they be, particularly adventurous. I'd expect an SJ temperament, loyal, traditional, wanting to toe the line sort of person. That's okay, because the LDS community contains all sorts, other temperaments, just as loyal, not as traditional, more experimental and adventurous.

Joseph Smith himself pursued the study of Hebrew and German. He apparently did not consider either an English Book of Mormon or the presence of seer stones to be enough for him. Me, I dabbled in French, and never became proficient. But I can still study and learn and become acquainted with good books and people to the extent of my abilities and opportunities.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

I was reading over that section during PEC this past Sunday.

As far as "accuracy" goes, the text is referring to how other bible translations (i.e. NIV, RSV, NASB) conform or do not conform to LDS doctrine. It has been a long-standing LDS tradition that the KJV reflects a form of "doctrinal purity" that is somewhat wanting in other versions. Accuracy therefore, refers to doctrinal purity, not necessarily whether the text is reflective of ancient Greek and Hebrew mss.

Thus far, the Church has not prohibited the learning of ancient languages in order to find deeper meaning within the texts themselves, and like other faiths, realizes that "not everyone can be scholars."

Textual criticism and the study of ancient languages has a wonderful place in the Church, but such studies are secondary to the teaching of the fundamental tenets of the Restored Gospel. As the First Presidency noted in 1931, I try to bear the following in mind:

Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church ... . First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931.

As a side note, I used the Soncino Chumash throughout most of my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine class last year and never ran into any problems with using the text itself.

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

Seems pretty clear to me:

In mormonism, Modern Revelation and the Book of Mormon occupy a position above the bible in authority, relevance, and importance.

Where the bible says one thing and the Book of Mormon/Modern Revelation says another - always go with the latter.

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Well, which is most likely to be closest to Isaiah's intent - texts of unknown origin and history or one translated through the power of God from a source of 600 BC?

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Is it really Isaiah's intent, when more often modern day scriptures are Midrash, just like the JST, giving us a particular sense of something that is important to us? To me it is more likely that we are not always after the original sense of something, but we are after what the Holy Ghost wants us to know for our own needs.

That in no way minimizes what the original intent was. But we need to be careful when we claim that what we have in the Book of Mormon Isaiah, or in D&C Isaiah quotations constitutes the "original intent." Many times, the Holy Ghost chooses to have something mean many different things, not just what the original author meant for it.

Well, which is most likely to be closest to Isaiah's intent - texts of unknown origin and history or one translated through the power of God from a source of 600 BC?

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The way they phrased it makes it ambiguous on what they meant by "accuracy". Methinks that it is talking about doctrinal accuracy since the Church is most concerned about.

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

Since you don't believe in the Book of Mormon I understand that you dislike the statement. It is my OPINION that this is a blanket statement that is supposed to be general enough to cover the entire membership of the Church. Those who wish to learn about "biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies" aren't discouraged from doing so, and will certinally find treasures of knowledge within their chosen studies. However, as many members do not wish to delve that deeply into scripture; the statement is designed to give a basic roadmap to follow, a 150,000 foot level view.

I think that many people here have a much more detailed view and much better understanding than the average person which this statement was designed for.

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The other issue at hand is, how do we know that the ancient Church had all the revelations we do today?

How do we know that some of the doctrines here and there we have today actually ARE different, and are more fully revealed?

In that sense, the revelations in our dispensation would override the older ones.

I was reading over that section during PEC this past Sunday.

As far as "accuracy" goes, the text is referring to how other bible translations (i.e. NIV, RSV, NASB) conform or do not conform to LDS doctrine. It has been a long-standing LDS tradition that the KJV reflects a form of "doctrinal purity" that is somewhat wanting in other versions. Accuracy therefore, refers to doctrinal purity, not necessarily whether the text is reflective of ancient Greek and Hebrew mss.

Thus far, the Church has not prohibited the learning of ancient languages in order to find deeper meaning within the texts themselves, and like other faiths, realizes that "not everyone can be scholars."

Textual criticism and the study of ancient languages has a wonderful place in the Church, but such studies are secondary to the teaching of the fundamental tenets of the Restored Gospel. As the First Presidency noted in 1931, I try to bear the following in mind:

As a side note, I used the Soncino Chumash throughout most of my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine class last year and never ran into any problems with using the text itself.

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

This isn't anything new. If you read the eighth article of faith, it 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."

It doesn't specify a specific translation of the Bible. Hence, if the Book of Mormon is The Word of God, whereas the Bible (whichever translation) is only The Word of God under certain circumstances, it would follow that the Book of Mormon is the standard against which we should judge the Bible (including any translations).

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I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

Even the Bible teaches that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture (1 Peter 1:20). Any church or denomination that has God's truth and authorization will not only claim to be the only true Church, but will be based on the rock of revelation.

However, exegesis can be useful apologetically especially as I've found that the LDS Church is always supported by it when properly done. One may of course argue over what "properly" means, but that just forces one to go back to the fact that revelation trumps.

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

The point of the statement is to demonstrate that sure revelation and interpretation of scripture is not by the method other Christians use by trying to find a perfect and most earliest "translation", but by modern day revelations from God, i.e. the scriptures and words of the modern prophets.

Biblical studies are useful from an scholarly and historical aspect, but not at leading the Lords Church. The Lords Church operates by Revelation, not textual criticism and opinions, i.e. interpretive legalism and so-called "traditions".

Ditto BCSpace's words above..... Both of our words tell you "exactly" what the statement means.

We follow what the actual scriptures teach is the way to truth, i.e. correct interpretation, not the way modern Christians interpret as the way.

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Even the Bible teaches that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture (1 Peter 1:20). Any church or denomination that has God's truth and authorization will not only claim to be the only true Church, but will be based on the rock of revelation.

However, exegesis can be useful apologetically especially as I've found that the LDS Church is always supported by it when properly done. One may of course argue over what "properly" means, but that just forces one to go back to the fact that revelation trumps.

So basically, we are allowed to use exegesis to support our position, but they are not? How very convenient! :P

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Even the Bible teaches that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture (1 Peter 1:20). Any church or denomination that has God's truth and authorization will not only claim to be the only true Church, but will be based on the rock of revelation.

However, exegesis can be useful apologetically especially as I've found that the LDS Church is always supported by it when properly done. One may of course argue over what "properly" means, but that just forces one to go back to the fact that revelation trumps.

So basically, we are allowed to use exegesis to support our position, but they are not? How very convenient!

I didn't say that at all, but you have well illustrated my point (in the same way I illustrated it) which is simply that one can argue the validity of exegesis till the cow come home, but at the end of the day, revelation trumps.

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BCSpace,

You wrote:

I didn't say that at all, but you have well illustrated my point (in the same way I illustrated it) which is simply that one can argue the validity of exegesis till the cow come home, but at the end of the day, revelation trumps.

Unfortunately, you must first determine (1) what is genuine revelation and (2) what that revelation really means. The second necessity is the whole point of exegesis. The word exegesis simply means reading a text carefully to determine what it means.

For example, you wrote:

Even the Bible teaches that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture (1 Peter 1:20).

I'm pretty sure you meant 2 Peter 1:20. To know that this is what the Bible teaches, we must actually read 2 Peter 1:20, think about what it is saying, and determine if 2 Peter 1:20 actually means that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture. In other words, we must exegete 2 Peter 1:20, however informally, before we can know that it means what you say it means. Thus, your use of 2 Peter 1:20 to prove that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture is self-defeating. It is like saying, "If you will just read this scripture in 2 Peter 1:20, you will see that reading scripture is not the proper way to interpret scripture."

Fortunately, this is not what 2 Peter 1:20 says. Let me quote what it actually says, allowing Peter to complete his thought by quoting verse 21 as well:

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV).

Peter explains in verse 21 what he has just said in verse 20. No prophecy of scripture is someone's private interpretation because that prophecy did not come by man's will, but as God's chosen human instruments were moved by the Holy Spirit. In other words, what verse 20 means is that the scriptures themselves are not private interpretations. Isaiah was not giving his own personal opinion of what events in Israel's history meant; these were not Isaiah's clever ideas, but God's revelation by the Holy Spirit through Isaiah.

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I'm pretty sure you meant 2 Peter 1:20. To know that this is what the Bible teaches, we must actually read 2 Peter 1:20, think about what it is saying, and determine if 2 Peter 1:20 actually means that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture. In other words, we must exegete 2 Peter 1:20, however informally, before we can know that it means what you say it means. Thus, your use of 2 Peter 1:20 to prove that exegesis is not the proper way to interpret scripture is self-defeating. It is like saying, "If you will just read this scripture in 2 Peter 1:20, you will see that reading scripture is not the proper way to interpret scripture."

Fortunately, this is not what 2 Peter 1:20 says. Let me quote what it actually says, allowing Peter to complete his thought by quoting verse 21 as well:

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21 KJV).

Peter explains in verse 21 what he has just said in verse 20. No prophecy of scripture is someone's private interpretation because that prophecy did not come by man's will, but as God's chosen human instruments were moved by the Holy Spirit. In other words, what verse 20 means is that the scriptures themselves are not private interpretations. Isaiah was not giving his own personal opinion of what events in Israel's history meant; these were not Isaiah's clever ideas, but God's revelation by the Holy Spirit through Isaiah.

I realize that it was not likely your intent, but you are basically making BCSpace's point.

The scriptures were given when men "were moved by the Holy Ghost" and the only way to know for sure what they mean is for the reader to also be "moved by the Holy Ghost", ie, revelation. Anything else is simply "the wisdom of men".

Edited to add,

As Paul says,

1 Cor 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man

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I realize that it was not likely your intent, but you are basically making BCSpace's point.

The scriptures were given when men "were moved by the Holy Ghost" and the only way to know for sure what they mean is for the reader to also be "moved by the Holy Ghost", ie, revelation. Anything else is simply "the wisdom of men".

At this point, I'd like to insert a link to a post Maklelan referenced on his blog, that I thought was fantastic. There is no such as the dichotomy of "Trusting in Scripture/Revelation vs. Human Wisdom". Both are, as C.S. Lewis used of Faith and Works, like two blades of a scissor. Both necessary to get the job done.

While written specifically witht he Bible in mind, I think it applies just as well to all writings constituting Scripture, and thus is just as applicable for LDS witht he BoM, D&C, etc.

Here's the link: Trusting the Bible vs Trusting Human Reason

This leads to the second main point. Many fundamentalist readers of Scripture will tell you that they do not "interpret" the Bible - they merely read it.

This claim too is utter bunk.

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At this point, I'd like to insert a link to a post Maklelan referenced on his blog, that I thought was fantastic. There is no such as the dichotomy of "Trusting in Scripture/Revelation vs. Human Wisdom". Both are, as C.S. Lewis used of Faith and Works, like two blades of a scissor. Both necessary to get the job done.

While written specifically witht he Bible in mind, I think it applies just as well to all writings constituting Scripture, and thus is just as applicable for LDS witht he BoM, D&C, etc.

Here's the link: Trusting the Bible vs Trusting Human Reason

Are you equating "Human Reason" with Paul's concept he called "the wisdom of men" or "man's wisdom"?

Because I am not.

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I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

I think the first thing to understand is that the statement does not intend to deal with textual criticism or any other scholarly studies. There is a tradition in the church, beginning with Joseph (and the usage of his time) to use "translation" more for the idea of comprehension than transposition of vocabulary. That is, one may "accurately" translate a text and still not be sure of the meaning. In that context, when one is not sure how to understand the meaning of a passage, there are other sources to go to that will assist with understanding the intent -- and those are other scripture and modern revelation.

That does not at all preclude the study of contexts in which the text was produced (the living meaning is often different from the one derived from the original context--else all religion would only look backwards).

It also happens, perhaps too often, that the questions that scholars examine are very important only to the scholars. For the average person trying to be the best Christian possible, the most comprehensible application of scripture to their lives is much more interesting that discussions of textual criticism. Those have their place in different arenas.

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I was reading over that section during PEC this past Sunday.

As far as "accuracy" goes, the text is referring to how other bible translations (i.e. NIV, RSV, NASB) conform or do not conform to LDS doctrine. It has been a long-standing LDS tradition that the KJV reflects a form of "doctrinal purity" that is somewhat wanting in other versions. Accuracy therefore, refers to doctrinal purity, not necessarily whether the text is reflective of ancient Greek and Hebrew mss.

Thus far, the Church has not prohibited the learning of ancient languages in order to find deeper meaning within the texts themselves, and like other faiths, realizes that "not everyone can be scholars."

Textual criticism and the study of ancient languages has a wonderful place in the Church, but such studies are secondary to the teaching of the fundamental tenets of the Restored Gospel. As the First Presidency noted in 1931, I try to bear the following in mind:

As a side note, I used the Soncino Chumash throughout most of my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine class last year and never ran into any problems with using the text itself.

For those interested in the prominence of the KJV, see Philip L. Barlow, "Why the King James Version?: From the Common to the Official Bible of Mormonism," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 22:2 (1989).

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

i agree 1000 percent with the churches statement; if one has an issue; one i would think only needs to seek out additional scripture e;t;c both cannonical and otherwise....of course if one is not l.d.s. one will not beleive anyway;; the handbook is intended for l.d.s leadership and members whom may take the time to study..:P

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Handbook 2 includes the following statement:

"The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (21.1.7).

I would be interested in hearing from members of the LDS Church how you understand the above statement in some specificity. In particular, I would like to know of what relevance you think the study of biblical languages, textual criticism, and similar scholarly activities in biblical studies -- which some LDS scholars and apologists pursue -- in the light of the above statement.

This has been an interesting discussion. Rob, here's a sincere question for you in response. Suppose a new ancient manuscript was discovered, say, one of the missing epistles from Paul, which proved to be authentic. Further, suppose he clearly delineates a doctrine which conflicts with one to which you currently subscribe. Would you be willing to modify your beliefs, to align with this new text? Why or why not?

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