New Mormon scriptures tweak race, polygamy references – Scholars laud changes, say they bring a more accurate, fuller view of faith’s history.

Mormon Jesus


By Peggy Fletcher Stack

| The Salt Lake Tribune

Mormon historians are cheering the newly released English edition of LDS scriptures, pointing to new wording about race and polygamy that provides a more accurate and complexview of the Utah-based church and its sometimes-controversial past.

It marks the first time in more than 30 years that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has updated its four books of scripture — the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price — and the changes are generating lots of buzz among members, scholars and bloggers.

The new edition, already available online at scriptures.lds.org, includes hundreds of minor spelling and punctuation changes to the holy script, as well as more substantive (though subtle) alterations of chapter headings, study helps and historical descriptions.

“What this reveals is something all religions eventually have to wrestle with — incorporating history into how we experience God,” says American religion historian Matthew Bowman, who last year released a one-volume history of the LDS Church. “The most significant changes to this new edition emphasize the importance of understanding the culture and context these scriptures were produced in.”

Taken together, says Bowman, a Latter-day Saint who teaches at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, the changes reflect an evolving and sophisticated understanding of that past and a “more thoughtful Mormonism going forward.”

Among the biggest changes were new introductions to two documents toward the back of the “quad,” as Mormons call a single volume of the four works.

The lead-in to Official Declaration 2, which describes the church’s 1978 announcement to lift its ban on black males holding the faith’s priesthood, makes clear that Mormon founder Joseph Smith had previously ordained several black men.

Subsequent LDS officials “stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent,” the new introduction says. “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”

The new edition does not dispel any of the theological myths that arose to defend the practice, saying only that Mormon leaders believed it would take a revelation to undo the ban.

“I am thrilled by the new statement regarding blacks,” says Darius Gray, former president of the Genesis Group, a support organization for black Mormons. “The language is more forthcoming than anything we’ve previously had on the past priesthood restriction, so I take great pleasure in seeing the changes.”

Still, they are “incomplete,” Gray says. “There is more that needs to be done.”

On polygamy, the new LDS scriptures alter the chapter headingto Doctrine & Covenants Section 132, which lays out the theology behind eternal marriage and plural marriage. They also provide a historical introduction to Official Declaration 1, known as “the Manifesto,” which signaled a commitment to end the church’s practice of polygamy in 1890.

Valerie Hudson, a Mormon political science professor at Texas A&M University, has argued previously that Mormon polygamy was a temporary exception and not an essential LDS doctrine.

“In these new introductions, we see that ‘plural marriage’ (notice, not ‘plurality of wives’) is to be viewed as a principle and not as a commandment, and that the ‘standard’ of marriage is monogamy,” Hudson, co-author of “Sex and World Peace,” writes in an email. “Small changes such as these can be momentous in their impact on the lives of current and future Saints, which is no doubt why they are attended to with such concern and finesse.”

Brian Hales, an LDS researcher who just published a three-volume work, “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy,” sees the changes as “moving away from the 19th-century wording on polygamy” in some parts, while being more accurate to the history in others.

“We are admitting our past,” he says, “better than we ever have before.”

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2 replies

  1. Believe Jesus Christ is your savior for your sins. Jesus Christ is God Almighty in the Flesh. This is the Gospel, believe Jesus Christ sprinkled his shed precious blood and died for you and all of your sins on the cross, he was buried and he rose again from the dead three days later from God’s Power and you will be saved and you will go to Heaven forever. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God to where we all deserve death, destruction and judgement in the Lake of Fire from the wrath of God to where we need a savior to save us for our sins forever. By receiving Jesus Christ’s blood sacrifice as full payment for your sins you will be saved forever. It matters not how much you have sinned in the past, in the present and in the future. Once you are saved you are saved forever no matter what. Good works will not ever save you and no one and nothing else will. That is the Gospel and if you believe in the Gospel you are now a Born Again Christian and you are now saved and you will go to Heaven forever and that is the whole truth. Spread the truth. All glory goes to God forever! Praise God! Amen! (John Ch. 3:16, Romans Ch. 3:25, 4:1-6, 5:9, 1 Corinthians Ch. 15:1-4, Ephesians Ch. 2:8-9) The Authorized King James Version Bible. http://www.Jesus-Is-Savior.com

  2. Dear Ryan ALO, I do not know if you are advocating Mormonism or Catholics faith. I do not believe that Jesus was buried. He was just laid in a spacious tomb. Burial rights were not performed at all. That is what we read from the gospel.
    The statement “Good works will not ever save you” seems to be the idea of Paul and not from Jesus. Paul said that you will be saved by faith alone. I believe that good works and good faith, both are needed for salvation. And the sin matter was also introduced by Paul, not by Jesus.
    I request you to come to Jesus please and leave Paul. or discuss Mormons. This thread is about Mormons.

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