The Scriptures of Mankind: An Introduction by Charles Samuel Braden
Dr. Braden was Professor of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University (1952). Published by The MacMillan Company, New York, copyright 1952 by Charles S. Braden. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
Chapter 14: Modern Sacred Books
It is abundantly evident from the reading of the previous chapters on the sacred books of the various peoples of the world that the definition of a sacred book is not a hard and fast one. Thus far I have taken a body of literature which has become recognized historically as sacred and therefore authoritative, for one reason or another, and discussed it. The task in this final chapter is somewhat less fixed for me by history.
Ordinarily time is an important factor in the making of a sacred book, particularly when the book turns out to be of composite authorship, less important when it is a one-man book. Even here, however, only time is able to prove whether the movement founded by the revealer will live and attain to more than limited significance. Most of the scriptures thus far discussed are ethnic in character. Will any one of those I mention here ever arrive at that distinction? Only time will tell. It may be said, however, that in some cases the number of people who have come to esteem the writings here to be mentioned as sacred is much greater, in proportion to the elapsed time since their first appearance, than was the case in some of the world religions as now recognized. This may, of course, be due chiefly to the fact that modern methods of propaganda have greatly increased the ease with which a new teaching can be brought to the attention of the world. Even so, it is not a little startling to discover that some modern movements which purport to be based upon a new revelation from God have been able in the short space of a decade to claim in excess of a million followers.
Since insufficient time has passed to assure to the books here discussed a permanent place among the sacred books of the world, such as that enjoyed by the ones that have so far been discussed, I feel it necessary to draw up a definition of a sacred book which will enable me to pick out of our modern world what may be called its sacred books. I propose as that definition, realizing that it would probably exclude some of those already discussed, the following: The sacred book contains writings that purport to have been produced under divine or extra human inspiration or impulse, and which have come to be recognized by a substantial number of people as the basis of their religious faith, since it is regarded by them as the authentic revelation of God to them and to the world.
Are there, under this definition, any modern sacred books? The answer is, "Yes, many." They are found all over the world. Most of them are local in their significance -- so far. Some of them are doubtless more or less ephemeral, but some have already achieved the dignity of world religions. Let me first mention two from Japan, both of them the product of the last hundred years.
The Japanese Shinto sect, Tenrikyo, which before the war ranked among the recognized Shinto sects, with a membership of some three million, was founded by a woman known simply as the Foundress, whose prophecies constitute the basic scriptures of the movement. She died in 1886 at the age of ninety. She was the incarnation of God, as stated by one of their publications. God had never before, it declares, "come down to the world to lead the people," but, "after a long waiting, the time at last came and God showed himself to the World, taking the body of The Foundress as the incarnation, at the sacred place of Jiba in October, 1838. The Foundress taught the world, and led men, high and low, to the salvation for the reconstruction of the world. Through the mediation of the Foundress, after a long separation, i.e., since the creation of the world, God and men met again."1 It was not, however, until 1869 that she began the composition of the prophetic poems known by the name O-fude-saki. Thenceforth, according to the book Tenrikyo, "almost for twelve years the Foundress wrote down the holy prophecies piece by piece by the dim light of a kerosene lamp, as they came flashing through her mind that was filled with heavenly inspiration. She sometimes wrote them down in the dark, but there was no need to change the characters."2 Only a few of the poems are available in English translation, known as the Dancing Psalms.3
Konkokyo is another Shinto sect which was founded by one Ikigami Konko Daijin in 1859 "in accordance with the divine command of Tenchi-Kane-no-Kami." At that time the founder "enlightened by inspiration from God, indicated the path of true belief and his practical solutions, based on his own spiritual experience, brought relief to people suffering from disease, misfortune, and all other miseries of life."4 The movement was recognized by the Japanese government in 1900 and took its place among the officially approved Shinto sects. "Dependence upon salvation through the founder is the cardinal point of the (our) teaching,"5 for, having "set himself to the task of accomplishing the divine work, he (The Founder) attained the rank of Ikigami, the living God, who though in the flesh was one with the God, and was given the divine name Ikigami Konko Daijin, Living God Konko Daijin."6
It is his teachings that form the sacred book of Konkokyo. Unfortunately, there is no indication in available sources as to how extensive it is nor how it was collected. It is found in English, probably only in part, in the little volume The Sacred Scriptures of Konkokyo, translated and edited by Konkokyo Hombu (Headquarters of Konkokyo) Konko-cho, Okyama-kin, Japan 2593, 1933. The Konkokyo sect was represented at the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago, 1933.
America has been prolific in its production of scriptures, some already completed, some still in the process of being revealed. The relative unimportance of many of them makes them of little interest, for example, the inspired utterances of the founder of the House of David, Benjamin Purnell. Timothy Drew, better known as Noble Drew, Ali, a Negro, Founder of The Moorish Science Temple of America, was the medium through whom a new Holy Koran was revealed to serve as the scripture for the group. It has only a few centers in the larger cities.
Father Divine gives new revelations every day which are duly recorded in The New Day, a weekly newspaper. There has as yet been no collection of these revelations, other than scattered selections published by a follower, Walter C. Lanyon, in England.7 But, here is a scripture in the making. If the movement survives the passing of the founder, it may become one as truly as any of those that now exist. Here, his followers believe, is God himself speaking. His words are recorded verbatim by a corps of stenographers. Therc were sixteen of them when I visited him. Even now where groups meet outside of the Eastern area, where Father Divine appears before them in person, his messages are read from The New Day, very much as scripture is read in other religious groups.8
The I Am groups regard the writings of Mr. and Mrs. Guy Ballard, their founders, as given them direct from some divine source, chiefly the Ascended Masters, of whom St. Germain is the principal one. Ballard published his earliest revelations from St. Germain in Unveiled Mysteries, a most unusual account of his adventures out of the body, in both space and time, in the course of which the basic teachings of the cult appear. This was followed by other volumes of similar nature. It is difficult to say just what will be the outcome of all this. As long as Ballard lived -- he died in 1939 -- both he and Edna Ballard, his wife, continued to receive messages in public and in private via the Ascended Masters, including Jesus. Since his death and consequent elevation to the state of an Ascended Master himself, Mrs. Ballard continues to receive messages from them and from him. The fact of still-current revelations, of course, prevents the closing of the canon. Whether on the death of Mrs. Ballard, one of the three only Accredited Messengers to this age, the messages will be continued through the third Messenger, son Donald Ballard, it is impossible to predict surely. I personally think it doubtful. In this case there may be a closing of the book, and eventually a gathering of all of this mass of revealed material into a single collection. It has so far been published in various books and in the monthly magazine, The Voice of I Am. Again, it is a sacred book in the making.9
Another prophetic revealer was Dr. Frank B. Robinson of Moscow, Idaho, founder of Psychiana. He called himself a prophet. One of his books bears the title The Prophet Speaks. In dozens of places in his writings he asserts categorically that he speaks under divine inspiration. He died in 1948, so it is too early to predict what may eventually come of his revelation. During most of twenty years Dr. Robinson steadfastly refused to organize his numerous followers. His work was almost exclusively by mail or radio, so no church developed which might naturally be expected to carry on after his death. In his latter years, he informed me, that policy was changed and they had begun to organize as rapidly as possible. With what success they met I have not heard. If it does become a well-organized movement and develops deep loyalties to Dr. Robinson and his teachings, it may yet result in the creation of another modern sacred book to serve as the basis of the new faith. He has written a great deal. There is much repetition in what has come from his pen. But some process of selection might well take place in the course of time which would provide a solid core of teachings which the group would recognize as authoritative.10
Among the modern forms of religion that have developed their own sacred literatures may be found two variant types: (1) Those which, besides acknowledging as their own some already established scripture, add to it a supplementary scripture, the product of the inspiration of their own founder. (2) Those which recognize no other basic scriptural authority than the revelation brought to light by their founder. Examples of the first type are Christian Science and Mormonism; of the second, Bahai. We deal first with Bahai. It is a world religion, found widely scattered among the nations.
Bahai was born in Persia just a little more than a century ago, 1844. There was within the Shiah Moslem group a lively expectation of the return of the Twelfth Imam who had disappeared, promising that he would one day come back. There was likewise a belief, probably influenced by Jewish thought, that there must first appear a Forerunner, in the manner of John the Baptist, before the coming of the expected one. In 1844 such a one announced himself, called by Bahais the Bab. He gained a considerable following, but after only a few years was put out of the way by the Persian government. But only a short time after this, arose one claiming to be the one foretold, and he was so received. He became known as Baha’u’llah, the Splendor of God, and his movement as Bahai. He spent a great part of his life as a prisoner -- not always in prison, but obliged to live in a prison colony. All during these years he taught and wrote what have since come to be known as "The Tablets of Baha’u’llah." These have come to be regarded as the basic scripture of the movement, though the writings of the Bab and of the prophet’s son and successor, Abdul Baha, are likewise considered on almost, if not, the same level as those of the founder. Says one who was for many years a leader of the movement, Albert Vail:
The Bahais who make a practice of reading as far as possible the sacred books of all religions, declare the words of the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha possess the same recreative power (as other sacred books) . They illumine, exalt them, reveal to them the presence of God and set them aflame with His love.11
Esselmont says that the founder’s utterances "like other divine manifestations, may be divided into two classes, in one of which he writes or speaks simply as a man who has been charged by God with a message to his fellows, while in the other class the words purport to be the direct utterance of God himself." But he admits that "no hard and fast line can be drawn between the human and divine element in his life or teachings." For even when he speaks as a man, says Esselmont, he "speaks as God’s messenger, as a living example of entire devotion to God’s will. His whole life is actuated by the Holy Spirit."12 His writings were very extensive and only a part of them have been translated into English or other European languages, so few can know the whole of them. For practical purposes, a brief selection known as Hidden Words has been widely circulated as expressing the more important teachings of the prophet. It is issued in vest-pocket size. This selection, plus a much larger number of passages, have been translated and published under the title Bahai World Faith. This has appeared in various editions, each larger’ than the previous one. The 1943 version carries the following statement. "This replaces the work published in 1923 under the title Bahai Scriptures and contains later and more accurate translations, as well as Tablets and prayers not then accessible in English." It contains 465 pages and is arranged topically. It, as well as a number of other publications of Bahai, is issued with the approval of the Bahai Central Commission.13
It appears that the canon is not yet fixed. Nor does it seem likely that it will ever be completely closed, for one of their beliefs is in the continuing revelation of God for which they have made provision in their scheme of organization. In this it resembles Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, both of which have a definite concept of continuing revelation, and machinery through which revelation is supposed to be received, namely, the church represented in the person of the Pope in the case of the Roman Catholic Church and the First Presidency in the case of the Mormons.
There remain two modern American sacred books to be considered at somewhat greater length, viz., Science and Health Key to the Scriptures, and the peculiar sacred writings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Let it first be said that Christian Science accepts the Protestant Christian Bible, just as other Protestant Christians do. Furthermore, Christian Scientists read their Bibles, I suspect, with more regularity than most other Protestants. Article I of the Statement of Belief, which must be signed by all who seek membership in the First Church of Christ Scientist in Boston, the Mother Church, reads: "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life." This article was handed down by Mrs. Eddy, and there is no word in the remaining five articles which even refers to any other scripture. No mention is therein made of Science and Health. However, in Article IV, on church membership, it is specifically stated that a member must be a "believer in the doctrines of Christian Science according to the platform and teaching contained in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Reverend Mary Baker Eddy. The Bible, together with Science and Health and other works by Mrs. Eddy, shall be his only textbooks for self instruction in Christian Science and for teaching and practicing metaphysical healing." Are we then justified in regarding Science and Health as a sacred book? May it not be merely a peculiar interpretation of the Bible which is held to by the church in accordance with good Protestant custom? Presbyterians are supposed to regard the Westminster Confession as an authoritative interpretation of the true meaning of the Bible at crucial points, yet that famous confession would hardly be held to be a sacred book.
Here we must recall the definition of a sacred book with which we began. It must be first regarded as of divine inspiration, and secondly, be held as authoritative by the group in matters of faith. Does Science and Health fit these requirements? As to the second requirement there can be little doubt. One only needs to recall the place given to it in the public and private worship of Christian Scientists to be convinced that it does meet this requirement. In public worship there are two readers. One reads a passage from the Bible, selected ahead of time by a committee which determines for all Christian Science churches what shall be read in the churches on each Sunday of the year. The other reads correlative passages from Science and Health. Some think there is significance in the fact that the second reader -- there are two in every church -- reads from the Bible, while the first reader reads from Science and Health. As is well known there is no sermon. The reading from Science and Health, which is of course the word of Mrs. Eddy, is effectively the sermon, and historically did take the place of sermons by the pastors which were regularly preached in the earlier Christian Science churches, until done away with by order of Mrs. Eddy. That is to say, independent study and interpretation of the Bible is not enough. It is always the Bible interpreted by Mrs. Eddy in her various writings which is regarded as the true statement of doctrine. It is she who determines for her followers the effective meaning of scripture. It would seem, therefore, that the inspiration of Holy Writ is dependent on its interpreter for its effectiveness in reaching the mind of the Christian Scientist. Does this then mean that her own writings are themselves inspired? If they are, then clearly they meet the first requirement of the definition of scripture.
That Mrs. Eddy herself considered them inspired, there can be no doubt. "No human pen nor tongue taught me the Science contained in this book, Science and Health," she declares (10:18) . Or, again she writes: "God certainly revealed the Spirit of Christian Science" (495:29) , which is, of course, known only through Science and Health. She speaks too of "the divine origin and operation of Christian Science" (272: 25) , of the "divine basis of Christian Science" (388:8) , and asserts that "Christian Science is unerring and divine" (99:15) . But Christian Science can only be known through the textbook; therefore, is it not also "unerring and divine"? For Science and Health, she states, "is the voice of Truth to this age and contains the full statement of Christian Science." On a number of occasions she spoke or wrote concerning the writing of the book. In Miscellany she wrote: "I should blush to write of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as I have, were it of human origin, and were I, apart from God, its author" (p. 115) . A follower reports that, once visiting Mrs. Eddy, he was asked if he had seen a certain painting in her room at the Mother Church. It pictured a chair in which she sat while writing the textbook. Sheets of manuscript were scattered on the floor beside it. Said Mrs. Eddy to him: "The picture is true to life. When the ideas of Truth poured into my thought, I was so careful not to miss anything, that I let my papers fall to the floor. When the moment of revelation passed, I gathered them up and arranged them."14
In Miscellany, she tells a bit about writing:
I could not write these notes after sunset. All thoughts in the line of Scriptural interpretation would leave use until the rising of the sun. Then the influx of divine interpretation would pour in upon my spiritual sense as gloriously as the sunlight on the material senses. It was not myself, but the divine power of Truth and Love, infinitely above me, which dictated Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.15
And her followers have accepted its inspiration. Dakin quotes from the Christian Science Journal (unfortunately he fails to give chapter and verse) a statement made by the editor in answer to a query concerning Science and Health: "Would it not be too material a view to speak of Science and Health being based upon any edition of the Bible. . . . The Chosen One, always with God in the Mount, speaks face to face. In other words, Science and Health is a firsthand revelation."16 Another who knew Mrs. Eddy personally writes: "Perhaps we sometimes read Science and Health without a thought of the author. May we not rather realize that we are not only reading the word of God, but that our communion with Him (God) is through the Message written by His chosen scribe."17 Sibyl Wilbur, official biographer of Mrs. Eddy for the movement, indicates again and again the inspired nature of her writings: (Italics mine)
It is no refutation of her sublime discovery in 1866 or of her divine guidance in preparing and presenting its principles, that the work was a growth and did not spring full blown into her mind.18
Her dissertations as well as her writings were beginning to unseal the fountains of her inspiration.19
Her authorship of the Manual was as much inspired as her authorship of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.20
One who was her personal secretary for a time notes several sayings of Mrs. Eddy, which he wrote down immediately on returning to his desk. They were, he writes, confirmed by other members of the household as substantially correct. One of them was:
"Every by-law in the Manual is inspired. I did not write them any more than I wrote Science and Health" (showing, says the reporter of the utterances) that both came to her through revelation.21
Surely no other citations are necessary to establish the fact that these writings are regarded as inspired. Thus we are fully justified in classifying Science and Health as a modern sacred book, according to our definition.
Mormonism, like Christian Science, accepts the Bible in its Protestant form. Article 8 of its Articles of Faith states simply, "‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God," but adds, "as far as it is correctly translated." The phrase, "as far as it is correctly translated," means that the Mormons have their own version of the Bible, which was made by Joseph Smith between June, 1830, and July, 1833.
In the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi iii, 40) it is asserted that "many plain and precious parts" have been removed from the Bible; and again in a revelation of Joseph Smith given June, 1830, God, speaking to Moses, declares, "I will speak unto you concerning this earth upon which thou standest and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak and in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold I will raise up another like unto thee, and they shall be had again among the children of men, among even as many as shall believe."22 This is the evident authorization for a correction of the received version of that time.
In the preface to the 1944 edition of the Bible published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Independence, Missouri, this statement appears:
This work is given to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to the public in pursuance of the commandment of God. As concerning the matter of translation and correction, it is evident from the manuscripts and the testimony of those who were conversant with the facts that it was done by direct revelation from God.
A few of the differences observed on comparing this version with the regular King James version may be indicated.
The first verse of Chapter I of Genesis in the corrected version reads:
(v. 1) And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven and this earth; write the words which I speak. (v. 2) I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God. By mine Only Begotten I created these things.
All of this precedes what is ordinarily verse 1 in the standard versions. Verse 3 of the Mormon version continues:
Yea, in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest (v. 4) and the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come upon the face of the deep, etc.
Note that it is all expressed in the first person instead of the third person, and this follows clear through the creation story.
The narratives run fairly close together through chapters 3 and 4. At the introduction of Enoch in the Mormon version, there is a long section continuing through chapter 6, with 71 verses, and chapter 8 with 85 verses, dealing with Enoch’s ministry, his prophecies, visions, prayers, etc. The flood narrative is substantially the same, and at chapter 11 the two narratives are once again parallel. From there on, there seems to be very slight difference between the versions.
Space does not permit an examination of the whole Bible. It is significant that there are changes, sometimes rather substantial indeed, in comparison with the regular authorized version.
One sample from the New Testament must suffice. In chapter 12 of St. Luke, the versions are identical through verse 9, which reads: "But he who denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." In the Mormon version is then inserted the following two verses.
Now his disciples knew that he said this because they had spoken evil against him before the people for they were afraid to confess him before men and they reasoned among themselves, saying "He knoweth our hearts and he speaketh to our condemnation and we shall not be forgiven." But he answered them and said unto them.
Once again the two versions run parallel.
Between verses 30 and 31 of the regular version is inserted the following:
And ye are sent unto them to be their ministers and the laborer is worthy of his hire for the law sayeth that a man shall not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.
By the end of the chapter, the Mormon version has gained a total of nine verses.
Article 8 further adds: "We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God"23 But the revelation has not ceased, as they believe, for the 9th Article of Faith reads: "We believe all that God has revealed, all He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." In accord’ with this article, Talmage wrote: "The canon of scripture is still open: many lines, many precepts, are yet to be added: revelation surpassing in importance and glorious fulness any that has been recorded, is yet to be given to the church and declared to the world."24
The Articles of Faith themselves were, according to Mormon belief, "given by inspiration" by Joseph Smith about 1841, in a short history of the church which he furnished at the request of a Chicago editor. The history was published first in Times and
Season, March 1, 1842.
Actually, Mormons accept as authoritative revelation not only the Book of Mormon, but also the Book of Doctrines and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. These are quoted constantly by Talmage in his discussion of the Articles of Faith, which is really a study of Mormon theology, alongside the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Thus it may be said that these together constitute the historic canon of scripture as received by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The channel through which continuing revelation reaches the church is the First Presidency which is the head of the church, very much in the same sense as the Pope in Roman Catholicism. Says Talmage: "By divine direction, a president is appointed from among the members of the High Priesthood to preside over the entire church. . . . He is called to be ‘a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a Prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.’" This latter quote is the precise expression used to describe Joseph Smith himself. Talmage continues: "His station is compared by the Lord to that of Moses of old, who stood as the mouthpiece of God unto Israel." To him belong "the keys of the kingdom."25
The story of the Book of Mormon is too familiar to require detailed retelling here. It is believed to have been written on gold plates, whose whereabouts was revealed to Joseph Smith as a very young man, but written and hidden away centuries earlier by Moroni, last remnant of the people who had migrated from the old world to the new. The greater part of the story is that of Laman and Nephi, sons of the prophet, Lehi, who migrated from Jerusalem about 600 B.C. From them descended the Lamanites and Nephites, the former becoming the American Indians. The two peoples warred against each other, and finally about 400 A.D., the Nephites were destroyed in a battle in Upper New York near where the tablets were found. In the course of the narrative is found the account of Jesus’ appearance to the Nephites shortly after his ascension. The golden age of the Nephites followed this appearance. All this had been recorded on plates of gold. These the prophet Mormon abridged on other plates of gold and left to his son, Moroni, to be added to as he deemed necessary, and hidden away in the earth. He made some modifications and added to the book of Ether, in which is told the story of the Jaredites, who at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel migrated to the Western world. They, too, were finally destroyed, but the record had been written by Ether, the last prophet of the Jaredites, and hidden away. Found later by one of the rulers of the Nephites, it was shortened and added to the Book of Mormon by Moroni.
Alleged to have been written in hieroglyphics, it was translated by Joseph Smith, a very meagerly educated young man, by means of the Urim and Thummim found along with the plates. The work of translation is reported to have been done by Joseph, who was separated by a curtain from the amanuensis who wrote it down. In all the successive versions of the Book a statement signed by eight witnesses is included, witnessing to their having seen and handled the golden plates. This is held by Mormons to be proof positive of the truth of the reputed origin of the Book. Naturally it has been doubted by those outside the faith and every effort has been made to find a more plausible explanation of the sources of this scripture. While absolute certainty is, of course, impossible at this late date, non-Mormon scholars are pretty well convinced that its basis was an historical novel by a one-time Presbyterian clergyman by the name of Spaulding, which he intended calling The Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon or, Unearthed Records of the Nephites. It was offered for publication to a printer in Pittsburgh, without title affixed. The manuscript was left with the printer, the author agreeing to provide the title page and a preface. Sickness caused a delay, and on his return the manuscript had disappeared. But what is the connection of all this with the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith? The link is found in the fact that Sidney Rigdon was employed in the print shop at the time and that he was a primary figure in the early days of the founding of Mormonism. Arbaugh26 goes so far as to declare that the real founder of Mormonism was Rigdon, rather than Joseph Smith, and that the latter was used rather as a tool in effecting his purpose. Naturally Mormon writers deny this and defend the book as a genuine revelation received through the prophet Joseph Smith.27 It is impossible to enter here into the merits of the controversy, but there is much circumstantial evidence to support the claim of non-Mormon scholars. In an age such as ours, critical of all claims that run counter to what may be scientifically proven, the Mormon has a heavy burden of proof upon him. Mormon children who grow up under the careful tutelage of the church entertain no more serious doubts about the inspiration of Joseph Smith than they do that of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Paul. But older Mormon youth have their dificulties as they move out, as many of them do, into the larger community of the world and catch something of the critical spirit of the age.
Mormon educators seem to be quite hospitable to the work of critical scholarship as applied to the Bible. For example, various professors from the University of Chicago, including Dr. Goodspeed, Dr. Graham and others, have been invited to lecture on the Bible at Brigham Young University. I have never seen any work of a critical nature on the Mormon revelation specifically done by Mormon scholars. It will be strange if eventually such work is not attempted.
The Book of Doctrines and Covenants contains a series of lectures on faith delivered at Kirtland, Ohio. It is not stated that they were given by Joseph Smith. But the remainder of the book consists chiefly of revelations given to Joseph Smith, the Seer or Revelator. Each revelation is dated and a title states to whom it was directed, and in some cases under what circumstances. Some are general, some to specific individuals, including at least one directed to his wife, Emma. There is one given through Brigham Young.
The Pearl of Great Price contains The Book of Moses, which purports to be visions of Moses as revealed to Joseph Smith in 1830. The Book of Abraham, which is described as "a translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt, the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt," is also included. In addition, there are other writings of Joseph Smith, a short account of the beginnings of his’ work, and the Articles of Faith.
These two books then contain in the main the revelations which came to Joseph Smith during the early years of the movement -- those probably referred to in the phrase "all that He does now reveal." They are basic to the whole movement, and far more important in their bearing upon the organisational life of the Mormons than either the Bible or The Book of Mormon, for it was in these successive revelations of the prophet that the growing movement took shape, and their most characteristic beliefs and practices were determined.
Limitation of space precludes an adequate discussion of the cultural role of these numerous modern sacred books. Since there is not one of them which represents other than a minority group within a larger whole, one cannot here write, as has been done in the case of some of the great ethnic scriptures, of their molding influence upon a total culture. But it may be said that each scripture does play an important part in the lives of the members of the various groups. Only in the Mormon group has there been a profound social effect upon the adherents. Here, perhaps due more than to any other single factor, to the doctrine set forth in their scriptures, of the "Gathering of the Saints," they tended to draw together into a compact social body, building their own communities as they did at Kirtland, Ohio; in Jackson County, Missouri; at Far West, Missouri; at Nauvoo, Illinois; and finally in Utah. Converts came from all over the United States, Canada and England to join the Mormon community. This concentration of Mormons, their unfamiliar religious beliefs, their different patterns of living, and their economic solidarity, which constituted something of a threat to the non-Mormon community, even on the frontier, brought upon them the bitter persecution which drove them from one place to another in search of peace and the opportunity to live according to their revealed way of life. It became finally evident that only in the complete isolation of the West could they enjoy this freedom, so they braved the hardship of the long trek across the plains and desert mountains to the valley of the Great Salt Lake.
Here in relative isolation from a restrictive majority, they did develop a culture of their own in which the influence of their revealed scriptures was very great. Here they formed what was practically an ideal theocracy according to their scriptures and built a great self-sufficient community.
Brigham Young was the great organizing genius of this new empire. He derived whatever authority he had from the new revelation and governed, as he thought, certainly, according to the teachings of the faith.
With the coming of the Gentiles to Utah, the political direction of the state has, of course, passed from the church as church, but even today the economic and social life of the Mormon community is still to an amazing degree determined by the principles taught in their sacred book.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that those mentioned thus far in the chapter are the only modern sacred books. Within the year a new one from Japan and another from Cambodia have come to the writer’s attention. Almost every movement mentioned in the appendix of These Also Believe has something like a sacred book, either already formed, or in the making. And others will yet appear. So long as men believe in a higher power who is believed capable of revealing himself to man, there will arise those who believe that God has spoken to them and will become his mouthpiece just as the prophets of older religions have done. Which of these will live and become the authoritative bases of great religions, only time can disclose. It will undoubtedly be the intrinsic values in the writing themselves and their ability to speak to the universal heart of humanity which will determine the spread of their influence and their ultimate survival.
Modern Sacred Books
Sources for Further Reading
The more recent sacred books are not usually represented in the anthologies. In the case of Bahai there is a substantial section of the writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdul Baha included in Sohrab, The Bible of Mankind, pp. 590-733.
S. E. Frost, Sacred Writings of the World’s Great Religions, has sections from the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, pp. 367-377; and a few excerpts from Science and Health, pp. 379-388.
The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and the Book of Mormon, will be found in most libraries. The other sacred books have been mentioned in
the footnotes throughout the chapter.
1. Tenrikyo, Doyusha, Tenrikyo Head Church, Tsuchisaburo Itakura, Moderator Tambaichi, Japan, n.d., pp. 4-5
2. Ibid., p. 131.
3. Ibid., pp. 151-176.
4. The Sacred Scriptures of Konkokyo, p. iii.
5. Ibid., p. xx.
6. Ibid., p. xii.
7. Behold The Man, London, 1933; The Eyes of the Blind, London, 1932; It Is Wonderful, London, 1934; Out of the Clouds, London, 1934.
8. For a description of Father Divine’s movement and a more detailed discussion of his revelations, see Charles S. Braden, These Also Believe, Macmillan, N. Y., 1949.
9. Braden, op. cit., pp. 257-308.
10. Braden, op. cit., pp. 78-127.
11. "The Bahai Movement," reprinted from Harvard Theological Review, July, 1914, Vol. VII.
12. "Baha’u’llah and the New Era, Rev. 2nd ed., G. Allen and Unwin, London, 1940, p. 53.
13. National headquarters of the movement are at Wilmette, Illinois, where their magnificent and unique temple is located.
14. We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science Publishing Company, Boston, 1943, pp. 42-43. Used by permission.
15. "We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, p. 43.
16. Mrs. Eddy, Charles Scribners Sons, N. Y., 1930, p. 195.
17. We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, p. 41.
18. Life of Mary Baker Eddy, p. 182. Used by permission.
19. Ibid., p. 181.
20. Ibid., p. 368.
21. We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, p. 22.
22. Doctrines and Covenants, Sec. 22, p. 9.
23. Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 2.
24. Ibid., p. 311.
25. Op. cit., p. 210.
26. C. B. Arbaugh, Revelation in Mor,nonism, University of Chicago Press, 1932.
27. A good example of the way in which Mormons support their belief in the Book of Mormon is Vol. 17, No. 4 of The Gospel Quarterly, an Adult Study Course, published by The Herald Publishing House of the Reorganized Church at Independence, Mo., under the title "External Evidences of the Book of Mormon."