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New Mormon scriptures tweak race, polygamy references

Scholars laud changes, say they bring a more accurate, fuller view of faith’s history.



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"Pretty much everything I’m seeing is a victory for the more modern, scholarly approach to the scriptures with a greater awareness of modern sensibilities," Mormon blogger Julie M. Smith writes at timesandseasons.org, "and the removal of a few generations of unjustifiable accretions of tradition to the record."

Benjamin Park, an LDS doctoral student at Cambridge University, agrees.

At a glance

Some of the changes

Section heading to Doctrine & Covenants 132

Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, recorded July 12, 1843, relating to the new and everlasting covenant, including the eternity of the marriage covenant and the principle of plural marriage. Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, evidence indicates that some of the principles involved in this revelation were known by the Prophet as early as 1831. See Official Declaration 1.

New introduction to Official Declaration 1:

The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise (see 2 Samuel 12:7–8 and Jacob 2:27, 30). Following a revelation to Joseph Smith, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s (see section 132). From the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. After receiving revelation, President Wilford Woodruff issued the following Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

New Introduction to Official Declaration 2:

The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.

Samples of spelling and punctuation changes:

Gen. 8:11 “pluckt” to “plucked”

Alma 12:31—”becoming as Gods” to “becoming as gods” (lowercased gods)

Hel. 13:17—”the peoples’” to “the people’s”

Source: scriptures.lds.org

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"It teaches the lay reader that [Mormon] facts, quotes and issues aren’t set in stone, nor are they easily decipherable," Park writes in an email. "Rather, it teaches them that there is complexity, nuance and even gray area. Sometimes, the most important thing to teach a member of the church is how history is done, not just what happened."

By August, members will be able to buy the new print version, though they need not do so, according to an LDS Church news release, because the updated edition does not change any page numbers or layout.

LDS officials, who commissioned these revisions eight years ago, seem excited by the product.

"The current edition of the scriptures, with its extensive study helps, will continue to serve Latter-day Saints very well," LDS apostle Neil L. Andersen says in the release. "This new edition incorporates adjustments that will be a blessing to church members in years to come."

pstack@sltrib.com




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