Testing for Truth
Temporal Consistency –Preservation over Time
The third criterion is temporal consistency. Do the oldest manuscripts match those that are “fresh of the presses”? If we are going to be testing The Book of Mormon to see if it is truth, we need to make sure that Book of Mormon we are testing is the same Book of Mormon that was originally written.
The Word of God lasts forever, without change, if a book claims to be the Word of God, it should likewise be unchanging, regardless of time. Scripture repeatedly states that God will preserve His Word across time. Read the following verses, and you’ll see that throughout the Bible, the point is made that Scripture is established by God to last forever. (Emphasis mine)
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8
(Jesus Speaking) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35 and Luke 21:33
“LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.” Psalm 119:89-91
“Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.” Psalms 119:152
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23-25
Testing the Book of Mormon for temporal consistency should be much easier than testing the Bible. The Bible was written thousands of years ago, in three different languages. To test the Bible, you would have to make sure that the oldest manuscripts match the newest ones, and that the current translations are accurate compared to the original language in the manuscripts.
The Book of Mormon differs from the Bible in that there are no known copies of it in its supposed original language, reformed Egyptian, and the plates from which it was translated were said to have been taken to heaven by the angelMoroni. However, all this become moot since Joseph claimed it was translated by the gift and power of God, word for word, letter for letter. So, since the translator of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, claimed that God approved the translation, well work on the assumption that the first printing of the Book of Mormon is equivalent to the autographs. This leaves us with only being able to test whether it has been preserved through each successive printing?
Biblical Consistency – The Berean Principle
The fourth Criterion, and the most important, is does it match other Scripture. Does the Book of Mormon match in detail and doctrine the Old and New Testaments? The best judge of new Scripture is previous Scripture. God will not reveal himself one way in one scripture, and then contradict that revelation in another scripture. Scripture is God’s very word revealed to us, therefore all teachings must be compared to the scriptures to see if they match what God has said in His Word.
“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” Psalm 18:30
“Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Psalms 119:128
“These (Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11
“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” Psalms 119:104
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“Jesus answered and said unto them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” Matthew 22:29
“Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.” Psalms 119:118
The verses above show us that Gods’ way is perfect, His Word is tried (tested) and its precepts concerning all things are right. Therefore, when presented with a message, it is noble to compare this message to scripture. Through studying the precepts of scripture, we can gain understanding of truth, and not knowing scriptures will lead to error, deceit, and falsehoods.
Many people refuse to use the Bible as a standard for truth. They will often claim that the Bible is not trustworthy, after all, it’s thousands of years old, and it’s probably been corrupted over the years. However, remember that the third criterion is Temporal Consistency, or Preservation over time.
If someone claims that the Bible has been corrupted, they have immediately revealed themselves to be a false teacher. Consider this, why would God give us scripture as a means to test teachers, allow that scripture to become corrupted, and then send us another teacher, with no means to test him?
If God had allowed scriptures to become corrupted, and their meanings lost, then we would cease to have any way of knowing God’s truth. For even if after this supposed corruption God were to send a prophet to restore truth, how would we know that it is indeed truth, with no test, anything this prophet says is suspect.
If God were to allow scriptures to become corrupted, that would make it impossible for us to know when He speaks to us. There simply would be no way of knowing if a person is a true prophet of God, or a false prophet teaching doctrines of demons, as any conflict with scripture can simply be excused with the accusation of corruption.
The Bible states that it is to be the standard by which things are tested. Even Mormon Prophets support this. For instance, The religion of the Latter-Day Saints is largely based upon the Book of Mormon, according to Joseph Smith, “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.” (Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church, 2:52). And President Brigham Young tells us to measure the truthfulness of Mormonism according to the Bible when he said, “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.126). Clearly these men, who both claimed to be a Prophet, Revelator and Seer, and the Mouthpiece of God and President of the one trueChurchofGodon earth, thought that the Bible was still intact enough to be a measure for truth.
Truth and Inspiration
As we’ve seen, while we are to test the Book of Mormon, it is not to be done by prayer, as advocated by Mormons andMoroni10:5. This method will not work because it is; self-fulfilling, subjective, relies on emotions and the heart, and opens up a person to spirits indiscriminately. Rather, we’ve learned that to test scripture, it must show internal consistency by being coherent and free from self-contradiction. It must show external consistency by being scientifically and historically accurate. It must show temporal consistency by showing that it has been preserved over time, since God establishes His words forever. Finally it must show Biblical consistency by being compared and measured according to the Bible.
However, I should caution that even if a text were to meet all the above criteria, that still wouldn’t give it automatic admission into the Cannon of Scripture. There are many books, articles, sermons, etc. that are coherent, free of scientific and historical error, have been accurately transmitted throughout the years, and even agree with the Bible, but that doesn’t make them inspired scripture. All inspired scripture is written truth, however, that doesn’t mean that all written truth is inspired scripture. Again, this four-point test is only to measure truth, not inspiration. In order for something to be considered inspired scripture, it must first pass the test for truth, and then the test for inspiration.