Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion

Barlow, Philip L. Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Believing Mormon biblical usage best captures the Latter-Day Saints’ position in American religion, Philip Barlow addresses this fundamental issue in Mormons and the Bible by examining pivotal LDS figures and comparing their interpretations with other American religionists. Mormon leaders examined include Prophet Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, B. H. Roberts, Joseph Fielding Smith, William Henry Chamberlin, J. Reuben Clark, Bruce R. McConkie, and Lowell Bennion. Throughout the text Barlow contends that Mormons are Bible-believing Christians but, as he puts it, “with a difference.” <p> Barlow finds that the Church’s high reverence for Scripture is offset by the tendency to restrict the Bible’s authority, uniqueness, finality, sufficiency and historicity, a characteristic implanted in the Mormon tradition by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He argues that Mormons gave their primary allegiance neither to Scripture as did Protestants nor to Christian tradition as did the Catholic Church but instead to the word of living prophets who could, like Smith himself, produce additional scriptures at any time. The author also reveals the fundamental irony of Mormonism’s increasing allegiance in the 20th century to the King James Version of the Bible, a translation inherited from the Protestant churches they rejected and a version which the Prophet himself sought to revise. Besides these issues, the book also treats how deeply Mormons came to identify themselves and their history with the biblical story, the early Mormon reactions to higher criticism, and the place of the Bible in contemporary Mormonism.