Let's take this "hierarchy of authority" from the top down. In Mormon doctrine, the first level is the most authoritative whereas the bottom level is the least authoritative.
The First Level: Written Scriptures
Mormonism was summarized by Joseph Smith in the Articles of Faith. The eighth Article of Faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Therefore, we see that the Bible is Scripture as well as the Book of Mormon. The LDS church also includes the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price as written Scripture. Here is a little more about them:
- The Bible: Most of us should already be familiar with the Bible. Mormons believe that the King James Version of the Old and New Testaments is Scripture (though they believe it to be corrupted and incomplete—note the clause in the 8th article: "as far as it is translated [or transmitted] correctly").
- The Book of Mormon: "The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel" (Introduction to the Book of Mormon).
- The Doctrine and Covenants: "The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days. Although most of the sections are directed to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the messages, warnings, and exhortations are for the benefit of all mankind, and contain an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation" (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants).
- The Pearl of Great Price: "The Pearl of Great Price is a selection of choice materials touching many significant aspects of the faith and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These items were produced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and were published in the Church periodicals of his day" (Introductory Note to the Pearl of Great Price).
Together, these combine together as the official written Scripture for the LDS church. As such, they are the top level of Latter-day Saint authority. They are foundational to Mormon doctrine, so an individual seeking to understand Mormonism should begin here (at the same time, remember that most distinctive Mormon teaching comes from the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price).
We will look at the remaining levels of authority in my final post.
(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: http://ateam.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/12/22/1449576.html )
posted at 3:00 AM