Do Nice, Expensive Scriptures Lead to a Functionally Closed Canon?

I heard a rumor once, that when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were finished with ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’, that it was suggested that this document be added to the scriptures – perhaps as a section in the Doctrine and Covenants.  As the rumor goes, President Hinckley decided not to do that because it would make members feel that they needed to go out and buy a new set of scriptures.  A nice set of new scriptures is quite expensive, and the task of printing new scriptures for much of the church membership would be a significant one.

For the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that this rumor has some truth to it.  Do nice, expensive scriptures lead to a functionally closed canon?  Unfortunately, I think the answer might be yes.

What if, instead of an expensive, leather bound set of scriptures,  we had a three-ring binder.  This way, when new revelation for the church was received by a prophet, such revelation could just be posted at lds.org, people could print out their own copy of it, and slip it in their own scripture binder.  Or similarly, with on-line information and technology progressing as it is, maybe the scriptures could be on-line and additions to the scriptures would just be a matter of updating the scripture wed site.   In this way, new scripture would only be a matter of receiving revelation, presenting it to the church for sustaining vote, and updating a website (or something to that effect).

As it is now, the words of the prophets are written in the Ensign.  It seems to me that how members take these words range from being the equivalent to scripture, to being personal thoughts and opinions.  It is sometimes difficult to know how much weight to give these articles.

So once again, the question(s):  Do nice, expensive scriptures lead to a functionally closed canon?  Should the church have made the D&C more like a binder so additional scripture could be easily added?  Will new technology eventually lead to non-printed scripture which could serve to functionally re-open the canon?

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11 Responses to “Do Nice, Expensive Scriptures Lead to a Functionally Closed Canon?”


  1. 1 J. Stapley August 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    The canon-wiki.

    I seriously doubt the anecdote though. The 1835 D&C wasn’t updated with Nauvoo goodness until the 1870s. Section 138 wasn’t added to the D&C until 1981 (it was added to the PoGP in the 1970s).

  2. 2 michelle August 30, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I think a “binder” (canon-wiki — hehe) would make it too easy. I think part of the journey is to learn to discern, to develop ears to hear and eyes to see.

  3. 3 Ben S August 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    “President Hinckley decided not to do that because it would make members feel that they needed to go out and buy a new set of scriptures”

    Or deliberately keep the old ones…

  4. 4 Eric Nielson August 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    J:

    So are you saying the process could still ‘work’, just be patient? You are probably right.

    Michelle:

    So this would be like deciding for yourself what is or should be scriptural? At a certain level, I suppose this happens anyway. But is there not value to having a united set of scriptures to work from? Perhaps we over-emphasize this.

    Ben S:

    I can see it now – ‘That is not in my scriptures’.

  5. 5 michelle August 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Eric,
    I think we have to look at how ‘scripture’ is defined. It’s not just ‘what is bound in the quad’ but whatever is spoken under the spirit, what comes through the law of authorized witnesses, etc. To me, waiting for something to be ‘canonized’ in leather before giving it proper attention (which is how some people approach prophetic counsel) is akin to waiting to be commanded in all things.

    I think you pointed out something important, which is that we already have conference talks ‘bound’ — do they really need to be in a binder, too? This is something given across the church on a regular basis. Plus we have monthly messages from the First Presidency. That seems united in its own right to me.

  6. 6 michelle August 30, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    waiting for something to be ‘canonized’ in leather

    …or in a binder or wiki. ;)

  7. 7 Stephen M (ethesis) August 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Well, they are reluctant to change up the song book for a similar reason.

  8. 8 jks August 31, 2010 at 2:19 am

    As I watch my daughter do her personal progress and the Primary children prepare talks from the Proc. I think that they are using the Proc. so much it must feel like scriptures to my kids.
    I finally framed a copy and put it on top of the piano. I don’t have many religious things up on my walls.
    I’m guessing it will eventually be added. It will be interesting to see.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson August 31, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Michelle:

    You are awesome.

    Stephen:

    Excellent point.

    jks:

    I agree.

  10. 10 John Mansfield September 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    When I heard something like this I assumed it was meant as a joke, but I didn’t like it all the same, because it was being used by the speaker to declare new canon. The ark-steadying metaphor gets thrown around loosely, but this a case where it is somewhat apt. “The prophet was hindered from presenting this to the Church for a sustaining vote, but I’ll circumvent all that.”

    Also, President Hinckley would have been well familar with the insert pages that were used to stick current Sections 137 and 138 into existing copies of the Pearl of Great Price and then the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Can anyone remember similar insert pages for Official Declaration-2? I don’t.

  11. 11 ji September 4, 2010 at 12:16 am

    When I heard that the First Presidency and the Twelve worked very hard on the proclamation, it reminded me that it is just that, a proclamation of the First Presidency and the Twelve. The proclamation is not revelation.

    It is good teaching. It proclaims important truths. Considering its source, it deserves our attention. But it isn’t revelation. None of the authors have called it revelation, as far as I have heard.

    At least, that’s my thought.

    Regarding the rumor, the outcome is right. We don’t want everything said by a general authority to turn into scripture, and the three-ring approach might make scripture-making too easy. There is a valid place for scripture and a valid place for teachings and exhortations.


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