Sunday, February 14, 2010

At What Point Can We Shamelessly Plagiarize Scripture?

It should be an ongoing goal of each follower of Christ to continuously search the scriptures and make them part of their lives. However, knowledge of the scriptures by themselves does not make one a competent witness of the truthfulness of the gospel principles taught therein. In fact, there are a myriad of people who could quote scripture ‘til sunset, and yet lack a fundamental understanding of basic principles, such as the Fall and the Atonement.

Instead, it is the witness of the Spirit that allows us to stand independent of the scriptures and testify that we in fact “know” something in the scriptures to be true. In a very real way, it is this point that the words of the scriptures become our own words because we know them to be as true as did the author who originally penned the words.

Such was the case with Jacob in quoting Zenos’ allegory:

And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive-tree, must surely come to pass” (Jacob 6:1) (emphasis added)

There can be no doubt that Jacob studied, pondered, and prayed much over this allegory. And now Zenos’s words had, in effect, become Jacob’s words, as if Jacob had been the original recipient of the allegory.

The same principle can be found in the words of Alma to the people of Zarahemla:

Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit . . . .

And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true . . . .

I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth” (Alma 5:45-48) (emphasis added).

I believe that each of us is entitled to the witness of the Spirit that will justify our free usage of scriptural accounts and verbiage. In his last general conference address, Elder Bruce. R. McConkie highlighted this concept with the following words:

In speaking of these wondrous things I will use my own words. Though you might think these are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and Prophets, true it is that they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine. For the Holy Spirit of God has born witness to me that they are true and it is now as though the Lord has revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word” (CR, April 1989, p.9) (emphasis added).
It is my hope and goal to attain such an understanding and witness of the scriptures so as to be able to use them as if they were my own.


rees said...

I think in some way as we earnestly strive to understand, ponder and apply the scriptures to our lives we can have that experience. I don't have the witness from the Holy Spirit about every passage of scripture but certainly have had experiences about some of it. I don't know if that makes sense but I have had a witness about certain aspects of the scripture that I have felt were just for me at the time I needed it. And now when I teach a lesson or share my testimony on that thing, I feel as if they are my words too.
My hope is as I get wiser and older I will have more and more experiences like that to draw on when I am in need.
Thanks for the post. It helped me think of things in a new way.

Jeremy said...

rees, what you said made sense. I was not inferring that we should have a confirmation about each and every word in the scriptures. However, I feel the same way you do about several passages, where I know them to be true probably as well as those that originally penned those words.

Thanks for your thoughts.

BHodges said...

The same thing is seen when Laman and Lemuel were asking Nephi about Lehi's vision of the tree of life. See 1 Nephi 15.

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Anonymous said...

The real question is how Moroni quotes 1 Corinthians HUNDREDS of years BEFORE it was written!!

"...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Moroni 7:45

"...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." 1 Corinthians 13:5-7


Jeremy said...

Anon said, "The real question is how Moroni quotes 1 Corinthians HUNDREDS of years BEFORE it was written!!"

When do you think Moroni lived in comparison with Paul? I think your chronology may be a little skewed. And who's to say Paul didn't copy Moroni, or any other prophet or apostle for that matter?

Regardless, it matters not who wrote what passage of scripture, or when, since scripture comes "not by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1:21).

Latter-day Saints believe that scripture, including both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, is inspired of God, through the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Holy Ghost is the author and there certainly are no restrictions on how many times he may inspire righteous men to say or write the same thing.