Writing was a gift from God given to mankind for the specific purpose of recording his words and transmitting them down through the generations. As the sex drive assures the survival of the race even when love is dead, so also the gift of scripture preserves a witness and a record of God through the dark times when there is not faith to receive the living word. Scripture extends the memory of mankind for the words of God, and serves as a catalyst for revelation.
With these things in mind, let us consider 2 Peter 1 (New International Version [NIV])
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Confirming One’s Calling and Election
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Prophecy of Scripture
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The King James Version (KJV) of 2 Peter 1:19-21 reads as follows.
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of 2 Peter 1:19-21 reads as follows.
19 We have therefore a more sure knowledge of the word of prophecy, to which word of prophecy ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light which shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts;
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scriptures is given of any private will of man.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
In 2 Peter 1:19-21, we see that Peter is telling his readers that until they have the sun rise in their hearts, speaking of a spiritual endowment, they would do well to heed the living prophets and apostles who were eyewitness of Christ and his glory. And he reminds them that the prophets in the scriptures didn’t make stuff up or spout off on their own interpretations of things, looking to push opinions disguised as facts upon others, but spoke as moved upon by the Holy Spirit.
Now, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is interesting. Joseph once said “God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church. The Lord would cut short his work in righteousness and except the Church receive the fulness of the scriptures that they would yet fail.” (TPJS p. 9) He was referring to his translation of the Bible. And the Church in fact did not receive the JST. It is preserved by our brethren, the Reorganites.
Not all that is called scripture is scripture – after all, sometimes people write things which are, in fact, their own opinions, and not something that they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost to speak or write, even if those writings subsequently get canonized. Moroni 7 teaches us to search in the light of Christ, to judge things for ourselves by what actions the teaching motivates, in conjunction with inviting to love God.
12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
Again – does it invite you to do good, and to believe in Christ?
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.
Inviting to do good, while also persuading to believe in Christ, is a key by which teachings may be evaluated in the light of Christ, or the voice of the Spirit in our hearts and consciences. Teachers, and teachings, which are directed at altering beliefs while encouraging no good works, or perhaps even discouraging them, are vanity to me, and seem to fail the test Mormon is describing for good things – because there is a third, unmentioned class of teachings – those which be of men who are giving their opinions on things which they know not, or even which they know by revelation but have not been commanded to publicize, and thus they speak without the power of the Holy Ghost and fail to edify. It isn’t enough that the Spirit gives one knowledge – that is, it isn’t enough that one teaches what one has been taught by the Holy Ghost – the Holy Ghost must also move one to speak, and then power attends. There is no sin in rejecting a powerless teacher or teaching.
After all, the Lord did say: “Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.” (Mark 9:44, JST) Truth doesn’t have to be qualified with a quote. Quoting scripture is a way we can speak about things we don’t know, but surely believe. If we were limited to speaking only of what we knew, silence would reign. Nevertheless, honesty requires strictly demarcating what we know from what we merely believe. And the scriptures are a way to learn about things we don’t know yet, to get an idea that there’s more out there than what we’ve experienced, and quoting them is also a way to express things we do know, but someone else said better than we could.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 And all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
And we’re back where we started. The scriptures invite to believe in Christ, to love God and serve him, and to do good. The scriptures are a gift to us, and we would be wise to search them in the light of Christ, praying always, and doing good, until the sun arises in our hearts.