Biblical Inerrancy and the Book of Mormon:

Creating a Platform for LDS/Evangelical Dialogue

by Michelle G. Wiener

Question: Is there room for the Book of Mormon within the theological framework of “biblical inerrancy”?

Recently the following paragraph from my essay “Two Lampstands: Two Branches” featured in Rational Faiths made its way into conversation on one of the Mormon-based discussion groups to which I belong…

As a young person growing up in the Baptist church, I was always frightened by the prohibition in Revelation 22:18-19 concerning the dangers of “adding to and taking away” from the prophecies contained therein. Is this not easy for anyone to do –whether knowingly or unknowingly? With all our additional Scriptures and continuing revelation in the LDS Church, how do we know we are not guilty of this? Certainly the evangelicals harshly criticize Joseph Smith for violating this prohibition. However, what if our Book of Mormon and modern day revelations are all legitimate continuations of these prophecies; in essence, the living tradition? And furthermore, what if the “little book” mentioned in Revelation 10 is actually a reference to the Book of Mormon— and the “angel standing upon the sea,” is a reference to Moroni, pointing to the day when the Gospel will reach the far ends of the earth? [1]

The question came up: What do these verses mean for Mormons? Wasn’t Revelation 22:18-19 just making reference to the book of Revelation and not the entire Bible, especially considering the timeframe in which the books of the New Testament were written, complied and canonized? However, depending on how you are raised to believe, this is purely a matter of perspective.

I was raised in the Southern Bible Belt and had been taught to view the Scriptures through the lenses of “biblical literalism.” To an evangelical who believes in biblical inerrancy, the prohibition found in Revelation 22:18-19 not to “add or take away” is very serious; it is a matter of one’s eternal destiny and continues to be the primary roadblock to many evangelicals not accepting the Book of Mormon as the revealed Word of God Since Revelation is the final book of the Bible and these prohibitions are found in the final chapter of this book, devout evangelicals would see it no other way. If the Bible is the complete, inerrant Word of God, then these two verses alone intrinsically support that claim of inerrancy. Evangelicals view the Book of Mormon as an “addition” to Scripture. This is the main reason they have difficulty getting over the Ezekiel 37 hurdle presented in the missionary discussions, with the “stick of Ephraim” being a reference to the Book of Mormon and the Bible being a reference to the “stick of Judah.” I have spoken with LDS missionaries working in our area who have run into some of these same roadblocks. There seems to be no way around this; no way to create positive dialogue between evangelicals and Mormons when it comes to these scriptural issues.

However, what if the Book of Mormon itself is mentioned in the book of Revelation and nobody ever thought twice to consider it? Revelation chapter ten speaks of an “angel standing by the sea” holding a “little book.” That book is not named and neither is the angel. However, it would seem to me that this angel is a reference to Moroni and the “little book” is the Book of Mormon. Speaking of this “little book,” Revelation 10:9 says, “Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth as sweet as honey.”

Let’s consider for just a moment how this passage relates to the Book of Mormon. As a convert reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, I knew there was something truly awe-inspiring about it. As a theologian, I could not deny how much it lined up with both the Old and New Testaments, especially the prophecies in Isaiah and the stories of Christ. For instance, we know that Isaiah was widely circulated among both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (Israel and Judah) before either one was taken into captivity by Assyria or Babylon. This would explain why Lehi and his descendants would be familiar with these writings before they left for the New World, and why so many references to Isaiah are found in II Nephi. For me, the Book of Mormon helped to fill in so many gaps in the Bible and helped restore my faith in Christ; there was truly something “sweet” about it, although I could not explain any of what I was feeling on a rational level. I barely even had to pray to know it contained eternal truths!

However, I am also aware of the endless controversy surrounding this book. No one had ever heard of lands called Zarahemla or Bountiful in the ancient Americas! Also, after visiting Hill Cumorah last October, I was left questioning how the final battle recorded in the Book of Mormon could have occurred there. How could the Nephites and Lamanites possibly have charged up that hill? My husband and I had enough difficulty just walking up the paved path leading to the top of the hill! Even if one subscribes to the “Two Cumorah” theory more popularly accepted in LDS academic circles, this raises even more red flags. As far as proving the historical validity of the Book of Mormon, I was left with a huge question mark in my mind, and yes, the scholarship that supports it, or lack thereof, makes the book rather difficult to digest, at least on an intellectual level. No doubt, many have questioned the historical validity of this book, and that has been the cause of more than a few Mormons losing their faith. Speaking of this unnamed book, Rev. 10:9 makes it clear, “it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth as sweet as honey.” Still the author of Revelation is told to continue prophesying of its truth: “And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues and kings” (Rev. 10:11).

What is interesting about this unnamed “little book” is the Greek word that is used to describe it “biblaridion” instead of “biblion,” meaning “a little papyrus roll,” indicating that the book is significantly smaller than the Bible. [2] The fact that this book precedes the judgments in Revelation is significant, meaning this book is yet to be revealed at a later date before the plagues are poured out. At the time this was written, the author of Revelation could not have foreseen there was a land clear across the ocean, yet we know from the Book of Mormon there were already inhabitants living in the ancient Americas who were of the Hebrew tribe of Manasseh. Later, the descendents of Ephraim would arrive in the New World. The Book of Mormon, revealed to Joseph Smith in 1823, would become the “stick of Ephraim,” (Israel) while the Bible would become the “stick of Judah.” The two books would compliment each other perfectly, and according to Ezekiel 37:19 “the two shall be one in mine hand,” just as the twelve tribes themselves will someday be gathered together as one.

The unnamed angel “standing by the sea” is very curious in his own right. He has one foot situated on the land and the other on the sea and his head is surrounded by a rainbow (see Rev. 10:1-2). The rainbow is a universal symbol which would seem to represent the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, collectively the children of the biblical Joseph who wore the rainbow coat of many colors. Ephraim and Manasseh, two tribes of mixed heritage who were scattered and “lost” following the period of Assyrian conquest, will both be instrumental in the final ingathering of Israel. Today, the angel Moroni stands as a symbol of that eventual restoration, and he is the one who is credited as having sealed up and buried the records of his father Mormon and later revealing them to Joseph Smith in upstate New York, which is situated on the eastern seaboard of the United States. These records would later become known as the Book of Mormon. We see the popular images of Moroni depicted on the top of our Temples, and he is blowing the trumpet signaling the Restoration. The symbolism couldn’t be any clearer!

In Section 77 of Doctrine and Covenants, which contains revelation given to Joseph Smith in Hiram, Ohio March 1832 concerning the Revelation of Saint John, the question is asked, “What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?” The response given is as follows,” We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold this is Elias,[3] who, as it is written, must come and restore all things.” (D&C 77:14). Notice here that Joseph Smith never once identifies the book or the angel. He just simply states that the goal and mission of the book/angel is to unleash the Spirit of Elijah upon the earth, thus testifying of the Book of Mormon and eventual ingathering of the twelve tribes. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we know this role belongs to Moroni. When the Book of Mormon was revealed by Moroni, this paved the way for the Spirit of Elijah to be unleashed upon the earth through the binding of the generations (see Malachi 4:5-6). As Mormons, we believe Elijah did appear to Joseph Smith at the Kirtland Temple in 1836, thus fulfilling the very words of Moroni himself, who prophesied this would happen when he first appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823.[4] The purpose of the Temple is to bind the generations.

Revelation 14:6-7 does mention “another angel” included in a succession of angels, which many Mormons identify as Moroni. This angel is depicted as “having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on earth” (14:6). Is it possible that they are one and the same angel? Given the often cyclical (non-linear) progression of the book of Revelation due to its highly cryptic and symbolic nature, I believe it is entirely possible, since both angels fulfill nearly identical missions, with the Book of Mormon, or the “little book” being the “centerpiece of the Restoration;”[5] for the instructions are clear, “And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues and kings” (Rev. 10:11). This is the “everlasting gospel” echoed in Rev. 14:6.

I have a firm testimony that if evangelicals can begin to open their hearts and minds to these connections, they will see the Book of Mormon for what it is – not an addition to Revelation, but God’s revealed word– “another testament of Jesus Christ” that is, in its own right, an extension of the book of Revelation.

[1] Michelle G. Wiener, “Two Lampstands: Two Branches” in Rational Faiths February 11, 2014: accessed 3/17/2014.

[2] Keith Krell, “The Bittersweet Book (Revelation 10:1-11)” March 8, 2006: accessed 3/2/14.

[3] or Elijah

[4] Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Coming of Elijah” in Ensign: January 1972: accessed 4/15/2014. See also Joseph Smith History.

[5] Russell M. Nelson, “Catch the Wave” in Ensign: April 2013: accessed 4/19/2014.


Krell, Keith. “The Bittersweet Book (Revelation 10:1-11)” March 8, 2006:

Nelson, Russell M. “Catch the Wave.” Ensign, April 2013.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. “The Coming of Elijah.” Ensign, January 1972.

Wiener, Michelle G. “Two Lampstands: Two Branches” Rational Faiths, February 11, 2014.

Dr. Michelle Wiener holds a Master of Arts in Theology from Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and a Master of Ecumenical Studies from the University of Geneva in Switzerland where she studied for a year with the World Council of Churches. A convert from the Bible Belt, she loves genealogy and serves as Temple & Family History Consultant. A devotee of Heavenly Mother, she also runs the Finding Heavenly Mother Project. Michelle just completed her PhD in comparative theology through Euclid University.

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