How do Mormons interpret the following passage and justify the addition of the Book of Mormon to the canon of scripture?

Revelation 22:18-19 (NIV)
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

In my experience, this is interpreted as referring to the entire Bible and how we should not add to or remove from it. How is the LDS view on this different?

  • 4
    You might ask the same question about the apocrypha Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 18:26
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    @KronoS Or you could ask the same question about omitting the Apocrypha. Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 16:10
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    You could ask the same question about any Bible that contains the book of Revelation, since Revelation was not part of the Bible at the time it was written.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 9:45
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    Taking this promise in Revelation literally, one way to verify if the commandment is being broken would be to look at the historical record to see if Joseph Smith received any of the plagues promised in the verse. As far as we can tell, he didn't experience any of them during his life. Commented Aug 2, 2015 at 3:20
  • @IgnatiusTheophorus or including it. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 3:21

3 Answers 3


Your premise is invalid, as the warning in Revelation cannot be honestly interpreted as referring to anything beyond Revelation itself. "The Bible" did not exist back then. The very concept of "the Bible" did not even exist back then. Each sacred writing was its own book; they weren't compiled into a collection until centuries later. In addition, John wrote the Gospel of John after he wrote Revelation. An overly-broad interpretation of the warning at the end of Revelation would invalidate the most beautiful and profoundly spiritual of the four Gospels!

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    +1, almost exactly what I was typing. The New Testament was not canonized until centuries later. Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 21:45
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    Not to mention we are commanded not to add to God's word as early as in Dueteronomy 4:2 "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you."
    – user23
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 2:07
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    @JustinY: Good point. Interpretting that the same way some people interpret Revelation would invalidate Revelation itself, not to mention the entire Gospel!
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 2:12
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    Do you have a reference for the Gospel of John being written after Revelation?
    – jimreed
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 5:36
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    There is also Galatians 1:8, where Paul says, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
    – Bob Black
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 15:06

I agree 100% with Mason Wheeler, but I thought I could clarify something.

  1. The LDS faith does not claim to add to the Bible. The only additions in their version of the King James Version of the Bible is in the form of footnotes and reference information. If that is considered adding to the Bible, then most denominations are guilty.

  2. The Book of Mormon is a separate book taking place on a different continent. The story originates in Jerusalem, but the majority (after the first 50 pages or so) takes place in Ancient America. Just as the title of the book says, it is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ", not a modification of the words of the apostles. The teachings in the Book of Mormon coincide with the teachings of the Bible. The teachings of the Bible are upheld and clarified.

  3. The Doctrine and Covenants are a collection of writings (revelations) given to Joseph Smith. Many of the revelations reference passages in the Bible (Old and New Testaments).

  4. The Pearl of Great Price is two books (Moses and Abraham) that replace missing scripture that was lost. There is evidence of missing books in the Bible. None of the books mentioned coincide with the two books of the Pearl of Great Price, but it is reasonable that they are valid.

  5. Other religions have additions to the doctrines of the Bible. As a simple example, the Trinity was never mentioned by name, but because of the Nicene Creed (and other edicts), it has become commonplace. Arguably, these creeds and edicts only serve to explain the Bible, but they are, nonetheless, taken by many to be equal to scripture. These were decided by man, not prophets of God.

The root of the question is whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that no more prophets will be called, and it is quite common for a called prophet to have some written work attributed to him.

This is the basis for the addition of scripture to the LDS canon. The LDS believes in an open canon, so long as it is given by God to one of His prophets. The majority of the Christian community, however, believe in a closed canon. That's the difference.

Here's the accepted canon of the LDS faith:

  • Bible (KJV, with translations by Joseph Smith)
  • Book of Mormon
  • Doctrine and Covenants (and Official Declarations, Articles of Faith, etc.)
  • Pearl of Great Price

The words of prophets (and apostles) since Joseph Smith are also considered authoritative. These come monthly in magazines and biannually during General Conferences.

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    There's a few unqualified statements in here but overall a good post. Thanks.
    – Jeff
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 2:50

I prefer to look at the verse itself, in this matter. When I read this verse in Revelation it is easy to see that this is a warning to mankind: Don't add stuff! It's not your right, and you don't have the authority!

But it does NOT say that God cannot (or even will not) continue revealing his word and his mind and his plans to mankind. Remember Amos 3:7...

7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

and I can promise you, God is very active still. He is doing amazing things.

The Bible clearly teaches that the end times will have prophets. Two will be killed in Jerusalem and the whole world will watch (Rev. 11) and there is even a warning about false prophets, which would not be necessary if there were simply no prophets.

So, while the warning in Revelation might be viewed a warning about adding to the Holy Bible as a whole, it does not extend to God Himself. He chooses to whom to speak, what to tell them, and what to do with that information. If He tells them to tell others, well that is the definition of a prophet, and that is His prerogative.

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