By R. Devan Jensen
Executive Editor at the Religious Studies Center

Review of Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, and Boyd J. Petersen, eds. The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism & Sacred Texts. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018. 258 pp. $25.95.

In The Expanded Canon, the first volume of the new UVU Comparative Mormon Studies series, the editors point out that Latter-day Saints, like many other faith traditions, have “an open canon—that the body of authoritative scriptural texts can expand as new revelations are made available and presented to the membership for ratification” (ix). Beyond the standard works, Latter-day Saints view other documents as scriptural but not canonized—for example, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The editors assert that church members deal with some complex scriptural matters such as Joseph Smith’s revisions of the Bible. In this case, the term translation does not tidily fit. As Kathleen Flake notes, it was more of “an interpretive response to the text” in which he “appeared more interested in preserving the meaning of the revelation rather than the language” (xv).

David Holland’s chapter traces how Christianity adopts scripture through a triangle consisting of the scriptures, the living representative of Christ, and inspiration from the Holy Ghost. Which has the greatest power? Protestants argue that authority comes from the Bible alone. Latter-day Saints, however, use all three sides of the triangle, because even statements by prophets must be sustained by church members, who are invited to gain their own witness through the Holy Ghost.

In her chapter, Claudia L. Bushman invites people to “read women back into the scriptures.” She proposes writings of women that should be considered as inspired, including Relief Society minutes, Eliza R. Snow’s poetry, Lucy Mack Smith’s history of Joseph Smith, and even Chieko Okazaki’s Lighten Up! 

In a very insightful chapter, Grant Underwood asks readers to relish the revisions of the revelatory process that produced the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith, he argues, was “more than a mere human fax machine through whom God communicated finished revelation texts composed in heaven” (182). According to Orson Pratt, Joseph received impressions and then had to “clothe those ideas with such words as came to mind” (182).

For those who want to learn about how faith traditions adopt and canonize scripture, and particularly Latter-day Saint scripture, I highly recommend this book.