What Is Scripture?
Though Mormon belief about what is scripture differs from that of traditional Christians, the process by which scripture comes to be scripture is similar in both cases.
Spinoza argued that the Bible should be treated like any other book, but Ricoeur's thought shows us why that isn't so: some texts, including but not limited to religious texts, have an authority over those who take them up that other texts do not; they are not read and should not be read like other books, at least not by their adherents.
Philosophers don't read Plato the same way that non-philosophers do, for example, and they ought not to. And philosophers don't read cookbooks in the same way that they read Plato—and they ought not to. It is a mistake to think that all books should be read in the same way, according to the same criteria.
But the canonized books of a religion are yet different from the "scriptures" of philosophy or other fields. For in the canon of a religion, that religion's identity is at stake: Jews are those who take the Torah as the word of God. Christians are the people who read the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as that word. Muslims are the people who read the Quran as the word of God. Mormons are those who accept as the divine word not only the Christian Bible, but also the Book of Mormon (and the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price).
Religious people find their identity in their books of scripture, and in some way or another, their scripture is given by God. As Ricoeur says, to read a text religiously is to hold "to a word reputed to have come from farther away from and higher than myself" (La Critique et la conviction 219, my translation).
Mormons believe that God has spoken to us through prophets and continues to do so. Scripture isn't the only place where he does that, but it is a place where we warrant that his voice can be heard, which is why LDS prophets continue to exhort us to study the scriptures regularly.
Whatever we accept as scripture, however we describe its provenance, whether we believe in scriptural inerrancy or not, this is the most important thing we can say about scripture: it comes from God. That's the Mormon claim about the Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture: like the Bible, they come from God.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.