I’ve been thinking lately about the question of revelation; not necessarily in a definitional sense (in terms of this post we can talk about revelation as knowledge revealed from God to his prophet(s)), but in a material sense–is revelation an idea interpreted into a particular language, recorded on paper, edited, and reproduced for others to read? Or is the reproduction the revelation itself? (And if so, then how materially should we take it–is the reproduced paper and ink sacred? Or if we download it, does our computer become sanctified? I remember a visiting GA on my mission talking about the power of having the BoM open when teaching, even when not using it.)
I don’t believe there’s a clear cut answer (and it may vary from situation to situation); but I do believe that our response to this question, perhaps tells us a lot about the way we view the authority of prophets.
If one’s response is the former–that revelation in fact transcends materiality and language–then prophets are involved in “interpreting” the revelation that they received. This first of all means that what is in fact recorded in our texts or spoken by our prophets is in effect one degree removed from the revelation itself–it is an “interpretation” of the revelation. This then raises the question of “right to interpretation”. Is there something, for instance, that makes a prophet’s interpretation better than anyone else’s?In the latter position, the prophet acts as a pure filter for the revelation–there is no “interpretation”, because what is passed on is the same thing that was revealed to the prophet.
Personally I find this an interesting tension within Mormonism. On the one hand the BoM is the most correct book on the Earth (perhaps every word was seen by Joseph?); on the other it is amendable to editorial changes, and so at least one step removed from pure revelation. We want our revelation to be adapted for our times (changes in the WoW for instance); but we also want to believe that our prophets are pure filters (or at the very least are much better interpreters than us–although an interesting question would be why that is).