At the risk of stirring controversy against my absolute favorite Apostle, I want to ask a few questions stemming from his engaging discussion of Scripture and modern prophecy and his dialogue with biblical studies.
Elder Holland’s talk in General Conference was part II of his discourse on Mormonism’s place with respect to “Christianity”. He begins by giving justifications for an open canon, namely, why the various statements about not adding to or taking away from a given book (Revelation) don’t apply to the whole Bible. These arguments are, for the most part, old, but what is new is his recourse to mainstream biblical scholarship in making the arguments. Most biblical-studies types were ecstatic, I’d venture, to hear eminent New Testament scholar N.T. Wright quoted by Elder Holland.
In the subsequent discussion of scripture that ensued, Elder Holland gave subtle nods to theories of composition, such as the Markan priority. And in one fell swoop he decoupled all wranglings over scripture from what constitutes gospel knowledge for Latter-day Saints. Quoting Wright, he said that the risen Jesus indicated that “all authority in heaven and on earth is given [not to the 'books' the disciples would write, but rather] to me.” Elder Holland went on to say
In other words, Scripture itself points away from itself and toward the fact that final true authority belongs to God Himself. So the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge for Latter-day Saints. They are manifestations of the ultimate source. The ultimate source of knowledge and authority for a Latter-day Saint is the living God. The communication of those gifts comes form God, as living, vibrant, divine revelation. This doctrine lies at the very heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of our message to the world.
What he seems to be saying is that scriptures are authoritative insofar as they are connected to this ultimate source. What I want to explore is what this means for prophetic authority. My initial assumption is that he was setting up a contrast between scripture, to which can be applied all of these theories, and living prophecy, which connects itself to the source directly. He doesn’t make this explicit, though. He goes on to extol continuing revelation as a blessing in the lives of individual members.
Is there a potentially subversive message behind Elder Holland’s talk, though? One not necessarily intended by him? By establishing God as the source of all knowledge, does he not put modern prophets into the same category as ancient scripture–that is, as “manifestations” of the Ultimate Source? Does this not encourage individuals to go directly to the source and to take the manifestations of the source with a grain of salt?
To be clear, I’m not advocating these positions, just wondering about the implications. What do you think he meant?