Many good Christians that consent to have conversations about the LDS church, express an opinion that goes something like this: "I'll hear what you have to say, but I'm going to test it all by the bible. The bible is the final authority. If it doesn't square with the bible, I won't believe it."
From my view, everything we teach and believe as Latter-day Saints does square with the bible. In fact I would argue that the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints fits more squarely with the bible that any other religion that exists. See my earlier writings about the true church restored for evidence of this.
But this is our view. The Lutherans feel everything in their religion squares with the bible, as do the Baptists, the Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, and numerous other denominations. How can they all be correct when they believe so many different things?
I might ask my Christian friends to think for a moment – where did you get the idea that the bible is perfect? As Christians, we love the bible, and revere it.. but we shouldn't take our reverence for the bible too far. The bible is not a perfect record, it has come down through an imperfect and pretty volatile history. Further, we shouldn't attempt to place limits on what God can or will do. We worship a living God, and he can decide to give us more of his word.
The bible nowhere says it is a perfect book, nor does it claim to be the end of God's words to his children. The Revelation of John does warn others not to add to or take away anything from it – that is, John's revelation – but he is not speaking of the bible as a whole, because the bible as yet did not exist (John 22:18-19, and also see Deut 3:2 where Moses says the same thing about the law given to Israel in that day).
Revelation - a neglected theme of the bible
The bible is a collection of sacred writings, ancient prophecies, histories, letters to various people and groups of people. The apostles wrote other letters as well, which they refer to, but we do not have them. Sometime many years after the events, what was preserved was thankfully compiled into what we have today, and it has been translated and transcribed various times through history. It is absolutely a treasure for the knowledge and wisdom it gives us.
But one of the main themes I see running through the whole Bible is that of revelation. God communicated with his children. Constantly through the recorded history we see God calling servants to teach and warn the people. That is his pattern (Amos 3:7). That is what the Lord was talking about to Peter (Matt 15:17-18).
But the question is difficult because we know the weaknesses of men. We do not trust men. It can very hard to accept a man if he claims to be a prophet. How do we know he is not trying to deceive us? Remember that those whom God calls as his servants whether in our own day, or throughout history, have not been typical men. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, and many others were not men who sought after wealth or power. They were only seeking to live righteously and to follow God. God selected them for His purposes. They organized the people of their day into the church of God.
God does not choose leaders the way the world chooses leaders. Our Heavenly Father does not judge a man by his wealth, status, or social position. God looks into the hearts of men (1 Sam 16:7), and often uses the weak and simple to confound the wise. He raises up men and women, knowing their capacaties and potential. The world has seldom looked kindly on any man God has called to be a prophet.
We can gain a witness of living prophets through this same revelatory process. God does not expect us to accept the word of any man alone. He has commanded us to seek, and promised that we can know truth by the witness of the Holy Ghost to us (John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13). Remember also Christ's instructions that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, and that "By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:18-20).
"...as far as it is translated correctly"
Joseph Smith frequently turned to the bible to teach and show that the restored gospel was true. He knew the bible better than most of the ministers and scholars of his day.
Joseph wrote the Articles of Faith in 1842 in response to a newspaper journalist who wanted to get a clear idea about what the Mormons believed. In his reply, Joseph wrote 12 Articles of Faith, a brief synopsis of our major beliefs. Our 8th Article of Faith states "We believe the bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."
In the current LDS edition of the KJV bible, the reader will find a very complete bible dictionary and topical guide - or he/she can visit the www.lds.org web site, and find it there.
Looking up the word "bible" in the bible dictionary leads to several pages of history and information about how it was compiled, the different versions, and languages of origin.
The Christian reader will no doubt think I have spoken heresy to suggest the bible might have mistranslations, not to mention ommissions & deliberate removals of passages. Joseph Smith considered the King James version to be the closest to the original words, and the most accurate version in his day, although he did make several corrections to many passages. The bible we use is the King James version, with many inspired corrections noted in the footnotes and in the back, so we can compare the orginal with the changes Joseph felt should be made.
We love the bible. We cherish it and consider it sacred scripture.
The Book of Mormon proves the bible
To understand fully where the Mormon's are coming from here, read 1 Nephi chapter 13. It's part of a vision to Nephi, an ancient American prophet around 600 BC. Nephi is shown what will eventually occur in America, the coming of Columbus, the pilgrims, and the birth of this country. He has some things to say about the bible that I think the reader will find interesting. He talks about the "plain and precious parts" which were purposely removed from the bible.
Part of the purpose and mission of the Book of Mormon is to prove the truth of the bible to an unbelieving world. Nephi is told that the record of his seed (The Book of Mormon) will establish the truth of the record of the 12 apostles (the bible). Many people today consider the bible simply a book of legends, and don't take the stories and words literally. Other people simply don't care. One reason God gave us the Book of Mormon is to show the world further evidence that the bible is in fact true. Here is a second witness, another testament, from a separate group of people. It preaches the same message -- because it comes from the same God.
Another reason for the Book of Mormon is to return the clear light and knowledge that apparently used to exist in the bible records.
The reader could also look at 2 Nephi chapter 29 for more on this.
God continues to speak
Let's assume the bible is 100% accurate and pure. That still doesn't change the fact that many hundreds of Christian religions have sprung from it. They have different doctrines, and believe different things about God, Jesus, and the gospel. And they argue about who is correct, each interpreting different verses from the bible differently.
Take the nature of God for example - some believe God is only a Spirit (for the bible says it). Some believe Jesus and God are one and the same being.
Or take the doctrine of Baptism. Some baptize by immersion, some by sprinkling, most erroneously baptize little children. What is the correct method? Who has authority to baptize? How are we to know? Surely there is a correct way?
Yes there is, but you need a prophet inspired from heaven to find out. You won't get it by reading the bible alone. The bible can get you so far, but it doesn't answer every question, and it doesn't give a complete and detailed picture of how God's work is to be done.
In the ninth Article of Faith, Joseph Smith wrote
We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Continuing revelation is one of the most exciting aspects of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. And since Joseph penned those words in 1842, many revelations from God have been given through inspired prophets.